At the start, we seen Henry (Ray Liotta) hand over his keys and an unidentified amount of money to a person standing beside the car, as Henry escorts his date Karen (Lorraine Bracco) across the street, she asks about leaving the car on the street, Henry replies that the person will take care of it and have it ready for him when they leave.
Rather than going the very long line of people waiting to get into the Copacabana club, Henry guides Karen through the line and down a set of stairs and into the Employee entrance with leads on the kitchen. As Henry and Karen pass through, people acknowledge Henry, Henry laughs and jokes back and as Henry goes by certain people we see that he passes money to them, demonstrating to the viewer that no only is Henry welcome to the club but that he has the eminence grize to pass through unhindered.
As we follow Henry and Karen, the camera glides along behind them, gliding through the scene like a silent overseer, we are close to the action and the scene is tight as we go through the kitchen and into the back of the club.
Henry is greeted by a couple of people and with a nod the Matre De' waves his hand and guides Henry into the club and at the same time indicates to the staff that a table should be set up near the stage. Again Henry is greeted by all around and as the table is complete, Henry again quietly passes money to the Matre De' and to the waiters. We hear in the background someone complain that they are waiting for a table and they are brushed off with an excuse.
All this time, Karen hardly speaks she is guided like royalty to a position of importance. She queries Henry about the amount of money he is passing out as she thinks it is a bit excessive. Henry again greets those in tables around them and then thanks a group of men at the next table as they have sent a bottle of wine for him.
This is a bit of fairy tale story telling, the entrance to the club floor is sparkling lights and we follow the table as it swishes through the scene and placed in a position of prominence. Whilst Karen is in awe of the influence and impression Henry has given her she still has doubts about Henry, especially when at first he ignores her question about his occupation, she queires him again and after he replies that he is in contruction, she states that he does not have the hands of a contruction worker, indictaing that Henrys hands are soft and smooth. Henry then clarifies saying that he is a Union delegate.
The scene finished as the house lights go down and the comedian is introduced by a fanfare and he starts his routine with a joke about his wife.
We are shown here in the sequence a picture of the character that Henry wants to portray to the world, he wants to be seen as someone who uses his power and influence to impress. Henry is shown as a man of wealth and he is happy to use his wealth to achieve what he wants, it also shows that Henry is known to other people just like him.
At through the sequence, the background music plays, it is the Crystals with "Then he kissed me" the use of the music helps position the timeline of the scene 1970s New York but it also helps to enforce the magical journey of the scene from street to front of house table.
The main indicators of Henry and his place in the world are shown as
- He has someone to watch his car in the street to ensure that the car is okay
- His welcome and familiarity with the doormen, the kitchen staff and the club staff all who either welcome him with open arms and joy or quickly get out of the way.
- The respect and quick response from the Matre De and the waiting staff
- The greeting from people at the surrounding table
- The respect and "nod" from the group sending the bottle of wine.
- The easy way that Henry passes out money.
- The entrance into the club, going from organised chaos into an enchanted room filled with sparkling lights.
This three minute sequence has found itself in the pantheon of cinematic sequences, the use of the Steadicam to create the single take is now legendary. Scorsese’s worked closely with his Director of Photography Michael Ballhau to pre-block out all the parts of the sequence, where the camera was to move and where the actors were to position themselves . Only 8 takes were done and they were all done in one day. Scorsese then chose then one which closely matches the drawing and ideas that they can conceived ahead of shooting.
Really the camera does all the hard work, it here is the storyteller, it drives the narrative as the camera follows Henry and Karen into Henrys world, one familiar to Henry, which fits just like his expensive suit. Henry moves with grace and ease, just like the camera which is following him, while Karen is not so sure, it is her first introduction to Henry and his lifestyle and she is taken aback a bit by the assualt on her senses as she passes through entranceways, halls, kitchen ands corridors into the club and right up to their specially laid out table.