WARNING: Below are vague spoilers for The Irishman.
Most of the world won’t be seeing The Irishman, Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster epic, until November, but the relative few who have can’t stop talking about it. (The many unable to catch it, meanwhile, had to subsist on star Robert De Niro cussing out Fox News.) Since its premiere at the New York Film Festival last Friday (it also screened for press in Los Angeles), the star-studded biopic has earned rapturous raves from critics (including from us) but also from other filmmakers. One of those was fellow Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro.
As caught by Entertainment Weekly, the maker of The Shape of Water and the masterful Blade 2 took to Twitter for a thread in which he gushed about the three-and-a-half-hour drama, whose the-gang’s-all-here cast includes De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, and even Ray Romano (who holds his own). The film adapts Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses, which catalogs the life story of Frank Sheeran (played by De Niro), a labor union official who claimed to have been involved in organized crime and was a close associate of Jimmy Hoffa (played by Pacino).
Del Toro started by comparing the film to Stanley Kubrick’s classic period piece Barry Lyndon (a mere 6 minutes shorter than The Irishman, by the by), saying it’s “about lives that came and went, with all their turmoil, all their drama and violence and noise and loss… and how they invariably fade, like we all do.”
The film is a mausoleum of myths: a Funereal monument that stands to crush the bones beneath it. Granite is meant to last but we still turn to dust inside it. It’s the anti”My Way” (played in every gangster wedding in the world). Regrets they had more than few. The road cannot be undone and we all face the balance at the end. Even the voice over recourse has DeNiro trailing off into mumbled nonsense-
Del Toro also singled out the lead performances, calling Pesci, who came out of retirement to play infamous Pennsylvania mafioso Russel Bufalino, “supremely minimalistic” and “masterful,” saying he’s “like a black hole- an attractor of planets- dark matter.” De Niro, he says, “has always fascinated me when he plays characters that are punching above their true weight — or intelligence — That’s why I love him in so much Jackie Brown.”
The filmmaker also delved into how deeply the film affected him. “I believe that much is gained if we cross-reference our transgressions with how we will feel in the last three minutes of our life- when it all becomes clear: or betrayals, our saving graces and our ultimate insignificance,” he wrote. “This film gave me that feeling.”
Del Toro also implored audiences, perhaps over-weened on fast-paced blockbusters, to have an open mind. “This film needs time- however- it has to be processed like a real mourning,” he wrote. “It will come up in stages… I believe most of its power will sink in, in time, and provoke a true realization. A masterpiece. The perfect corollary Goodfellas and Casino.”
The Irishman, which was funded entirely by Netflix, will be released to the general public in two stages: in select theaters starting November 1, and then on the streaming service that birthed it on November 27 — just in time for Thanksgiving. Del Toro begged audiences to prioritize the former.