Celluloid Style: Goodfellas

The suits are as sharp as the weapons in Martin Scorsese’s seminal gangster movie, which spans three decades of New York’s most notorious crime family.
Ray Liotta wears an oversized camp collar shirt with a windowpane check jacket. On his necklace is a cross and the Star of David, symbolising his character’s Roman Catholic upbringing and wife Karen’s Jewish background.

Having sworn off gangster films afterMean Streets, the opening scene of Martin Scorsese’sGoodfellaswas always going to pack a signet-ring-embellished punch. The director’s intention was “to beginGoodfellaslike a gunshot and have it get faster from there”, in his reliably unorthodox style. The audience is dropped right into the middle of the action, and then left to fend for themselves amid a fractured narrative that follows notorious mobster Henry Hill and his associates,who ruled real-life New York between 1955 and 1980.

Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci play the troublesome trio around whom the story focuses, with a voiceover by Liotta that follows his character’s journey from adolescent to outlaw. From the cars to the clothing, the film is a visual time capsule of the 1960s and ‘70s. Whilst not always accurate (the film was later criticised for showing a 1965 Chevy Impala in a scene set in 1963, and a Boeing 747 plane years before it entered commercial service), each frame is a nostalgic snapshot of a time when it was good to be alive - at least, if you were a ‘good fella’. New(ish) Cadillacs and Chevrolets, shiny suits and shinier gold jewellery were in abundance, accompanied by a soundtrack of The Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, The Who and Cream. Epitomising the over-the-top, cash-flashing aesthetic that the mobsters adopted was a uniform that signalled their wealth and power to the world; functioning under a completely different set of rules to the rest of civilisation, they were under no obligation to hide the fact that they had more money than they knew what to do with.


September 2017


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