Harvey Keitel as Charlie Cappa, conflicted Mafia associate
New York, Fall 1972
Film: Mean Streets
Release Date: October 14, 1973
Director: Martin Scorsese
Wardrobe Credit: Norman Salling
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
You don’t make up for your sins in the church. You do it in the streets. The rest is bullshit and you know it.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of Mean Streets, Martin Scorsese’s breakthrough film that premiered today in 1972 during the New York Film Festival, twelve days before it was widely released.
Though arguably the first of his movies to include many of his now-familiar themes and techniques, Mean Streets was actually Scorsese’s third film, following his debut Who’s That Knocking On My Door? (1967) and Boxcar Bertha (1972), the latter one of the low-budget Depression-era crime flicks produced by Roger Corman’s American International Pictures in the wake of the successful Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
Following John Cassavetes’ encouragement to “write what you know” and incorporate more of his own experiences onto the screen, Scorsese reintroduced himself to the world with the remarkable Mean Streets—essentially his own retelling of I Vitelloni (1953) set among the mobbed-up mooks in Little Italy—viewed through the same unapologetically gritty lens that Scorsese would return to three years later in Taxi Driver (1976).
Unlike the then-recent hit The Godfather (1972), Mean Streets focused not on the dons leading these crime families but rather the street-level hoods whose lives are defined by small-time scores, gambling debts, and long nights. Reuniting with Scorsese after appearing in his directorial debut, Harvey Keitel stars as Mean Streets‘ ostensible protagonist Charlie Cappa. Continue reading