Saturday, September 10, 2011

Profile of a Director

Martin Scorsese: The Phenomenon

                    If Steven Spielberg, with his box office success and Academy Awards, is the popular representative of their generation, Scorsese is clearly the generation’s critical darling - Says Marc Raymond. Acknowledged my many as the greatest American Filmmaker of his generation, It is almost impossible to find someone who watches movies that does not know Martin Scorsese. Even a late bloomer like me (First time I heard his name was when The Aviator(2004) released) has been in his awe since, much like Jack Nicholson (I saw him first in The Departed(2006)). As Raymond says since he has always been revered by filmmakers and critics, even despite his limited success at box office, Scorsese has been considered as Powerhouse. Off course, besides filmmaking, his other work like his effort for Film Preservation(I even saw La Strada(1954) Recently, restored by special contribution from Martin Scorsese) and editing of film books has been Instrumental to put him where he is right now. There is so much to write about him that I am not quite sure how am I going to manage this but I am going to ask you to be patient while reading this.

After making few movies earlier, first notable movie Scorsese made was Mean Streets(1973). I saw it very recently because of much praise from Richard Hourula, one of the blogs that I follow religiously. Like Riku, many others consider this as the best film he ever made. Though not personal favorite, I definitely understand the legendary status this movie has attained. Lot of things that are Scorsese trademark now; unflinchingly graphic and realistic violence, great use of background Music and Rebert De Niro; you will see that they all started here. Then there was Taxi Driver(1976)This is more like Stanley Kubrick type of movie but more confusing is for some reason, this movie was a box office success. I hated Travis Bickle when I saw this movie first. I still do but I still have seen it many times. Maybe He wanted us to hate Travis and he gets full marks for it because it is not easy to make you hate protagonist. It further enhanced its iconoclastic reputation when John Hinkley Jr., credited Travis Bickley's attempt to save a 12-year old prostitute in the end as his inspiration for his attack on then president Ronald Reagan.

Then He made the film which he didn’t want to, Raging Bull(1980), because he didn’t know anything about Boxing. Now, it is Best film of the Decade by American Film, one of the 360 great films by British Film Institute and 2nd in voting as Great Film of All Time by Sight and Sound. Too much for something he didn’t want to do. He made many notable films like The Color of Money(1986), After Hours(1985), The King of Comedy(1982) and controversial The Last Temptation of Christ(1988) before going on to my favorite film, Goodfellas(1990). This film is in its own class. Like Mean Streets even Goodfellas exhibits typical Scorsese elements and it has Joe Pesci. To me, he is the most important link to set it apart from many other similar movies. He followed it by couple of well-respected remakes The Age of Innocence(1993) and Cape Fear(1991)

I consider the movies he made after the turn of millennium as Modern Day Scorsese Movies as all these films have different, fresh feel of Technology. The Gangs of New York(2002), the movie he wanted to make for almost 30 years before actually making it, also marks his first association with Leonardo Di Caprio. He has appeared in almost every movie Scorsese made since then. The Aviator(2004), as I have stated previously is the starting point of all this for me. The Departed(2006), remake of an original Honk Kong Film Infernal Affairs(2002) with an added twist of his own in the end is a modern day miracle. I have rarely seen such a powerful cast of male actors complementing each other with such perfection. It finally gave him an Oscar for Best Director that eluded him till then. And I won’t even talk about Shutter Island(2010) except saying that I just loved it – especially the ending, just read this.

Scorsese is much known for his Italian mobster films like Goodfellas(1990), Mean Streets(1973) and Casino(1995). All these films have their special place in Scorsese’e career and even in Industry. But what is most important is even outside the most prolific genre he worked in, his work is simply phenomenal. Following quote about Scorsese sums it up quite nicely. ‘From the violent realism of MEAN STREETS, TAXI DRIVER, and RAGING BULL to the poignant romance of ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANY MORE, the black comedy of AFTER HOURS, and the burning controversy of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, Martin Scorsese’s uniquely versatile vision has made him one of the cinema’s most acclaimed directors.’

Scorsese has been equally instrumental off the screen as he has been on. A tireless supporter of film preservation, Scorsese has worked to bridge the gap between cinema's history and future like no other director. Along with other directors, he founded a non-profit organization, The Film Foundation, to work on the restoration of lost and endangered films. By making couple of documentaries on national cinemas and appearing on many others as talking head authority, Scorsese has left his mark within Film Culture. Using his experience of various movements, primarily classic Hollywood, the French New Wave, and the New York underground movement of the early '60s, to an extraordinarily personal and singular vision, he has positioned himself at the fore front, always pushing the envelope of the film experience with an intensity and courage unmatched by any of his contemporaries. Perhaps it was only fitting that he received his Oscar from Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Cuppola and George Lucas, close friends and people with whom he started New Hollywood Movement during 70’s.

Previous Profiles:
Woody Allen

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