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The Irishman

Review and press conference coverage by Alexandra

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“The Irishman” is  “bucket list stuff for a festival director”, as Tricia Tuttle called it. It’s bucket list stuff for any festival goer, I’d say, particularly for a first-timer, like me.


The latest from Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”, tells the journey of Frank Sheeran, a truck driver who becomes involved with crime and politics by working for mafia heads Russel Buffalino (Joe Pesci), Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel), and union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Frank recalls his “career” among the mob, his rising through the ranks, becoming a trusted hitman, and his involvement in Hoffa’s “disappearance”.


The film is indeed a journey as we stand by Frank and witness his rise from driver of a meat truck to Jimmy Hoffa’s friend and right hand. We witness his family grow and his daughter alienate herself. Frank himself is at an impasse- kill Hoffa or…


“The Irishman” takes the long winding road through Frank’s life- quite literally, as he drives from Philadelphia to Detroit with Russel and their wives. The stops on the road are marked by crossroads in his life. Having been a soldier, Frank is used to being disciplined and following orders without asking questions. Seeing a de-aged De Niro is rather striking- the CGI is fantastic, but his youngest self feels still somewhat old as if there’s a weight on his shoulders. As if he were actually in his 70s. His eyes were also changed to steely blue, whereas De Niro’s actual eyes are hazel/brown. The eye colour change was made because Frank’s eyes were blue, but it proves distracting throughout the film.


Watching the film feels like a long, eventful winter journey. It’s cold and distant and as steely as De Niro’s new eye colour. It also builds itself up brick by brick into a stately house, into a vivid story painted by accurate, detailed and steady brush strokes. It is one of Scorsese’s best film and accolades are expected to pour over the filmmaker, actors and this beautiful piece of art.


The film had been in development since 2007; De Niro was reading the book “I heard you paint houses” as character research for the project “Frankie Machine” that him and Scorsese were developing and brought it to Scorsese to have a look at. Producer Jane Rosenthal took the idea further and pitched it to potential backers, and eventually, in 2009, Steven Zaillian made a script. Then Al Pacino and Joe Pesci got involved and eventually the script was picked up by Netflix and “The Irishman” was born.


Speaking about the making of the film, Martin Scorsese says that he was looking for “something to enrich where we have gone in the 70s, 80s, and the early 90s”, not only to replicate what they had done, referencing films him and De Niro worked together on, like “Raging Bull”, “Taxi Driver” or “Casino”. Scorsese recalls that the production was marked by a lack of financial support from studios, particularly for the digital de-ageing technology, that was required to shave half the years (give or take) off Al Pacino (79), Robert De Niro (76) and Joe Pesci (76). Scorsese insists that there was no point in hiring other actors to play their younger selves, the whole point was that they would play themselves and calls digital de-ageing as a “form of make-up”.


Let’s all thank Netflix for stepping in and fronting the bill.


“The Irishman” will be released theatrically in the UK on the 8th of November, and available on Netflix from the 27th of November.

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