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Martin Scorsese- Music in Film and Gender Roles
Transcript of Martin Scorsese- Music in Film and Gender Roles
Musical Influence and
Gender Roles MUSICAL INFLUENCE Use of music in films Scorsese's films often use diegetic music to emphasize what is happening on the screen. Diegetic music can be defined as "A sound that is created by something or someone visible on the screen or whose source is implied to be present by the action of the film" (IMDB). Scorsese is famous for being a pioneering director in using contemporary music to help tell the story on screen, particularly for the musical influence present in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." Martin Scorsese’s directorial career is one that spans virtually the entire spectrum of genres, from those for which he is best known, Gangster films, to Histories, to Dramas. Throughout his films, he takes very distinctive approaches to male characters vs. female characters. In exploration of this aspect of Scorsese’s filmmaking, we will examine two recurring characters, or recurring personality types, in his films, one male and one female. The constant male character that appears in virtually all of Martin Scorsese’s films, often in the role of the protagonist, is that which Mark Nicholls calls the “male melancholic.” This character is most often shown to strive to maintain a level of hyper-masculinity characterized by violence and dominance. At the same time, he often has great insecurities about this masculinity. In most cases, he manages to, at least partially, cause his own downfall, becoming a sort of tragic hero. In some cases, “the male melancholic appears at the end of his narrative almost as if in a state of grace, strangely beautiful in his self-sacrifice” (Nicholls). Male Characters In this clip from 1980’s Raging Bull, Robert De Niro’s character Jake La Motta represents this recurring male character. He, as Barbara Mortimer claims, is struggling to “assert a distinctly masculine identity, a struggle both prompted and thwarted by [a woman]” (Mortimer). La Motta’s wife prompts his struggle to maintain masculinity with unfaithfulness and then thwarts it by standing up him and admitting to acts that hurt him so deeply that he wavers from his “manly” tirade. In this Taxi Driver (1976) clip, one of the most famous scenes in film history, we see Robert De Niro again, this time as Travis Bickle. Like so many other Scorsese characters, Bickle is hell-bent on carrying out acts of hyper-masculinity, most notably intimidation through violence and the threat of violence. The character’s flaw of insecurity is seen in the fact that he feels the need to practice his display of masculine confidence in the mirror. This betrays his apprehension and, at the same time, portrays a sense that he is quite impressed with himself, again detracting from the shear confidence and masculinity of the act itself. In the opening scene of The Departed (2006), we hear the voice of Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello. Costello fits our model for Scorsese’s male character because of his hyper-masculine attitude and belief that he can have anything that he wants because he is willing to forcibly take it from others. In taking Matt Damon’s character as a sort of apprentice from childhood, Costello is fulfilling the need to pass on one’s legacy to an “heir,” another trait of masculinity. While 1974’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is far from the violence crime drama that Scorsese is usually known for, the overly masculine male still makes an appearance, even though his part in relatively small in the film. Harvey Keitel plays a man that Alice thinks is right for her. But when he finds that his wife has contacted Alice, his insecurities show plainly as he uses violence and domination over both women to prove his manhood, to himself as much as to them. This moment of rage on his part may be the only point in the film that is reminiscent of Scorsese’s usual high tension violence. Female Characters In Martin Scorsese’s work, there seems to be in each and every film a woman “portrayed as coherent, stable, and therefore enviable and threatening” (Mortimer). These women are often self-sufficient and independent to a certain degree. They appear to possess a considerable amount of agency, the ability to control the events in their lives, but when one looks deeper, it is often the case that each woman’s freedom still lies within the confines of what a man will allow, whether a man will approve, or is simply a choice of which man she is to be dominated by. We again turn to Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, this time to focus on Alice herself and her level of autonomy. While Alice, portrayed by Ellen Burnstyn is traveling with her son of her own accord, she was forced to make the trip only because her husband was killed in an accident. She then falls into the arms of an abusive womanizer (Harvey Keitel) before meeting David, Kris Kristofferson’s character. She always seems to be searching for a man to depend on. Scorsese says that he did not intend it to be a feminist movie, but rather a movie about human nature. “It was a film about self-responsibility and also about how people make the same mistakes again and again” (Scorsese, 51). In this clip, we see Alice stand up to David. Her later choice to end her voyage and stay with him created a certain uncertainty about her real independence. In Martin Scorsese’s 2004 film, The Aviator, Cate Blanchett portrays Katharine Hepburn and her romantic relationship with Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio). In this scene, Hepburn is telling Hughes that she is leaving him. She is not leaving him to gain her independence, but rather for another man. This creates some ambiguity as to whether her decision to leave constitutes prove of her freedom from the control of men. Another telling aspect of the scene is that when Hughes expresses discontent, she sits down as if she is a child in trouble and tries to ease him into accepting her decision. It seems that Hepburn is doing all she can to gain as little disapproval from Hughes as possible. In this clip from 1990’s GoodFellas, Ray Liota’s character gives Lorraine Bracco’s character a bloody gun and tells her to hide it. She admits that most women would leave after such an event, but she is “turned on” by the situation. Being that Bracco is narrating this portion of the film, she is automatically given a role of importance and therefore some level of control. It is when she claims to be turned on by a hyper-masculine man dominating her and telling her what to do that she slips into the mold of the woman with highly flawed autonomy. Our final clip comes from the 1995 film, Casino. Sharon Stone’s character Ginger McKenna, a role for which she was nominated for an Academy Award, is looking to make a business deal, which automatically puts her in a position of power because she is the one with assets. At the same time, she is asking Nicky (Joe Pesci), a man, for help in finding someone with whom to do business. She then goes on to repeat to Nicky that “I did what you told me to,” establishing her as the submissive party in the relationship. Her subsequent emotional breakdown all but destroys her independence as a woman as she literally leans on a man for protection. This scene represents musical influence on “Gangs of New York,” and has an interesting connection to gender as well. This scene of “Gangs of New York” shows an Irish man singing “Girls of New York” during a scene set in a tenement containing many prostitutes. This song is an example of diegetic music, as the man singing the song is shown swirling the area, singing to the women he passes. The song lyrics detail the story of a man who meets a woman in New York who later steals his possessions. During the creation of the music for this film, the composer “Bernstein told Scorsese that the language of the music should be a language that concerns the audience with the film, but Scorsese was more concerned with street authenticity” (Joy 27). This scene represents such authenticity, with the character singing an Irish song that was actually around during the time period represented in the film. “Woodstock“ is a documentary that detailed the landmark concert of the same name. “Woodstock” featured performances by many iconic bands, and showed the peaceful environment and unique atmosphere that made the concert so unique. Martin Scorsese served as an assistant director on the film, and also received an editing credit (Greene 22). “Woodstock” gave Scorsese early experience in directing, and provided yet another link between Scorsese’s creative direction and music. Martin Scorsese directed the music video for Michael Jackson's song "Bad," further representing Scorsese's willingness and desire to express images through sound. "For me music was a lifeblood force in my life...I had to have it." This clip shows Scorsese detailing in his own words how music inspired him to express his ideas through film. This montage of scenes is taken from Martin Scorsese's many films and is set to music from many Scorsese films as well. This montage was created as a tribute to Scorsese and was played during the Golden Globe ceremony in which Scorsese was awarded a lifetime acheivement award. This montage represents the manor in which Scorsese puts images to music in his films. In this scene of "Taxi Driver,"Scorsese uses music to transform the mood of the scene. Most of Travis Bickle's thoughts in "Taxi Driver" were set to intense music that portrayed violence, or a descent into madness. In this scene, Bickle fantasizes about a woman he saw who he later pursues in the film. In portraying Bickle's emotional feelings for this woman character, Scorsese uses a melodic jazz score that is very different from most music used to portay Bickle's thought. Bickle remarks about other people than his new interest over the music, "they cannot touch her." "The Last Waltz" is a documentary directed by Martin Scorsese that details the last concert of "The Band." The Last Waltz is a fitting name for this film, as it details the sense of finality and resolve by "The Band" to wrap up their career in an epic concert. As Stephen Severn notes, ""The Last Waltz" represents an exercise in self-mythologizing for Robertson as a preparation for his career after the breakup of The Band. This exercise also constitutes hitScorsese's first attempt to address a theme that he would explore in several subsequent feature films - the manner by which image may be manipulated as a means for eliminating risk in life" (Severn). "Shine a Light" was a documentary by Martin Scorsese that detailed a concert by the Rolling Stones in 2006. This concert was filled with many musical artists, and focused on the career of the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones have been featured in many of Scorsese's films, and "Shine a Light" gives the viewer a sense of the way Scorsese creates shots to fit with music, and also represents what a control freak Scorsese can be when it comes to creating films. "No Direction Home" is a documentary directed by Martin Scorsese that details the evolution of Bob Dylan's musical style over a five year period. Scorsese uses intimate footage of Dylan in a manner that suggests a common thought thread that led to Dylan's progression in music. Unlike "The Last Waltz" and "Shine a Light" that used one concert to primarily tell a story about a band or artist, "No Direction Home" looks at a music period over years and offers more personal insight into Bob Dylan. In this clip, Martin Scorsese discusses the manner in which he uses music in the film "Goodfellas" to set a pace for a scene. He compares the use of music in this scene as a "dance." The scene Scorsese is referring to is the scene in "Goodfellas" in which the piano section of the song "Layla" is used to show the dead bodies of men involved in a gangster heist. The use of music presents a pace for the camera movement, and the violence represented in the scenes ties into the hypermasculine roles in "Goodfellas."