i know this is a bit late, but…

hey friends

just watched ‘gangs of new york’ for the first time in nearly four years.

scorsese’s film, at its best, is about how violence begets violence, those who live by the sword etc…

but i’m confused by the very last image of the movie. he ends with a montage of overlapping images of new york’s development over the past hundred and fifty years. but he stops short of showing the skyline as it looks now – so the twin towers are right there, centre screen, intact…this strikes me as more than a little surprising, and incongruous given the film that had led up to this point – scorsese has said that he didn’t show the empty skyline because ‘i wanted to make a film about the people who built the city, not those who tried to destroy it’. this point has some logic, but it does seem to me that the film would have been far more powerful had it ended more truthfully – the danger with the ending as it stands is that it may be read as a triumphalist eradication of the violent past, rather than an indictment of the fact that we have not changed our values that much since gangs beat each other to death in the streets for control of a city.

any thoughts?


7 responses to “i know this is a bit late, but…

  1. Interestingly enough, we just watched Gangs of New York in the sociology class that I’m taking for fun: Diversity & Inequality in the United States. We watched the film through the lens of race, gender and class identity. My professor’s take on that last scene was that by showing the Twin Towers (and since this was so close on the heels of 9/11, viewers would be acutely aware of what had happened to them), Scorsese was trying to say that not all that much had changed in 100+ years. Just another perspective…

  2. I wonder if Scorsese would say something different now. In the months right after the attack, we were in a flurry of Patriotism which meant rather than a universal condemnation against murderous acts, we saw it more as an act of War.
    The tides have turned these days, it seems to me, as we see that there is no collective nation to really fight against.
    I’m confused too as I don’t see how his violent film affirms the work of those who built the city.

  3. i just cant believe it took you this long to watch this film. gareth what am i going to do with you…

  4. gareth higgins

    dear anonymous

    thank you for your concern.

    but if you re-read my post you will see that i said i was watching it for the first time in four years – i did see it twice on its original release and am indeed looking forward to this friday’s release of the new scorsese.

    very excited at the possibilities of jack and marty together at last.

    best, gareth

  5. This movie was on the heels of 9/11 and all were looking for movies that would either keep or rid the twin towers, remember the big bru-ha-ha over Spiderman. I think if he did reshoot it today he would remove the towers because many of us have gotten used to a towerless New York skyline.
    As one who works a lot with gang members in the States I use the movie to tell them, “it really doesn’t matter. No one who has any money cares about who controls your rented property.” Qohelth would just say, “Meaningless, Meaningless.”
    If it wasn’t for the movie, none of us would remember that gangs haven’t changed much but most people with a knowledge of history can tell you about the New York draft riots of the Civil War.
    I feel the movie calls on all gang members to ask themselves, who really cares? Sadly many have a difficult time understanding such allegorical concepts until their “OG” – Old Gangstas

  6. It’s been a while since I saw it – but I think I felt it was probably your latter. Plus ca change… or meaningless, meaningless… or nothing changes. Great film though, fab cast in particular.

  7. understandable emotional clouding of native new yorker makes for bad art (only referring to last shot – kitsch – belongs on collectible porcelain plate)