Cinematic Atlas: A Guide to Martin Scorsese's New York

Smith's Bar and Grill (Bringing Out the Dead, 1999)

Neighborhood: Hell's Kitchen
Address701 8th Ave.

Released in 1999, Bringing Out the Dead is one of Scorsese's last New York films (Gangs of New York [2002] was filmed at Cinecittà Studios in Rome, so it doesn't quite count). It also marks the last pairing of Scorsese with Paul Schrader, the screenwriter he collaborated with on Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). The film surreally chronicles a few days in the life of a paramedic all but wrung out by insomnia and guilt over a girl he couldn't save. Bringing Out the Dead opened to fair reviews, but the ensuing years have not been very kind to it. It's been all but forgotten, which is unfortunate for such a visually bold film. Nicolas Cage turns in a strong performance as well.

Smith's Bar and Grill is over 50 years old. It's hard to be a dive bar so close to the Theater District. Smith's tries to walk that fine line between offering an authentic dive experience and offering a dive experience that just feels authentic to tourists in town for a show.

The neon sign is certainly a nice touch, hearkening back to the sort of liquid light that flooded the area circa Taxi Driver. Though the audience is closely attached to Bickle in that film, the movie itself never feels as hallucinatory as Bringing Out the Dead, which is the visual equivalent of too much speed and a sudden acute light sensitivity. Hence Scorsese's use of Smith's; it offers the sickly neon that suits the frenetic aesthetic of a film trying very hard to put the viewer inside the protagonist's vertiginous mind state.

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