food in the arts


Dir: Martin Scorsese Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino Based on the book "Wiseguy" by Nicholas Pileggi who helped Scorsese write the screenplay.
Deeply disturbing images of food are not the only feature of contemporary cinema's cuisine. Meals, for instance, play an unusually dramatic part in many of Martin Scorsese's films. In GOODFELLAS (20th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray], a brutal mafia killing is followed by an alarmingly normal Italian-style meal, served by the director's own mother, Catherine Scorsese. And one of the most sensuous and simultaneously menacing of all food images in modern cinema occurs during a prison scene, as the mafiosi prepare their ritual pasta sauce. The boss (Paul Sorvino), we learn in voice-over, while seeing a massive close-up of chubby fingers at work, ' had this wonderful system for doing the garlic. He used a razor and he used to slice it so thin that it used to liquefy in the pan.' Later, the central figure's drug-fuelled paranoia is signalled by his obsession with the meatballs and tomato sauce he's cooking as the FBI move in. 'Keep and eye on the sauce and watch the helicopters', is almost his last order before the Feds arrive. Throughout GOODFELLAS, the exacting domesticity of Italian cuisine serves to highlight the terrifying normality of these mobsters.

The story was based on thirty years in the true life story of Henry Hill and his crew who were famous for robbing the airport, especially the Lufthansa heist. Joe Pesci won Best Supporting Actor in his memorable portrayal of real life gangster, Tommy DeSimone. Pesci makes "Do I amuse you?" into the four most frightening words ever uttered on screen.

For these Italian-American subjects, Scorsese drew on his own memories and family tradition (The Scorsese Family Cookbook (G. K. Hall Reference (Large Print)) was published in 1996, shortly before his mother's death.) 

art and food
literature and food
music and food
photography and food
Italian food
Food Film Store
North American Food
Extract from the film