Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Martin Scorsese – Movies Spotlight – February 2010

Martin Scorsese is one of the best known and respected filmmakers of all-time. He is a student of cinema, constantly working to preserve its history. He has made a number of the finest films and continues to produce great work. His new film Shutter Island, staring Leonardo DiCaprio, has excellent buzz and is touted to be one of the best thrillers of the year.

Early Career:

Scorsese graduated from New York University’s film school in 1966 with an MFA in film and a BA in English and started working on his first feature film, I Call First, with fellow student and friend Harvey Keitel and long-time collaborator editor Thelma Schoonmaker. While it was only his first film, the Scorsese style was already apparent, including rapid editing, trouble protagonists that want to be accepted into society, New York City and Italian American life, gritty documentary style, unflinching realistic violence, rock music soundtracks, and long-term relationships with actors like Keitel and Joe Pesci. In the early 70s’ Scorsese became friends with the most influential young directors, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Brian (The Hack) De Palma, who incidentally introduced him to Robert De Niro. It was also during this time that he met John Cassavetes who became his mentor.

Collaborations with Robert De Niro:

Scorsese has made eight films with De Niro and they have an upcoming project called I Heard You Paint Houses in 2011. The first was Mean Streets in 1973. The year before, Scorsese had worked with producer Roger Corman, who had helped Coppola, James Cameron and John Sayles also launch their careers, on Boxcar Bertha. While the film was not a success, Scorsese learned from Corman how to make entertaining films for no money and without time. This, along with Cassavetes encouraging him to make movies he wanted to make rather than work on someone else’s project, prepared him for Mean Streets. The film was a breakthrough for Scorsese and actors De Niro and Keitel. The film also cemented his style (even though most of it was shot in LA). Next up, Scorsese and De Niro got together for Taxi Driver. The film followed a man’s decent into insanity and exhibited Scorsese’s talent as one of the top emerging directors of the time. The film also highlighted the work of De Niro and cinematographer Michael Chapman and would win the Palme d’Or (best film) at the Cannes film festival. The success of Taxi Driver allowed Scorsese to make his first big budget film, New York, NewYork, best remembered for its title song. A musical staring De Niro, made in the classic Hollywood style, the film was a complete failure (critically and box-office). The poor reception was not taken well by Scorsese and was attributed by critics to his style not working well within a studio setting. After taking some time, he returned to features with De Niro in Raging Bull. De Niro pulled Scorsese out of the slump he was in and convinced him to make the film. Thinking that he may never make another film, Scorsese poured all of himself into it, creating what is considered to be one of the top, if not the best, films of the 80s’, a master piece, and the height of his own personal style. It was also the breakout film for Pesci. De Niro and Scorsese then made The King of Comedy, which is a satire of media and celebrity also staring Jerry Lewis. It was a complete change of pace for Scorsese thematically and stylistically. As the film is surreal and is done with lots of long static takes. While the film was not a box office success at the time, it has picked up critical esteem in recent years. Scorsese considers it De Niro’s best performance in one of his films. The two took an eight year break from working with each other, which saw Scorsese receive mixed results in his work. Goodfellas marked their return to working together in 1990, a good thing as it proclaimed Scorsese’s reemergence as the talented confident director of Raging Bull (and it is my favorite of his films), thus restoring his reputation. All his acclaim back and he then goes and makes a remake: Cape Fear, based on the cult film from 1962. Interestingly, both films feature Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. Scorsese and De Niro’s Cape Fear represents another attempt at appealing to the mainstream and Scorsese making a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock in this stylized thriller. The film only received mixed reviews and was criticized for its misogynistic violence, though it was his highest grossing film to date. The last collaboration (until this future project comes to fruition) was 1995’s Casino. While the film is loved by many fans, critics, at the time, were not as impressed claiming it to be too similar to Goodfellas stylistically. However, like with The King of Comedy, the film is now considered to be a top film for the director and one of the best of the decade.

Collaborations with Leonardo DiCaprio:

Scorsese’s first film with DiCaprio was Gangs of New York, which began production in 1999 but was released in 2002. The film represented Scorsese’s biggest and most mainstream film of his career to date. The production of the film is rumored to have been troubled with creative arguments between Scorsese and then Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein. The film itself is mainstream and commercially accessible, and not one of his finer works. Scorsese’s final cut was 180 minutes, and the theatrical cut released was 168 minutes. Frequent collaborator, Elmer Bernstein’s score was rejected by Miramax and replaced by music from Howard Shore, U2 and Peter Gabriel. Ironically, while the film is not that good and likely has a compromised vision, it rendered Scorsese his first directing Golden Globe and was nominated for best picture at the Oscars. The Aviator was next for team Scorsese/DiCaprio. The film was both a critical and commercial success, garnering eleven Academy Award nominations but only winning five. The film (along with Catch Me If You Can) was also a breakthrough for DiCaprio who finally was able to shake the stigma of Titanic and could be again viewed as a serious, and good, actor. For the third film in a row, Scorsese and DiCaprio again got together to make The Departed. Another remake (Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs), the film is highlighted by an all-star cast including Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Matt Damon. It opened to acclaim, called the best Scorsese film since Goodfellas, while other ranked it with Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. It was finally Scorsese’s year. The film is his highest grossing film and at the 2007 Oscars he won his first best director Academy Award, which was presented to him by Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, as well as best film. It was his sixth time being nominated. This year’s Shutter Island marks their fourth consecutive (at least for Scorsese) film together. DiCaprio and Scorsese also have a number of future projects slated including: a remake of the French film Cache, a Frank Sinatra biopic, a Teddy Roosevelt biopic, and The Wolf of Wall Street.


Scorsese is also an accomplished documentary filmmaker. Here are a few of his best: The Last Waltz is a highly regarded piece chronicling the final concert by The Band. The set takes place in San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom and features a number of guests, like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters. My Voyage to Italy catalogs and reviews the history of Italian cinema focusing on films of Roberto Rossellini. The film also talks about how these films influenced Scorsese’s own work, particularly the Italian neorealism period. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan traces the life of Dylan and his impact of American culture and pop music. The film concentrates on a period between his arrival in New York in 1961 and his retirement from touring in 1966, encapsulating the songwriter’s rise to fame and the controversy surrounding his switch to rock music.

Future Projects:

Along with the future colabos with De Niro and DiCaprio, Scorsese also has a George Harrison documentary upcoming as well as Silence and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Silence is about two Jesuit priests who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to spread the gospel. The film is slated to star Benicio Del Toro and Gael Garcia Bernal. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a mystery set in Paris involving an orphan, his late father and a robot; there is no cast yet announced.

Martin Scorsese Box Set (Selected Filmography/Career Highlights):

1.)                Mean Streets (1973) – [DVD]
2.)                Taxi Driver (1976) – [Blu-ray/DVD]*
3.)                The Last Waltz (1978) – [Blu-ray/DVD]
4.)                Raging Bull (1980) – [Blu-ray/DVD]*
5.)                The King of Comedy (1982) – [DVD]
6.)                Goodfellas (1990) – [Blu-ray/DVD]*
7.)                Casino (1995) – [Blu-ray/DVD]
8.)                The Aviator (2004) – [Blu-ray/DVD]
9.)                No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005) – [DVD]
10.)            The Departed (2006) – [Blu-ray/DVD]*

* Editor’s picks

No comments:

Post a Comment