There have been some controversies about The Irishman - Anna Paquin's all but silent role, its depiction of Jimmy Hoffa's fate, the veracity of the source material, the use of de-ageing technology on Robert De Niro et al. Even the fact that director Martin Scorsese - a staunch defender of the cinematic experience - took it to streaming service Netflix, which only gave it a brief theatrical run, has been criticised (but since Netflix would back it when no movie studio apparently would, who can blame him?).
But I haven't seen anything about the most irksome aspect of all: The Irishman is a three-and-a-half hour movie with no intermission. Cinephile Scorsese would recall Alfred Hitchcock's dictum, "The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder." But he chose, for whatever reason, to ignore it.
Time was, many long movies had intermissions.The makers of Gone With the Wind, Ben-Hur and 2001: A Space Odyssey included a break for patrons to refuel and relieve themselves. It was still a practice in first-run cinemas at least into the mid-1980s: I remember a break during Amadeus. Quentin Tarantino included one in The Hateful Eight's "roadshow" edition. That term harked back to the days when moviegoing could be more of a grand experience in big, single-screen cinemas with some epics, including a few of those mentioned above, having overtures as well as intermissions and even exit music.
Even though a lot of movies nowadays seem to clock in at two-and-a-half hours or more, intermissions seem largely to have gone the way of the newsreel.
Among the recent bladder-busters are Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (which could have lost at least 10 minutes, easy, by abbreviating all the scenes of driving around Los Angeles) and pretty much any latterday Peter Jackson movie. Note to Mr Jackson: sometimes less is more. The original King Kong worked its magic in less than two hours, not the three you took. And the ludicrously bloated three-part adaptation of the relatively short novel The Hobbit was pure folly. Even The Lord of the Rings movies, with more story to cover, could have benefited from some sharper cutting (especially The Return of the King, which seemed about to end multiple times) - and, yes, intermissions.
Mid-movie breaks would be beneficial to cinemas - they could sell more popcorn and choc-tops, where most of their money is made - but film studios probably wouldn't be happy, since it might mean fewer screenings per day (and that, of course, is where they make their money).
The Irishman is still worth seeing. The length is less of a problem when you're watching at home, since you have more control over how you view it. It's absorbing, even if not terribly novel storywise or stylewise. The film is less flashy than a lot of Scorsese - and markedly less potty-mouthed - and many of the story and character elements are familiar from other gangster movies, including Scorsese's, like the juxtaposition of the mundane and the brutal.
Aided by judiciously timed consumption of my frozen Coke I managed to make it all the way through the cinema screening I attended without a toilet break. But I wish Scorsese and company had given me the opportunity.