Who’s that knocking at my door. 1967
Profoundly moving if somewhat flawed first film by Martin Scorsese who was all of 25 when he made it on a shoe string budget. It began as several small film school shorts and finally made it out of its cocoon in 1967. Loaded with film references and influences from Fellini, Neo Realism, the New Wave and Cassavetes this is still very much a Scorsese film, autobiographical and complex in its characters and narrative. We see these big young Italian calves hanging and acting out on the lower eastside of New York City with the focus on J.R. played by an impossibly young Harvey Keitel who is between jobs as he says, and is both sensitive and sterile in his emotions and feelings. J.R. simply does not know how to handle relationships outside of his small circle of all male friends even though we can see that he longs for something more than what he has. This is expressed best when J.R. and two other friends take a car ride upstate New York and are like fish out of water, but Keitel’s reaction to seeing a beautiful landscape probably for the first time from the top of a mountain seems to mesmerize him, it’s almost like he’s having an epiphany. The film really begins when riding the Staten Island ferry one night he meets the Madonna of his dreams Zina Bethune who is reading a French magazine, even though she can’t read French. They strike up a conversation that is awkward and real. Here Scorsese throws in a wonderful reference to “The Searchers” and John Wayne, and later has the couple leaving the old Beacon Theatre on the upper west side after seeing Rio Bravo. They fall in love, but when Zina opens up about her scared past Keitel goes ballistic and ruins their relationship. The themes, images and indeed characters presented here in stark black and white will over the years show up over and over again in Scorsese’s films. The movie is also notable for being film editor Thelma Schoonmaker’s first film and the use of rock n roll songs for the soundtrack a technique that Scorsese would use in some of his later films.
posted by cinemage books at 8:00 AM