WHO is he?
Revered American film director, producer, historian, critic and actor who has been making fictional and documentary features since the late 1960s. Scorsese’s brand of personal cinema is widely used to illustrate the existence of authorship in mainstream moviemaking. He won the Golden Palm at Cannes film festival for Taxi Driver (1976) in 1976 and the Academy Award for The Departed (2006) in 2007, among numerous other recognitions.
WHAT are his films about?
Scorsese studied seriously to be a priest before landing up in the movie industry and, consequently, religious themes significantly inform his films. The protagonist in a Scorsese movie — a figure that is part Christ, part Antichrist — is almost always a man caught between the glories of heaven and the responsibilities of earth. He is vain, doubtful, self-destructive and deeply flawed. He traverses a messy and ruthless world and yet, through his acts, he attempts — often futile — to find transcendence.
The early films of Martin Scorsese — important entries in the New Hollywood movement — are known for their flamboyant style that includes location shoots in New York, radical camera movements, editing rhythms and use of pre-existing popular music. His later films become progressively classicist — possibly a healthy reaction to the post-modern excesses of the industry — and are marked by a certain affinity for genre conventions, lack of autobiographical element, sincerity and reverence in narrative tone and a more restrained use of cinematographic tools.
WHY is he of interest?
It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to state that Scorsese would be of immense importance to film culture even if he hadn’t made a single film. Not only are his infectious passion for the medium, his astute ideas about film aesthetics and profound knowledge of film history invaluable assets to current day directors, but the work done by the World Cinema Foundation, the non-profit organisation founded by Scorsese dedicated to restoring world cinema classics, is something to be celebrated and cherished.
WHERE to discover him?
Taxi Driver centres on Travis Bickle, a Vietnam War veteran who drives a taxi in New York for a living. Disillusioned by what the country he has fought for has become, the Existentialist hero Bickle takes it upon himself, rather misguidedly, to clean up the corrupt streets of his city. Scorsese’s film is a potent meditation on loneliness, violence and the crisis of masculinity.