When I saw The Departed last week, a lot of things captivated me. The acting, writing, song score, and of course, the direction by Martin Scorsese. But one thing that popped like some kind of fresh air was the editing. Longtime Scorsese fans know that his right-hand woman in the cutting room is Thelma Schoonmaker, but there was something vibrant and new about the way The Departed is edited. I was skeptical she had a hand in it, until the closing credits confirmed that she did, in fact, work on this hefty epic of a crime drama.
With such a taut and yet twisty premise (based on the Hong Kong crime classic Infernal Affairs), The Departed really does live or die based on how it’s cut together. And, Schoonmaker did a spectacular job. In honor of the release (as well as a recent tribute to her late husband, filmmaker Michael Powell), Jonathan Marlow at GreenCine chats with Schoonmaker:
GreenCine: It’s a reimagining of “Infernal Affairs?”
Thelma Schoonmaker: Marty read a wonderful script by Bill Monahan, a Boston Irish-American. He said, “This is great, the dialogue is fantastic and it’s really interesting.” He’s always been fascinated by the corruption of police departments. Then he found out that it was based on or inspired by “Infernal Affairs,” and it’s a real problem because neither of us have seen the movie and we’re not going to see it until this is finished. It’s all about character and I think it’s different. People tell us it’s different. I don’t know!