VERSUS THE SCARECROW EPISODE 5: DIRECTORIAL DEBUTS: FIRST CLASS. I decided to challenge myself and really open the doors of my film knowledge and take on “The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide”. It’s 808 pages of movies and movie reviews from some of the most knowledgeable movie people you don’t know. It’s a book put together by a staff that praises, and destroys, some of our favorites and not so favorites. You can read the rest of my series here.
Just a quick refresher: each episode, I’m going to tackle three films from three different categories. Two films will be films I’ve never seen before and one will be one I’ve seen before or own. For the new films, well, new to me, I’m going to review them like a typical FTS review using the TOAST Rating system. But, for the films I’ve seen, I’m going give a quick paragraph or two about why I like or don’t like the film. We’ll try to include the poster and trailer for each film. “….and here. We. Go!”
Today I’ll be looking at the debut films of some of my favorite directors. Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket, Scorsese’s Who’s That Kicking At My Door, and I reflect back on Jean-Luc Godard’s debut film and the catalyst for the French New Wave in cinema; Breathless.
Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967) Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring: Harvey Keitel, Zina Bethune and Anne Collette. IMDB says: ”J.R. is a typical Italian-American on the streets of New York. When he gets involved with a local girl, he decides to get married and settle down, but when he learns that she was once raped, he cannot handle it.”
Scorsese. Harvey Keitel. Gangster-ish film. What could go wrong? Well, a few things. While this does have the look and tone of a Scorsese film, as well as the solid performances of one, one thing that jumps around a bit is the feel. The film is focused more on Keitel’s character J.R. and his catholic guilt instead of his actions as a young Italian-American man on the streets of New York. J.R. gets involved with a local girl, but once he finds out she’s been through some things, he’s unable to handle it. The film jumps from location to location as J.R. tries to follow along with his work but he finds himself distracted by the new developments.
The film feels differently because it has a rather interesting back-story. Originally, it was a short story about a couple of friends getting into trouble around NYC. Then the love story was added, and then the company that bought the rights wanted a sex scene to be added so the film could be marketed as a sexploitation film. So this film will shift and change in moods, but it does the best it can with what material and story it has. The soundtrack is alright, nothing too fancy, and as I previously stated, the performances from Keitel and leading lady Zina Bethune are solid. Filmed on both 16mm and 35mm, this black and white films looks great as it jumps from locale to locale during both day time and night time shots. Who’s That Knocking At My Door is a great warm-up picture and building block for what would be Mean Streets, again with Keitel, a few years later. If you’re a fan of Scorsese, you’ll find it easier to enjoy this film than someone who has only seen Hugo or The Departed.
Check back tomorrow for my review of Breathless and if you’re interested in more, you can find the rest of the Versus The Scarecrow series here.