The Plot and Such: J.R. is a young Italian-American Catholic who hangs out and messes around on the streets of his New York neighborhood with his buddies and generally stays pretty close to his mama and his church. He meets a pretty, artistic young woman on the Staten Island ferry, and they become involved. When their relationship intensifies, J.R. insists that they not go too far physically; he wants her to be pure when they get married. When the girl reveals to J.R. that she was raped by a former boyfriend, J.R. is repulsed. When he comes back to her and tells he that he forgives her, she tells him it would never work and sends him away. He turns to the church, but finds little solace.
There’s sooo much potential here–Martin Scorsese and Harvey Keitel each doing his first film, with a lot of style that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. The experimental editing and the use of religious symbols is well intentioned, but heavy handed at times. Visually, it has some beautiful moments–the influence of the new European films of the 50s and 60s is apparent, but with a definite New York Italian-American spin. The film was pieced together and it shows; it’s one of Scorsese’s student films with the addition of a more substantial romance plot (perhaps the best part from my perspective, but maybe not for Scorsese aficionados) and a gratuitous sex scene that was added on to secure a distribution deal. Though the film is not entirely successful, it is an absolutely worthwhile view for it’s window into the early days of Keitel and Scorsese, and for a nice little black and white mid-60s urban film.
The segment that opens the film (and this post) is one of my favorite bits of the movie. It definitely grabbed my attention. This next short video gives some good information on the production, and offers one of the better selections of clips from the film available on the web.