Sunday, September 18, 2005
Little Italy on Film
Today, I'm headed down to Little Italy, NY with my children, to continue my life-long tradition of attending the San Gennaro Feast, a 10-day celebration in honor of the patron saint of Naples that stretches along Mulberry St (the heart of Little Italy), from Houston St to Canal St. The feast is a central component of Little Italy, an area of NY rich with cultural history and one that has, over the years, lent itself well to film. Little Italy is located in downtown NY, north of Chinatown and just west of the Lower East Side. This is the part of town where director Martin Scorcese grew up. In fact, I will pass the church where he served as an alterboy, St Patrick's Old Cathedral on Mott St. This is the church he used in Mean Streets. (Remember the scene when Harvey Keitel measures how close he can keep his fingers to a flame, while contemplating Hell?) Scorsese shot the entire film on the streets of Little Italy (and in doing so captured elements of the area now long gone). The Feast of San Gennaro appears in Mean Streets. This is also where Francis Ford Coppola shot scenes for all three Godfather films. Director Abel Ferrara used Little Italy quite effectively for his Romeo & Juliet story China Girl. The bar where Lefty (Al Pacino) and Donnie (Johnny Depp) first meet in Donnie Brasco was Mare Chiaro in Little Italy, located at 176 Mulberry Street, between Broome and Grand Streets.The Pope of Greenwhich Village was shot, in part, on Mulberry St. Cher even buys some wine down on Mulberry St in Norman Jewison's paean to Italian culture, Moonstruck. Scenes from The French Connection were filmed here as well. And it also figures into The Freshman, the big Godfather in-joke movie from Andrew Bregman. No doubt Little Italy will continue to appear in films, as new filmmakers discover the character and richness of the area.