Devout Gangster (Topic)

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Devout Gangster

Image Martin Scorsese turns 75 today. The son of an ironer, the grandson of an emigrant from Sicily, who dreamed of a priest's robe, eventually became one of the most titled American directors. How did he do it? Maybe his roots played a role? Or was he born to make history as the king of gangster cinema?

Part one. Assassination attempt

John Hinckley Jr. woke up in a hotel in Washington. I went to the McDuck next door for breakfast. As he ate, he looked through the morning papers and thought of Jody. Almost before leaving, he took out a paper and scribbled a few phrases. This is for Jody to be proud of him. At noon John Hinckley fired six shots. One of the bullets pierced the chest and hit the lung of the then current US President Ronald Reagan. During interrogation, Hinckley will say that he watched Taxi Driver at least 15 times ...

There are people who wonderfully affect the fate of others. They speak on an armored train, write books, make films, wanting to be heard by millions. But more often than not they themselves do not suspect what kind of power they conceal and what they can provoke. Martin Scorsese is such a person and such a director. He has a rare ability - to guess the aspirations of people, to excite, to let out an evil, sinful, intimidated and forsaken by God person. To shoot a movie so that the hero does not just walk nearby, but sits down next to him and speaks to you.


“Did you tell me that?”, asks Travis Bickle in the iconic scene of the film, which Robert De Niro spontaneously conceived of. And on the back of the mirror, the viewer nods or moves away in fright, because the lights of madness have already settled in the gaze of the Vietnam War veteran. Whatever the reaction to the hero's monologue, the main thing is that the viewer believed. Both him and the director, who showed a loner, who decided to administer his justice on the night streets of New York, where God no longer lives and every sign at the intersections leads to hell. John Hinckley Jr. believed more than others in the little angelic heroine Jodie Foster, a young prostitute, whom, despite her deeds, the true sin never touched, and in the screen sociopath De Niro.

Scorsese then made another film that also awakened passion and fear in people: it is about The Last Temptation of Christ. And if Hinckley Jr. fought for justice with an abstract society, where the president of the country, as a certain goal, had to fall from a punishing revolver, then here devoutly believing spectators fought with a specific Scorsese.

ImageRespectable Catholic Martin will be surprised at such a reaction. In the picture, the hero of Willem Dafoe, who played Christ, dreamed of an alternative human life - with a wife, children, a quiet house and death in the circle of loved ones.

Scorsese shows sin in almost all of his films. Sometimes it is repulsive, but more often the dark side is attractive, it shines and attracts, promises wealth and beautiful women. However, there is always a payback in the end. In The Last Temptation of Christ, the director seems to give people the right to make mistakes, to make allowances for their weakness. No, he does not equate God and man - what he was accused of. He just shows how hard it is for people to go their long way and stay clean and honest. However, Scorsese's idea was, to put it mildly, misunderstood. For him, cinema is a weapon that can shoot and pierce the sternum, revealing the human essence. And he always puts his philosophy, his view of religion into films, and his own youth into later films.

Those who fiercely criticized "The Last Temptation of Christ", unknowingly, made an attempt on the life of Scorsese the director and his attitude. After this tape, or, it will be more honest, the public reaction to it, Martin for some time will turn into a more detached and acrimonious observer of life.

Part two. A native of Little Italy

Let's start over. When you write about someone great, you should always look for roots, traces of future accomplishments in infancy, ancestral wrinkles or corporal punishment of strict parents. No matter how nugget a person is, he is, in one way or another, a product of his family, which is especially true when it comes to the Italian family. Madonna and Christ, Italian opera, mafia - all this does not let go, even if there is an ocean between the historical homeland and you.


The grandfather and grandmother of the future cinematographer Scorsese crossed the Atlantic at about the same time: grandfather on a large ship, and grandmother, according to family tradition, on a watercraft more similar in size to a boat. They settled not far from each other, met, began to live together. This is for the father. Grandfather and grandmother on the maternal side got married in distant Italy and moved to America, as they said then, for a better life. Both families lived in the Little Italy area, almost in the neighboring streets. They had children, and then grandchildren, among whom was Martin. Scorsese's genes really contain a lot: courage, adventurism, and Italian hot recklessness. These traits will still show themselves when the young Sicilian sits in the director's chair. And if Jewish Manhattan will sing Woody Allen,
Truly valuable in childhood for the future director was his parents' hobby for cinematography. They went to the movies as often as they went to church. Father put on a solid suit, mother put on a pretty hat, and between them, holding hands tightly, Martin minced to the session. Scorsese even remembers that it was in the auditorium at the session, sandwiched between his parents, that he first thought about making a movie. True, at some point, the Italian heritage almost prevailed, and Martin was seriously thinking about the fate of the priest, but the film screenings twice a week for many years still left a deeper mark in the mind of the young man.

ImageSome of Scorsese's first films - “Who's knocking at my door? " and “Bertha, nicknamed“ Freight car ”” may not be so bad, but the true director of gangster cinema is still dormant in them, so they can be safely attributed to the latent period of his work. However, the third film - about single mother Bertha, wandering around the country and languishing in dreams of a singer's career, renowned director John Cassavetes called"complete crap". And not somewhere on the sidelines of film studios, but directly to Martin, drinking a bottle of red with him. He advised to shoot what is close to the young director.

By the way, this is a fairly common mistake of novice creators, be it a director or a writer, to swing at the plot fatter, and then not draw it out in dialogues and mise-en-scenes, because all this, in fact, is alien and unknown. Cassavetes, acting like a real mentor, gave Scorsese advice to take a closer look at what was under his nose. And under his nose was his Little Italy - noisy, talented, full of smells, obese mothers sitting at night sewing, fathers with criminal connections and a cross over a white T-shirt, and, of course, the guys who zigzag through the streets. Each of them has a difficult road ahead of them.

This is how Wicked Streets was born - Martin Scorsese's first muscle-bound film, his song of songs. Everything was mixed there, like in New York itself, there religion, nationality, sexual preferences melted in one cauldron, and passions boiled like allspice boiling in a big round saucepan. Already by the time of the appearance of "Wicked Streets" in Scorsese, the director showed one of his main features - nepotism. Throughout his career, he will create his own clan: Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, irreplaceable editor Thelma Shunmaker, incomparable Robert De Niro, rookie Leonardo DiCaprio, and albeit rare, but still his Daniel Day-Lewis. By the way, Brian de Palma brought Scorsese to De Niro, and this meeting grew into a blood friendship. Martin also filmed his real family: his mother and father appear in episodes of Nice Guys.


Part three. Musical pause

New York is a city of jazz. Perhaps now someone will argue with this statement, but when Scorsese was still young, in the basements of the city that never sleeps, a jazz cacophony was heard from behind the oak doors. It smelled of whiskey and the velvety female vocals warmed the souls of strangers. They wanted to go there after an exhausting working day and even from the ladder of an international plane. So, according to the memoirs of the French writer Francoise Sagan, she spent her entire American tour in a closed club where sweet-voiced Billie Holliday sang at night.

New York is a city of jazz. Scorsese thought so, and therefore in the film that praised him, the hoarse voice of Liza Minnelli sounds, and De Niro takes up the saxophone. This company did not get bored while filming the only musical film in the director's career "New York, New York". Martin and Robert dragged after Lisa, and she eventually, apparently in Studio 54, stumbled upon Mikhail Baryshnikov and started an affair with him. For Scorsese, the film became a respite between gangster stories, a breath of air free from mindless violence, shootings and blood.


Part four. A True American Director

An amazing statement, but Martin Scorsese is the truly American director. He asks questions not only to an individual viewer, but to the entire nation: who are we, where are we going, what are our values? This is what sounds in his films, but loudest in Gangs of New York. He is almost an ideological migrant who in every possible way supports the image of a native of Little Italy. He is the one who recalls the notorious American dream, striving for which thousands, tens of thousands of Irish, Italians, British, French crossed the ocean hoping to lift their heads up and see that very lady with a torch, who turned green from her own freedom. He reminds Americans of the origins that lead to different parts of this world. British, Irish, Italians, USAs, French, Spaniards, Jews - all this mixed, like a Molotov cocktail, blood sets the country in motion.<
He was one of the first to create the image of American cinema. By the 70s of the last century, it was virtually impersonal. The "golden era" has long passed, but a new one has not come. The Hayes Code, legislative initiative, censorship stifled and prevented development. Meanwhile, Italian neo-realism was raging in Europe, and everyone was washed away by the French new wave. American society in those years was split into those who fought in Vietnam, and their parents, lulled by propaganda and did not want change.


Cinema in such circumstances was about to explode. In its depths, the heralds of the new era, such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Roman Polanski, were already growing and gaining strength - thinking, sympathetic and eager for change. They will become the New Hollywood and will start talking to the viewer, albeit obscenely, but truthfully. In his language. This is how the little Italian with bushy eyebrows became a truly American director - the one who returned the pulse to the cinema of this country, and then glorified him in every possible way.

Part five. Nostalgia

When Scorsese began his career in cinema, he was promising, angry and hungry. He sponsored his films himself, worked part-time on editing, made friends with the actors and revealed their names to the world. Today he is a master, recognized, awarded, marked by festivals, and his word is as weighty as an anvil. This is both good and bad at the same time. For Scorsese himself, this is an indisputable creative success, for us, the audience, it is chagrin. Because he will no longer shoot so rudely and honestly. There will be something different, as beautiful as a Qing Dynasty vase, and as exciting as a bullfight. But such naked and adrenaline, which is born only at a certain age, Martin will no longer remove, and De Niro will not play. And it remains to wait for new rebel directors, who now, as, indeed, at any other time, are very much needed to see themselves clearly and without embellishment, like in a mirror,

Today Martin Scorsese has a film in the works that many people have been waiting for. This is the result of the fan love that the director has amassed over his career. The bosses of a private company chipped in to once again see Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci together under Scorsese. This creation will be called "The Irishman". Well, and we are waiting.

The Topic of Article: Devout Gangster.
Author: Jake Pinkman