GOODFELLAS (1990, Scorsese)
The stuff I found for today’s post is awesome, complete with multi-media bonus features that really demonstrate the brilliance of Scorsese’s work here. (As with Spielberg, I could fill an entire blog just with shots by Scorsese.)
Often times when a powerful, economical staging goes down before my eyes, I ask myself, “How the hell does the brain come up with that?” With this scene, you have to wonder how much of that was in the script, how much of it was pre-conceived by the director, how much discovered on set, how much discovered in post? With this video, the killing of Stacks, and with — wait for it — the shooting script pages from this scene, we get a tiny peek behind the curtain on what went down.
Before we get too far into it, it’s best if you watch today’s entire scene first:
What Scorsese had to work with…
If you read this scene in the shooting script PDF excerpt, (it’s a page and half), you see nearly a completely different scene. It’s got the same characters and the same outcome, but the approach is entirely different. Oners are great at building suspense (see this post here ) and this one is no exception. Obviously, reading the pages for this scene, Scorsese instinctually realized that a simpler more fluid staging would be infinitely stronger than the cuts the script suggests (which isn’t always the case, of course).
Now, this opening oner is great and all, BUT it’s the genius of this scene’s CODA that blows my brains out (no offense, Stacks). So unexpected, original and fun.
Scorsese chooses to allow the tension of the first oner to play to maximum effect by not having voiceover on top of it, as the script suggests, but decides he can have his cake and eat it too, because really, there are no rules. In place of the voiceover there is Tommy/Pesci’s fantastic pocket dialogue (dialogue written or improvised to cover business).
Then, with the help of slow motion and an inspired music choice (his always are), he adds a “recap” of the killing, a coda, now letting us see the cold and crazy Tommy in this new perspective on what just went down.
Reading the script it’s not hard to imagine Scorsese thinking that the voice over was an opportunity to do something stylized and unexpected, something that would be strongly in the style and tone of the movie and elevate the scene with a real cool factor. In the script the voice over actually feels like a coda, and Scorsese takes it literally and enjoys it as such. The more I direct, the more I love and search for these clues in the script that suggest going off the well worn path.
Finally, as a button, we cut to the ol’ faithful of director’s seeking buttons to their murder scenes – the high-and-wide of the aftermath. (That’s a skinny Sam Jackson, btw.)
Hope you’ll have a quick read of the scene in shooting script form (thanks to Joe Lajeunesse for getting it to me); it’s an amazing case study of how a director like Scorsese can elevate already mighty high material, giving it a powerful, signature style.