By Mario Ricciardi
What do two priests, some gangsters, an investment banker and a taxi driver all have in common? Hint: they didn’t walk into a bar. They were all directed by Martin Scorsese.
As time rolls by in any culture, the question arises of who will be the ones remembered. When it comes to film, Martin Scorsese is one of the surefire names to be listed next to Hitchcock and Kubrick.
Somewhere between auteur and homage-payer, Scorsese creates films that are both strikingly memorable and quietly respectful. Falling into a familiar pattern, I recognize his selection of projects as one for him, one for film. Scorsese will direct a film full of excess, style and Rolling Stones music like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” then follow it up with the story of two priests in feudal Japan converting Christians.
Through his inconsistency, he creates a repetition that contributes a vast library of memorable scenes, quotes and inspirations. Frequently collaborating with the likes of Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joe Pesci and yes, “Stepbrothers” star John C. Reilly, he helps mold the best as he improves himself. His one for me, one for film motif seems to be nothing but a method used to improve his own style and push his vision to new boundaries.
Martin Scorsese grew up in the Little Italy neighborhood of New York City. As a sickly child, he spent a lot of time indoors watching movies with his father and drawing storyboards for films he made up in his mind. Raised in a traditional Italian family during the height of the mafia’s power, Scorsese grew up with a natural suspicion of the world around him. This is a trait he carried with him as he got older, illustrated most prominently by the mirror he uses while editing to watch behind his shoulder.
His homelife and experiences growing up clearly influenced his work in “Mean Streets,” “Goodfellas,” “Casino” and the documentary “Italianamerican.” He frequently showcases men of great power losing everything. Their unfortunate endings are rarely the result of fate, but rather human greed, violence and unchecked ambition. He prefers flawed characters to heroes and his flawed characters rarely know who they can really trust. All characteristics of day-to-day life of Little Italy in the ’40s and ’50s.
As iconic as his filmography is for weaknesses of the flesh, he also dabbles with films about the spiritual. A Roman Catholic, Scorsese’s yearning for an understanding of the world around him also expands its reach to the supernatural. In films like “Kundun” and “Silence,” a deeper truth is searched for but found only to the extent of what human nature allows.
Scorsese’s films can often be summed up in this phrase: what does a human being want, and how does being a human being get in the way of that? His films are lavish, long winded, exciting and can read to both casual moviegoers and cinephiles alike.
Most directors make books, Scorsese makes novels. That’s something Stephen King said about Martin Scorsese. Steve King sure has a way with words doesn’t he? I recently rewatched Scorsese’s 2004 film “The Aviator.” It might be my favorite. Excuse the uncertainty though, but part of Scorsese being a modern master is having a lot of great material to choose from.