Tale of 19th century New York high society in which a young lawyer falls in love with a woman separated from her husband, while he is engaged to the woman’s cousin.
Director Martin Scorsese speaks candidly and passionately about one of his formative filmmaking influences: the late Elia Kazan. Utilizing precisely chosen clips from Kazan’s signature films including “On the Waterfront,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Gentleman’s Agreement,” “Baby Doll,” “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “A Face in the Crowd,” “America, America,” and “The Last Tycoon,” and interview footage of the director himself, co-directors Scorsese and Kent Jones recount the director’s tumultuous journey from the Group Theatre to the Hollywood A-list to the thicket of the blacklist. But most of all, they make a powerful case for Kazan as a profoundly personal artist working in a famously impersonal industry.
“I saw these movies. They had a powerful effect on me. You should see them.” That’s Martin Scorsese’s message for this documentary. We meet his family on Elizabeth Street in New York; he’s a third generation Italian with Sicilian roots. Starting in 1949, they watched movies on TV as well as in theaters, lots of Italian imports. Scorsese, with his narration giving a personal as well as a public context, shows extended clips of these movies. Films of Rossellini and De Sica fill part one; those of Visconti, Fellini, and Antonioni comprise part two. Scorsese takes time with emotion, style, staging, technique, political context, and cinematic influence. It’s his movie family.
Henry Hill is a small time gangster, who takes part in a robbery with Jimmy Conway and Tommy De Vito, two other gangsters who have set their sights a bit higher. His two partners kill off everyone else involved in the robbery, and slowly start to climb up through the hierarchy of the Mob. Henry, however, is badly affected by his partners success, but will he stoop low enough to bring about the downfall of Jimmy and Tommy?
J.R. is a typical Italian-American on the streets of New York. When he gets involved with a local girl, he decides to get married and settle down, but when he learns that she was once raped, he cannot handle it. More explicitly linked with Catholic guilt that Scorsese’s later work, we see what happens to J.R. when his religious guilt catches up with him.