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If you’re currently reading this article cramped up in some unbearably small East Village apartment, good news! There’s a 70% chance that, at this very moment, the pope may be driving his Fiat right on by what the realtor convinced you was a window. But did you ever take a minute to stop and ask yourself why? How should New York City be so blessed? Here’s one idea: Martin Scorsese.
Would the pope still come if Scorsese had never made the films that expose our city in all its filthy glory? Is the pope even allowed to watch movies? These are important questions.
One thing is for sure, though, the patron saint of the gangster film is undeniably Martin Scorsese. His quest for canonization started 42 years ago at the 11th annual New York Film Festival with the release of a film that would serve, for him, as a formula for countless masterpieces of the future.
That film is “Mean Streets,” a strange, if not polarizing, ramshackle of a feature, which did more to usher in a new age cinema for the city of New York than any other previous film. A more accurate representation of the streets of Manhattan doesn’t exist on celluloid. Its gritty, abrasive and overwhelmingly frantic style leaves you simultaneously exhausted and begging for more. Just like the city itself.
He’d dabbled in a few B-movies before, but for all intents and purposes, this was the first Martin Scorsese picture. In that sense, the video above could be considered the first Martin Scorsese trailer. While it lacks narration from the film’s principal character, a feature we see in many of his later trailers (“Goodfellas,” “The Wolf of Wall Street”), a host of his other trademarks are already there. There’s the freeze frame after the wise guy quip, violent hand gestures, rock and roll/doo wop/Italian folk, curse words, Robert De Niro and lots of characters whose names end with “-y.”
So there may be one important point on which the director and the Pope disagree. As Scorsese himself remarks over the opening scene of the film, “You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.”
Welcome to the church of Marty.