Constructed Realities: Project 1 – Setting The Scene; Exercise #1

Watch this famous scene from Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese in 1990:  %5Baccessed 24/02/14]

Don’t read on until you’ve answered the following questions.

  • What does this scene tell you about the main character?
  • How does it do this? List the ‘clues’.

C&N Coursebook p. 109

The long tracking shot tells you that Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) knows the club well – he does this a lot –  and the staff there treat him with warmly and with respect. He is in favour there.

  • He knows names
  • He knows the mazey route through to the main lounge
  • He hands out money
  • People get out of his way in the bustling kitchen (although one of them has to be assisted by a push)

He is trying to impress the woman he is with and is succeeding; Karen (Lorraine Bracco) is fascinated by him at this stage, although she obviously has doubts about him as well. This is something we, as the audience, are implicated in as well…

  • The couple motivate the camera’s movement but: You are able to see Henry’s face; You see the back of Karen’s head – you are seeing him, as she is, pulled along in his slipstream
  • Her question – “What is it you do?” is followed up by her pointing out his hands aren’t rough enough for him be a builder which in turn leads to his glib “I’m a union delegate” which in turn is topped by a “ka-boom, chick” drum sting as the floor show starts.
  • Her shock at the amount of money he’s handing out
  • The music that lubricates the shot (And then he kissed me, The Crystals) creates a dreamy innocent feel, which contrasts with much of the action.

He is in a hurry and does not like to be delayed.

  • Dialogue: “It’s easier […] It’s a lot quicker […] Better than waiting in line” etc etc
  • The shot itself and its progress through the behind the scenes areas of the club is  fast and fluid.

He thinks he is important.

  • That push in the kitchen
  • He inspects things in passing as if his opinion matters
  • The way he takes the ease of his passage to a table by the stage as his due
  • And his general air of patronisation to the people who work at the club

He lives in a world where money and presents lubricate life and his life seems to demand a constant outlay, in order to get some return

  • The gifts
  • The bottle of wine
  • The tipping
  • His ability to defuse the anger of the people they have been seated in front of by handing out a bunch of twenty dollar bills.

It all may not be worth it

  • The comedian is rubbish…

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