The Brilliant Music of The Irishman

published on July 2, 2020

last year Scorsese released his swan

song the Irishman and depending on who

you asked it was either a masterpiece a

snoozefest

or way too long I didn't watch it yet

what we did and we have some thoughts

this is one brilliant moment from the

Irishman

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three and a half hours in lengths the

Irishman is a behemoth it seems to

grapple with who we are as a country who

Scorsese is as a filmmaker and who we

all are as human beings all at once and

there's part of the Irishman where all

of it comes together like a symphonies

vinyl movement bringing Marty's entire

oeuvre into focus engaging with who he

was and where he knows he's going that

made us feel so intensely we just had to

talk about it but before we do that we

gotta warn ya we're going to spoil the

hell out of this entire movie like

everything in it and it really deserves

a fresh watch so if you've got a

three-and-a-half hour chunk on your

calendar save this for later and give

the Irishman a watch first but just in

case you forgot or you don't want to

take our advice here's where the moment

finds us Frank Sheeran is the Irish

heavy for the New York mob bodyguard to

Jimmy Hoffa and Bobby DeNiro with the

lumber of a very old man in the face of

a very slightly less old man but we're

suspending our disbelief okay and the

story has two timelines in the first one

we start at the beginning and follow how

he got involved with the mob and through

them Jimmy Hoffa in the second he's as

old as he looks and taking a road trip

with Joe Pesci's Russell a New York boss

and father figure to Frank and actually

there's kind of three timelines if you

count Frank in a retirement home

offering his narration but we'll come

back to that later by the point we get

to our moment Frank has established

himself as a dependable and

unquestioningly loyal hitman for the New

York mob and has become best friends

with Jimmy over the course of working

for him until Hoffa and the mob have a

falling-out Hoffa wants his presidency

at the Union back but he offends a

connected member in the process he wants

the mob to back him the mob wants him to

cool it and Frank is caught in the

middle

but Hoffa is hot-headed and stubborn and

the mob is the mob

and despite some serious diplomacy on

Frank's part it all comes to a head at

Frank's lifetime achievement banquet

where for the first time Hoffa and the

New York family heads end up in the same

room together it doesn't go particularly

well and it kind of ends like this

Jimmy talk to us he talked to Tony he

means what he's saying

Tony told the old man to tell me to tell

you hmm

it's what it is

where do these it's what it is

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very simple when you say it that way

[Music]

and this has a very particular feeling

to it but it doesn't stop there this

moment keeps going he's thinking about

it and going as feel and going

that's good okay and this singular

feeling gets stretched out for 25 full

minutes but the whole time it just feels

like one long held breath a sense of

sadness and dread about we don't know

what like a growing knowing emptiness

that won't let us get away and it's such

a specific feeling extended for so long

that we had to ask ourselves what the

hell is causing us to feel this way but

when we first went looking for the

source of this feeling we didn't find

anything to point it Scorsese didn't

seem to be doing much at all

it all just seems so ordinary and that's

because it wasn't what he was putting in

these scenes it's what he wasn't if you

think about the stereotypical Scorsese

gangster flick it goes like this fast

Velma Schumacher montage and the car

explodes badass voiceover smash cut into

Rolling Stones music you an Irishman has

all that in spades take a look at a

timeline of the movie's leading up to

our moment here this is where you find

all the violence and these are all the

music cues and then here is a timeline

of our 25 minutes section here is the

violence and here are all the music cues

which is to say there aren't any this 25

minutes section is dead silent it's like

all the energy and vigor has just

suddenly fallen out of the film and only

hollowness remains and it's eerie but

it's not just eerie in the same way a

quiet place is eerie it's a loud movie

right up until it's a nearly silent

movie and we feel that and they

attention to the places where the music

has already stopped the goodtime energy

is always cut short right before the

violence is perpetrated

but this sound of silence effect isn't

just working on us in a vacuum the story

itself suddenly goes quiet to look at

the film structure right as the silence

starts just as the last bit of music for

nearly half an hour is echoing into

memory our first timeline merges into

the second like an on-ramp the banquette

is the end of the Frank becoming a

gangster storyline the very next

chronological event is the planning a

road trip storyline we saw in the

beginning and with that we have no more

good old times to look back fondly on

only the rest of the trip it's always

been pretty quiet but it's also kind of

boring there's no tension

hardly any conflict and the only real

drama we've run into so far has been

whether or not Russell's wife is allowed

to smoke in the car all they do is make

a couple phone calls they check into a

hotel sit by the pool use the payphone

again there's not really anything

happening here what movie does that and

sure there's the Hoffa conflict in the

background but it's almost like they're

avoiding talking about it in order to

keep things civil and as far as movies

go civil is usually boring but in this

case it's actually the second turn of

the screw we've talked before on

brilliant moments about how holding

inexplicably long on a shot eventually

imbues it with a sense of free-floating

dread when we start wondering why the

hell are we hanging on this what are we

missing

call it the empty hallway effect and

efficiently made film doesn't point its

camera at an empty hallway for no reason

so if it's pointing at a hallway there

must be a reason or it must not be

actually empty likewise an efficient

filmmaker doesn't shoot pointless scenes

about old men sitting around a pool for

no reason so if we're watching a scene

where nothing appears to be happening

then this very lack of anything of note

triggers us to look for something we're

missing

it creates an expectation of meaning in

us and the next thing we do is start to

supply the most plausible source of

meaning but if executed right it hovers

below the level of consciousness where

we're not quite able to articulate what

that meaning is so yes it looks like

nothing is happening but it's all right

there just beneath the surface because

we have to remember what this section is

actually about this section is about the

very last step in the process of Frank

being asked to murder his best friend

of his other best friend at the pool the

hallway isn't empty watching through a

second time knowing the ending it's

clear that Russell's phone call is

actually him setting up a hit and his

prompting DeNiro to go call Hoffa back

was actually a part of his plan this was

a key step in hafez murder it just

looked like two old dudes sitting by the

pool even when Russell tells Frank he

doesn't actually say anything concrete

Frank I had to put you into this thing

or you would never let it happen which

they've already set up no not that there

isn't even an opportunity for Frank to

protest because that's just not how

Frank allows himself to be which

Scorsese has set up to you got orders

you follow them and if they tell you to

bring some prisoners into the woods you

know and it didn't they don't tell you

what to do but they just say yo hurry up

so Frank is caught in this dreadful

situation where there's not allowed to

be any outward drama about the murder

because it's not going to be asked and

he can't say no even as he deeply wants

to so all the tension Frank can't bring

up is suffered internally which is

exactly what we're doing is the audience

watching it not be talked about there's

been an inevitability to koffice murder

if you're Frank you know that the mob

only tolerates so much and if you're us

watching the movie you're a human being

in 2020 and you know just like everybody

else in the world that Hoffa got whacked

you just don't know the window we're in

the hoop except you kind of do don't you

why is the movie about Frank why is it

telling us the Hoffa story from his egg

why are we watching them smoke

cigarettes on a boring-ass road trip why

are we staring down this particularly

empty hallway with this empty hallway

man it's because the hallway isn't empty

and we think that as viewers you start

to intuit that subconsciously before it

works its way up into your conscious

this suspicion that he's gonna be the

one to do the killing comes to the fore

just as you're watching nothing

happening and you realized that's what's

happening and also that he's realizing

that's what's happening and hoping it

doesn't happen at the exact same time as

you if you go back and watch closely you

can see there have been a million clues

that the Hoffa decision has already been

made

mob has already made up its mind Frank

has already decided his allegiances the

trip has already been set in motion the

wedding has already been planned and

there's no other timeline to escape to

anymore there was no chance there never

was and we are so far behind that it

takes us almost 25 minutes to realize

that we're already on our way to an

inevitable end which kind of sounds like

something else the movie is deeply

concerned with remember when we said

there were actually three timelines and

how the third one was Frank at the

retirement home narrating the story of

his own life

well our second timeline runs into this

one – merging into it in the same way

the first two timelines did and when it

does the narration stops and the music

stops again – and we find Frank aging

and alone all his mob friends have

passed away all his family has left and

there's nowhere else for the narrative

to go but the film keeps going and we

assume it means something important is

going to happen he tries for a

Redemption but it doesn't take he tries

for amends but his family doesn't want

them the hallway appears to be empty but

what's happening is what was always

going to happen what the movie was

always about the long empty hallway has

always had a door at the very end of it

creeping closer all along even as we

weren't looking the slow unavoidable

inevitable end and that's why we love

the Irishman so what do you think and

disagree with any of our thoughts any

other moments from the Irishman that you

loved let us know in the comments below

and be sure to subscribe for more sand

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