September 24, 1990 [Goodfellas]

As monumental as Raging Bull is, Scorsese once more finds the energy for Goodfellas and gathers up all that Italian desperate surrender to brutal old dreams and shapes something like a farce, an hysterical laugh somewhere down the block, maybe a scream, hard to tell--but who's going to go down the dark street to see?

--Scorsese and all of us watching Goodfellas, apparently--and happy to go and check it out, evil tossed off like buddy-buddy rank-outs on the stoop. I was perfectly happy--until Tommy in the nightclub wonders if he's here to amuse Henry, how is he funny, what's so FUCKIN funny about him. And suddenly it was as though every horror film I'd ever seen turned into a Munsters episode, mild-mannered and silly, because that happened to me once at the hands of an Italian tough guy who kept everyone around him off-balance. Like the narrator in Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, he spoke in empty, almost-jeering cliches and grinned and squeezed your shoulder--hard--while he told you what a great guy you were. And when I finally let down my guard and joined in the fun and told him what a crazy sunuvabitch he was he drew up short and flattened his eyes and set his mouth into a thin slot and asked me if I thought there was something wrong with him, if I thought he was crazy. He was, and I could smell the craziness coming out with his breath--and I froze, and I know my face tried not to register any fear, but he saw it and opened his mouth a little like he was going to take a bite out of that fear--and turned up the corners and gave me a smile as friendly as a heat-stroked wolf and laughed and wagged his finger at me, really had me going, gotta learn to take a joke. I let out my breath as slowly and quietly as I could, and kept my distance.

I hadn't seen him in a long time until Joe Pesci brought him up, one of those stories from your past you hope everyone's forgotten--but here it was, and I didn't relax for the rest of the picture, not even after Tommy got it inna-back-a-da-head.


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