Monday, April 25, 2011

Scene Analysis: The Copacabana Scene

              Scorsese’s use of cinematography, mise-en-scene, and sound is what seperates him from all directors. Out of the dozens of films that he has directed, the Copacabana scene from Goodfellas illustrates his fine expertise. This scene is portrayed through the eyes of Henry Hill’s future wife Karen, who also narrates the scene. In this particular part of the film, Henry is at the height of his mob career. The scene starts off when the pair sees that the line into the Copacabana, a prestigious nightclub, is outstandingly long. Henry then takes Karen through a side door, which is the employee entrance. She is scared, but it is giving her a sense of excitement. She describes all of the employees knowing Henry and that he is tipping them with hundred dollar bills for doing something as little as opening a door. She also adds that everyone there knows Henry and likes him as well. Once through the kitchen of the club, they walk inside to see that all of the tables are full. The owner then snaps his fingers, points to the pair, and then to the front of the stage. Two employees then place a table right in front of the stage by the performers. She describes Henry as someone that everyone there wanted to be around. She says that everyone knows him and he must be under a lot of pressure because of it. But she also remarks that Henry knew how to handle it. After they finally sit down, she asks what he does for a living and Henry calmly tells her that he is in construction.
The most notable aspect of this entire scene is Scorsese’s use of cinematography. This scene is barely over three minutes long. During the entire scene, one camera follows Karen and Henry from the street, into the back entrance, through the kitchen, and into their seats in front of the stage. The camera is only a few feet behind the couple, which puts the viewer at a personal distance.  The camera flows and glides through the scene. Every drawback they encounter from the moment they walk in is quickly taken care of.
The music during the scene also plays an important role as well. Before the scene, the viewer already knows that Karen has some feelings towards Henry. The Copacabana scene is the first date when Karen and Henry are only with each other. The music correlates with the emotions felt during a first date. The song played during the scene is called “Then He Kissed Me,” by The Crystals. The song’s lyrics give the notion that Karen is falling in love with Henry. Both the song and scene begin at the same time. It plays through the scene as it unfolds. The song and camera movement ends when the couple sits down at their table. The song is considered non-diegetic sound since it would not be assumed that it is truly playing in the world that the film depicts. The diegetic sounds are sounds the assumed to exist. This includes the dialogue between Henry, Karen, and the other characters, the background noises in the street outside the club, the noises in the kitchen, and the noises in the club itself. However, both the diegetic and non-diegetic sounds are perfectly in sequence with one another. Neither ever over powers the other. It also allows for the viewer to get a sense of certain emotions being felt at the time, as well as a realistic idea of what it really sounded like inside of the Copacabana.

Kowalski, D. (2007). Goodfellas, gyges, and the good life. In M. Conrad, The philosophy of martin scorsese (pp. 31-52). Lexington: The university press of kentucky.

Thornell, P. (2010). The films of martin scorsese and robert de niro. Library journal , 135 (9), 70-75.

Here's a link to the scene:

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