The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★★

So I watched this last year, after having only seen Mean Streets as an adult. (I had seen Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Gangs of New York, The Age of Innocence and Hugo all in college and Goodfellas in high school.) I loved Mean Streets and immediately connected with it, after not thinking Scorsese had much to offer me as a director. Which was fine! I don’t have to like everybody and I’m historically turned off by violence, so I had my answer to why I didn’t really seek out or connect with what I had seen. 

after Mean Streets, which blew me away, The Irishman was kind of disappointing, but not in a form way, just pretty much as soon as I started watching it, I knew I wasn’t ready for it. Like it is so clearly coda of a career of reckoning with something I had not put any work into at that point. So I watched it and withheld judgment until I did the work. 

A friend recently mentioned he doesn’t push for completion of filmographies because he likes looking forward to the work of a beloved director. But I don’t think I could have loved The Irishman the way I love it right now without contemplating the work as a whole. Which is maybe gross and auteur-y, but also the image that immediately popped into my brain was a rosary, so maybe Marty would like that. Holding and counting and stringing beads together to form a prayer that only works after iteration and iteration.  

Also not to be too earnest and maybe this is something I am going to grapple with in 2021 and every year after that, but Scorsese is probably the artist who most informs my relationship with God and that’s what it is, for better or for worse. But when the priest talks to Frank about absolution and says, “We can be sorry, even when we don’t feel sorry. For us to say, to make a decision of the will, ‘God, I am sorry. God, forgive me,’” is a little fudgey, doctrine wise because of the possible lack of contrition. 

I keep thinking about how the one murder that is a murder worth being contrite about for Frank, the one that wasn’t like when he was in the army, is the one he does express regret about and it is also the one that is a decision of the will for him. Not making that phone call and letting Hoffa clock the room as not safe were all decisions.

I’m not a good enough Catholic to square them, but I’m not particularly interested in resolving that, even if it puts me in the same condemned league. but the idea that contrition is a choice instead of a state of being that is achieved does seem to have room to exist in the doctrine, because the choice is not hollow, even when the chooser is.

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