Film

My life with Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)

Anyone have a film they can say changed their life, or their view of the world in some way? I don’t mean a political film like Blood Diamond or Dallas Buyers Club which dealt with wider issues, I mean one that is personal to you and made you reflect on your own life, and possibly changed the way you watched films.

For me it has to be Goodfellas, which I watched the last half of by accident when I was 11 or 12, 20 years ago, and actually made me want to pursue acting or filmmaking. I’d seen Raiders and Jaws before then, but most films I’d seen were family films like Back to the Future and Addams Family. Goodfellas completely changed my vision of the world, the adult world, and at that age, held alot of answers for me about how scary the ‘real world’ was, as well as my concept of ‘evil’, and the ‘what if’ my school teachers and parents weren’t always honest about things they said. ‘I always wanted to be a gangster’. I always wanted to be an actor playing a gangster in a scorsese film.

In school I was bullied, a geek with few friends, and my parents had their own problems, so I kindof related to young henry more than I realised. I’m not Italian or from NY, I grew up in a dull little nothing village Hampshire, UK. But in school, perhaps like Scorse, I knew a few people like the thugs in Goodfellas and Meanstreets, wannabe toughguys, people you couldn’t really trust and would probably end up in prison.

The thing that struck me most of all, the violence, it occured to me that bullies only picked on people because they thought them weak or scared, but actually it’s also a moral choice not to fightback, as well to avoid  trouble or prison. Everything in Goodfellas seems unique, and much imitated (Trainspotting, Fight Club, City of God), the music, the editing, the moral ambiguity of the characters. I’d never seen afilm about ‘bad guys’ doing bad things before, and not getting caught or punished.

This was transgressive, ‘beyond good and evil’, the characters are truly frightening, but Henry also uses the Mafia to gain respect and escape the misery of his family life. I can relate, although I never joined the Mafia, prob for the best. It’s disturbing to watch someone survive in a world that could explode into violence at any moment.

After seeing it atleast 6 times over the years, I’d noticed that Ray Liotta hardly ever says a word to either Pesci or De Niro in any of the scenes they’re together, it’s simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’, mostly ‘yes’, as most of his dialogue is voiceover explaining things while his ‘friends’ bully him.

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