Martin Scorcese, in an interview, candidly described his new film, “Gangs of New York,” as an “opera.” He had been asked whether the events portrayed were true to history. I took his reply to mean that the events of the movie were selected and organized for dramatic emphasis and were not to be taken as literal factual record.
And, indeed, as a historical record of 19th-century New York, the film has many failings.
Nevertheless, it has provoked some useful discussion of the historical context – specifically for the light it sheds on the Lincolnite mythology of the Civil War era. It seems that the accepted idea of the gloriously united North trampling out the wrathful grapes of slavery and treason is not so sound a picture of the real thing after all.
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