Van Gogh

Martin Scorsese as Vincent Van Gogh in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (Warner Bros.).

P is for Preservation: In 1990, Martin Scorsese established The Film Foundation, along with a coalition of other big name directors including: Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Sydney Pollack, Stanley Kubrick, and Robert Redford. The Film Foundation is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to protecting, preserving, and restoring films in order to prevent deterioration. The foundation was started as a reaction to the loss of 50% of films made before 1950, and 90% of films that had been lost before 1929. The Film Foundation also hosts educational courses designed to help students think about films and the context in which they were made. Scorsese frequently speaks about the importance of film preservation as a means to appreciate the medium and the artists. Films by directors such as Hitchcock, Warhol, DeMille, and Wilder have all benefited from the foundation’s preservation methods. A complete list of films restored by The Film Foundation is available to view on their website.

Q is for Quaaludes

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures


R is for Religion: Martin Scorsese wanted to be a priest when he was a child, and religion therefore plays a huge thematic role in many of his films. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) is an obvious choice, even though it was met with much controversy for daring to consider what Jesus Christ would be like had he lived as a mortal, family man as opposed to dying on the cross as a savior. But questions of sin and repentance and God feature prominently also in Mean Streets and many of his other films, and the links between religion and Italian-American culture, religion and masculinity, and religion and criminality are all deeply explored in his films.

S is for Slow Motion: Slow motion has become a Scorsese signature move. He uses it in a lot of his movies for different reasons. Most notably, in Raging Bull he uses it to show us LaMotta’s POV. At first it is when he sees Catherine Moriarty at the pool and she moves in slow motion, time slowing for LaMotta as he studies her.  Later it is used to show LaMotta’s interest in local gangsters as, again, Scorsese cuts from LaMotta’s stare to slowed down images of the mobsters, LaMotta absorbing all the details.  Finally the slow motion POV is used to show LaMotta’s growing paranoia as everything he sees needs to be studied and analysed. He examines people interacting, searching every gesture for an insult or a betrayal.

Another notable example is in Taxi Driver, when Travis Bickle is thinking of the first time he saw Betsy on a busy street in New York. Everyone is moving at normal speed until she appears, resplendent in white, and time slows all around her as she crosses the frame.    

T is for Trilogy:I love an unofficial trilogy. Films that are linked stylistically or thematically like Pakula’s Paranoia trilogy, Spielberg’s Running Man trilogy, Park’s Vengeance trilogy  or the Coen Bros’ Numbskull trilogy appeal to me because I like to see a director hit on a theme and explore it from different angles with different stories. For me, Scorsese’s unofficial trilogy is formed by Goodfellas, Casino, and The Wolf of Wall Street, three films dealing with the rise and fall of unpleasant people.

Watching Wolf I couldn’t help but, in my head, recast a younger De Niro in the DiCaprio role and a younger  Joe Pesci in the Jonah Hill role. The three films fit together so well with their use of voice over, flashbacks, sex, violence, infidelity, crime, and oddly charming leading men doing despicable things along with diminutive/insane sidekicks. Each follows a character as they fly too close to the sun and then hit the ground, hard, each movie ending with a scene showing what happens when these characters, who began the movies with everything, finish with nothing.

A-E | F-J | K-O | P-T |U-Z