Street Scenes (1970)

A rare documenting of 1970 protests against the Vietnam War in New York and D.C. It is depressing seeing how easily transferable the discourse and issues here are to fifty years later.

More than a specific political take, the film seems a demonstration of the feeling of powerlessness, of not getting through to people, of struggling to understand why one isn’t getting through to people. Scorsese describes it as more a portrait of ‘weekend leftists’ than anyone else; not the most effective protesters or enactors of change so much as the students struggling in their relationship to the working class and their messaging. There’s a variety of viewpoints given voice here, and it’s interesting how much of the arguing dissolves when people talk long enough to hear they’re essentially making the same points.

The final scene of the film is an extended conversation about such topics that just fades out into the ending, unfinished – of course, precisely the point. The editing in general is logical in the way that doesn’t draw attention to itself, and the whole film drips with the verisimilitude that could only be gained with such close-quarters filming at this specific time. Very interesting to watch. Four scanlines, and a surprise Harvey Keitel.

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