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Elegant fucking film-making: Casino

September 13, 2011

Can you feel my eyes on you?
Can you feel me look into your heart?
Can you feel me in the pit of your stomach?
Can you feel me in you?
… In your heart?

In the movie, Casino, during Robert De-Niro and Sharon Stone’s wedding scene, the lines above are the voice-over. Partly because we have heard De-Niro’s voice as the narrator so far and partly because of the romance of the scene, we assume it is De-Niro who is speaking. The newly-weds look happy and in love. But the voice-over belongs to James Woods — Stone’s creepy, pimp boyfriend. Of course, our mis-understanding is deliberate, something that forces us to place Woods within the marriage.

The next shot is Stone on the phone with Woods, crying and he is speaking to her, calming her down. Woods’ voice-over continues to narrate De-Niro’s experience/ viewpoint. As De-Niro watches Stone crying on the phone with Woods, we hear this as the camera focuses on De-Niro’s face watching his wife.

I’m looking at you right now.
I’m seeing you for the very first time right this minute.
I’m seeing you and I can feel my heart click. I see you fourteen years old. I see the first second i ever saw you. I see you long-legged little colt, stupid braces on your teeth. Every time I ever see you, that’s what I see.

If the use of Woods’ voice-over for De-Niro’s wedding to Stone was not brilliant enough, this next scene nails it. This is the first time that De-Niro’s sees his wife as someone vulnerable. And his reaction (like Woods) is one of dismissal and and an angry reminder of the fickle nature of his proprietorship.

I love the line, “I can feel my heart click”, deliberately — without too much song and dance — evoking the violence in both relationships.

Like I said, fucking elegant film-making.

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