Martin Scorsese
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Martin Scorsese

Set in 1863, Gangs of New York is a revenge saga starring Daniel Day-Lewis (nominated for Best Actor). The film has also been nominated for 10 Oscars in all, including Best Picture.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2003 20:09 IST

Scorsese has a 2002 Oscar nomination for directing Gangs of New York, but he could win the prize instead for his work from 1976, 1980 and 1990 for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or Goodfellas. Arguably the most influential living filmmaker in America, he has won a heavyweight reputation for seductively stylish, cine-literate works that often examine Catholic themes and intense male relationships.

A sickly child, Scorsese fell in love with the cinema at an early age and went on to study film at New York University. He directed several inventive shorts and two patchy features before making a name for himself with 1973’s Mean Streets, a partly autobiographical tale of family angst, criminal life and spiritual redemption in Little Italy.

Characterised by explosive violence, authentic street dialogue, emotive rock music and movie in-jokes and references, the film also featured a breakthrough performance from Harvey Keitel, in a lead role that was almost played by Jon Voight.

Scorsese followed this masculine tale with the melodramatic and supremely moving road movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974), starring an Oscar-winning Ellen Burstyn. The film gave Keitel a supporting role, as did 1976’s nightmarish Taxi Driver, a cult classic that reunited him with his Mean Streets co-star Robert DeNiro.

Written by Paul Schrader and loosely influenced by John Ford’s 1956 Western The Searchers, Taxi Driver charts the emotional descent of DeNiro’s unstable Vietnam vet Travis Bickle. A memorable, multi-layered study of isolation and obsession, it stars Cybill Shepherd and a disarmingly youthful Jodie Foster.

Citizen Kane composer Bernard Herrmann’s last-ever score suits the film’s seedy milieu perfectly. DeNiro and Scorsese have subsequently collaborated on several diverse projects. The method man piled on the pounds for certain scenes in Raging Bull (1980) –a well-crafted, often balletic biopic of middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta, and also gave occasionally overlooked performances in two of Scorsese’s biggest critical flops. He’s a saxophonist married to Liza Minnelli in New York, New York (1977) and an obsessive fan stalking Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy (1982).

In the late 80s Scorsese’s output proved rather uneven: the off-kilter After Hours (1985) is an urban nightmare of a more humorous variety whileThe Color of Money (1986) is a disappointing sequel to Robert Rossen’s The Hustler, and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) a notorious adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel.

The director scored another huge success in 1990 with GoodFellas, a dazzling, aggressive account of mobster mores starring DeNiro once more, alongside several leading Italian-American actors. The film informed the look and feel of Casino (1995), a slick portrait of Las Vegas life that was ambitiously narrated by three different characters.

Select Filmography:

Gangs of New York(2002)
Casino (1995)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Cape Fear (1991)
GoodFellas (1990)
Raging Bull (1980)
Taxi Driver (1976)

First Published: Mar 21, 2003 14:05 IST