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Goodfellas analysis

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Nick Pritchard

on 5 April 2016

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Transcript of Goodfellas analysis

and the American Film Exam task

Walter Murch's Six Rules of Editing:-
1. EMOTION: make sure a cut adds to a scene's emotional impact, rather than subtracting from it

2. STORY: Edit so that the story moves forward

3. RHYTHM: Make sure that cuts reflect the rhythm of the action

4.EYE TRACE: Remember that cuts affect the location and movement of the audience's focus

5. 2D PLANE OF SCREEN: Respect the 180 degree rule

6. 3D SPACE: Show spatial relationships between characters and objects

Themes and motifs
The need for identity/status - young HH openly aspires to be a gangster (better than being president of the US). Dresses like a gangster.
The myth of the American dream
Family and parents - HH's own father depicted as violent; older gangsters become surrogate fathers
Audiences - Karen is initially a spectator, seduced/initiated into the world of gangsters by Henry.
'Documentary' take on gangster life - HH being pursued by the FBI whilst rushing around doing chores (e.g. preparing the meat sauce for dinner)
Food - metaphor for gluttony, richness of gangster life
Initial thoughts..
Complete the multiple choice quiz on the film.

DO NOT look at your notes or the prezi!
The continuous steadicam shot
What could be the symbolic meaning of the lack of edits or cuts in this scene?
To develop our understanding of the film's themes, and how the micro and macro elements reflect these
To consider links to
Angels With Dirty Faces
To understand the structure of the FM2 American Film task
How does
compare to

Try to identify similarities/differences between the two, with regards to:
Narrative structure
Representation of crime
Representation of women
Representation of childhood
Representation of law and order
The theme of audiences and performance
A 'lean-forward' moment in itself
Henry leading Karen into a subterraenean world and then seamlessly up into a world of glamour
Emotional subtext about what he is doing to her (song is synchronous with this)
The nightclub - a world of performance (Karen as a spectator)
Nightclub is only this glamorous at night. Temporary, superficial glamour of their life together
The 'lean forward' moment

This is the moment when there's a clear visual shift in a scene, mainly due to editing.

The moment when the spectator becomes most engaged.
She draws us into the world via her voiceover
Starts off as a spectator
When she is assaulted, she lies in the car as Henry brutally attacks the perpetrator
Also a spectator at the make-up party
HH handing her the gun - symbolic code (also a narrative plant). She says it 'turned her on'
Wedding scene - begins with glass being crushed in a napkin - another symbolic code?
Police raid on the house - she turns around and watches TV
Link with
- easily influenced audience member
Is a stereotypical housewife but also a spectator and a participant in crime

Challenge is to make the gangster appealing enough as a focus for the film, but not to endorse/condone his behaviour
Karen's voiceover undercuts the romantic world Henry constructs with his voiceover early on the film
Scorcese also depicts the appalling, casual violence and HH's growing paranoia
Robert Warshow - The Gangster as a tragic hero
Warshow argues that the death of the gangster at the end of the film is cathartic
Does the ending of Goodfellas create catharsis or are we left feeling something else?
Thelma Schoonmaker

Editor of
Regular collaborator with Martin Scorcese

Editing in
Freeze frames - signpost key moments in Henry's life as he tells the spectator his story
Voiceover anchors (gives meaning) to what spectators see (important when presented with visual chaos)
Narrative ellipsis - allows the action to fast forward between critical moments in HH's life (also, use of captions)
Final sequence made faster with jump cuts - make the audience feel agitated, identify with HH

Visual influences
Opening of Jules et Jim (1962) - chaotic visual style

The Great Train Robbery (1903) - thematic link of outlaws
Narrative structure

Could also be described as a 'Chinese box' narrative - Karen's story within Henry's story
Could be described as an unrestricted narrative - voiceovers show both H and K's POVs (although H's voiceover dominates)
Linear narrative, with a non-linear opening
Starts in the middle - acts as a narative hook/enigma for the spectator
American Film
Section C of the exam
You have a choice of 2 questions - you must choose 1
You should spend approx. 50 minutes on this section
How do key sequences from your chosen films reinforce their messages and values?
How far do representations of men or women reflect the time in which the films were made?
What is significant about setting and/or place in your chosen American films?
Rise and fall structure
Time and place
Brooklyn and Queens - poor areas, melting pots. “It meant being a somebody in a neighbourhood full of nobodies.”

Being a gangster gives HH status in the neighbourhood - he is half Irish/half American, and not Jewish. Lacks a clear sense of his identity at start of narrative

Juxtaposition with suburban setting at end of film - HH forced to become a 'nobody'

Epic gangster/biography subgenres - takes place over several decades, focus on major organised crime

Songs used - all synchronous with the time and place, as well as emotions
Full transcript