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An analysis of how narrative and genre features create meaning and generate response in the opening of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas

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An analysis of how narrative and genre features create meaning and generate response in the opening of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas is based on the culture of organized gang crime in New York. The gangster genre from the 1920s up until the early 1930s was extremely popular because most urban, ethnic and working class audiences shared gangster's desire to attain the American dream. A central motif of Howard Hawks 'Scar face' is a neon sign that states 'the world is yours' and the contemporary audience shared this dream. Typical of the genre the close knit Italian American community introduced at the beginning of the film by the voice over of the protagonist Henry Hill which is later taken over by his wife Karen as he starts to lose control of his life. The classic early genre made no attempt to camouflage their greedy motives and the audience were attracted to their blunt honesty. Martin Scorsese taps into this enjoyment of gangster of the gangster's ability to do what the audience can onlydream about. ...read more.


By witnessing Henry Hills innocence and naivety during his younger teenage years the audience are more likely to engage with his story. The use of voiceover is more of a convention of film noir than classic gangster genre. In 'Goodfellas' as Hill's life unravels he even loses control of the narrative roles as his wife Karen takes over certain scenes. The mise en scene in the opening sequence goes along way in explaining the mafia mystique. It is clear to the audience gangsters are dressed in silk shirts, they drive expensive Cadillac's The lives of those members of Paulis mob who populate the cab stand is juxtaposed to Henrys home which is small and crowded. The use of low angle shots and freeze frames as his Dad beats him with his belt is in a way the most disturbing depiction of violence in the opening scene Henrys casual acceptance of his Fathers behaviour again suggests that this is a world that is unfamiliar to the average person and once in a while "Ill have to take a beating but by then I didn't care. ...read more.


The voice over delivered in the past tense implies that the film will follow a rise and fall narrative "It was a glorious time and wise guys were everywhere". Henrys information regarding the cautious ways in which Pauli lives his life for example not owning a telephone and only meeting up with one person is ironic considering Henrys drug fuelled recklessness which later on leads to his final arrest. The opening indicates the excitement of being a gangster. Scorsese brings a twist to these conventions that make the film and his characters more appealing to the audience as they seem like ordinary people. Scorsese demythologises the gangster world, much of what initially attracts the young Henry is a charade, as the narrative unfolds we see relationships deteriorate as greed and paranoia take hold as characters move from loyalty to betrayal. Normally the protagonist invariably dies in a hail of bullets, Henry returns to a normal anonymous lifestyle he was trying to escape. A fate that to him, seems worse then death. He also shows no remorse, 'I was an average nobody. I ad to live my life like a shnook'. ...read more.

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