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The film I have chosen is 'Goodfellas' directed by Martin Scorsese in 1990, based on the novel by Nicholas Pileggi 'Wiseguy'. The reason for this is that it gained many awards for the cinematography used and partly through personal preference.

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Film Form and Genre

Assignment 1

Give a detailed commentary on a sequence, or sequences from a film of your choice in terms of two of the any of the following: mise-en-scene; editing; use of colour; lighting; sound; special effects.

 The film I have chosen is ‘Goodfellas’ directed by Martin Scorsese in 1990, based on the novel by Nicholas Pileggi ‘Wiseguy’. The reason for this is that it gained many awards for the cinematography used and partly through personal preference.

 The scene I have chosen is called ‘Cast of characters; Tommy’s a “funny guy”. This is the post-transitional scene from when the lead character was an adolescent to becoming a young man. The purpose of the scene is basically to establish his friends and the social community in which he associates with. The main influence as to why I chose this scene is that of the cinematographic content and technical structure in relation to the film narration.

 I have chosen to discuss the sound elements of the scene and mise-en-scene. I chose sound as it is a key element in the structure of the narration and form of the scene. I chose to discuss mise-en-scene as the relationship of each element involved has important significance to the cinematography. The sequence is set in ‘Sonny’s Bamboo Lounge’, a lounge bar and a regular mafia ‘types’ hang out, in down town New York, 1963.


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 Sound effects include the clinking of glasses as people toast, background noises such as people talking in muffled voices and as the voiceover is underway, the music plays the role of background music.

 Sound perspective in this sequence is in relation to vision perspective. You hear the sounds you would expect to hear i.e. glass smash 3 feet away from you, high volume; glass smash 30 feet away from you, low volume.

  Sound representation in this sequence is used to its potential in relation of setting the mood and establishing narrative form.

 The voiceover technique used is very effective in achieving the goal of creating a ’point of view’ position for the viewer. This is attained through the use of techniques discussed above. The combination of sound and vision in the sequence is used successfully to achieve the effect of establishing mood and atmosphere, relative to the narrative form.


 The setting is in ‘Sonny’s Bamboo lounge’. It is a Hawaiian style lounge bar with tables and chairs and a bar with stools. The mood is low-key and the atmosphere is relaxed. It is filled with mainly men and men accompany the women that are there. This is typical for the kind of establishment it is and the people who frequent there who are mainly gangsters and ‘mafia types’. There are also waiters walking around carrying trays of drinks and taking orders.

 Props present are characteristic of a lounge bar such as an abundant amount of small tables with low-light lampshades.

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 You can see from this diagram the difficulties the film crew may have had with incorporating lighting techniques. The diagram also highlights how the camera pans around to achieve the shots of establishing each character.

 The screen-direction in the sequence has been evaded by filming a three-dimensional sequence. This is unconventional in the sense of the ‘axis of action’ or ‘fourth wall’, this is an imaginary line which divides the viewer from the action on screen.

 The entire sequence strives to give the impression that as a viewer, we are walking through the lounge bar meeting the characters for ourselves. It is successful in achieving this objective through the use of technical means, style and form.


An Introduction to Film Studies – Second Edition

Jill Nelmes

Routledge, 11 New Fetter Lane, London


Course notes and handouts

John Whitehouse


Following page.

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