Martin Marcantonio Luciano Scorsese, known to many as Martin Scorsese was born on 17 November 1942 in Queens New York in the United States.  Martin Scorsese is one of the most renowned and influential filmmakers of his generation. His numerous films and accolades say a lot about the man and his work. Among his most accredited works is the legendary and controversial 70s film, Taxi Driver. He is also a film director, producer, playwright, and silver screen historian. Throughout this paper we will examine the works of this icon including his background, his technique in filmmaking and important moments in his life. Scorsese is undoubtedly one of the most talented and influential filmmakers and his contributions to the industry will be felt for decades to come.

Martin Scorsese

            Kelly (1991) narrates that Martin was born and raised in New York where he grew up with his parents who had emigrated from Sicily Italy. His parents did menial jobs at the Garment District in New York; his father was a clothes presser while his mother was a seamstress. As a child Scorsese had asthma and was not allowed to participate in most sport activities. He would however visit movie theatres and was inspired by the likes of Michael Powell and others. This is where he developed his passion for movies. He grew up in a strict catholic environment and at first he wanted to become a priest. He attended a junior catholic seminar in trying to become a priest but he left after one year. He then joined New York University and entered the Film School. While in the University, Scorsese produced his first feature length movie called ‘Who’s Knocking at My Door?’ This movie featured actor Harvey Keitel, who went on to appear in many of Scorsese’ successful films.  He also did other short films like ‘What’s a Nice Girl like You Doing in a Place like This?’ in 1963, ‘It’s Not Just You, Murray!’ in 1964 and ‘The Big Shave in 1967.

            After graduating from film school, Martin Scorsese remained at New York University to teach film. He soon left New York and moved to Hollywood to pursue his film career. In Hollywood he worked as an editor, beginning with films such as Woodstock, Medicine Ball Caravan and Elvis on Tour (Martin Scorsese 2011). Scorsese directed his first film in 1972 called Boxca Bertha, which starred Barbara Hershey, David Carradine among others. The movie was low budget and did not do very well. He returned to New York with the crew of the movie and began production on his first work of genius ‘Mean Streets’. This movie showcased the many unique movie techniques of Scorsese. The 1973 drama featured actors from his previous films in college. The film was deeply autobiographical and it showed the thematic stylistic trademarks of Scorsese. Scorsese made use of outsider antiheroes, unique never seen before camera and editing methods and he also made use of popular music as soundtracks. The film catapulted Scorsese to the forefront of American cinematic consummate. ‘Mean Streets’ also cemented the relationship between Scorsese and Robert De Niro, who prominently featured in most of the filmmaker’s subsequent movies.

            In 1974, the movie ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ began shooting and in the end it won lead actress, Ellen Burstyn an Oscar for Best Actress. Diane Ladd was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. This was definitely an important moment in Scorsese’ career as he was now in mainstream filmmaking with his movie receiving recognition in the film industry. This movie was followed by the renowned ‘Taxi Driver’. The movie delved into violence in the American culture. It followed the story of a cabbie, played by Robert De Niro, who was delusional and wanted to assassinate a presidential candidate. The film featured prominent actors at the time such as Jodie Foster, who played the role of a prostitute in the movie. Taxi Driver received recognition at the Cannes Festival in 1976 and received much more attention in the 80s following President Ronald Reagan’s assassination attempt. Subsequent films after Taxi Driver did not do so well in the industry, but he made a comeback in 1979 with the film, Raging Bull. Raging Bull was based on boxer Jake LaMotta’s autobiography and once again featured Robert DeNiro. DeNiro won an Oscar for Best Actor while Cathy Moriarty won Best Actress for the role of LaMotta’s wife. Thelma Schoonmaker who was the film’s editor also won an Oscar.

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            ‘The Color of Money’ was the first true Scorsese’ box office hit. The proceeds from the movie enabled him to do (The Last Temptation of Christ’ 1988). The film on Jesus’ Christ life and crucifixion was controversial and it made Scorsese a household name and was also a box office success. Scorsese went on to do many other award winning films such as ‘Kundun’, ‘Goodfellas’ among many others.

            In 1997, Martin Scorsese was awarded with the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement honour. His main achievement has been closing the gap between past and future movies. In 2002 Scorsese’ ‘Gangs of New York’ was released, and it garnered several accolades at the Academy Awards in that year, including Best Director for Scorsese. In 2007, Scorsese received a Kennedy Centre Honour and a Golden Globe Award for lifetime achievement in 2010.

             Friedman (1997) explains that one of the techniques used in Scorsese’ films, is the use of the subjective camera. He has used this technique in many of his films to show the protagonist’s view. The technique involves right-to-left camera pans which move in a different way from the normal eye, thus creating a perplexing outcome. Using this technique Scorsese has greatly contributed to the film industry.  Another common feature in his movies is the development of characters as opposed to the plot. Scorsese’ movies have also been acclaimed and criticised for making violence glamorous. He is also famous for using voiceovers as was seen in the film ‘Casino.’ His non-conformist attitude has also enabled him to be relevant today as he was over thirty years ago (Biography for Martin Scorsese).

            Martin Scorsese was one of the outspoken advocates of artistic freedom under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He also campaigned for film preservation which led to the passing of the National Film Preservation Act of 1988 and formation of the National Film Preservation Foundation.


            The journey of Martin Scorsese has been nothing short of phenomenal. He has numerous accolades and films to his name, and the iconic filmmaker is still at it with such outstanding work as ‘The Departed.’ At this point it would be proper to show Martin Scorsese list of movies and the role he played in them. Some of the movies have already been mentioned in the paper. Scorsese is set to release ‘The Irishman’ and ‘High and Low’ in 2012. He was the producer and director in ‘Hugo’ which was released in 2011. Scorsese also worked on ‘Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff’ and ‘Public Speaking’ in 2011. In the same year he was executive producer in ‘Surviving Progress’ and ‘George Harrison: Living in the Material World.’ In 2010 he was director and producer of ‘Shutter Island’, ‘Dreaming the Quiet Man’, A Letter to Ella’ and ‘The Song of the Little Road’. The icon has also worked as screenwriter, producer and director in a number of films. These include: Lymelife; The Young Victoria; Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts; Shine a Light; Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies; Mardik: From Baghdad to Hollywood; Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten; Brando and Mr. Warmith: The Don Rickies Project. Other movies accredited to Scorsese are: Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows; The Departed; Edge of Outside; Refuge; The Way I Spent the End of the World; Directed by John Ford; Where Love Reigns and Brooklyn Lobster. Others include: No Direction Home: Bob Dylan; The Aviator; Lightning in a Bottle; Shark Tale; Biography: Liza Minnelli; Cecille B. DeMille: American Epic; Brides; The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing and Frankenstein. Scorsese has also directed: A Decade under the Influence; The Blues sequel of movies; Charlie: the Life and Art of Charles Chaplin; The John Garfield story; Gangs of New York and My Voyage to Italy. The icon has also directed and produced: The Concert for New York City; Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures; You can Count on Me; Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows; Bringing out the Dead; The Muse; New York; The Race to Save 100 years; With Friends Like These; Kicked in the Head and Kundun. Others are: Grace of My Heart; The Typewriter, the Rifle and the Movie Camera; Search and Destroy; American Cinema: the Hollywood Style; Casino; Clockers; The Age of Innocence; After Hours; The King of Comedy and Cannonball. All these movies are a testament of Martin Scorsese’ cinematic talent.

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