Luke McGuff (holyoutlaw) wrote,
Luke McGuff

Scorsese by Ebert

One good thing about having plenty of school reading is that if you get insomniac, there's always something to do with the sleeplessness.

Last night, I read Scorsese by Ebert. If you like either one of them, it's a good read (unless you like one and loathe the other, of course). And if you like both of them, then you're happy as a clam.

This book contains every review of a movie by Martin Scorsese than Roger Ebert ever wrote, starting with I Call First (1967), Scorsese's very first picture (later rereleased as Who's That Knocking on My Door). They were the same age, Ebert saw something in Scorsese's movie that resonated deeply with him. This lead to a professional friendship that continues to this day. The last review is of Shine a Light (2008).

The reviews are presented unaltered, but several movies have a "Reconsideration", written at the time the book was being put together. These talk about the historical impact of the film, how Ebert's opinions have changed, or why they've stayed the same, etc. Several movies have an accompanying interview or promo article.

Because these articles are written over a time span of decades, and because Scorsese wrestles with similar themes throughout his work, there is a lot of repetition. How he slows down film to show heightened emotional states of a POV character, sometimes very subtly. How restless his camera his. How infused his early movies are with Catholic imagery and guilt. Just about every review mentions Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Raging Bull, or some combination thereof. (When GoodFellas appears, that's added to the mix.)

But because Ebert is a pro working journalist, it's repetition, not redundancy. Every time he mentions, say, Taxi Driver, and even something as specific as how the camera shows Travis Bickle's alienation, it's always from a slightly different angle, slightly different information is parted. Because they have this professional friendship (based on a shared love of movies, and a shared experience of pre-Vatican II Catholic childhoods), Ebert frequently gets more information about Scorsese's process from him than other interviewers or writers might. That information is added to later reviews, interviews, and articles.

The book is divided into six sections. The first five are chronological, "Beginning", "Achieving", "Establishing", "Reflecting", and "Venturing". The last, "Masterpieces", includes longer reviews of Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas, and The Age of Innocence, written for Ebert's "Great Movies" series.

At first I thought I was just going to read the material about Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull, but I got carried into the rest of the book, and I'm glad I did. Ebert relates pretty much every movie to at least one of those three, and this helps to show how they're reflected in (and have influenced) the whole of Scorsese's work.

It made me curious to see the movies I haven't seen, and to rewatch those I have, which I think is a good recommendation of this book.

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