Actually, to be honest, it was 20 years ago yesterday.
On November 22, 1995, Martin Scorsese’s CASINO opened in the theatres all across the United States.
To me, that film has always been quite underrated. When it was first released Casino was superficially and unfairly tagged “GoodFellas removed to Las Vegas.” — “So striking are the films’ similarities that Casino’s raison d’être seems unclear,” said one critic.
Although the two films have many things in common – they are authentic works about the mafia, contain some of the same actors, and have shifting voice-over narrators – they are actually quite different, on the explicit surface layer as well as the deeper symbolic layers.
The main character Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is obsessed with appearing respectable, and his appearance is so immaculate, that it borders on being comical. Often when I have watched the film with other people they laugh already the very first time he appears a few seconds in.
His clothes are part of his self-made new persona, and their real function is to convince the world of his chosen new role. In so doing, they are meant to conceal his true self – the kid from the slum that he used to be – which he is terrified of having exposed.
Ace Rothstein’s deepest existential dilemma is reminiscent of both Gatsby’s fear of having his true origins exposed in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Arthur Dimmesdale’s spiritual agony in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Just like James Gatz is always present underneath the self-made Jay Gatsby, so Ace Rothstein is terrified that the façade of the casino manager will rip to reveal the street kid he is trying to run away from. But as Hawthorne says: “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”
If you want to read my full analysis of Casino, check out my book THE PASSION OF MARTIN SCORSESE.
Wishing you a wonderful week, wherever you are,
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Casino, I made a FREE downloadable WALLPAPER that you can get here.