Diego Santiago Diez
You can run from leftist culture, but you can’t hide
The “Irishman” in The Irishman is subtly revealed in an offhand reference in the Oscar-nominated movie: it is actually not the film’s Irish-American protagonist, but John F. Kennedy.
The film is Martin Scorsese’s defining political statement, but look at Scorsese’s extensive filmography — it’s not like there’s much competition. Half are gangster movies, a quarter are murder thrillers, three are Catholic movies and then one was a Dalai Lama-worshipping bomb.
Even in an inherently political movie like Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese unabashedly sided with the bankers – that movie held up the stockbroker “wolves” as gutsy heroes who should be viewed as being as cool as rock stars. Instead of attacking “banksters”, Scorsese saw much to admire in the gangsters of high finance.That was a supremely right-wing view to promote, and during the throes of the Great Recession (2013) no less!
So why should we be surprised when in The Irishman political opus Scorsese sides with the gangsters yet again?
What is not said in any of the Mainstream Media reviews for The Irishman is that Scorsese did something the 1% of 1950s and 1960s could only fantasize about: produce an unabashed hit piece on labor leader Jimmy Hoffa.
Discredit Hoffa? In 1955 nobody would have imagined such a thing was possible. It would have been met with not just widespread disagreement and resentment but maybe even riots and sabotage. Moreover, prior to the advent of the neoliberal form of capitalism in 1980, even some in the US managerial class wouldn’t have agreed with hysterically insisting that unions are inherently negative.
But since 1980 Hoffa, for decades the most important labor leader in postwar America, has gone from perhaps the most popular politician/political figure in America to being synonymous with criminality – Scorsese’s movie is obviously the massive propaganda door constructed to seal up this vault of post-1980 revisionism. [Ironically, Norman Jewison, using Sylvester Stallone for the lead, did a much more pro- labor film in 1978, F.I.S.T. Although somewhat politically muddled, the film was loosely based on the Teamsters union and their former President Jimmy Hoffa, played by Stallone.]
It is amazing that this 3.5 hour, incredibly boring movie (full of actors too old to bring much zest to their roles) was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. However, I was also amazed at other recent Best Picture nominees like American Sniper, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker. I thought Melania Trump would follow Michelle Obama in handing out this year’s award to give it legitimacy? Or why not just have the US Secretary of Labor hand it out? The Irishman ultimately didn’t win Best Picture, but it definitely deserves to be placed among these other recent examples of far-right Hollywood propaganda.
Do not see this movie – it is truly that boring. Read this review instead!
Mighty Italianism = mighty empty identity politics
I have found that in the US questions of labor, class and equality are not prevalent – questions of identity are. So we should address this issue – as it regards Scorsese – before reviewing his Hollywood hit on Hoffa.
Three important facts: Scorsese obviously views Italian gangster violence as acts of legitimate resistance to endemic White American racism.
Equally important is that we can explain Scorsese’s broad US popularity due to his philosophical insistence that it is criminality which runs America, and nothing else. This is accepted as true in the capitalist US by their masses, I have found.
Thirdly: because Italians govern US criminality (Scorsese insists), and because Scorsese has a tribal/ethnic worldview and not a class-based one, Scorsese insists that he is correct that Italian-American mafioso are indeed deserving of endless praise and respect.
I’m sure our American reader understands instinctively that these three assertions are correct, no?
Certainly, countless Scorsese movies include an entire speech or key lines here and there to justify the continuation of the Italian-American Mafia on grounds that the US White establishment (or perhaps/also the US White Protestant establishment) excludes them unfairly. This unspoken analysis of Scorsese’s is a complete historical exaggeration, relatively speaking.
Why did Scorsese see Hoffa as an enemy he could open fire on? I contend that Scorsese resents Hoffa because Hoffa represented the door to legitimate, honest labor which was indeed open to Italians in America (but not Blacks), and which Scorsese’s beloved gangsters immorally refused.
To throw the incredibly reactionary opening speech from Jack Nicholson in Scorsese’s The Departed back in Scorsese’s face: “That’s what the niggers Italians don’t realise. If I got one thing against the black Italian chappies it’s this: no one gives it to ya – ya have to take it.”
Not true – Italians had access to jobs and opportunities Blacks could only dream of. Blacks can’t hide in plain sight like Italians in White (formerly Apartheid) America. In American Apartheid Blacks are rejected immediately on sight – Italians… not so much, and often not at all. Nicholson’s character is an idiot for acting as if there wasn’t anti-Black/pro-White racism helping him to go straight, if he had wanted to “take” something legitimately.
The turn to criminality by some Blacks – totally abandoned by an Apartheid state and shut out of the labor market, unions, education and training – has totally different motivations than the turn to criminality by Italian mafiosi, and that is a certain socio-historical fact.
Is The Irishman sympathetic to Blacks? Hardly – one of the alleged crimes which justifies the murder of an up-and-coming Italian-American mafioso is that he worked alongside Blacks. Repeatedly in Scorsese movies Blacks are not comrades, and this repeated New York City tribalism of his cannot be seriously denied. Spike Lee – did you know that he’s from Brooklyn? – often promotes this same anti-socialist tribalism. The Departed, the depiction of Blacks in his The Last Temptation of Christ – there is no shortage of proof here.
So Hoffa, organised labor and socialism all point out that: no, Marty, your characters are indeed human scum and not hugely downtrodden victims of US society. Yet Scorsese has spent his life elevating criminals – thus, of course he has to reduce to a criminal the labor leader who Italian criminals could have turned to IF they wanted to work a real job. Scorsese repeatedly and falsely implies such options were not available to Italians in the slightest.
So —despite undeniable cinematic talents—leftists should always denigrate Scorsese as someone who has done more to promote divisive identity politics than anybody else when it comes to Italian-Americans. Movie after movie has demanded Italian pride, but it is a reactionary, tribal, selfish, anti-socialist pride. Furthermore, Scorsese has made this demand while simultaneously doing more to defame the average (non-mafioso) Italian-American than anyone else! (De Niro’s and Chazz Palminteri’s 1993 outing A Bronx Tale presents working class Italians and mafiosi in a more nuanced and overall more progressive and anti-racist light.)
It gets worse: Scorsese’s understanding of politics is so riven with the reactionary tribalism inherent in self-vaunting identity politics that he truly believes that Italians are the true power in the US – there is no “Deep State”, there are only “the Italians”.
In The Irishman Scorsese informs the viewer that Italian-Americans got Kennedy elected, got Kennedy killed, were the ones behind the Bay of Pigs, and were behind the attempted assassinations of Castro. The Soviet Politburo apparently has got nuthin’ on the Northeast US Italian-American mob! “The C.I.Who? No, viewer, there’s no CIA, it’s the mob – it’s us Italians!”
Preposterous, facile, false, revisionist, dangerous – only the most reactionary pro-Italian tribalist would say such a thing in public… or Martin Scorsese.“If they can whack a president they can whack a president of the union,” says one character, but Scorsese is high on his own faux-leftist supply – he confuses violent, brutal, dime-a-dozen muscle with stockholders, big capital, the Pentagon, the army, the Deep State… my God, what an absurd political error?!
For Scorsese, and explicitly in The Irishman, war has no legitimate political objective – it is merely organised crime on a larger level, as related by Scorsese Fact #2. Even the fight against German fascism in World War II is explicitly portrayed in The Irishman to be devoid of any possible higher meaning other than Hobbesian personal survival (and the survival of one’s ego-extension, the family). Such a nihilistic view was certainly not widely shared in postwar America – such a view was, however, the diverting, thrilling but ultimately hyper-individualist outlook promoted by film noir.
However, Iraq and Afghanistan have changed the American view of war. Such nihilistic analyses – which also totally lack a class analysis – are far more easily accepted today. Is war a racket? It can be, but some are legitimate defense. Some are also legitimate progressive assaults. Not to Scorsese.
Why are the mobsters in The Irishman even more obsessed with Cuba than the Kennedys/US establishment? It’s because Scorsese’s beloved Italian mobsters are so incredibly fascist and reactionary, and because they see that socialism promises to put them out of business permanently. Cuba proved exactly that.
Because Scorsese has an ethnic – not class – worldview he denigrates Cuba and shares in the Mafia’s exasperation at Cuba’s continued resistance, anti-criminal stances and refusal to accept US levels of violence, corruption and political-historical nihilism as “normal”.
Italian… yeah, right. In The Irishman they only speak Italian when talking about food or a snitch, and De Niro’s accent is horrible – he didn’t speak it at home, obviously. De Niro’s character, who is Irish, is finally accepted into the Mafia inner circle with the biggest, gaudiest ring one can imagine – that’s “Italian-American style” (but, really, yet another false caricature of it) and not “Italian style”. More importantly, he is “in the family” – and what else could a non-Italian-American hope for in a Scorsese movie but to become an adopted Italian?
These are all an inherently far-right views, and Scorsese has perhaps done more than any other Italian-American to promote them.
Hoffa: the labor mafioso who was killed for refusing to collaborate with other mafiosi?
The second sentence out of Hoffa’s mouth is a reference to murder – “Painting houses” – showing that the revisionist propaganda is inflicted on the audience from the very beginning. From start to finish Hoffa is portrayed as a criminal and thug, but he commits an even worse sin to both Scorsese and modern “liberal” America: By my count Al Pacino, who played Hoffa, made 15-20 anti-Italian slurs.
Hoffa’s anti-Italian racism is thus unmissable yet goes totally unexplained? Such racism from Hoffa cannot be found in the historical record – it is a Hollywood invention. So why invent it?
It is because this type of casual racism is the ultimate identity politics/political correctness sin in 21st century America. Among many liberal Americans it’s enough for a lynching, practically. Many Americans have been taught to accept the sins and crimes caused by capitalist competition, but racism is a no-no! And for Scorsese and his completely reactionary Italian pride this is surely the ultimate sin!
It’s all part of how the movie is one big character assassination of Hoffa with too many proofs to mention. He (impossibly) refuses to fly his office’s flag at half mast after the assassination of JFK. Hoffa is repeatedly the corruptor of American justice, and not the Deep State and RFK’s very historically real “Get Hoffa” squad of civil rights abusers. De Niro is a “real union man” unlike Hoffa, who is portrayed as a unionist solely out of pride and lust for power – he screams, “This is my union! This is my union!” Hoffa-as-egofreak is hammered home again and again.
But one wonders: Was Scorsese more incensed by Hoffa’s (totally unproven) anti-Italian slurs, or that he fought against his beloved Italian-American Mafia? “Who does he think he is – Castro?” That is uttered as an insult because socialism and Castro fight the Mafia, and so does Hoffa, but the average American viewer is endlessly urged to side with the Mafia by people like Scorsese.
The script inadvertently hits on a fundamental flaw in Scorsese’s mentality: Pacino upbraids someone for not knowing “the difference between fraud and extortion”. The latter gets federal charges which are twice as harsh because it involves the use of force. Using this as a foundation to show the difference between the crimes of unions and the crimes of thugs would at least have provided the script for an entirely different movie about Hoffa – assuming a 21st-century Hollywood production simply had to be anti-Hoffa and anti-labor – but it was quickly dismissed.
However, force is not a crime to Scorsese. Force is simply a reality of life which must be accepted – this explains why even the WWII fight against fascism was neutered of morality and injected with cynical self-interest. This is rather (and I hate to get personal) the fearful view of a very small-statured person, which Scorsese is. Similarly, in seemingly every Scorsese movie after the mid-1980s the anal rape endemic in US prisons is referenced – that’s an odd obsession of his, but this all adds to the proofs that a common theme of Scorsese’s is the omnipresence of unjustified force and the inability to stop such force, or even to morally oppose such force.
However, the omnipresent use of unjustified force in American foreign and domestic policy – it is simply a reality of life which must be accepted. Thus, Scorsese is actually reflecting modern American society. I have found that in America everyone – no matter how big or well-armed – fears unjustified imprisonment & punishments, as well as the inability to have personal security in urban areas.
Back to the demonisation of Hoffa: In a case of incredible artistic revisionist history, the script is written to imply that Hoffa went to jail for the Kennedy assassination. Hoffa didn’t go to prison until 1967, and for a case which has nothing to do with JFK’s death.
Wait – I thought it was the Italians who were boasting about killing JFK, Marty? Now it’s organised labor which killed Kennedy and went to jail for it?
But it’s absurd to look for logic and a serious historical/political/intellectual analysis in a Scorsese movie – they are empty entertainment and the goal is merely to establish a certain feel and style. For example, the first three hours (!) of the movie is one reinforcement after another to the audience that De Niro is such an incredibly loyal guy… and yet he is the one who personally kills Hoffa? Can you get any more personally disloyal than that, LOL?
Ultimately, De Niro’s loyalty is to criminality, professional criminality, not to humanity or comradeship, but Scorsese relentlessly and falsely humanises his many criminal De Niro characters in this way. The average moviegoer may not care enough to publicly denounce such characters and refuse to sympathise with them – they may even admire them anyway.
But how can the generational torch ever be passed in capitalistic, competition-driven US society?
I have found that in the US one either goes out on top, or they don’t go out at all. Scorsese is trending in the latter direction, obviously.
Much has been made of the technology – requiring scores of millions of dollars – which de-aged De Niro’s and Pacino’s faces. I find such gushing over technology boring, and it distracts from serious discussions. But it did permit absurdities like: in real-life the woman playing the De Niro character’s wife is 30 years younger than De Niro himself. The Anglo-Saxon view is art should be “as a mirror” – has anyone ever seen such an age difference in real life (at least to count statistically among the hoi polloi)?
What is more interesting is that Scorsese works once again with all the same actors. It’s interesting on a nostalgic level, but nostalgia and cheap sentimentality is the anthesis of great art; does this choice also reflect his generation’s refusal and inability to work with the younger classes and promote their interests instead of their own aged desires?
The problem is that such greedy tribalism and cliquishness kept Scorsese from evolving as an artist for this picture. Not only is he lazily banking on the meta connections his audience makes with De Niro and Pacino to increase this film’s alleged depth and appreciation, but such boring casting pushes him to boringly reference himself.
Phrases straight out of the Scorsese handbook are repeated endlessly. To name just a few: “It is what it is.” “Our friend in…” “Straighten all this out.” “College (i.e. prison)”. “Don’t wear shorts.” These are all old tropes now, although the last one is lifted from The Sopranos, and that renders Scorsese – perhaps unfairly – a parody of himself. It is unfortunate Scorsese made so many limiting artistic choices at the very outset, especially via his casting decisions, which doomed us to watch a “Scorsese-type movie” for 3.5 hours.
Pacino really outshines De Niro, who is simply an actor/soldier bringing boring “close-up movie acting technique” and no inner conflict to his lines. He looks every one of his years: that is not a knock on his face but his ability to move, as he is not a spry 76 (though few are). De Niro only revealed some uncommon artistry at the very end, effectively stumbling over his lines when talking about the ailments of old age and death. He should retire, or stick to elderly roles because that is all he could get up for.
Pacino, however, at 79 does manage to bring some vim and vigor – who says smoking will age you prematurely?
Such a question is verboten in the Hollywood world, which is more sycophantic than probably any other world, but would this movie have been better if Scorsese had used other, younger actors than his favourite gangster-players? I say: most likely. Scorsese did not want to take such a risk, and that doesn’t make for interesting art.
Truly, the most interesting part of the movie is its last 40 minutes – have you ever seen an extended modern representation of geriatric American gangsters? De Niro finally plays his real age, and the movie finally becomes relatable on at least some level. “I don’t deserve that, but I have bursitis and I don’t deserve that either”, in a joke sure to bring down the retirement home.
But it quickly devolves into a boring slog because Scorsese truly has nothing to say about (natural) death, especially via the inherently non-verbose, non-emotional De Niro gangster character. Bursitis in action is not interesting, but one could make talking about bursitis interesting, at least. The problem is not the showing of geriatric problems – which is not very popular in youth-loving America – but showing them in a Scorsese movie, which always depend on action over reflection.
This is why the end has mere touches to typical Freudian nonsense, what-could-be-easier Catholic deathbed confessions, and superficial “I swear I had good intentions” but zero remorse for criminal actions. Of course De Niro feels nothing – dude’s a stone killer, but Marty kept insisting for three hours that he was some deep fount of human value! But all Scorsese has to do is put a statue of the Virgin Mary behind a De Niro scene near the end and most MSM critics have even more “intellectualism” than they can capably handle.
For Scorsese Catholicism is mainly just a prop. The Last Temptation of Christ was a fine movie in many ways, but Scorsese saved actual reverence for the Dalai Lama-loving Kundun. The Last Temptation is quite accurately unChristian (in a theological sense) as it showed Jesus as 100% human, even though Christians believe Jesus is the divine Son of God or God himself. Scorsese is openly Catholic but countless Italian-Americans have justifiably insisted that Scorsese’s values are not Catholic, nor even properly Italian-American: they are criminal values, and criminal values are certainly globalist.
Old age is tough, and too tough for Scorsese to seriously examine: Scorsese’s characters go from jail, straight to a stereotypical Catholic deathbed confession, straight to the graveyard/old folks’ home for the senile.
So in this rare Hollywood blockbuster about the elderly class, Scorsese’s portrayal of the elder class is about as deep as his portrayal of women: In Scorsese’s movies all the women do is smoke and cook/dip their feet in the pool. He tosses them a bone once in a while with a hint of being the true power behind the thrones, but he has not made a movie about a woman in 45 years, since Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, about a struggling single mother and waitress, which was credited with reviving interest in so-called “woman pictures”.
What a shame that he turned from the heartland and the working class to New York City and their various gangster classes! Indeed, he could have taken his New York City, Italian-American, chip-on-his-shoulder viewpoint and brought some insights to different cultures and ideologies within America and planet Earth, but because he is a US liberal and anti-socialist he preferred self-worship, identity politics and non-evolution.
That is what Scorsese should regret in his old age.
However, he possesses so much vigour that he seems to have time to redeem himself – no deathbed confession may even be necessary.
In the end, the praise for the far-right The Irishman by the MSM occurred for the same reason the vilified Joker, which I discussed here: The leftist review of Joker which you’ve been waiting for .
^5000The mainstream imperialist media lie CONSTANTLY. Literally 24/7. And it's getting worse.
All of them do it: radio, tv, the newspapers, the movies. The internet. No exceptions.
The corporate Big Lie is pervasive and totalitarian. CBS does it. NBC does it. ABC does it.
CNN does it. FOX does it. NPR does it. And of course the NYTimes and WaPo do it.
Thousands of "diverse" voices telling you the same lies. Enough to convince anyone.
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