guillermo del toro on the irishman

Guillermo del Toro isn’t just a great filmmaker, he’s also a master of studying the craft. The man knows movies, and anyone who has ever listened to one of his commentary tracks can tell you he has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of films and filmmaking. So it’s always a treat when del Toro jumps on Twitter and goes off on a tangent about a particular movie. The latest film on del Toro’s mind is Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman, which premiered at the New York Film Festival to rave reviews. The Shape of Water director compares Scorsese’s latest to Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon and goes on to highlight the surprisingly melancholy atmosphere of Scorsese’s new epic.

Guillermo del Toro’s lengthy Twitter thread praising The Irishman can be read here, but I took the liberty of putting it all together in one spot below. Having seen the film, I can confirm del Toro’s thoughts are spot-on. It’s worth noting that some of the things del Toro says below can be construed as spoilers if you’re very spoiler-phobic. Everyone else, read on.

First- the film connects with the epitaph-like nature of Barry Lyndon. It is about lives that came and went, with all their turmoil, all their drama and violence and noise and loss… and how they invariably fade, like we all do…“It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now.”

We will all be betrayed and revealed by time, humbled by our bodies, stripped off our pride. The film is a mausoleum of myths: a Funereal monument that stands to crush the bones beneath it. Granite is meant to last but we still turn to dust inside it.  It’s the anti”My Way” (played in every gangster wedding in the world). Regrets they had more than few. The road cannot be undone and we all face the balance at the end. Even the voice over recourse has De Niro trailing off into mumbled nonsense.

I remember, in a documentary about Rick Rubin, he explained how Johnny Cash singing “Hurt” (having lived and lost and gone to hell and back) gave it a dimension it could not have in the voice of a -then- young Trent Reznor (even if he composed it). This film is like that.

Scorsese started hand-in-hand with Schrader, as young men, looking for Bresson. This movie transmogrified all the gangster myths into regret. You live this movie. It never goes for the sexy of violence. Never for the spectacle. And yet it is spectacularly cinematic. Film has the inexorabie feeling of a crucifixion- from the point of view of Judas.

Every Station of the cross permeated by humor and a sense of banality- futility- characters are introduced with their pop-up epitaphs superimposed on screen: “This is how they die”

I never thought I would see a film in which I’d root hard for Jimmy Hoffa- but I did- perhaps because, in the end, he, much like the Kennedys, represented also the end of a majestic post-war stature in America.

Pesci supremely minimalistic. Masterful. He is like a black hole- an attractor of planets- dark matter. DeNiro has always fascinated me when he plays characters that are punching above their true weight – or intelligence- That’s why I love him in so much Jackie Brown–  An interesting transfer between these characters: Pesci- who has played the Machiavellian monster, regains a senile innocence, a benign oblivion and De Niro’s character – who hass operated in a moral blank- gains enough awareness – to feel bitter loneliness.

I believe that much is gained if we cross-reference our transgressions with how we will feel in the last three minutes of our life- when it all becomes clear: or betrayals, our saving graces and our ultimate insignificance. This film gave me that feeling. This film needs time- however- it has to be processed like a real mourning. It will come up in stages… I believe most of its power will sink in, in time, and provoke a true realization. A masterpiece. The perfect corollary Goodfellas and Casino. See it. In a theatre. This movie languished in development in studio vaults for so long… having it here, now, is a miracle. And, btw- fastest 3 hours in a cinema. Do not miss it.

There’s really not much more I can add to this – who am I to try to annotate Guillermo del Toro? I’ll just once again state that everything del Toro says here is absolutely correct. Don’t go into The Irishman expecting another Goodfellas or Casino. This is much more reflective, somber film. It’s also one of Scorsese’s best.

The Irishman opens in select theaters November 1 and on Netflix November 27.

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