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Scorsese as an Auteur

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Ms Barhol

on 12 May 2014

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Transcript of Scorsese as an Auteur

Scorsese as an Auteur

objects, symbols, motifs
certain motifs and symbols appear in
The Big Shave...

razor blade
Gangs of New York
)- can be used as a weapon; "The blood stays on the blade!"
Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of NY
Taxi Driver; (Apocalypse Now)
) - reflection of a destructed personality and self- image often refers to neurosis and insanity
Taxi Driver, Gangs of NY
claustrophobic space
Taxi Driver
nondiegetic music
- Bunny Berigan:
I Can’t Get Started
(creates a contrast or confirms the subject)
male body
as an object, provides the visual pleasure of the film
masochistic desires/self-harm
hero or anti-hero
(butcher - in a ritual sense, conjuring the unclean)
Taxi Driver, Gangs of NY, Casino
Taxi Driver, Gangs of NY)
- the private space of the bathroom (
Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Casino
sarcasm, irony

...which he constantly uses in his later work.

e.g. the act of shaving (to look immaculate and smart, joining the army to become a soldier - (
Full Metal Jacket, Hair, Apocalyse Now
), shaving off a common guilt, that not only belong to one person-->
Overall, in the pointlessness and the absurdity of its subject this film can be seen as a

Viet '67
was an alternative title for for the film).

All these symbols have additional, metaphoric meanings; the object points forward to sg abstract/sg instinctual, that shows his preoccupations and interests as an auteur-director, and will return in his later films.
Almost 50 years later...
He is widely regarded as one of the greatest directors of all time, his name has become a signature, a guarantee of the films value and popularity.
Although he has many faces, artist-personas and periods as a director, all his films are connected to each other in a certain way.
the"New York-ness" (Barthes)/social sensitivity:
Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, New York New York, Gangs of New York, Casino
The Aviator, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street
The Age of Innocence, Kundun, The Last Temptation of Christ
Documentaries (on music:
No Direction Home; Shine a Light

trademarks (his mise en scene): creating a tension between two opposing cinematic conventions: the
(experimentation, hand-held camera, long tracking shots, location shooting, natural acting styles) and the
(slow motion, freeze frames, expressionistic lighting, MOS sequences set to popular music or voice over, "aggressive" camera movement, rapid editing, POV-s); blonde leading ladies they wear white in their first scene; his characters do not have homes that reflect comfort or security; a quick cameo in his films;
long-term collaborations with filmmakers and his actors (De Niro, Dicapro); th
e De Niro-Joe Pesci virtuoso and its changes; the song "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones - the use of pop music in general.

"Scorsese is clearly an auteur. His personal vision is imprinted all over his films. Scorsese’s artistic signature comes across in his choice of characters and actors; in the stories he chooses to tell and the emotion he invests in telling them; and in the look and bold camera movements of his films." (Conelly 1993)
What makes Scorsese an Auteur?
Approaches to Auteur theory
The meaning of the word "Auteur" had different layers and aspects during the 20th century, it's become wider and wider in terms of who and what do we mean by it.

Historical aspect
: Cahiers du Cinema-movement and French critics in 1951 - theorists and filmmakers (Bazin, Truffaut); the americanization of auteur theory - the director is the key artist of the film
Literal aspect
: Who wrote the script? The question of originality and intertextuality; authenticity and commertialism. (Raymond Williams, Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes, Theodor Adorno)
"...even directors who did not write their own scripts could be discovered ’beneath’ the apparent repetitions of genre films and Hollywood production lines, true authors are taken over by their vision and by implication battling away, always against ’the system’." (Braston 2000)
Aesthetic, Stylistic aspect
: Auteurism shifted the attention from the „what”(story, theme) to the „how” (style, technique);
Structuralist approach
: looking for the repetition of certain elements either in the narrative or in the mise en scene of his work, such as symbols, objects, artistic trademarks (Vladimir Propp).

„The new film would resemble the person who made it, not so much through autobiographical content but rather through the style, which impregnates the film with the personality of its director.” (Stam 2000)

3 criteria for recognizing an auteur - what makes someone an Auteur?
(1) technical competence;
(2) distinguishable personality;
(3) interior meaning arising from tension between personality and material. (Sarris 1962)

„The way a film looks and moves should have some relationship to the way a director thinks and feels.” Meaningful style can be created when the „what” and the „how” unite into a „personal statement”, where the director takes risk and struggles against standardization." (Sarris 1962)

What makes Martin Scorsese an Auteur?
Italian-American film director, screenwriter, producer, actor, and film historian.
His major themes are: Italian American identity/ Roman Catholic concepts of guilt and redemption/ machismo/ modern crime/ gang violence and conflict/ profanity.
Great admiration for Neo-Realist Cinema and the French New Wave.
His initial desire to become a priest, then he applies to NYU - 1967:

The Big Shave

Is the auteur-director Scorsese recognizable in this 6 minute short film?
Are there any stylistic/thematic elements in the film, that he also used in his further films?

The Big Shave, 1967. [film]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA: NYU.

The Age of Innocence, 1993. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA: Columbia Pictures Corporation, Cappa Production.
Apocalypse Now, 1979. [film, DVD]. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. USA: Zoetrope Studios.
The Aviator, 2004. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA, Germany: Forward Pass, Appian Way, IMF Internationale Medien und Film GmbH & Co. 3. Produktions KG.
Casino, 1995. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA, France: Universal Pictures, Syalis DA, Légende Entreprises.
The Departed, 2006. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA, Hong Kong: Warner Bros., Plan B Entertainment, Initial Entertainment Group (IEG).
Full Metal Jacket, 1987. [film, DVD]. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. UK and USA: Natant, Stanley Kubrick Productions, Warner Bros.
Gangs of New York, 2002. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA, Italy: Miramax Films, Initial Entertainment Group (IEG), Alberto Grimaldi Productions.
Goodfellas, 1990. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA, Italy: Warner Bros.
Hair, 1980. [film, DVD]. Directed by Milos Forman. USA, West Germany: CIP Filmproduktion GmbH.
Mean Streets, 1973. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA: Warner Bros., Taplin - Perry - Scorsese Productions.
The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA, Canada: Universal Pictures, Cineplex Odeon Films.
New York New York, 1977. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA: Chartoff-Winkler Productions.
No Direction Home, 2005. [television, DVD].Directed by Martin Scorsese. England: Spitfire Pictures, Grey Water Park Productions, Thirteen / WNET.
Raging Bull, 1980. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA: United Artists, Chartoff-Winkler Productions.
Shine a Light, 2008. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA: Paramount Classics, Concert Productions International, Shangri-La Entertainment.
Taxi Driver, 1976. [film, DVD]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA: Columbia Pictures Corporation, Bill/Phillips, Italo/Judeo Productions.
The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013. [film]. Directed by Martin Scorsese. USA: Red Granite Pictures, Sikelia Productions, Appian Way.

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Bordwell, D., Thompson, K., 2008. Film Art – An Introduction. 8th edition. New York: McGraw Hill.
Branston, G., 2000. Cinema and Cultural Modernity. Buckingham, Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Connelly, M. K., 1993. Martin Scorsese. 2nd edition. Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland.
Dyson, M. E., 1993. Beetween Apocalypse and Redemption: John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood. In: Collins, J., Radner, H., Preacher Collins, A., eds. 1993. Film Theory Goes to the Movies. London and New York: Routledge, 209-226.
Ebert R. Interviews, 1976. Interview with Martin Scorsese [online]. USA: Available from: http://www.rogerebert.com/interviews/interview-with-martin-scorsese[Accessed 7 March 1976].
Evans, P. W., 1995. The Films of Luis Bunuel. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Freud, S., 1905. Fetishism. In: Easthope, A., ed. 1993. Contemporary Film Theory. London and New York: Longman, 27-32.
Jeffords, S., 1993. The Big Switch: Hollywood Masculinty in the Nineties. In: Collins, J., Radner, H., Preacher Collins, A., eds. 1993. Film Theory Goes to the Movies. New York, London: Routledge, 196-208.
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Lebeau, V., 2001. Psychoanalysis and Cinema. London and New York: Wallflower.
Powrie, P., 2004. The w/hole an the abject. In: Powrie, P., Davies, A., Babington, B., eds. 2004. The Trouble with Men. London and New York: Wallflower Press, 207-217.
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