Cinema Matters #1: My Journey with Martin Scorsese
I believe that cinema matters. This is a continuing series of my personal thoughts on film. Every month a new topic. In no more than 750 words.
When Golden Village VivoCity opened in 2006, I caught The Departed in their flagship theater GV Max. It was a day of many firsts. First time I stepped into VivoCity. First time I caught a M18-rated title. But all these firsts were eclipsed by another first: The Departed was the first time I had seen a Martin Scorsese picture.
I wasn’t that into movies then, so I didn’t know who Marty was and what he did previously. Without all that knowledge baggage, I caught the film and was quite simply blown-away. It was so absorbing.
That was the start of my love affair. Scorsese quickly became one of my favourite directors. Like most regular moviegoers who don’t really give a damn who directed what, the only filmmakers that I sort of knew at that time were Steven Spielberg because of War of the Worlds (2005), Peter Jackson because of King Kong (2005), and maybe John Woo, whom I will forever associate with that Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick Hard Target (1993) that kept (re)running on Channel 5 in the 1990s.
So back to Marty. He came into my life and never left. After The Departed, and with some guidance from reading the reviews of online film critic James Berardinelli (who along with the great Roger Ebert inspired me to write reviews), I decided that I needed to watch the following: Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) and Goodfellas (1990).
And so I did. Though strangely, before I caught that trio of films, I inexplicably borrowed Mean Streets (1973), Marty’s breakthrough effort. Till this day, I wondered why.
I would like to believe it was fate. At that time, it seemed curious, though in retrospect it only seemed right. The Departed first, and then Mean Streets – more than thirty years between them, and despite being made in a different context and time, I felt a connection between both pictures.
Thematically on one level, because these two films explore the underworld of organized crime through the prism of brotherhood, loyalty, guilt and revenge. On another level, it is connected by its auteur. I didn’t know what auteur meant then, but I discovered with subsequent viewings of the aforementioned great trio of movies that Martin Scorsese meant more than just a name in the credits.
He was the essence of those movies. And if that is another way to define auteurship, I think it can come to stand. It’s impossible to think of another filmmaker of the same pedigree and worldview who could have made this series of pictures – Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino (1995), The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).
That is the essence, I believe, of Martin Scorsese. Unfair as it may seem because he has continuously shown his versatility with films such as The Age of Innocence (1993), Kundun (1997) and Hugo (2011).