There are endless cliches out there about the importance of a first impression, but whatever truth they may hold in our everyday lives they go double for film. When there’s only a couple of hours to tell a story and capture its players, an audience’s first chance to meet a character is an asset no filmmaker worth their salt is going to waste. So with that in mind, CHUD is going to take a look through the many decades of cinema to extract the most special of those moments when you are first introduced to a character, be they small moments that speak volumes, or large moments that simply can’t be ignored.
Inevitably it will be the major characters and leads that are granted the grandest of entrances, but don’t be surprised to see a few supporting players and minor individuals get their due, when the impact of their appearance lingers longer than their screentime. Also know that these moments may be chosen for any number of reasons, and the list could never be exhaustive. But here you’ll find moments that make a big splash, say a lot with a little, or we think are just particularly cool.
We hope you enjoy, and can’t wait to hear from you about each and every entry. Don’t spend the effort guessing future choices or declaring what must be included– just enjoy the ride!
The Film… Casino (1995)
Director… Martin Scorsese
Entering From Stage Left… Sharon Stone in the role of Ginger McKenna.
What Makes it Special… The filmmaking.
Casino is a companion to piece Goodfellas that few would argue is greater, but many often find more fun to rewatch. The flash and flare of the period Vegas costumes and sets combined with Scorsese’s go anywhere, do anything camera is just too much fun, even if the destructive relationships and all-too-real shouting matches are almost as emotionally tiring as being coked-up and stalked by the feds. This was Marty at his most bold, and he puts everything he has into each audacious camera move, picture edit, freeze frame, and close-up. Our first introduction to Ginger employs every one of those tricks, and yet the gimmickry is merely panache dolloped on top of genuine master-craft filmmaking.
We first see Ginger as Ace sees her- on a closed circuit network screen, mid-hustle. Dolled up at a bustling craps table, she is entirely in her element and stunning to look at. But all the excitement and exhilaration is ruthlessly hollowed out by the constant cuts back to silent security-camera shots that peek behind her smooth moves and reveal the greed driving her. Even the music is gone on these shots- we know we’re seeing the real Ginger. Rothstein sees everything he needs to see about this woman to know exactly where this road leads, and yet down he trots to the casino floor. There we watch her make a spectacle in her dress and diamonds, tossing around chips with the same ease she tosses around a smile. The we get this freeze-frame…
….perfectly chosen at a moment when Ginger notices she’s being watched by a powerful guy. There’s no fear, but a sense she knows she’s been “caught.” Cut to a push-in on DeNiro as he falls hopelessly and blindly in love (under that unmistakable Mickey & Sylvia needle-drop) before the greatest move of all- a tracking shot in which Ginger instantly recalculates: her expression shifts from “excitement” to “caught” to a demure smile as she loads another trap, setting it for her next mark.
Why it Resonates… Nothing but tragedy lay ahead for Ace and Ginger, and it’s all perfectly foreshadowed in this scene where the characters exchange no words, only glances. That the keen, cold, and otherwise intensely logical Rothstein sees everything he needs to know to predict the future and still walks right into the mess is all the more tragic. Ace’s narration spells out the irony of this long-shot gamble later on (Casino does have a habit of both showing and telling), but it’s all laid out right there when Ginger first enters the picture.
Other Grand Entrances… If you’re an important character in a Scorsese movie chances are you’re going to get your due right from the start. In fact, the film opens with an ostentatiously-dressed Rothstein getting into an expensive car that then immediately explodes- a succinct way of condensing the whole movie into a few short shots. If there’s any other part of the film that gets treated well from the first moment though… it’s the money. Piles, stacks, and bundles of cash makes up the visual blood pumping beneath the surface of every frame of the film, and when the casino profits make their entrance through the smooth-tracking shots of the coin-counting conveyor belts and the cash in the counting room- you know there’s another silent character manipulating all the others.
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