Martin Scorsese was one of the biggest names of the so-called “New Hollywood” generation in the 1970s, along with Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola and De Palma, among others. At the helm of such films as Taxi Driver and The Departed, Scorsese is a consummate director of actors and an alchemist of sound and image whose inspired directing always commands respect.
Born in New York City in 1942, Scorsese grew up in the Little Italy neighbourhood, and most of his films were shot in New York, whose streets, resounding with music, were his primary source of inspiration. The New York director is a passionate music lover and describes himself as a child of rock, which gives a vital pulse to his films, along with jazz, blues and opera. As a scholar of cinema, Scorsese is also a devotee of the great figures of classic filmmaking. You are invited to take a close-up look at the inspirations of a director for whom filmmaking and music arise from the same impulse, and who is currently featured in an exhibition at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris.
Martin Scorsese in a few words
Martin Scorsese was born into a family of Sicilian origin and raised in New York City. As a child he was diagnosed with asthma, so he spent much of his time on the sidelines, observing life in the streets. It is easy to imagine him perched on the fire escape outside the family apartment overlooking Elizabeth Street, soaking in the ambiance of the Little Italy neighbourhood. Scorsese’s inspiration springs from the streets, and the street scenes observed in his youth were destined to become scenes in his movies. There always seemed to be music in the air. “It drifted up from the street, from the radios of passing cars, from corner stores and from the windows of apartments across the way: opera, traditional Italian music, big band music, doo-wop, Broadway musicals, symphonies, jazz and rock 'n' roll. The music seemed to intensify what went on in our living room or in the street, and, to a certain extent, complemented it. It was as if my life was set to the music of a continuous soundtrack,” relates Scorsese in the booklet that accompanies the first record anthology ever devoted to his film music, The Cinema of Scorsese (Decca Records/Universal Music, 2015). Stéphane Lerouge, head of the Ecoutez le cinema ! discography collection at Universal and who designed and produced this boxed set, sums up the wide range of Scorsese’s musical inspirations – a real, living jukebox – in the video below.
Scorsese exhibition - Interview Stephane Lerouge par vivendi
Despite his initial desire to become a priest, Scorsese took up film studies at New York University. He was 32 in 1973, when Mean Streets, his first collaboration with actor Robert De Niro, was released; it established him as one of the most promising directors of the “New Hollywood” generation. His reputation was definitively established by Taxi Driver, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1976. Raging Bull (1980), also with De Niro in the leading role, made a strong impact on the public and critics. The Italian-American filmmaker’s key films also include his portrayals of the world of organized crime in Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995). New York City is naturally central to Scorsese’s filmography, with such films as the historical epic Gangs of New York (2002) set in the Civil War era, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who later became a fixture in Scorsese’s films, including The Departed (2006), which won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director.
As a true film buff, the men and women who created cinema history have never ceased to influence his work. His love of cinema drove him to engage in pioneering work to safeguard the world’s film heritage by creating The Film Foundation in 1990 with seven of his director friends: Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Georges Lucas, Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg. Since its inception, the foundation has restored more than 600 films from 17 different countries, including classic films, documentaries and archival documents.
Martin Scorsese is being honoured in 2015, by the Lumière Festival in particular, which presented him with a special award; the Cinémathèque Française is also devoting a retrospective exhibition to his films and influences in 2015-2016 in partnership with Vivendi. We invite you to take a close-up look at a few of the inspirations of this filmmaker, film buff and music lover.
Here is an appetizer: The music of Martin Scorsese in 20 songs by Jack