The Irishman: A Masterpiece About Men Made For Men

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Yep. You’ve read the title correctly. Let me start by saying that I love Scorsese, I love De Niro, I love Al Pacino, and I love Joe Pesci. The performances in The Irishman are all stunning. The Irishman is a masterpiece, yes, but a masterpiece with a big moustache and a big beard.

Let me clarify that I really dislike those women who preach hate towards men. I am a mother of three wonderful children (two girls and a boy) and I don’t like those women who treat men like enemies. I also find it absurd to talk about female directors and male directors instead of just directors, or about female nominees and male nominees instead of just nominees (any way, who cares about the nominee thing: cinema is an art, not a competition!). I’ve always loved that touching and breathtaking scene in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner where John Prentice (Sidney Poitier) says to his father (Roy Glenn):

“Dad, you’re my father. I’m your son. I love you. I always have and I always will. But you think of yourself as a colored man. I think of myself as a man.”

I, too, think of myself as a human being, not as a female human being. But this inability of the vast majority of cinema directors of embracing the women universe bothers me, bores me and saddens me.

So, what happened to Scorsese? Why The Irishman, being a cinematic masterpiece as it is, left me indifferent and impassible? Because in my opinion it’s a film about men made for men, where women are left in a corner, almost transparent, like ghosts.

I understand that Scorsese wanted to focus on the lives of Frank Sheeran, Jimmy Hoffa, and Russell Bufalino (rough characters masterly played by De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci). But those men didn’t grow up on trees like apples. They had mothers, daughters, and wives who influenced them, supported them, embraced them, loved them, and hated them.

Frank Sheeran had two wives: Mary Sheeran (Aleksa Palladino in The Irishman -does she speak even once?) and Irene Sheeran (Stephanie Kurtzuba in the film), and four daughters: MatyAnne (Tess Price and Jennifer Mudge in the film), Dolores (India Ennenga and Marin Ireland), Peggy (Lucy Gallina and Anna Paquin), and Connie (Jordyn DiNatale and Kate Arrington) -which may mumble all together 10 words at most during the whole movie.

Jimmy Hoffa’s wife was Josephine Pozyswak (Welker White in the film). They were married 39 years (until Hoffa’s disappearance) and had a daughter: Barbara Ann (Rebecca Faulkenberry) -and a son: James Phillip (Ken Wulf Clark).

Bufalino’s wife was Carrie Sciandra (Kathrine Narducci in the film), who belonged to the Sciandra mafia family. Russell Bufalino and Carrie Sciandra were married more than 70 years (70 years!) and had no children.

But all those women hardly have a voice in the film. The only interesting female character in The Irishman is Peggy. All the other women in the film are almost superfluous: they remain almost silent and their bonds with the male characters are hardly drawn.

I must say that the music in The Irishman (Robbie Robertson) and the cinematography (Rodrigo Prieto) are absolutely stunning. 

I understand that The Irishman is a film about the mob. And the mob is mainly male. But in The Godfather trilogy Coppola manages to deliver three films with truly interesting and strong female characters played by stunning actresses (Keaton, Talia Shire, Morgana King, Simonetta Stefanelli, Francesca De Sapio, and Sofia Coppola) while its male characters and brilliant actors shine enormously (Brando, Al Pacino, John Cazale, James Caan, Robert Duvall, De Niro, Lee Strasberg, Michael V. Gazzo, Gastone Moschin, Bruno Kirby, Dominic Chianese, Andy Garcia, Joe Mantegna, Eli Wallach, Donal Donnelly, and Franc D’Ambrosio). The Godfather trilogy is also a movie that revolves around men but there you have many female voices that make the story much more attractive and real. 

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Most of the films of today (and in cinema history) revolve around men and leave women in the corner. Some brilliant exceptions to this rule are Woody Allen’s films, Bergman’s films, Almodóvar’s films, and… who else’s films?

Woody’s films have always had women’s thoughts and feelings in their core. Woody is probably the director who has written the best and most interesting roles for women. I’m a huge fan of Woody’s and I love all his films. He carves the women of his films brilliantly and shows them with all their anxieties, fears, doubts, complexities, aspirations, and dreams. Woody is an amazing writer and his female characters don’t need capes or superpowers: they are women made from flesh and bones, full of love and hate. Some of the most iconic female characters in the history of cinema appear in Woody’s films. Annie Hall (1977), Interiors (1978), Manhattan (1979), Hannah And Her Sisters (1986), September (1987), Another Woman (1988), Alice (1990), Husbands and Wives (1992), Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Celebrity (1998), Small Time Crooks (2000), The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), Anything Else (2003), Melinda and Melinda (2004), Match Point (2005), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), Blue Jasmine (2013), Wonder Wheel (2017), and A Rainy Day in New York (2019) are all films with fascinating, deep, funny, complex, and real women. Woody said that it was Keaton who inspired him to start writing about women. So, thank you so much, Diane!

Bergman was one of the first cinema directors who created a powerful yet anguishing women universe. Bergman’s female characters are mostly dark: they suffer and agonize, but they also dream and long for love, peace and communication. Bergman also wrote super interesting male characters (Victor Sjöström, Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Erland Josephson, and Jarl Kulle all incarnated fascinating men). I used to love Bergman. Now I only enjoy his comedies. His dramas are too depressing and torturous for me now. Some of the deepest female characters ever written in cinema are the heroines in Sommaren med Monika (1953), Sommarnattens leende (Smiles of a Summer Night) –my favorite! (1955), Såsom i en spegel (Through a Glass Darkly, 1961), Persona (1966), Viskningar och rop (Cries & Whispers, 1972), Scener ur ett äktenskap (Scenes from a Marriage, 1974), Ansikte mot ansikte (Face to Face, 1976), and Höstsonaten (Autumn Sonata, 1978).

Almost all of Almodóvar’s films revolve around women. Almodóvar’s writing is funny, sad, deep and very real. I always think that you have to be Spanish to fully understand Almodóvar’s characters and jokes. He didn’t invent anything. He just copies the hysteria, poetry, strength and anger of the Spanish women. Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (1988), Átame (1989), Tacones lejanos (1991), La flor de mi secreto (1995), Todo sobre mi madre (1999), Hable con ella (2002), Volver (2006), Los abrazos rotos (2009), and Julieta (2016) all show real women struggling, enjoying, and suffering.

Woody, Bergman and Almodóvar all have/had their muses. Woody’s muses include Keaton (the best! 9 films), Mia Fucker (sorry, I’m afraid she earned that name after her shameful vengeful persistent campaign against Woody: sadly, 13 films), Dianne Wiest (5 films), Julie Kavner (8 films), Judy Davis (5 films), Caroline Aaron (4 films), Louise Lasser (4 films), Stephanie Roth Haberle (4 films), Blythe Danner (3 films), Frances Conroy (3 films), Scarlett Johansson (3 films), Erica Leerhsen (3 films), Claire Bloom (2 films), Mariel Hemingway (2 films), Anjelica Huston (2 films), Joanna Gleason (2 films), Jessica Harper (2 films), Elaine Stritch (2 films), Janet Margolin (2 films), Debra Messing (2 films), Alison Pill (2 films), Sally Hawkins (2 films), Penélope Cruz (2 films), Parker Posey (2 films), Charlize Theron (2 films), Tracey Ullman (2 films), and Emma Stone (2 films).

Bergman’s muses were Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Harriet Andersson, and Eva Dahlbeck. Some critics argue that Bergman didn’t make stars of his own actresses, but that these stunning actresses made Bergman’s films so great.

Almodóvar’s muses include Victoria Abril, Carmen Maura, Cecilia Roth, Julieta Serrano, Marisa Paredes, Rossy de Palma, Penélope Cruz, Lola Dueñas, Kiti Mánver, Loles León, and Chus Lampreave. Almodóvar’s universe is unthinkable without all these delightful actresses.

Scorsese, on the contrary, only had male muses (funny, that word –male muse– doesn’t even exist!): Harvey Keitel, De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Leo. This is great, good for him, I don’t have any problem with that, I actually love it, but, in my opinion, this often makes his films lack that necessary women’s breath. And that’s, again, the problem with The Irishman. Scorsese’s universe is clearly masculine. I don’t mean that there are no women in his films, there are, yes, of course, but those women hardly speak, hardly exist. The women in Scorsese’s films are (as Sartre would say) contingent and not necessary. Iris (Jodie Foster), Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), Ginger (Sharon Stone), Karen (Lorraine Bracco), Danielle (Juliette Lewis), Jenny (Cameron Diaz), Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), and Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) are all attached to male characters. They mostly represent men’s desires and fantasies and hardly exist in a world or their own.

Scorsese’s most famous films revolve around men. Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The Color of Money (1986), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Goodfellas (1990), Cape Fear (1991), Casino (1995), Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006), Hugo (2011), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Silence (2016) and, now, The Irishman (2019) are almost all masterpieces about men made for men. Some few exceptions are Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974), New York, New York (1977), and maybe The Age of Innocence (1990). Scorsese is one of the titans of cinema but he always leaves women behind men. His art becomes, ultimately, an art about men made for men that sadly doesn’t succeed to resonate universally. 

We, women, constitute half of the population of our planet. Please, do not forget us. We also exist!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, February 7, 2020

Manhattan Murder Mystery

Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993). Dir. Woody Allen

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“Claustrophobia and a dead body. This is a neurotic’s jackpot” (Larry / Woody Allen)

Manhattan Murder Mystery es una comedia súper divertida con un diálogo genial, una bonita cinematografía, una trama entretenida, misterio y amor. Woody Allen y Diane Keaton están súper graciosos en sus roles de marido y mujer.

La película fue nominada a los César a la mejor película extranjera (Meilleur film étranger) y Diane Keaton fue nominada a los Golden Globe (Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical).

La cinematografía es de Carlo Di Palma, el cinematógrafo de Hannah and her Sisters (1986), Radio Days (1987), The Secret of My Succe$s (1987), September (1987), Alice (1990), Shadows and Fog (1991), Husbands and Wives (1992), Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Don’t Drink the Water (1994), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Everyone Says I Love You (1996) y Deconstructing Harry (1997).

He visto Manhattan Murder Mystery muchas veces. Hace poco la vi con mis hijos mayores Yael e Itay (tienen 10 y casi 8 años) –les encanta Woody Allen–, pero, aunque se divirtieron, Mr. & Mrs. House les dio un poco miedo (y eso que no les dejé ver ningún muerto).

Lo mejor: la obsesión de Carol, Mr. House, las caras de Woody Allen en la escena de la colección de sellos, los comentarios sobre el asqueroso antisemita Wagner, Anjelica Huston, el paro del ascensor y la muerta, y los espejos con Orson Welles y Rita Hayworth.

Lo peor: lo triste que es que actores impresionantemente talentosos coman como verdaderos cerdos.

cropped-halloween-2015-todos.jpg Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid – Aix-en-Provence, 10 de julio de 2016

“Claustrophobia and a dead body. This is a neurotic’s jackpot” (Larry / Woody Allen)

Manhattan Murder Mystery is a funny comedy with great lines, beautiful cinematography and a cool plot filled with mystery and love. Woody Allen & Diane Keaton are hilarious together in their roles of husband and wife.

The film got a César nomination for Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger) and Diane Keaton got a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.

The cinematography is by Carlo Di Palma, the cinematographer of Hannah and her Sisters (1986), Radio Days (1987), The Secret of My Succe$s (1987), September (1987), Alice (1990), Shadows and Fog (1991), Husbands and Wives (1992), Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Don’t Drink the Water (1994), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), and Deconstructing Harry (1997).

I’ve seen this film many times. Recently I’ve watched it with my older children Yael & Itay (they are 10 and almost 8 years old) –they love Woody Allen– but, although they enjoyed the film, they were a bit scared of Mr. & Mrs. House (and I didn’t allow them to see any dead body).

The best: Carol’s obsession, Mr. House, Woody Allen’s faces in the stamp collection scene, the comments on the disgusting Anti-Semitic Wagner, Anjelica Huston, the stuck elevator and the dead body, and the mirrors with Orson Welles & Rita Hayworth.

The worst: the astonishing fact that super talented American actors & actresses can really eat like pigs.

cropped-antonia-dalit-2.jpg Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid – Aix-en-Provence, July 10, 2016

Interiors

Interiors (1978). Dir. Woody Allen

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“You only live once, and once is enough if you play your cards right” (Pearl / Maureen Stapleton)

Interiors fue el primer drama de Woody Allen. La película es una obra maestra y el ambiente es muy bergmaniano. Obtuvo 5 nominaciones a los Oscar y 4 nominaciones a los Golden Globe.

Woody Allen escribió el rol de Eve pensando en Ingrid Bergman. Le ofreció el papel pero Ingrid, muy a pesar suyo, tuvo que rechazarlo, pues ya se había comprometido a rodar Höstsonaten (Sonata de otoño) con Ingmar Bergman.

No hay música en la película (con la excepción de las dos piezas que suenan en la escena donde todos menos Joey y Renata están bailando y la ordinaria Pearl rompe el florero).

Lo mejor: Geraldine Page y Maureen Stapleton.

Lo peor: la extraña y “falsa” maternidad de Renata. Vemos a su hija apenas en dos momentos, y tan sólo por un segundo.

Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, 30 de mayo de 2016

“You only live once, and once is enough if you play your cards right” (Pearl / Maureen Stapleton)

Interiors was Woody Allen’s first drama. The film is a masterpiece and obviously was influenced and inspired by Bergman’s films. It got 5 Oscar nominations and 4 Golden Globe nominations.

Woody Allen wrote Eve’s role with Ingrid Bergman in mind. Woody Allen offered the role to Ingrid but she had to decline it because she was already committed to shoot Höstsonaten (Autumn Sonata) with Ingmar Bergman.

There is no music in the film (with the exception of the two pieces played in the scene where everybody but Joey and Renata are dancing and the tacky Pearl breaks the vase).

The best: Geraldine Page and Maureen Stapleton.

The worst: Renata’s weird and “fake” motherhood. We see her daughter only in two moments and only for a second.

cropped-antonia-dalit-2.jpg Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, May 30, 2016

 

Manhattan

Manhattan (1979). Dir. Woody Allen

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Isaac (Woody Allen): “I got a kid, he’s being raised by two women at the moment”.

Mary (Diane Keaton): “Oh, y’know, I mean I think that works. Uh, they made some studies, I read in one of the psychoanalytic quarterlies. You don’t need a male, I mean. Two mothers are absolutely fine”.

Isaac: “Really? Because I always feel very few people survive one mother”.

Manhattan obtuvo 2 nominaciones al Oscar (Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Mariel Hemingway, y Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman). Ganó 2 BAFTA Awards (Best Film y Best Screenplay) y el César a la mejor película extranjera (Meilleur film étranger).

Toda la película se rodó en blanco y negro. La cinematografía es de Gordon Willis (“The Prince of Darkness”), el cinematógrafo de The Godfather, The Godfather. Part II y The Godfather. Part III, quien ya había trabajado con Woody Allen en Annie Hall (1978) y en una de las obras maestras de Woody Allen: Interiors (1979). Gordon Willis dijo que, de todas las películas que había rodado, Manhattan era su preferida.

Woody Allen quedó tan descontento con Manhattan que ofreció a los productores hacer otra película gratis si estos no estrenaban Manhattan. Por suerte los productores no le hicieron caso y hoy podemos seguir disfrutando de esta joya. Irónicamente, Manhattan ha sido la película más taquillera de Woody Allen.

Lo mejor: el principio (con música de Gershwin y Woody Allen cambiando el principio una y otra vez), Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep, la lista de Isaac y el genial guión de Woody Allen.

Lo peor: el desagradable personaje que interpreta Diane Keaton.

Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, 26 de mayo de 2016

Isaac (Woody Allen): “I got a kid, he’s being raised by two women at the moment”.

Mary (Diane Keaton): “Oh, y’know, I mean I think that works. Uh, they made some studies, I read in one of the psychoanalytic quarterlies. You don’t need a male, I mean. Two mothers are absolutely fine”.

Isaac: “Really? Because I always feel very few people survive one mother”.

Manhattan got 2 Oscar nominations (Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Mariel Hemingway, and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman). It won 2 BAFTA Awards (Best Film and Best Screenplay) and the César Award for Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger).

The whole movie was shot in black and white. The cinematography is by Gordon Willis (“The Prince of Darkness”), cinematographer of The Godfather, The Godfather. Part II and The Godfather. Part III, who already had work with Woody Allen in Annie Hall (1978) and in one of Woody Allen’s masterpieces: Interiors (1979). Gordon Willis once said that Manhattan was his favorite of all the movies he had shot.

Woody Allen was so unhappy with Manhattan that he offered the producers to make another movie for free if they didn’t release Manhattan. Fortunately the producers didn’t listen to Woody Allen and today we can still enjoy this gem. Ironically, Manhattan has been Woody Allen’s most successful film.

The best: the opening (with music by Gershwin, and Woody Allen changing the opening over and over), Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep, Isaac’s list and the script.

The worst: the annoying character played by Dianne Keaton.

cropped-antonia-dalit-2.jpg Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, May 26, 2016

The Godfather. Part III

The Godfather. Part III (1990). Dir. Francis Ford Coppola

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“Friendship and money: oil and water” (Michael Corleone / Al Pacino)

The Godfather. Part III obtuvo 7 nominaciones al Oscar (incluidos Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Andy Garcia, Best Director: Coppola, y Best Cinematography: Gordon Willis). No ganó ningún Oscar.

Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen) no quiso participar en la película porque consideró “inaceptable” que a Al Pacino le pagaran 5 veces más que a él.

The Godfather. Part III no es tan genial como The Godfather y The Godfather. Part II, pero es una película buenísima. Otra joya de Coppola y un brillante, inesperado y doloroso final.

Lo mejor: Joe Mantegna y la confesión de Michael.

Lo peor: el peinado de Al Pacino.

Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, 24 de mayo de 2016

“Friendship and money: oil and water” (Michael Corleone / Al Pacino)

The Godfather. Part III got Oscar nominations (including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Andy Garcia, Best Director: Coppola, and Best Cinematography: Gordon Willis). It didn’t win any Oscar.

Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen) didn’t want to be in the movie because he considered  it “unacceptable” that Al Pacino would earn 5 times more than him.

The Godfather. Part III is not so amazing as The Godfather and The Godfather. Part II, but nevertheless it is a really good movie. Another Coppola gem, and a brilliant, unexpected and painful end.

The best: Joe Mantegna and Michael’s confession.

The worst: Al Pacino’s hairdo.

cropped-antonia-dalit-2.jpg Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, May 24, 2016

The Godfather. Part II

The Godfather. Part II (1974). Dir. Francis Ford Coppola

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“I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart” (Michael Corleone / Al Pacino)

The Godfather. Part II obtuvo 11 nominaciones al Oscar. Ganó 6 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Robert De Niro; Best Director: Coppola, Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Material: Coppola & Mario Puzo, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration: Tavoularis, Graham & Nelson, y Best Music, Original Dramatic Score: Nino Rota & Carmine Coppola).

John Cazale (Fredo), al igual que en The Godfather (1972), tampoco fue nominado por su brillante e inolvidable actuación.

De Niro no estuvo presente en los Oscar.

Lo mejor: Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), la cinematografía (Gordon Willis, llamado “The Prince of Darkness”) y la música (Nino Rota & Carmine Coppola).

Lo peor: los muertos que se mueven (el hermano de Vito Andolini que mueve el brazo y la prostituta que respira), aunque tampoco importa demasiado.

Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, 20 de mayo de 2016

“I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart” (Michael Corleone / Al Pacino)

The Godfather. Part II got 11 Oscar nominations, and won 6 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Robert De Niro; Best Director: Coppola, Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Material: Coppola & Mario Puzo, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration: Tavoularis, Graham & Nelson, and Best Music, Original Dramatic Score: Nino Rota & Carmine Coppola).

John Cazale (Fredo), as in The Godfather (1972), didn’t get a nomination for his brilliant and unforgettable performance.

De Niro didn’t attend the Oscars.

The best: Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), the cinematography (Gordon Willis, called “The Prince of Darkness”), and the music (Nino Rota & Carmine Coppola).

The worst: the dead that seem alive (Vito’s brother moves his arm and the dead prostitute is breathing), although it does not bother too much.

cropped-antonia-dalit-2.jpg Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, May 20, 2016

The Godfather

The Godfather (1972). Dir. Francis Ford Coppola

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“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” (Vito Corleone / Marlon Brando)

The Godfather obtuvo 11 nominaciones al Oscar. Ganó 3 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role: Marlon Brando; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Mario Puzo & Coppola).

John Cazale (Fredo) no fue nominado por su brillante actuación.

Brando no aceptó su Oscar.

Lo mejor: La música (Nino Rota), Marlon Brando, John Cazale & Al Pacino.

Lo peor: el italiano de Brando.

Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, 18 de mayo de 2016

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” (Vito Corleone / Marlon Brando)

The Godfather got 11 Oscar nominations, and won 3 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role: Marlon Brando; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Mario Puzo & Coppola).

John Cazale (Fredo) wasn’t nominated for his brilliant performance.

Brando didn’t accept his Oscar.

The best: The music (Nino Rota), Marlon Brando, John Cazale & Al Pacino.

The worst: Brando’s Italian.

cropped-antonia-dalit-2.jpg Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, May 18, 2016