God’s Pocket and Directorial Debuts

God's Pocket

This week sees the release of John Slattery’s directorial debut God’s Pocket. Slattery is better known for his on-screen skills, notably in television’s Mad Men, as well as roles in The Adjustment Bureau and Iron Man 2. John Slattery’s debut is the latest in a long line of actors who have stepped behind the camera following an already successful on-screen career. Here I take a look at previous directorial debuts…

Robert De Niro

After two decades and numerous acolades for his acting skills, Robert De Niro turned director in 1993 with A Bronx Tale. Critically successful if not a commercial smash, A Bronx Tale saw De Niro taking cues from his long-time collaborator Martin Scorsese in terms of themes and style. De Niro’s only other directing credit is The Good Shepherd (2006).

Ben Affleck

After starring in numerous high-profile movies and winning an Oscar for his writing, Ben Affleck’s directorial debut arrived in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone. The film was well-received, although Affleck’s directing skills may have flown under the radar in the UK at that time as the film was not released due to similarities to a high profile case. However if anyone was in doubt of Ben Affleck’s directing abilities, he displayed them ably in 2010’s The Town and 2012’s Argo, for which he was awarded the Best Director Oscar.

Drew Barrymore

Whip It

Former child star and Hollywood stalwart Drew Barrymore directed a documentary for television in 2004. However it was her feature debut Whip It in 2009 which brought her to the attention of critics and audiences as a director. Since then, Barrymore has only stretched her directing muscles with a Best Coast music video, featuring an array of young Hollywood talent.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Another former child actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had reinvigorated his acting career with roles in 500 Days of Summer and Inception before turning his attention to directing. With a number of shorts under his belt, Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut came in 2013 with Don Jon, which he also wrote. Starring in the title role, Gordon-Levitt displayed a promising talent as filmmaker.

God’s Pocket is out in UK cinemas on 8th August 2014.

Film Review: A Bronx Tale

Robert De Niro’s directorial debut A Bronx Tale is a fine piece of storytelling. Taking his cues from long-time collaborator Martin Scorsese, De Niro fashions a compelling drama.

Growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s, Calogero is in awe of the gangsters that surround his home. His father Lorenzo, an upstanding bus driver in the area, warns his son against fraternising with these gangsters. However, Calogero is happy when local mobster Sonny takes a shine to him…

Written by and starring Chazz Palminteri, A Bronx Tale is very much a coming-of-age story. Despite the inclusion of crime as a pivotal theme, the emphasis remains on Calegero and his maturity in a divisive environment. Although most viewers will not be able to relate to the world that Calogero grows up in, it is conceived well enough that the action that takes place in entirely plausible. Moreover, the central character is well-developed and an engaging protagonist.

The duality present in A Bronx Tale is not unlike other films of this ilk. Calgero’s struggle between the lure of Sonny’s lifestyle and the wishes of his father dominates the film. The way the story unfolds compels viewers. Although A Bronx Tale has a slightly slow start, it becomes compelling in good time. There is an authenticity and charm to Calgero’s character which makes viewers care about his outcome and choices.

Although the film features gangsters and crime heavily, race is also a preoccupation of A Bronx Tale. It is the facet which is perhaps most interesting. Given the period and location setting, it is easy to see why race was a contentious issue. The film deals with this theme in an interesting way; one which does not come across as over moralising.

The influence of Martin Scorsese on director De Niro is clear. With its use of voiceover and the subject of the film, there are clear parallels between A Bronx Tale and Goodfellas. That is not to say that De Niro apes the style of his long-time collaborator entirely, but merely that the influence is apparent. A Bronx Tale features an excellent use of music. Songs really give an indication of the period, whilst also underscoring the on-screen action.

Casting in A Bronx Tale is superb. Lillo Brancato is great as the teen Calogero, while De Niro plays the father role well. Chazz Palinteri is fantastic as Sonny, having played all the roles in his original stage play.

A Bronx Tale serves as a timely reminder of the skill of Robert De Niro, both in front and behind the camera. Recommended viewing.

A Bronx Tale is out on Blu-Ray for the first time on 18th June 2012.