Friday, November 29, 2019


Younger Scorsese

You can't go through the 1001 list or any kind of movie list without running into director Martin Scorsese multiple times. A student of film history, I must have come across fifty DVD's with at least a snippet of an opinion from Scorsese about one movie or another. However, there are a still few of Scorsese's own movies that I have just now added to viewing resume.

Who's That Knocking On My Door 

Who's That Knocking On My Door (1967) is Scorsese's first film and really a prototype for a lot of his later films of the mean streets. It features Harvey Keitel as a young street tough who tries to romance a girl with a secret in her past. It's interesting that Keitel's character is a stand-in for Scorsese and loves to talk on and on about movies. What better way to impress a girl than reciting the entire plotline of The Searchers!  Other familiar elements of the director come into play such as religious symbolism and unexpected twists in a romantic relationship. You also have a lot of the tough guy hanging out banter you come to expect from a Scorsese picture.

The Last Waltz

The Last Waltz (1978) is a film that I can't believe I haven't seen before! It shows the Scorsese who is pretty adept at being a music documentarian and features the last concert for The Band after sixteen years on the road. It helps in watching that I'm a fan of their music (The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, The Weight). The Last Waltz also features guest appearances from a Who's Who of musicians I like: Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris and of course frequent Band collaborator Bob Dylan. Of course, never say never as The Last Waltz isn't really the last waltz as The Band is touring with Dylan in 2019!


Kundun (1997) may seem like a departure for Scorsese with the emphasis on the spiritual quest for the Dali Lama. But isn't the director of The Last Temptation of Christ often in search of spiritual meaning? The film shows how the spiritual quest can be effected negatively by the political situation going on around you. It also depicts well the spiritual growth of the Dalai Lama as he gets older and accepting of his important place in the world. Scorsese is clearly on the Dalai Lama's team throughout.

The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story

The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story (2019) is Scorsese's recent music documentary that shows us what happened during Dylan's 1975 tour and is a most interesting trip for fans. Dylan and friends such as Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg and Joni Mitchell and others were on parts of the tour, in which they performed mostly in small venues. The size of these venues made for some great music and is fascinating to watch now, but at the time was said to have been a financial black hole because of the limited seating capacities of the places they played. There are many interesting characters here including Ratso Sloman and Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. There are some fictional characters thrown also thrown in for better or for worse, including Michael Murphy as politician Jack Tanner The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story makes an interesting double feature with The Last Waltz.

The Irishman

So now I'm ready to watch what promises to be Scorsese's ultimate gangster epic, The Irishman. At three and a half hours, it's certainly has an epic time frame. The story of Jimmy Hoffa and his associate Frank Sheehan is a story that certainly warrants the length. It's not a conventional bio, in that we are seeing things from the perspective of Sheehan (Robert De Niro) much more than Hoffa (Al Pacino). The storytelling (with lots of narration) should be familiar to fans of Scorsese films such as Goodfellas and Casino. The Irishman has much to recommend it: the story, the setting, the performances and the chilling sudden bursts of violence. The cast is also interesting including Who's That Knocking on My Door star Harvey Keitel in a supporting role, as well as Anna Paquin, Ray Ramono and many others. But the core of the story is the main three players (De Niro, Pacino and Joe Pesci) who despite being in their late 70's, play their characters over the course of several decades. Their performances are enhanced by some high tech CGI make-up, as well as a director that is constantly reminding them of what age they are supposed to be acting like in what scene.

The Irishman is a welcome edition to the already monumental Scorsese canon. We'll see how this does at Academy Awards time.

Older Scorsese

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