Martin Scorsese remains one of the most interesting directors in film history. He has long since been lauded as one of the true great auteurs and cinematic geniuses of modern times yet commercial success has often eluded him. Yes, he has had films that did well at the box office, but he also had a number of bombs and marginal hits. Quality wise, his films are truly special and this is why he has a solid base of loyal fans. Within that base are a number of people who seem to hone in on Scorsese's affinity for the downtrodden, the disaffected and the outsiders.
Taxi Driver, for example, was brilliant in the way in which it effectively portrayed New York's squalid Times Square wasteland as the perfect backdrop for the life of a loner who felt completely alone in a world in which he did not feel he belonged. The advertising tagline of the film went along the lines "somewhere in the world there is a loner trying to fit in." Since the loner is an outcast he feels comfortable living amidst the squalor of the denizens of the classic image of Times Square, a brutal image of paste urban decay that has long since been forgotten,
Such loneliness and rebellious imagery of outcasts has long since permeated Scorsese's films. Gangs of New York,
The Departed, Mean Streets and Goodfellas all seek to show a world where loners wish to live outside of the norms of society so as to craft their own unique "hole" in the world where they and their ilk can live. Then again, one does not have to be a sociopath or a gangster to wallow in this type of outlook.
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One could be a dancer/musician as seen in New York, New York or a pool hustler as seen in
The Color of Money
.If there was a film that departed from this notion it would be Cape Fear, a remake that was probably Scorsese's weakest film. A remake of a film noir Cape Fear removed the film noir elements and replaced then with 1980's style slasher movie conventions. It didn't work and ended being more of a lame – albeit wildly commercially successful – B-movie that has a minor cult following. Stick with the original instead,or a reclusive billionaire as evidenced by
The Aviator. Regardless of what type of character the director is presenting he always falls back on the notion that the character is a disaffected loner trying to forge a place in society against all odds and all problems. Often, this makes for compelling viewing and even more compelling characters.
Scorsese remains a brilliant and inspiring director despite the fact that his subject matter has a tendency to wallow in the depressing. But, his films are not without hope or without a clear morality tale. Because of this the subject matter often rises above the nihilism or flaws of its characters and becomes a stunning insight into humanity and it foibles.
- Christie, Ian. Scorsese on Scorsese. New York: Faber and Faber, 2004.
- Harland, Pamela. (2001) "Review of CAPE FEAR." Retrieved April 18, 2008
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