Martin Scorsese’s third movie Mean Streets is about a young Italian-American man, Charlie, in New York trying to move up in the local mafia headed by his uncle. A devout catholic he faces many internal conflicts with his social position and base desires. The events transpire over four days during a religious festival (at a time when emotions are heightened).
Scorsese introduces us to Charlie’s conflicts visually by the use of mis-en-scene and editing. By juxtaposing the church scene with that of the bar he shows the stark contrast in the mise-en-scene in both locations and so the contrast in Charlie’s two worlds. Then by the use of slow motion in a POV shot for Johnny Boy’s entrance into the club emphasises his importance to (or rather his burden on) Charlie. Further, shots of statues of Jesus, the religious festival and the placement of a cross above Charlie’s bed remind us of Catholicism, guilt and the penance Charlie believes he has to pay.
Only on his third movie Scorsese was already developing techniques that would go on to become trademarks (conflicted characters, guilt, slow motion, long takes).