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Classic with a movie – “Casino” by Martin Scorsese




“When you love someone, you’ve gotta trust them. There’s no other way. You’ve got to give them the key to everything that’s yours. Otherwise, what’s the point? And for a while, I believed, that’s the kind of love I had.” – the main character of Casino, Sam “Ace” Rothstein, utters the above words and enters his car, which, after turning the key in the ignition, bursts into flames, engulfing the driver sitting in it. We find  not only the best online casino bonus Australia but are also interested in film and creativity and want to discuss an interesting film. 

Martin Scorsese’s film starts with a scene that is the punch line of the whole story, giving it a tragic dimension from the very beginning. Even if the viewer is not familiar with the theme of paradise lost, so characteristic of the director’s films, after the opening credits he or she will not have the slightest doubt about its presence. The finale of the story is already known, now it’s time for a 3-hour long story about how it happened.

Ten years earlier, in 1970s Las Vegas, we meet the three protagonists. Played by Robert De Niro, Sam Rothstein is a mafia-supplied manager of Tangiers, one of the many casinos in the Sin City, while Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) is his friend from his youth, sent to Nevada to keep a firm hand (and a pen) on anyone who might harm business. The whole is completed by Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone), Sam’s wife and a kind of casino diva.

The characters alternately find themselves and get lost in the reality around them, pointing out their mismatch with the world around them. Rothstein is too idealistic, too dedicated to his job, and has too much of a romantic soul. This combination prevents him from being both boss and husband and friend: friend to Nicky, who is only able to solve all his problems with violence up to a certain point, and husband to Ginger, who is slowly being destroyed by addictions exacerbated by her character incompatibility with Sam and stifled individuality. Each of these three portrayals is incredibly nuanced, and not only the script but also the actors themselves playing specific characters are responsible for this.

Sharon Stone shocks with her phenomenality that slowly turns into balancing on the edge of good taste, she builds her character perfectly also on the level of outfits (in the final part of the film she wears ill-fitting clothes that she herself worked on to look as bad as possible) or through her willingness to play the scene in which she takes a heroine in the presence of her child. Joe Pesci, in his own style, rages and frolics around the screen, taking all the best from his earlier by five years Oscar-winning role, and Robert De Niro impresses with his composure, his dedication in order to impersonate Rosenthal as accurately as possible (Bobby spent long hours watching his original, and the interested party himself stated in one of the interviews that the degree of resemblance between Robert in Casino and himself he rates at 7 on a 10-point scale). With this performance both gentlemen proved that there is no better acting duo in Martin Scorsese’s filmography and that watching them together on the screen is really a great honor for the audience.

Most of the characters and plot of Casino is inspired by the true story of mafia connections to the development of gambling in southern Nevada. The screenplay for the film was written by Martin and Nicholas Pileggi, the duo also responsible for the story told five years earlier in Boys from the Funeral Home. Pileggi met with Frank Rosenthal, the prototype of the film’s Sam Rothstein, and based on the conversations he had with him, he co-wrote the screenplay for the film and simultaneously wrote the book.

The film’s historical accuracy is evident not only in its general conformity to real events, but also in the broad details. You can see it in the elaborate costumes of the characters (Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci appear in over a hundred different costumes over the course of the film’s one hundred and eighty minutes), you can see it in the shots taken in the casinos during their working hours, you can see it in the period-appropriate soundtrack, which – as always with Martin – is a separate work of art. The casino is filled with diegetic or potentially diegetic music in the form of the biggest hits of the time that fully reflect the glamour and excess of the world in which the characters find themselves.

But non-diegetic sounds are also an extremely important element of the whole. Just think of the scene where Sam meets Ginger for the first time. Here, a woman caught stealing confronts the man she has been robbing and, in a fit of enthusiastic anger, knocks the chips he has won out of his hand. This act galvanizes the crowd, who rush to the money lying on the ground, while an amused Sharon Stone adds fuel to the fire by tossing in even more casino currency. At this point we begin to see the woman through the eyes of the hero 

Robert De Niro: the camera pauses for a moment while Love Is Strange begins to fly in the background, then we watch Rothstein’s face expressing no emotion for a few seconds before finally – in slow motion – looking at Ginger walking away in slow motion from the center of all the commotion. “Wow, what a move. I fell in love right there,” – says Sam, and based on what (and how) we just saw, we know there’s not an ounce of exaggeration in those words.

Martin’s musical flair is also evident in the opening credits, where the fire from the car explosion flows seamlessly into the red, jittery motifs that illustrate the casino of the title, with Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion playing in the background. The brutal climax of the story in the opening scene is completed by this sublime religious motif, and the Old Testament character of the Casino resounds even more strongly. It is a story about the loss of an ideal life, but also marked from the beginning by the smallness of the characters. At no point are Sam, Nicky, and Ginger in control of their lives – even when they’re successful, they’re aware that their existence or non-existence depends on the whims of their bosses, who sit back and count the money they make at the casino. Although the lack of specification of the mafia’s whereabouts (in reality it was Chicago) is mainly due to legal restrictions, it has to be admitted that in the context of the whole it takes on a symbolic dimension. The pawn protagonists rule and divide in their world, but it is the remote and inaccessible player who determines even the smallest aspect of their future fate.

By the way, it works very similarly in a greater approximation when you consider the relationship between the casino and the customers. You may be clever, you may be lucky, you may think you know what the rules of the game are, but in the end it’s the casino that emerges victorious from this encounter. Rothstein and his ilk ruthlessly exploit human greed and the addictive aspect of gambling. Suffice it to mention the story of the Japanese businessman Ichikawa, who initially wins a large sum of money in a casino and prudently leaves it to return to his country, but Sam – by cancelling all his flights and inviting him to the hotel connected to Tangiers – makes the man return to the game and eventually not only loses everything he won earlier, but also leaves an extra million dollars in the casino’s coffers.

Martin Scorsese’s film is filled with such small stories and details that build the color of Vegas and make the presented world more realistic and attractive. It’s full of commentary on how the casino itself works and examples of how the system works in practice. When Robert De Niro, played from off-screen, talks about how to detect cheaters, and then, as Sam Rothstein, goes out into the room to observe such cheating in practice, Casino impresses with its attention to detail and narrative fluency. And when the story culminates in a brutal crackdown on one of the crooks, Scorsese shows off his uncompromising and sensitive handling of the violence.

Violence that, as the film progresses, also evolves. What is somehow attractive and fitting to the story at the beginning becomes more and more uncomfortable as time goes on. The unnecessary brutalism begins to resonate more and more clearly in the viewer, forcing them to question the meaning of what is just happening on screen. And the conclusion is simple: there is not much sense in it. Casino condemns its characters and emphatically reminds us that actions have consequences, leaving us with a sense of emptiness and an awareness that the lives of the characters portrayed have been wasted.

Martin Scorsese – in his career that has spanned over fifty years – has imitated a truly impressive number of film genres, but in the broad public consciousness he is identified primarily with gangster cinema. This is evidenced by The Frat Boys, this is evidenced by last year’s The Irishman and this is also evidenced by Casino. The genius of the New York director can be seen in all three productions, and it manifests itself slightly differently in each of them. So it’s hard to say which of these films is the best, because they are all great in their own way, but if someone put a gun to my head and told me to choose only one title, I would most probably choose Casino.

The specter of inevitable disaster, the overwhelming and beguiling glamour, the tragic mismatch between the characters and the world and each other – there is a beauty in this gangster epic that is hard to describe, a beauty that makes this film grab me by the heart every time and never let go. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Casino yet, please do so as soon as possible. If you have already seen it – watch it again. And I wish you to enjoy it as much or more than I did.

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