Martin Scorsese: He Is Cinema
The death of cinema has been heralded countless times over the past several decades, suggesting that we are well into its ghostly afterlife. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo surveys cinema from this postcinematic station, returning to the profound connection between childhood wonder and early cinema.
Martin Scorsese had a terrific time during the production of Public Speaking, his portrait of writer and New York mainstay Fran Lebowitz. I know this not from anecdotal evidence or first-hand experience of the shoot, but from what’s on display in the film itself.
The film remains an outlier, ignored by programmers of two recent Scorsese retrospectives in New York and the public alike. Clearly, Bringing Out the Dead does not need to be rescued from oblivion; it needs to be resuscitated. Let's start by calling it a comedy.
Goodfellas is a nervy blast—nostalgia-soaked, endlessly quotable, and oddly fun even as it grinds toward a tragic drug-addled end. Casino, both chillier and more hothouse by turns, nauseatingly violent and deeply, woefully sad, is no one’s idea of a good time.
The Age of Innocence is as brutal a film as anything in Scorsese’s filmography—and it is also just as kinetic. His camera is constantly in motion, insinuating itself between characters, panning, tilting, and tracking from faces to walls to plates of food to silverware to fine china.
Other critics have looked at the psychopath Cady (a role De Niro lobbied hard for) as an extension of Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin, but this rather misses the point. It is Nolte's Bowden who is the “Scorsese male” here (Cape Fear's own Henry Hill, or Jordan Belfort).
Scorsese’s twelfth and greatest feature, adapted from Wiseguy, a mob-tell all narrated by stoolie Henry Hill to novelist Nicholas Pileggi, casts a long, enveloping shadow over the past twenty-five years’ worth of studio, independent, and television productions from the U.S. and elsewhere.
The many raging bulls of Scorsese’s career tend to be overgrown, mewling children, from multiple De Niros to Pesci’s trigger-happy Tommy DeVito and Nicky Santoro—art-world star Dobie, although a more articulate, sellable buck, fits right in with these men, banging at the bars on their cribs.
From Who’s That Knocking at My Door to The King of Comedy, Scorsese’s is a cinema of losers—of stunted men whose sad fates, though they might elicit our sympathy, do not qualify as tragedy because they had nothing of greatness in them to begin with . . . The Color of Money, conversely, is about winners.
As with all of Amazing Stories’ other directors-for-hire, he did not have final cut. And though he enlisted his own screenwriter, After Hours’ Joseph Minion, to work on the teleplay, the episode, as with the majority of Amazing Stories installments, was based on an original story by Spielberg.
The multiple cameras grant the viewer a privileged access to the stage from every possible angle except the perspective of the audience. This creates a filmic space in which we are united with those who create the music, yet are separated from those who listen to it.
It’s worth wondering, since the protagonists of certain musicals seem to share Jimmy’s dream of establishing this perfect balance, whether the musical, too, is somewhat allergic to the idea of marriage as a sustained habit of life rather than as a grand romantic finale.
In order to amplify Bickle’s tortured psyche and intimate his prejudices without verbalizing them, Scorsese consistently traffics in images of black males as hostile beings, perhaps in part to put his own spin on the urban landscape routinely depicted in the blaxploitation films of the early 1970s.
Female experience is a fraught and contradictory thing in Alice, established within a matrix of domestic responsibilities, culturally influenced fantasies, and conflicting social expectations regarding the proper relationship between a woman’s desires and duties.
In its almost bratty simplicity it shows up so many contemporary nonfiction films, which often seem to exist only to document the exemplary or the culturally notable, and in their slavish obsession with their subjects’ import end up squelching the kind of resonance that Italianamerican casually exudes.