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An excellent performance from Harvey Keitel with some of the best dialogue cinema has ever seen.
Le premier long métrage de Martin Scorsese préfigure tout ce qu'on va voir à l'avenir de son auteur. Who's That Knocking on my Door est un film formellement cru, qui ressemblerait à s'y méprendre à un film étudiant. Mais ses thèmes abordés, son ambition de mise en scène et son rythme permettent de lui pardonner beaucoup de choses, dont une romance extrêmement problématique et de longues plages de dialogues qui ne vont nulle part. Harvey Keitel en proto-Tarantino est formidable. Même sur 90 minutes, on s'ennuie un peu mais l'énergie déployée pendant le métrage est vraiment communicative. Le film ne restera pas dans les annales mais permet de voir comment un grand cinéaste a démarré. Ca n'a pas de prix.
A very interesting debut, yet flawed in multiple ways. The plot feels very cobbled together and that makes some of the film feel aimless. However, you see a lot of Scorsese's habits and signature style being born. The use of music and slow motion in the apartment party scene definitely foreshadows his future work. Also, he already seems to have a handle on framing conversations in interesting ways, the scenes between Keitel and Bethune being the most engaging. Then there is the way he films the city, which feels so comfortable and natural to him, as if he's already filmed it a million times. I'm still trying to figure out the dream sequence with the prostitutes, though.
This is a fair film, mostly because it serves as an excellent framework to Mean Streets. Some of Scorsese's early directing choices (like choosing to shoot in black and white) do make the film have some "lag" to it but all together it encapsulates well the several themes he would soon perfect in Mean Streets.
Watching Martin Scorsese's first feature film is an odd experience as you see all of the raw talent on show while recognizing that his writing could use some refining. You also get to see a young Harvey Keitel in this film and his abilities are already fully formed as his performance here easily equals that of his later films like Bugsy (1991) and The Piano (1993). I really loved this film which I was surprised by as I expected the film to be mildly disappointing but instead I found the film a lot more exciting and interesting and fresh than some of Scorsese's later more polished but lacking in passion films. This is a film debut worth watching and it displays what made 1960s films so great as the film is experimental whilst also having themes and a message that are clearly conveyed.
Young Italian-American street tough J.R., Harvey Keitel, unexpectedly falls in love with a wealthy, educated young woman, Zina Bethune, as he struggles between his commitment to Catholicism and his commitment to her. When she reveals that she was raped in her past his obsession with her sexual purity grows worse as he gets angry at her and leaves as he is unwilling to marry a woman who is not a virgin but will have sex with a ‘broad' who he would never consider marrying. He returns to her after regretting his decision but continues to shame her which pushes her to tell him to leave as they will never have a relationship with respect. He enters into a church and apologizes for his sins but it does not appear that he has let go of his guilt.
This film serves as a great example of why Madonna-whore complexes are so awful. The main character is perfectly willing to have premarital sex with ‘broads' and does not see this as being sin but also demeans these broads and does not believe that they are good enough for him to commit to. His unwillingness to accept that women may have their own sexual desires and want to have premarital sex with other men before settling down has been engrained in him due to his Catholic upbringing and he simply expects women to be pure while he can do whatever he wants. What makes him even more disgusting is the fact that she did not even have consensual sex but was instead raped, a normal response would be to feel terribly sorry for her and to try to help her move past this experience, instead we see him blame her for being raped. He tells her it was her fault because she chose to go out riding in a car with a boy she had known for a long time. This is obviously not an indication that she ‘wanted' to be raped and his calling her a ‘whore' is soul crushing as you see a woman who has faced abuse in her past continue to be shamed.
The end of the film was refreshing in that he does not change but she finally decides to push him away to protect herself which was a gratifying moment. We see that this man now has nothing due to his prejudices and we can only hope that this experience changes him and he comes to understand women more. We see that he is also unwilling to have sex with her due to fear of damaging her purity which hurts him as they are unable to have a completely fulfilling relationship if he is giving himself physically to other women. I was glad that we don't see his actions glorified and get to understand that she is better off without him and deserves to be fulfilled by a man who doesn't have the same problems.
One element of the film that I would praise, completely divorced from the rest of the film are the scenes of physical intimacy. We see J.R. and the girl kissing in intense close ups and I felt that I was being let in on a moment of personal intimacy without feeling uncomfortable. Keitel and Bethune have wonderful sexual chemistry and the scene was sexier than most scenes of graphic sex I have seen in other movies. This is one of the elements that make the film worth watching.
Martin Scorsese's debut film has serious editing problems and it isn't exactly a showcase of his directing talents that he would later perfect, but 'Who's That Knocking at my Door?' is still a strong film that ditches a thorough plotline in favour of an artistic commentary regarding late 1960's New York, youth culture, and exploitative sex. This film has some balls to exploit what was considered taboo and it does so with accompanying smart dialogue (Scorsese wrote this too) and some lovely landscapes.
Early Scorsese with a young Harvey Keitel and the radiant Zina Bethune in a raw NY drama years prior to Mean Streets. Early glimpses of future greatness to come. Also some mikes clearly in view of shots.
It's definitely not one of Scorsese's favorites, and probably for good reason. Who's That Knocking at My Door sees Scorsese in his debut without much polish or knack for how to effectively structure a feature debut.
The problem with the film mostly falls on inexperience. Much like his second film, you see flashes of his greatness in camera movements and poise in developing likable character dynamics. Heck, he even showed promise in his screen writing abilities in a few scenes, and that's not even something he does all that often anymore. But with a low budget, sometimes sloppy editing, and a narrative that lacked substance, there isn't a whole lot to ride home about here.
Certain aspects of the film reminded me about Richard Linklater's Before Trilogy, in that a good portion of the film just walking and talking. That, I found interesting. But I wasn't as invested in the story when it falls into the trap of gratuitous sex scenes and unnecessary yelling. Something, that Scorsese has been harped on later in his career, but it seemed really out of place in what was otherwise, a calm romance-drama.
This is Scorsese's first feature, however. So perhaps certain narrative mishaps and editing issues should be forgiven, considering it underwent many changes during its production. It's also a far more artistically structured film than his subsequent movies, so by default it's more divisive. The characters just didn't connect with me. It plays more as an experiment than an experience, if that makes any sense. In all, there's flashes of the great Scorsese everyone loves, but not enough narratively here to make for a worthwhile viewing.
+Interesting directing choices
+Plenty of Scorsese staples
-Not much substance
-Gratuitous at times
Martin Scorsese's directorial career kicked off with 1967's Who's That Knocking at My Door, a stylistically ambitious but dramatically flat slice of New York Italian realism. Show this movie to someone unfamiliar with the director's masterpieces, and he or she would likely point out the tremendous potential that drips from almost every frame. But Who's That Knocking at My Door is an incredibly hard film to get behind. For one, it's 90 minutes long but feels twice that. Nothing of great consequence happens, and the drastic differences between the subtlety of the story and the bombast of Scorsese's direction makes for a pretty jarring viewing experience.
J.R. (Harvey Keitel in his big-screen debut) is a low-level gangster in the Big Apple. He spends his days just fucking around, drinking, playing some cards, and plotting some truly small-potatoes crimes with his best pals including Joey (Lennard Kuras) and the always-picked-on Sally Gaga (Michael Scala). One day, J.R. begins chatting with a girl (Zina Bethune) about magazines and films. It's very casual, but she's very pretty, and he's pretty funny, so they meet again to check out a movie. And before long, they're an official item.
J.R., however, is careful to keep his relationship with this girl and his "career," i.e. his time with his friends, separate. He's observed the way these guys treat women, and he cherishes his girl too much to subject her to that. There's also an element of embarrassment present; J.R. knows he isn't worthy of this girl, and if she sees what he does everyday, she might wake up and realize it. Everything changes, however, near the film's halfway mark, when J.R.'s girl shares a dark secret with him that threatens their relationship and throws his perfect balance out of whack.
Who's That Knocking at My Door begins with a bang-a lengthy, very naturalistic "meet cute" between J.R. and the girl during which they dissect The Searchers and discuss the rising costs of pop culture magazines. Set to some of New York's most unpleasant sounds (honking cars, passing trains, footsteps, and crying babies), the scene is both adorable and a little unsettling. It's love (or at least attraction) in the purest sense, but what's going on around them is drab, obnoxious, and ugly.
Unfortunately, those three adjectives could also describe the remainder of the film. The most egregious moment occurs near the halfway mark when we observe J.R. dreaming about having lots of sex with different women. It's totally superfluous and was apparently only included because the film's distributor demanded more sex in the film. You can look at the film's editing (courtesy of Thelma Schoonmaker, who, like Scorsese, is working on her first film), which is off-putting in its quickness and repetition, as another sign of this film's style drowning out its substance.
It doesn't help that the story and, to a lesser extent, its characters are quite dreary. You like them, but as the film slowly limps to its conclusion, you'll just stop caring. The easiest way to sum up this film is to say it's quite obviously an auteur's first feature. Good on Scorsese for doing what he wanted to do in an unusual way. One gets the sense that if he can hammer out this film's storytelling kinks, he might have good things in his future.
Martin Scorsese directs with an experimental looseness that he'll never get back, but this is a joy to watch for that reason. A young Harvey Keitel also proves he has a big future with a determined dramatic performance.