'The Irishman' Re-Review: Does Martin Scorsese's Epic Feature Play Better on the Small Screen?



by Alonso Duralde

And Scorsese himself was, in the 1980s and '90s, a passionate advocate that 'letterboxing' movies -- maintaining an anamorphic aspect ratio on the old square TVs -- should be common practice for TV channels and VHS tapes and not just limited to laserdiscs. Also Read: 'The Irishman' Film Review: Martin Scorsese Gangster Epic Is Melancholic and BittersweetCreating a cinematic work of art with one eye cocked at the home theater is not anything new, either. Back when 'Titanic' first hit VHS in 1998 (in both the letterboxed and standard versions), articles would illustrate how director James Cameron intentionally framed shots so they would look good in their wider, big-screen iterations and with the sides chopped off for TV.

Now that standard televisions are all rectangular, and that viewers have gotten accustomed to black bars at the top and bottom of the screen when they are necessary to maintain a film original look, it a moot conversation, but this was a hard-won victory. )And in discussing 'The Irishman' on Netflix versus seeing it on the big screen, we have to keep in mind that any second look is going to make viewers notice previously missed details or appreciate script or performance aspects that might have slipped by on a first watch.

And while those critics cited the inclusion of the climactic 'Happy Endings' number -- which comes far too late in the movie to drastically alter anyone perception of it -- Peary quite rightly points out that it was a second viewing, with different expectations, that changed their minds. I did, however, take a lunch break, and I took advice from #Film Twitter and paused the movie right after Al Pacino Jimmy Hoffa orders that the flags at Teamsters headquarters be flown at full mast following the death of JFK in 1963.

That certainly makes sense; the first time I ever saw an HD television, it was showing clips from Tim Burton 'Alice in Wonderland,' and what had looked jarringly awkward in a movie theater (and in 3D, no less) appeared to be much more cohesive on the monitor. The second viewing allowed me to more fully appreciate the structure and snap of Steven Zaillian screenplay, as well as all the emotion, judgment and realization that Anna Paquin and Lucy Gallina pack into the character of Peggy, even without that much dialogue.

Published on December 1, 2019
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