Martin Scorsese

Discussion and info on people in film, ranging from directors to actors to cinematographers to writers.

Moderator: DarkImbecile

Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
DarkImbecile
Ask me about my visible cat breasts
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:24 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM

Martin Scorsese

#1 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:18 am

Martin Scorsese (1942 -)

Image

"My whole life has been movies and religion. That's it. Nothing else."

Filmography

Features
New York City... Melting Point [documentary] (1966)
Who's That Knocking at My Door AKA I Call First (1967)
Street Scenes [documentary] (1971)
Boxcar Bertha (1972)
Mean Streets (1973)
Italianamerican [documentary] (1974)
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
Taxi Driver (1976)
New York, New York (1977)
The Last Waltz [documentary] (1978)
Raging Bull (1980)
The King of Comedy (1982)
After Hours (1985)
The Color of Money (1986)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
GoodFellas (1990)
Cape Fear (1991)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies [documentary] (1995)
Casino (1995)
Kundun (1997)
Il Mio viaggio in Italia AKA My Voyage to Italy [documentary] (1999)
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Gangs of New York (2002)
Lady by the Sea: The Statue of Liberty [documentary] (2004)
The Aviator (2004)
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan [documentary] (2005)
The Departed (2006)
Shine a Light [documentary] (2008)
Shutter Island (2009)
A Letter to Elia [documentary] (2010)
Public Speaking [documentary] (2011)
Living in the Material World: George Harrison [documentary] (2011)
Hugo (2011)
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The 50 Year Argument [documentary] (co-director) (2014)
Silence (2016)
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (2019)
The Irishman (2019)

Shorts
"Vesuvius VI" (1959)
"What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?" (1963)
"It's Not Just You, Murray!" (1964)
"The Big Shave" AKA "Viet '67" (1967)
"Martin Scorsese: Back on the Block" (1973)
"American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince" [documentary] (1978)
"Life Lessons" [segment from New York Stories] (1989)
"Made in Milan" [documentary] (1990)
"The Neighborhood" [segment from The Concert for New York City](2001)
"The Key to Reserva" (2007)
"The Audition" (2015)

Television
Amazing Stories - S01E19 - "Mirror, Mirror" (1986)
The Blues - S01E01 - "Feel Like Going Home" (2003)
Boardwalk Empire - S01E01 - "Boardwalk Empire" (2010)
Vinyl - S01E01 - "Pilot" (2016)

Music Videos
Michael Jackson - "Bad" (1987)
Robbie Robertson - "Somewhere Down the Crazy River" (1987)

Books
Martin Scorsese: The First Decade by Mary Pat Kelly (1980)
Goodfellas by Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi (1990)
Martin Scorsese by Lester Keyser (1992)
Casino by Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese (1996)
The Cinema of Martin Scorsese by Lawrence Friedman (1997)
A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies by Martin Scorsese & Michael Henry Wilson (1997)
Martin Scorsese Close Up: the Making of His Movies by Andy Dougan (1980)
Martin Scorsese: Interviews by Peter Brunette, ed. (1999)
Martin Scorsese by Andy Dougan (1999)
Taxi Driver by Paul Schrader (2000)
The Films of Martin Scorsese, 1963-77: Authorship and Context by Leighton Grist (2000)
Martin Scorsese: A Journey by Mary Pat Kelly, editor (2003)
Scorsese on Scorsese by David Thompson & Ian Christie, eds. (Revised: 2004)
Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull by Kevin J. Hayes, ed. (2005)
Martin Scorsese: A Biography by Vincent LoBrutto (2007)
The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese by Mark T. Conard, ed. (2007)
Gangster Priest: The Italian American Cinema of Martin Scorsese by Robert Casillo (2007)
Scorsese by Roger Ebert (2008)
Taxi Driver by Amy Taubin (2008)
The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese by Mark Conard (2009)
Martin Scorsese's America by Ellis Cashmore (2009)
Masters of Cinema: Martin Scorsese by Thomas Sotinel (2010)
The Passion of Martin Scorsese: A Critical Study of the Films by Annette Wernblad (2010)
Conversations with Scorsese by Richard Schickel (2013)
A Companion to Martin Scorsese by Aaron Baker (2014)
Martin Scorsese: A Retrospective by Tom Shone (2014)
Martin Scorsese in 10 Scenes by Tim Grierson (2015)
Martin Scorsese: Interviews, Revised and Updated by Robert Ribera (2017)
Martin Scorsese's Divine Comedy: Movies and Religion by Catherine O'Brien (2018)

Web Resources
Cinephelia & Beyond's collection of links, resources, scripts, and interviews with Martin Scorsese and collaborators
Notes on an American Film Director at Work: Martin Scorsese, Jonas Mekas' 2005 documentary on Scorsese's work during production of The Departed
1970 audio interview with Doris Freedman, WNYC
1976 interview with Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
1987 interview with David Ansen, Interview Magazine
1990 animated interview with T.J. English, Blank on Blank
1998 interview with Gavin Smith, Film Comment
2001 audio interview with Kent Jones for the Film Society at Lincoln Center
2003 interview with Alex Williams, The Guardian
2007 interview with Craig McLean, The Guardian
"Persistence of Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema", Scorsese's 2013 National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture
"The Passion of Martin Scorsese" by Paul Elie, The New York Times Magazine (2016)
2016 video interview at the Fuller Studio
2016 interview with Stephen Galloway, The Hollywood Reporter
2017 interview with Nick Pinkerton, Film Comment
"Standing Up for Cinema" by Martin Scorsese, The Times Literary Supplement (2017)
2017 podcast, "Martin Scorsese in His Own Words", British Film Institute, Part 1
2017 podcast, "Martin Scorsese in His Own Words", British Film Institute, Part 2
"Is the Age of Innocence Martin Scorsese's Most Violent Film?" by Dan Einav, Little White Lies (2017)
2019 interview with Philip Horne, Sight and Sound
2020 interview with Dave Itzkoff, New York Times

Forum Discussion
The Short Films of Martin Scorsese
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980)
The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1983)
After Hours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)
The Color of Money (Martin Scorsese, 1986)
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (Martin Scorsese, 2005)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Shine a Light (Martin Scorsese, 2008)
Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)
Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)
The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)

User avatar
igor s.
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 10:16 pm

#2 Post by igor s. » Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:18 pm

Alonzo the Armless wrote:I'm wondering if Scorsese isn't too thrilled with The Aviator. He made a statement recently that he wants to return to lower budget, more intimate films. Perhaps he also feels he isn't the type for large, big-budget, big-cast blaockbusters.
From the man's and over-man's words:
The 61-year-old filmmaker told a reporter, "I'm looking forward to making pictures that have a little smaller budget and taking different stories and going that way. As Harvey Weinstein said to me this morning, 'If you want to do a film that is kind of dark or violent for $20 million or something, fine. Shoot it in 30 days.' But if you are going to do something for $100 million or $110 million, it alters your subject matter and how you present the subject matter."

"And you know, as I get older too, I don't know if there is any room for me, in a way, with what is happening."
With regards to your suspicion, flava in your ear, of "The Departed" sounding a lot like Donnie Brasco, this may haunt or excite you:
Based on a trilogy of popular Hong Kong crime films directed by Lau Wai-keung and Mak Siu-fai, the story revolves around a gangster who infiltrates the police department and a cop infiltrates the gangs at the same time. The two find out that a mole is in each organization and race to find each other's identity. Scorsese's version shifts the movie to Boston. The bad guys, lead by Matt Damon, will translate to the mafia, while Leo will play the role of the undercover cop.

User avatar
Poncho Punch
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:07 pm
Location: the emerald empire

#3 Post by Poncho Punch » Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:28 pm

Leonardo DiCaprio is a lucky mfer.

I don't think The Aviator will be too bad, but then I enjoyed Gangs Of New York immensely. I do go for these big-budget period pieces if they're done competently.

leo goldsmith
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 1:13 pm
Location: Kings County
Contact:

#4 Post by leo goldsmith » Fri Nov 12, 2004 3:27 pm

Might Silence be an adaptation of Shusaku Endo's 1980 novel of the same name?
Scorsese has been "working on" a film adaptation of this since the late 80s or something. I used to have an old copy of this with a blurb from Marty on the dust jacket and a little "soon to be a major motion picture" line.

Never read it though.

DrewReiber
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 3:27 am

#5 Post by DrewReiber » Sat Nov 13, 2004 2:28 pm

I'm in for anything Robert Richardson does....

User avatar
devlinnn
Take a chance you stupid ho
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 3:23 am
Location: three miles from space

#6 Post by devlinnn » Sat Nov 13, 2004 10:13 pm

...and Gwen Stafani is in the middle of an artistic purple patch. If only Kenneth Anger was directing this one.

User avatar
cafeman
Leningrad Cowboy
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 10:19 am

#7 Post by cafeman » Sun Nov 14, 2004 11:07 am

Langlois68 wrote:
Flava In Your Ear wrote: I think it's great when die-hard Scorsese fans take this kind of stuff so personally. Scorsese is one of my five favorite directors, but I'm also not one to sugarcoat anything, either.
If you don't think The Age of Innocence, Casino and Kundun are masterpieces, then you're not a die-hard Scorsese fan.
I find Age of Innocence a complete waste of time, and yet am a huge fan of Scorsese.

User avatar
devlinnn
Take a chance you stupid ho
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 3:23 am
Location: three miles from space

#8 Post by devlinnn » Sun Nov 14, 2004 8:08 pm

I find Age of Innocence a complete waste of time, and yet am a huge fan of Scorsese.
cafeman, if you find yourself with the chance to catch up with The Age of Innocence again, please give it another go. If it's a waste of time, then time is not worth a penny. I doubt Scorsese, and current Hollywood, will ever be able to top it.

User avatar
Matt
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 12:58 pm

#9 Post by Matt » Sun Nov 14, 2004 10:39 pm

I really disliked Age of Innocence the first time I saw it. The second time, I appreciated it, but didn't love it. I suspect the next time I see it, I will like it even more.

Part of my initial reaction was no doubt due to the fact that I used to despise both Winona Ryder and Michelle Pfeiffer. As their careers have waned, so has my hatred.

User avatar
Alonzo the Armless
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 8:57 pm

#10 Post by Alonzo the Armless » Mon Nov 15, 2004 10:57 am

Count me in as a die-hard Scorsese fan and one who also loves the movie BRINGING OUT THE DEAD. Although there are similarities to TAXI DRIVE (Schrader script of a lonely man who wants to make a difference in the world and works in slummy areas), I find it more motional. The movie also has some of his most haunting and beautiful imagery like Frank's dream sequence of people arising from the street while snow falls upward.

SPOILER: I still question its ending and whether Frank was right in allowing the old man to die. I find that ethically wrong.

two mules
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:01 pm
Location: London, England

#11 Post by two mules » Mon Nov 15, 2004 11:25 am

matt wrote:I really disliked Age of Innocence the first time I saw it. The second time, I appreciated it, but didn't love it. I suspect the next time I see it, I will like it even more.

Part of my initial reaction was no doubt due to the fact that I used to despise both Winona Ryder and Michelle Pfeiffer. As their careers have waned, so has my hatred.
Much the same experience here... though I put the fact that I didn't like it more to the fact that I hadn't seen as many films then as I have now; with experience, your critical outlook matures and often changes [yes, age actually is a factor in critical maturity - younger readers take note.

The same is true of Casino, which I now regard as his last [ever?] great film. KUNDUN just doesn't cut it, for me. And the less said about BRINGING and GANGS the better. As I said about comics creator Frank Miller in a recent post, sometimes artists just lose their vitality... at which point I feel it's time, as a viewer, to move on.

User avatar
Jun-Dai
監督
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:34 am
Location: London, UK
Contact:

#12 Post by Jun-Dai » Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:43 pm

I still question its ending and whether Frank was right in allowing the old man to die. I find that ethically wrong.
I know this is opening up a huge can of worms, but why?

User avatar
cafeman
Leningrad Cowboy
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 10:19 am

#13 Post by cafeman » Mon Nov 15, 2004 7:36 pm

devlinnn wrote:
I find Age of Innocence a complete waste of time, and yet am a huge fan of Scorsese.
cafeman, if you find yourself with the chance to catch up with The Age of Innocence again, please give it another go. If it's a waste of time, then time is not worth a penny. I doubt Scorsese, and current Hollywood, will ever be able to top it.
I sat down to watch it, and couldn`t go past the first 15 minutes. Then I caught it on TV again, and decided to go through the whole thing no matter what, and did, barely. So, in a way, I did watch it twice.

Not to be an asshole or anything, seeing as how you love the film and all, but Age of Innocence is a film which is bad in a way that I can`t even provide a decent attack on it. I wish I could explain myself better, but all of it was just painfully bad for me.

Some other Scorsese films I didn`t completely like, like Mean Streets and Bringing Out the Dead, but there were inspired moments in there which made them worht watching, but Age of Innocence is just a flat out 100 percent failure to me.

two mules
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:01 pm
Location: London, England

#14 Post by two mules » Tue Nov 16, 2004 6:04 am

cafeman wrote: Age of Innocence is a film which is bad in a way that I can`t even provide a decent attack on it. I wish I could explain myself better, but all of it was just painfully bad for me.
What you mean, maybe, is "I don't like it". Not "It's bad". They're not the same thing.

I don't like "Citizen Kane" very much, to be honest, or "L'Avventura", but I wouldn't say they were bad because they're not, and to do so would make me look lame and immediately undermine any credibility I might have.

User avatar
GringoTex
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 5:57 am

#15 Post by GringoTex » Tue Nov 16, 2004 8:37 am

"The Age of Innocence" was Scorsese's Visconti project. Every character and plot point was oppressed and defined by the mise-en-scene. When it came out, the popular press compared it unfavorably to "The Remains of the Day," which which had 1/8 the budget. Of course, that kind of mise-en-scene costs money.

"Casino" and "The Age of Innocence" were not very well received on their release, but their reputations grow with every passing year. I'm convinced 30-40 years from now, they'll be recognized as Scorsese's greatest masterpieces.

User avatar
Alonzo the Armless
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 8:57 pm

#16 Post by Alonzo the Armless » Tue Nov 16, 2004 10:15 am

Jun-Dai wrote:
I still question its ending and whether Frank was right in allowing the old man to die. I find that ethically wrong.
I know this is opening up a huge can of worms, but why?
It wasn't Frank's decision to make, in my view. It's not a paramedic's job to decide what's best if the family that has legal control doesn't want the plug pulled. The reason Frank pulled the plug is because he heard the father's voice in his head demanding it. I don't think voices in the head is a good argument for going against a family's wishes like that.

User avatar
Jun-Dai
監督
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:34 am
Location: London, UK
Contact:

#17 Post by Jun-Dai » Tue Nov 16, 2004 12:59 pm

If you're not going to listen to the voices in your head, then who are you going to listen to?

User avatar
Jun-Dai
監督
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:34 am
Location: London, UK
Contact:

#18 Post by Jun-Dai » Tue Nov 16, 2004 1:03 pm

What you mean, maybe, is "I don't like it". Not "It's bad". They're not the same thing.
Actually, they pretty much are the same thing. One's just a claim to a non-existent objective view on the goodness of a film, and the other is more honest and humble in comparison. A film can't actually be "good" or "bad" we simply use those terms to describe our feelings about those films as if they were the way everyone should feel.

When I say that I think Celebrity is one of Woody Allen's best films, or that Eyes Wide Shut is one of Kubrick's best films, I am, aside from taking an unpopular view, merely expressing my preference as well as some notion that I think other people should share my preference, or at least consider it (that is perhaps the key difference between saying "I don't like it" and "it's bad"). Ultimately none of Kubrick's films can actually be better than another because there's simply no such thing as a good film, outside of a subjective view of it.
Last edited by Jun-Dai on Tue Nov 16, 2004 3:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
The Fanciful Norwegian
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:24 pm
Location: Teegeeack

#19 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Tue Nov 16, 2004 2:55 pm

Returning briefly to the original subject of the thread, David Poland has posted some extended impressions of The Aviator. Poland is an industry reporter, not a critic or reviewer, but I haven't seen a whole lot of other advance reviews out there and Poland's reaction could conceivably augur for the mainstream critical reaction as well. So take it for what you will...

User avatar
cafeman
Leningrad Cowboy
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 10:19 am

#20 Post by cafeman » Tue Nov 16, 2004 3:26 pm

two mules wrote:What you mean, maybe, is "I don't like it". Not "It's bad". They're not the same thing.

I don't like "Citizen Kane" very much, to be honest, or "L'Avventura", but I wouldn't say they were bad because they're not, and to do so would make me look lame and immediately undermine any credibility I might have.
I repeatedly said 'to me' in my post, to avoid this reaction.

as for you second remark, I used the word bad instead of I didn`t like, because there`s movies which I didn`t like, but think they might be good to other people because of their more objective cinematic value. If I didn`t like Citizen Kane I would definitely say that I merely didn`t like it, because it`s obvious that it was skillfully made and has tons of cinematic value, even if I didn`t enjoy it as a whole. E.g. I didn`t enjoy some Brakhage shorts (most, even) and Blow-Up, but not by any stretch of boldness would I call them "bad."

In the case of Age of Innocence, I have no such problems, because I feel that it`s not a skillfully made movie which doesn`t work for me, but instead just simply a bad movie.

User avatar
Jun-Dai
監督
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:34 am
Location: London, UK
Contact:

#21 Post by Jun-Dai » Wed Nov 24, 2004 3:32 am

I'd say that Birth of a Nation is a good film.
In that case, if your statement is to make any real sense to anyone other than yourself (sure, we can try to guess what you mean, but it won't get us very far), it will require explication. What do you mean when you say "Brith of a Nation is a good film"? The answer is not obvious, since you have in the second half of your statement negated the possibility of our default definition of "good" (i.e., that you liked it).

Without explanation and without some preestablished criteria for Goodness, the statement that Birth of a Nation is a "good" film can only really mean one of three things to the person that you're talking to:

(1) that you liked it (the default)
(2) that you liked it and you think other people should like it.
(3) that you believe it is Good according to some criteria that you have not specified and possibly haven't even worked out.
(4) that you have faith that there are some respectable criteria of Goodness out there by which this film would be defined as Good (but you haven't actually tried to determine those criteria or apply them to the film)

In the third case (the only useful one left to us in interpreting your statement), the statement is all but meaningless until you choose to enlighten us with your criteria for Good (i.e., the definition of Good). In the meantime, we can either (a) assume that you actually have some criteria for Good by which you are judging the film and we would likely share those criteria, in which case we can take the statement as some sort of recommendation; or (b) ignore the statement.

In the fourth case, the statement is without any value, since it doesn't actually tell us anything about the film.

In any case, you haven't explained what the difference is. Do you believe that there is some sort of objective Good that doesn't require any evaluative criteria, implied or explicit? Do you believe that there is some concept of Good that exists outside of the context of specific experience, cultural context, or human experience as a whole? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then we don't even live on the same planet, and any further discussion is pretty much useless.

two mules
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:01 pm
Location: London, England

#22 Post by two mules » Wed Nov 24, 2004 6:07 am

Jun-Dai wrote:any further discussion is pretty much useless.
What I was trying to get out of Cafeman was what you've just, in a roundabout way, asked him for - to give us more detail as to what he really thinks: what, for him, constitutes a "bad" movie and why does Age of Innocence fall into that category? instead of simply saying "It's so bad I can't even begin to explain myself."

Though we've ended up on common ground, I think, it's a bit wearying to go around the houses stripping everything down to total subjectivity. You can reduce every single argument in the world to that basis, but it doesn't get us anywhere. Then all argument is useless indeed.

Is it not simpler to proceed from a loose shared stance [ "Scorsese is a skillful filmmaker" - I don't think anyone around here will take issue with that] then when Cafeman says one of his films is "bad"and gives no explanation, we can ask him to do so?

Cafeman: what irked you about AOI...more detail please: how is it "bad" and what is "good" by comparison?

User avatar
cafeman
Leningrad Cowboy
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 10:19 am

#23 Post by cafeman » Wed Nov 24, 2004 7:12 am

Well, it`s been to long to provide a specific critique, but to me the movie overall felt bloated and the plot too simple and obvious. The whole thing was like an average pulp love novel. Also, it was way over the top and too dramatically exagerrated. On top of all that, I was bored to tears by the plot which takes every digression to depict the texture of social life in the least interesting manner possible, by stating how many parties and forks the socialites have, obviously trying to cram as much prose from the novel as possible, to disastrous effect. I would`ve much preffered if all the voiceover parts were cut out. And so on, and so on...

I know I`m not stating my case strongly enough, but it has been way too long to be specific, and this wasn`t the kind of film which sticks in my memory. Bottom line, I thought this movie is a result of a lack of inspiration and a momentary lapse of talent in an otherwise fantastic director.

Anonymous

#24 Post by Anonymous » Wed Nov 24, 2004 8:18 am

Jun-Dai wrote:
I'd say that Birth of a Nation is a good film.
In that case, if your statement is to make any real sense to anyone other than yourself (sure, we can try to guess what you mean, but it won't get us very far), it will require explication. What do you mean when you say "Brith of a Nation is a good film"? The answer is not obvious, since you have in the second half of your statement negated the possibility of our default definition of "good" (i.e., that you liked it).

Without explanation and without some preestablished criteria for Goodness, the statement that Birth of a Nation is a "good" film can only really mean one of three things to the person that you're talking to:

(1) that you liked it (the default)
(2) that you liked it and you think other people should like it.
(3) that you believe it is Good according to some criteria that you have not specified and possibly haven't even worked out.
(4) that you have faith that there are some respectable criteria of Goodness out there by which this film would be defined as Good (but you haven't actually tried to determine those criteria or apply them to the film)

In the third case (the only useful one left to us in interpreting your statement), the statement is all but meaningless until you choose to enlighten us with your criteria for Good (i.e., the definition of Good). In the meantime, we can either (a) assume that you actually have some criteria for Good by which you are judging the film and we would likely share those criteria, in which case we can take the statement as some sort of recommendation; or (b) ignore the statement.

In the fourth case, the statement is without any value, since it doesn't actually tell us anything about the film.

In any case, you haven't explained what the difference is. Do you believe that there is some sort of objective Good that doesn't require any evaluative criteria, implied or explicit? Do you believe that there is some concept of Good that exists outside of the context of specific experience, cultural context, or human experience as a whole? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then we don't even live on the same planet, and any further discussion is pretty much useless.
I left my statement open-ended because I was just posing the concept of a film that I personally consider good without liking while trying not to take too much focus away from the true subject: the work of Martin Scorsese. I hoped that your own interpretations would be made, as much has been discussed about The Birth of a Nation and its place as both great cinema and a shame to its nation that birthed it. However, since you asked, I shall elaborate.

I consider The Birth of a Nation to be a good film because it does an excellent job at expressing its grand scope while keeping the narrative intimate. Its characters range from Abraham Lincoln to house slaves in the South, yet the film manages to keep the keep the characters in the forefront. The melodrama is as poignant as can be expected from a Hollywood film from 1915, the suspense is taut and the general theme (the Civil War was a tragedy because it tore the nation asunder, and that the United States was truly born when it became reunited) is a sound one that is well-executed.

However, I do not like The Birth of a Nation. The naivete in which addresses race relations goes against my personal philosophies. While the scene in which
SpoilerShow
the wild buck Gus chases the girl of the cliff attempting to rape her, only for her to throw herself off the cliff
is well-made, I do not approve of this representation of an African-American as the Big Black Buck attempting to soil so-called white decency. It is a good scene that exemplifies the immense talent behind D.W. Griffith's filmmaking, but I cannot say that I liked it.

To answer your question, yes, I do believe that a concept of good can be found beyond my own cultural context and experience. When watching the shower scene the first time I saw Psycho, I thought the scene was excellent. However, I doubt I liked it as much as viewers at the first screening in 1960 did. I viewed it through the eyes of a person who had seen the scene spoofed, shown out of context, alluded to, ripped off and otherwise post-modernized so often that I did not experience the visceral shock that it is meant to accomplish. My enjoyment of a scene is not as high when the scene is meant to play off my concept of shock but does not shock me. However, I can understand completely why it shocked other people, and while I can't imagine when I first saw a version of this scene, I do imagine that it probably shocked me too. Thus, I think the scene is excellent.

So it goes with The Birth of a Nation. I am aware of what is wrong with the images portrayed in the film. I have taken classes in school that have told me so. I have knowledge of Birmingham in the 1960s, of black men, women and children who lived in a world where their white neighbors found them unfit to share their classrooms, buses, drinking fountains and swimming pools because of their genetics. I say it in the least pompous way possible, when I proclaim that I am better informed than the intended audience of The Birth of a Nation. It comes from a world where the disgust in those images is debatable, whereas I come from one where it is readily agreed that they are in fact dispicable. The film is good, and surely acheived its goals at the time, but did not have the same effect on me as it meant to on its intended 1915 audience.

I do not come from a different world than you, Jun-Dai. I simply come from a different world than The Birth of a Nation.

User avatar
Jun-Dai
監督
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:34 am
Location: London, UK
Contact:

#25 Post by Jun-Dai » Wed Nov 24, 2004 2:09 pm

Before I respond, I'd like to thank you for your considered response. :)

When I asked whether you believed that there is some concept of Good that exists outside of cultural context, I didn't mean whether you believed that there is some concept of Good that exists outside of your specific cultural context, but rather whether you believed that there is some concept of Good that exists outside of any cultural context (i.e., is beyond cultural context). The easiest way to answer that is to ask two questions: Do you believe that there is a notion of Good (in film, anyways) that anybody should recognize, regardless of their cultural background? Do you believe in a notion of Good that exists outside of humanity (e.g., within God, or within some sort of universal framework)? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then there is a fundamental difference between the way in which you and I view reality that we are always going to come back to in our discussions.

Regarding Psycho, I recognize that while the cultural context in which the shower sequence is viewed has changed significantly, the scene can still be appreciated for the masterful way in which it was put together. Part of this is due to the fact that some of the cultural shift in the audience has been with regard to how this scene is understood. Since that film came out, that scene has come to be regarded via cultural concensus as masterful, and it has wholly entered our cinematic language. Anyone who speaks of that scene does so with reverence. The final shot where the camera pulls away from Janet Leigh's eye is spoken of in hushed tones by respected film professors, film critics, and filmmakers. Janet Leigh is considered a great actress more for that one shot than for the rest of her career combined. If you look back to a time before that innovative and daring scene was shot, you can arrive at a time where the elements of cinematic language that Hitchcock is relying on in that scene have not yet developed. It may be that some people watching Psycho in 1960 did not understand what was happening in that scene, and it is even more likely that some or most members of a film-going audience in 1940 or 1920 would not have understood it. We can be certain that an audience in 1750 wouldn't have understood it.

To speak of Birth of a Nation, you've certainly made clear in your descriptions of it certain criteria that you are leaning on when you say that the film is good. A film that manages to express grand scope while keeping the audience intimately tied to its characters is good (or, at least, it is good if it does this well, which is kind of vague). A film whose melodrama is poignant is good. A film whose suspense is taut is good. If the general theme of a film is sound and well-executed, then the film is good.

So now you've established certain qualities of the film that make it a Good film, but unfortunately you've also carefully qualified those qualities by leaning on other criteria that you haven't defined (what differentiates a film that maintains grand scope and intimate characters excellently and a film that does so poorly? What makes the suspense in one film taut, and the suspense in another film relaxed? What makes a general theme sound and when is it well-executed and when not? Is there room for disagreement on these suppositions? Or can they too be clearly defined?).

Is a technically proficient film a good one? Certainly Eyes Wide Shut is not a popular film, but it is a technically proficient as any film that Kubrick made. The narrative is tight, the cinematography was superb, and the suspense was, as far as technique goes--that is to say: story aside--taut. Nobody really disagrees much on these points, yet many people think the film is terrible, or that it is Kubrick's worst film, or that it isn't his best film, etc. Some people insist that despite these astounding technical qualities, the film remains somehow vacuous at its core. Others say that it is boring, because they cannot find any way to become interested in the characters. Others can't get past the "stilted" acting. Still others feel that the film is hopelessly naive (e.g., there is no way that a doctor in Manhattan could be so naive as to think that good wives won't have sexual fantasies about men that are not their husbands) or absurdly paranoid (a cult containing all of the most elite men in New York and therefore of the world? Give me a break).

So if Birth of a Nation is a Good film, should older black folk who have bad memories relating directly to the consequences of this film be expected to include it in their canon of "good films", or can they be excused? Many people find Do the Right Thing to be a racist film (a notion that I find absurd), and they seem to feel that this prevents it from being a good film. Are they wrong in doing so? Even if you were to agree that the film is racist?

To return this to Martin Scorsese, I think that it's somewhat inappropriate to tell someone that they need to rephrase their statement from one that points out that Age of Innocence is not a good film to one that points out that they don't like Age of Innocence simply because Scorsese is a canonized filmmaker and Age of Innocence is a respected film. If we do this, then we should do this any time that someone states that any film is not good (as Godot pondered in a separate thread), or even whenever someone posits that a film _is_ good. We clearly don't have much in this forum in the way of common criteria for what makes a film Good, so the distinction between what is good and what is liked is lost.

So Frank, we may yet come from different worlds. I'm still trying to figure out where you stand. Here's one final question for this post: if you say that Age of Innocence (or Birth of a Nation) is a good film and I say that Age of Innocence (or [i[Birth of a Nation[/i]) is a bad film, is one of us right and the other wrong?

Post Reply