Before I began to write this review I was quite surprised to read a few under whelming reviews by other people. The reason I am writing this is because I am so impressed by what has been assembled.
The more I think about Gangs of New York, the more I watch it, compare it to other films and to Scorsese's previous achievements the more I believe it is a truly great piece of filmmaking. Despite a somewhat disappointing central character, a love interest that lacks chemistry and a final third that erupts onscreen without pounding adrenaline in our hearts, this film remains miraculous. Many have criticised the script, which the shooting version is featured in this book, but having just read it I maintain it is one of the best scripts filmed in recent years. Rewritten, restructured and refined over 20 years the script boasts colourful characters, rich environments and exciting confrontations that are truly cinematic, so violently visceral in fact that maybe the screenwriters were pushing themselves knowing only Scorsese could pull it all off.
On a technical stand point Gangs is unrivalled. The ridiculously inventive and electrical editing, the epic, expensive, all-consuming set design, the raw, flamboyant yet accurate costumes, the densely researched music and flat out stunning cinematography render this film the true king of 2002, regardless of whatever miss-informed award ceremony decided at the time.
In this book you have interviews with all the production's key figures; the director, producer, an executive producer, scriptwriters, actors, costume designer, researcher, set designer, editor, cinematographer. I found Weinstein to be particularly interesting, with some humorous anecdotes that shed a smidgen of light on the much publicised heat between the director and producer (which they continuously refute as being overblown).
The film is responsible, like all films that portray real events, for igniting interest in the subject. As a result the press featured articles on New York during the 19th century and Asbury's book, among others, became Amazon bestsellers. The interviewees list a number of sources that they used to research to perform their jobs. As a result I will probably end up reading the referenced texts because I am now extremely interested in this period in America's young history.
I agree with one reviewer that the questions asked may have been repetitive and should have been more specific with each differing craft. I'm pretty sure the same person asked all these people the questions, however, in an ideal world, each person would have been interviewed by someone with a greater knowledge of what they do. So, to get to the point, why not get a student of editing to pose Thelma Schoonmaker questions regarding her process (what equipment did she use, how has her craft evolved, which scenes posed difficulty, what has influenced her, yadayadayada)? But that is not to say the questions asked are useless. In fact, having just read from cover to cover, I found all the interviewees to be extremely informative. Their answers were intelligent and CLEARLY showed that this film was made by great filmmakers. It would be interesting to just compile all the previous films these people worked on to see how experienced a crew it took to make this film. For a Making of publication, the content here is certainly of a high standard.
For me two things stood out in this book; Daniel Day-Lewis, and how Scorsese was revered by all the interviewees. Day-Lewis gave the performance of his career in this film, and in just a few pages this book reveals how complex, poetic, allusive and ultimately human his acting craft is. And then there is the main man himself, Mr Scorsese. His knowledge of film is legendary. His excitement and love of film unquestionable. His talent forever celebrated, and this book only reinforces the power of his image. He is an inspiration to us all.
The photographs are luscious however I wished there were more off-camera shots, revealing the crew, the cast at ease, where the set ends and where the Italian studio begins. There are however some striking images, especially one where Dicaprio and Lewis are sitting in their respective chairs, drenched in makeup following the final confrontation, distant in their own thoughts. This is where Making Of books tend to excel and this is no exception.
So, you get great pictures, great interviews, a complete screenplay AND a wonderful introduction from Luc Sante (who penned the most influential text for this film). If you are a die-hard fan of the film I would buy this book (no doubt obtainable at a discounted price due to the film's disappointing reception). It will be a priceless document in the future when people wake up from their comas and realise how great a film this truly is.