"I felt life returning to me. I felt the blood coursing through my veins. I felt every cliché in the world happening simultaneously, to my body and brain. Here was the movies, and here was a real king of the movies; he knew what he was doing, and why he was doing it. Here was the art, and here was the artist that had been lost for so long after the war. We haven't got over it yet. We need a dozen Scorseses. They're waiting in the wings.
I ran Mean Streets that night in a little projection room in Wardour Street. There was just me and a couple of young technicians and the projectionist. I was stunned. Here was great film-making, the kind that only happened in Europe before the war, except for an occasional Howard Hawks production. Here was no Hollywood complacency, although the film had been shot in Hollywood. Here was life, naked and raw, here was art in the hands of a master artist.
When you saw it you never knew what, or who, was coming next: De Niro, from being an obscure young actor, suddenly dominated the screen, Harvey Keitel was like an avenging angel, but they were all puppies in the hands of this extraordinary genius. When the film was over, the projectionist came out of the booth, and we all looked at each other, silent. Nobody said anything until I said, "Let's go over to the pub and have a drink.""
From Million-Dollar Movie, the second volume of Michael Powell's autobiography.