The Irishman and the New Movie Practices Resurrecting The Ways of Old
So, you’ve probably heard by now that Martin Scorsese’s decade-ending epic The Irishman is set to be three and a half hours. Now, that is a really long duration for the common movie goer. People were giving Endgame enough of a hard time for being three hours long. Well, this is one heck of a long film, depending on how you are comparing it to movies in general. In all honest, I’m just going to say this. It isn’t actually that long. Yeah. I said it. Firstly, it isn’t even close to the longest film Robert De Niro himself has taken part in. Once Upon a Time in America is marginally longer, at three hours and fifty minutes (the real version, not that emaciated cut version). 1900 is five and a half freaking hours long. De Niro loves being in epics, unquestionably.
Of course, this isn’t a contest. Three and a half hours is still daunting. However, seeing that this is a Netflix release, chances are most people are going to catch the film on the streaming service late November. In actuality, is three and a half hours really that bad compared to the shows you binge watch episode after episode? I will play devil’s advocate and admit that binge watching shows feels easier, because you deal with bite sized episodes one after the other. You get a sense of completion each time. One film being this long kind of feels like one task that has yet to be finished until the bitter end. Either way, you’re looking at a time frame that I’m sure you’ve conquered many a time before.
However, watching this film in a theatre may be more challenging. Writer (and Scorsese bud) Paul Schrader took to Facebook to inform us that the film was initially going to have a roadshow release (with an intermission placed around midpoint, so you can do what you need to do to prepare for the second half), but that idea hasn’t come to fruition as of yet. Well, believe it or not, this was very common decades ago. Many epics of yesteryear were even longer: Lawrence of Arabia, Gone with the WInd, and Ben-Hur are obvious example of near-four hour films with overtures, intermissions, and the weight of the world.
Scorsese will forever be a film student at heart. He understands that this was kind of a norm with serious films of this nature before. Then again, going to see a movie felt like a true event of the day: you based your schedule around this. Filmmakers like him are eager to bring back the spectatorship vibe that going to the cinemas once had, before Hollywood got saturated beyond authenticity. The Irishman is having a very limited theatrical run, probably for good reason. This is daunting to many. As for me, I am excited to catch something this grande on the big screen. We just don’t get man films like this in America, anymore.
Sure, three and a half hours is long. Is it really that long in the grand scheme of things? Don’t enough films cut corners and feel flaccid in design? One of the great comedies of the twenty tens is Toni Erdman: a silly film that was bold enough to be three hours long, including one full hour before the humour came in full force. Films are too slap dash to match a shallowly captivated generation nowadays. We need the occasional test, to remind us what strong build up can be (and how rewarding the payoff can be). Not every film needs to be super long, but some do. I’m in full support of The Irishman doing its thing.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.