The Tracking Shots Seen 'Round the World
Ever heard the old chestnut, "You can't really understand somebody until you walk a mile in their shoes"? Two of Goodfellas most memorable moving images put you right into Henry's expensive wingtips. We're talking about the movie's two big tracking shots: when Henry introduces the crew and when Henry sweeps Karen into the Copacabana for their first solo date.
"The tracking shots have been discussed to death," acknowledges film critic Sonny Bunch, "[…] but Scorsese isn't just showing off. These shots serve a purpose." They parachute the audience into Henry's point of view.
In the introductions shot, the camera tracks through the restaurant as Henry meets and greets characters with more nicknames than a college fraternity: Jimmy Two Times, Freddy No Nose, the whole gang is there. Not only are they present and accounted for, but they also make eye contact with the camera and sound off for the roll call, letting the audience experience exactly what Henry experiences whenever he catches up with his creatively named pals.
Similarly, when Henry and Karen wind their way into the Copacabana through the back door, as Henry doles out tips and nabs the best seat in the house, we're the third wheel on their date. We're not just seeing things from Henry's POV; we're seeing them from Karen's, too.