This week I attempted to watch The Irishman in one go. I failed. I failed not because it was bad, but because it was three-and-a-half hours long. I had to pause it to get a drink. I had to pause it twice because I needed the toilet. And then I finally gave up for good 20 minutes from the end because it had got so late that we reached the point in the evening where my young son wakes up crying. In the end, I completed it, with the sound turned all the way down, on my phone as I attempted to get him back to sleep.
This is not unusual. The Irishman’s punishing length is causing all manner of complaints on social media. It has got so bad that one user even went to the trouble of breaking the film down into four chunks, complete with time codes, so that it can be consumed as a miniseries instead.
It is an incredibly smart idea, and the cut-off points chosen work perfectly as miniature cliffhangers; it is only let down by the director Martin Scorsese’s total refusal to let you treat his beautiful film like a series.
“Absolutely no,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I’ve never even thought of it. Because the point of this picture is the accumulation of detail. It’s an accumulated cumulative effect by the end of the movie, which means you get to see from beginning to end.”
So how should you watch The Irishman? I have to say: Scorsese is right. This work was created as a single piece, with a beginning, middle and end, and that is how it should be experienced. Sure, you are a busy person, but this is a special occasion. Push dinnertime aside. Do not answer the front door. Urinate into a hot-water bottle. Do whatever it takes.
But if you really, really cannot find three-and-a-half hours to watch The Irishman, splitting it into pieces is also fine. Why not cut it in half? Or quarters? Or into hundreds of little 10-second clips? That way you can Snapchat it. Why don’t you Snapchat The Irishman, huh? You absolute philistine.