Public Enemy: An Outraegous Film In '31 And Still That Way!
Although several "film experts" are in this documentary on the great classic gangster film, "Public Enemy," most of the opinions are expressed by current movie director Martin Scorcese. You could just tell that if Jimmy Cagney was in his prime today, Scorcese would have him as his main actor. He loves him.....but who doesn't?
Of all Scorcese's comments here, the one I liked the best (and I think he did, too) concerned the reaction the young people had when he showed this movie while filming "The Aviator." Leonardo DiCaprio, other actors and a bunch of 20- something guys who worked behind the cameras, all watched "Public Enemy" on a big screen on the set. They all loved the movie and applauded at the end. Nobody thought this film was dated and they were awed by some of the startling scenes they saw in this movie. "Public Enemy" is over 75 years old and young people still find this very entertaining! It speaks volumes for the film.
Scorcese also noted something else that I found very interesting: none of the violence in this movie is ever seen! It's all done off-screen. You don't see it, but you are in the same area in which it happens and you get the idea of its brutality through reactions of other people, or their screams. It's very effective and impresses Scorcese, who admits his shortcoming in being unable to do this in his own violent movies! He thinks it makes some of the violence much worse. He makes his point by showing us some good examples in this documentary.
Also in this 20-minute DVD bonus feature, we hear comments about actress Jean Harlow and director William Wellman , and we see some of the famous scenes in this movie and what makes them effective.....in addition to the violent ones noted above. First and foremost is "the grapefruit" in which Cagney mashes a grapefruit in the face of Mae Clarke. I agree, though, with Drew Casper, who thought more startling than that was the scene in which Cagney grabs Clarke by the hair and drags her across two rooms and boots her out the door!
According to the commentators here, that's what a lot of these gangsters acted like in real life: cocky and brutal. Cagney, who grew up on the tough streets of New York, was a realistic guy to be playing roles like the one he did here. He had the toughness, the accent and the screen "presence," a word Scorcese likes to use.
That's what "Public Enemy" has in spades: screen presence. If you have the DVD of this famous film, please check out this bonus feature. It's entertaining, too.
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