Martin Scorsese

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Group members: Breandan C and David H


Martin Scorsese was born to Luciano and Catherine Scorsese in New York City on November 17, 1942. As a boy, his father would often take him to see movies at local theatres. This, as Scorsese has stated on many occasions, is where he developed the love and passion for cinema that he would carry with him for the rest of his life. Scorsese initially desired to be a priest, and entered the seminary in 1956. He did not pursue his religious vocation, but left the seminary to follow his other love at New York University's Film School, where he received his MFA in 1969. His first full-length film was Who's that Knocking at my Door. He has since directed 21 theatrical length films, winning only one Academy Award for Best Director in 2006 for The Departed.

Film Content & Themes

Most noticeably, Scorsese's films frequently center around city street life, with a particular predilection towards organized crime (Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, The Departed). His protagonists often are troubled males, with slight sociopathic tendencies, who desire to be accepted by a society or organization. Common themes running through many of his films include: corruption in government agencies and officials, crime as a way of life, and redemption. Scorsese took a break from his usual city set when he directed perhaps his most controversial film to date, The Last Temptation of Christ.

Style / Vision

Even with his earlier films (particularly Mean Streets), Scorsese became known for what came to be called the "Scorsese style". Characterized by rapid editing, an electric rock soundtrack, and extensive white lighting, these aspects have been known to be hallmarks of a Scorsese film. Some in elite film circles have dubbed Scorsese the “King of the Tracking Shot”, due to his ability to pull off this notoriously difficult shot. Scorsese frequently uses music by the Rolling Stones (Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed), and is currently persuing a documentary/concert video with them (similar to The Last Waltz). He often includes a quick cameo appearance in many of his films (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, After Hours, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York). Scorsese has cast Robert De Niro in eight films, but some believe he has found a new collaborator in Leonardo DiCaprio, whom he has cast in three films with more in production.

Analysis of Key Film

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Scorsese’s The Departed just might stand atop the list of his most brilliant films. Even though The Departed was Scorsese’s 19th theatrical film, it stands alone as Scorsese’s only Academy Award win for Best Director. Following along his theme of dark violence, The Departed makes good use of crucial lighting to achieve the action and suspense as seen by the viewer. The film introduces the audience to Billy Costigan and Colin Sullivan, Boston city policemen who are connected, albeit unknowingly, to Irish mob boss Frank Costello. Scorsese never allows for a dull moment, bringing a combination of action, humor, or suspense all the way from the start to the unbelievable ending. The movie features some known Scorsese themes, including a father-son relationship between Sullivan and Costello, and social class issues arising from living in a major metropolitan area. Costigan grew up in a family of crime, resulting in both police perceptions that he is not a real cop, and also his reason for becoming an undercover cop. Scorsese’s use of his renowned editing and camera directing is the real magic of this film. After watching The Departed, it’s no wonder that Scorsese earned his long overdue Academy Award for Best Director.

Major Films & Awards

  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • Raging Bull (1980)
    • Academy Award Best Actor Robert DeNiro
  • The Color of Money (1986)
    • Academy Award Best Actor Paul Newman
  • Goodfellas (1990)
    • Academy Award Best Supporting Actor Joe Pesci
  • Gangs of New York (2002)
  • Golden Globe Best Director
  • The Aviator (2004)
    • Academy Award Best Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett)
  • The Departed (2006)
    • Academy Award Best Director
    • Academy Award Best Picture

Visuals / Trailers

Gangs of New York

The Departed

Sources / Links

Scorsese on Scorsese. Faber and Faber: New York, NY. 2003
Kelly, Mary. Martin Scorsese, a Journey. Thunder Mouth Press: New York, NY. 2004.
"Martin Scorsese - Awards." 7 September 2008. <>
"The Departed" 7 September 2008. <>
"The Departed" 6 September 2008. <>

Image Sources

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