10 Jan 13–12 May 13
Martin Scorsese, one of the most important directors of our time, is a great stylist and archaeologist of the cinema. In his films, he narrates accounts of the people and the conflicts of his country. The exhibition elucidates Scorsese’s sources of inspiration and his specific working methods; it shows how much his artistic approach to telling stories has characterized modern American cinema.
Although the locations and time periods may change in Martin Scorsese’s films, we encounter the most important issues in the lives of his protagonists again and again. His cinematic characters’ relationships to one another are defined by distrust, fear and betrayal on the one hand, and a search for safety, trust and closeness on the other. Often the networks of relationships seem determined by fate rather than individual choice. Violence plays a central role, just like the search for spirituality.
The setting of the films is frequently New York, particularly Little Italy – a neighborhood at one time predominantly inhabited by Italian immigrants, where Scorsese grew up. His characters in these New York films often originate from this urban microcosm; and his cinematic obsessions developed here, in the streets of his childhood.
The rich spectrum of Scorsese’s oeuvre spans from experimental beginnings, through documentaries and music films, to the psychothriller. The influence of works of European auteur cinema and of the classic Hollywood repertoire are also recognizable in his work. Martin Scorsese has developed his own cinematic handwriting based on his interests in uncovering the motives of human behavior and the language of film.
This first major exhibition about the director was principally compiled from his private collection in New York, as well as the collections of Robert De Niro and Paul Schrader from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to his artistic work, the exhibition pays tribute to Martin Scorsese’s commitment to the preservation of our international film heritage, with which he has built a bridge beween cinema’s history and its future.
Martin Scorsese grew up in the 1950s in Little Italy, a neighborhood in New York. Not only did he, his brother and his parents live there, but his entire family, including his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. In addition to the Catholic Church and the rough world of the street gangs, Scorsese’s large Italian family had the greatest influence on him as a boy. Even in his early short films made as a student, Scorsese dealt with the lives of the immigrants. Later, his mother Catherine Scorsese embodied the typical Italian “Mama” in his films for almost three decades, usually in very small roles. Scorsese also repeatedly cast his father Charles and other members of the family in the roles of extras. In 1974, Scorsese filmed the prize-winning documentary Italianamerican about his parents, which exemplarily describes the history of a 20th century Italian immigrant family in the USA. However, family provides more than just protective shelter in Scorsese’s films. Above all, it is a regulating power, which limits the freedom of its members and triggers conflicts. Scorsese’s heroes do not escape this pressure when they become involved in organized crime: Rules that are equally strict have to be observed within its family-like structure. Following films such as Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967/1969) and Mean Streets (1973), Scorsese set a monument to the Italian-American world of extended families and “The Mob” in Goodfellas (1990).
Scorsese’s older brother Frank recalls: “My brother was a sickly boy. Marty had a tough childhood. But I used to keep him close. Take him to movies. He was six years younger, so I’d look out for him.” Brothers are the focus in many of Scorsese’s films – whether blood relations or in a figurative sense. It was not his family alone who provided him with inspiration, but also those friendships and relationships in his larger circle. What is characteristic of these constellations is primarily a condition where two men are bound together: frequently one is guilty of something, while the other one, like a guardian angel, ends up bearing responsibility against his will. It is a question of guilt and atonement, of loyalty and duty. Robert De Niro as Johnny Boy in Mean Streets (1973) runs riot and “creates problems.” He repeatedly abuses the trust of his friend Charlie (Harvey Keitel), who can’t break free from the relationship. The brothers Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) and Joey (Joe Pesci) fare similarly in Raging Bull (1980). The boxer Jake is aggressive and does not keep his agreements, but his brother and manager Joey nevertheless supportively stands by him over a long period of time. One day, however, he finally parts company with Jake who perhaps blames him in the final monologue – as Jake rehearses lines from the famous “I could have been a contender” scene from On the Waterfront: “It was you Charlie. You was my brother. You should’ve looked out for me a little bit. … You should’ve taken care of me just a little bit.” In Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995), De Niro and Pesci meet again under somewhat reversed situations. In The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Harvey Keitel personifies Judas, who accompanies Jesus (Willem Dafoe) throughout his period of self-discovery, challenging him again and again. Even he bears his responsibility heavily.
Men and Women
Following Mean Streets (1973), when the film script for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) was offered to Martin Scorsese, it became a welcome opportunity for him to show his capabilities of also directing a lead actress. Ellen Burstyn was awarded an Oscar for her role as a single mother, who is confronted with both new freedom and existential worries after the death of her husband. While the friendships between men in Scorsese’s work are often characterized by clear rites and hierarchies, the attempts made between men and women to come together seem particularly groping and uncertain. In New York, New York (1977) the marriage of the artist couple Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro) and Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) fails, because the woman is more successful than the man. Social conventions keep the lawyer Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) and the currently separated Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) from coming together in The Age of Innocence (1993). The rigid rules of New York society are also reflected in the tightly-laced corsets and stiff collars of the film costumes. In The Aviator (2004) Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) are too similar in all their tics and peculiarities to be able to live together. The psychologist Madolyn (Vera Farmiga), who meets with her patient Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio) in The Departed, confesses to him: “Your vulnerability is really freaking me out right now.” Scorsese stages men who want to be able to show weakness, but who lack the necessary gestures and vocabulary. Their attempts to get closer to women remain fragile and must always be tested anew.
Many of Martin Scorsese’s characters are alone and in conflict with society. They are not lonely heroes in the classical sense, but rather antiheroes: frequently young men tending towards violence, who are searching for their place in society. Scorsese’s companion and friend of many years, the actor Robert De Niro, has embodied these characters most impressionably. In his legendary performance in the role of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976) – a figure traumatized by the Vietnam War – in addition to the protagonist’s increasing and alarming propensity towards violence, his deep despair becomes equally perceptible. Scorsese’s most uncompromising hero is Jesus Christ: The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, was a particularly meaningful project for the director, who as a young man initially wanted to become a priest. After the screen adaptation with Aidan Quinn in the title role failed for financial reasons in 1983, Willem Dafoe ultimately played the doubting Savior of the world. Leonardo DiCaprio has repeatedly taken on the role of the lonesome hero in Scorsese’s later films. His personification of the US Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels in Shutter Island (2010), who was affected by war experiences and feelings of guilt, remains strong in viewers’ memories, much like those characters played by Robert De Niro.
The Scorsese family moved from Queens to 253 Elizabeth Street in Little Italy in 1950. Martin, suffering from an asthma condition, spent much time at home; he followed life on the street from the window. He soon recognized and concerned himself with the conflict between the moral values of the Roman Catholic Church and rules and codes of the local gangsters or crime families. In 1960, he took up film studies at the neighboring Washington Square College (later New York University), where his teacher Haig Manoogian advised him to ground his films precisely in this environment. Scorsese’s graduation film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967), was made around Elizabeth Street as a result. The director rarely turns the view of the camera towards the rest of the city outside – to spectacular images of the skyline, for example – instead, it mostly moves along with the protagonists through the streets and the interiors in the neighborhood. Through the eyes of the hero Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), Scorsese’s most famous New York film, Taxi Driver (1976), shows the area around Times Square in Midtown Manhattan, still characterized by drugs and prostitution at that time. In later films, such as The Age of Innocence (1993) and Gangs of New York (2002), Scorsese turned to the city’s history in the 19th century, recreating the historical New York with extensive studio buildings or at authentically-looking locations outside Manhattan. Alongside Woody Allen, Scorsese – whose current film Wolf of Wall Street is also set in the metropolis – has become one of the most important chroniclers of New York over the past decades.
The first images Martin Scorsese remembers seeing on a cinema screen were from a Western starring Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger. Later he saw his first Italian films on a 16-inch, black-and-white television set, which his parents bought in 1948. His father took him to the movies, where the big Hollywood classics fascinated the boy. The aesthetics of The Big Shave (1967), Martin Scorsese’s comment on the Vietnam War, can also be read as an early connection to Alfred Hitchcock. An invitation to present the film at the Knokke Experimental Film Festival in Belgium gave the director his first international attention.
Scorsese possesses an immense knowledge of film history, which he frequently allows to flow into his films as references. However, the quotations never become an end in themselves; rather, Scorsese always succeeds in recontextualizing them without their having to forfeit recognizability. He has repeatedly collaborated with established representatives of classic Hollywood cinema: Elaine and Saul Bass, for example, designed the titles for several of his films, including the remake of Cape Fear (1991), a 1962 thriller by J. Lee Thompson.
When Martin Scorsese became aware of the problem of the rapid decay of color film copies at the end of the 1970s, he and his colleagues jointly addressed an appeal to the Eastman Kodak company so that they might develop colorfast and durable film. In 1990, together with famous colleagues, including Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Stanley Kubrick, he established The Film Foundation, which is dedicated to the preservation of international film heritage. Scorsese made the documentary A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies for the 100th birthday of film in 1995. In 2001, he added his view of Italian cinema with Il mio viaggio in Italia. Through his deep commitment to film heritage and his continuous output of artistic work, Martin Scorsese has built a unique bridge between the past and the future of international film.
Martin Scorsese composes every detail of his films. The rhythm of the individual scenes is determined by the interplay of camera, editing and sound. Despite the violence and brutality frequently underlying their plots, Scorsese’s films are characterized by a special lightness. This is due both to the director’s production style and to the virtuoso camera work of his directors of photography, such as Michael Ballhaus (The Age of Innocence, 1993) and Robert Richardson (Casino, 1995). The Age of Innocence, based on the novel of the same name by Edith Wharton, tells the story of a countess separated from her husband, whose lifestyle does not correspond to the conventions of New York high society in the 1870s. The camera glides light-footedly through sumptuous halls and reception rooms, showing a social life shaped by outward appearances. Even in “gambler” films like The Color of Money (1986, cinematography also by Michael Ballhaus) and Casino, the lightness of movement seems to sublimate any of the protagonists’ inner tension. As if in a pas de deux, the camera dances around the billiards table together with Vincent (Tom Cruise); and each of his movements is choreographed. The uninterrupted 2 1/2-minute sequence in Goodfellas (1990), in which the camera follows Henry (Ray Liotta) and his wife to the Copacabana nightclub, is legendary. Tapping into his sophisticated sense of visual imagery, Scorsese finds the correct expression for every scene: Frequent changes of speed, opposing movements of the camera and the protagonist, and seemingly endless tracking shots with the Steadicam are used for the dramaturgy of films to amplify their suggestive effects on the viewer.
Martin Scorsese belongs to those directors who, during the planning of production, decide on the exact visual construction of a film in storyboards, frame for frame. He not only determines the sizes of the clips and camera movements, but already outlines the sequence of the images at this stage, as well. He plans the complex structure of his films like an architect. An alternation of long, but dynamic plan sequences (uninterrupted cuts) and breathtaking edited sequences, with which the eye can hardly follow the flood of short visual impressions, is typical. Scorsese met the film editor Thelma Schoonmaker during his film studies at New York University. She edited his first feature-length film Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967). They continued their collaboration in 1980 with Raging Bull, for which Schoonmaker won her first Oscar. One of the most impressive sequences of this film is the final boxing match of the champion Jake La Motta against his challenger Sugar Ray Robinson. The fight leads to a turning point that marks the decline of La Motta’s career. In the development of the scene, Scorsese used as a guide what is presumably the most famous editing sequence in film history, the “shower scene” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). The violence of the fight is merely suggested to the viewer through its fast cuts. In contrast, Schoonmaker’s virtuoso editing made it possible for Scorsese to show the bleeding, maltreated bodies of the two boxers in all their details. The brutal event is aesthetically heightened in connection with a complexly composed soundtrack and the permanent fluctuation between normal velocity and slow motion.
Music plays an important role in Martin Scorsese’s life and work. He says that his film Mean Streets (1973) was inspired by the music that emanated from the apartments, streets and bars in Little Italy at night. Songs like “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Be My Baby” by the Rolling Stones inspired him to much of his film imagery. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was the first song played by the Rolling Stones during their concert at New York’s Beacon Theatre. Martin Scorsese documented the event with the camera and Shine a Light experienced its premiere as the opening film of the Berlin International Film Festival in 2008. Scorsese also documented a concert appearance in The Last Waltz (1978): the legendary final concert of The Band. His documentaries about Bob Dylan and George Harrison not only recount the careers of these musicians, but go further to deliveer subtly differentiated portraits of the times. As early as Taxi Driver, Scorsese worked with one of the most famous American film composers. Bernard Herrmann – from whom numerous film soundtracks for Alfred Hitchcock originate – wrote his last film score for Taxi Driver, with a jazz theme that changes between melancholy and alarming saxophone tones. Scorsese has had other soundtracks composed by Peter Gabriel for The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and by Philip Glass for Kundun (1997), as well as Howard Shore for Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006) and Hugo (2011). In Shutter Island (2010), Scorsese took a risk on an unusual experiment when he exclusively used new music from the 1950s – the period in which the film is set. As a result, the avantgarde sounds of composers like Krzysztof Penderecki and György Ligeti inflect the atmosphere of this psychothriller.
Artistic Director: Dr. Rainer Rother
Curators: Kristina Jaspers, Nils Warnecke
Project management: Peter Mänz
Exhibition coordination: Vera Thomas
Coordination at Sikelia Productions, New York: Marianne Bower
Audiovisual media program: Nils Warnecke
Text editing: Karin Herbst-Meßlinger
English translations: Wendy Wallis, transART, Berlin
Design of the advertising graphics: Pentagram Design, Berlin
Design of the exhibition graphics: Jan Drehmel, befreite module, Berlin
Production of the exhibition graphics: PPS Imaging, Berlin and Bartneck Prints Artists, Berlin
Exhibition design: Camillo Kuschel Ausstellungsdesign, Berlin
Exhibition equipment/installation displays: m.o.l.i.t.o.r. -̵ art in motion
Model of New York City: Ingrid Jebram, jebram-szenografie, Berlin
Graphics for the model of New York City: Oliver Temmler, sujet.design, Berlin
Costume restoration: Barbara Schröter
Conservational supervision: Sabina Fernández, Berlin
Editing of the audiovisual media: Stanislaw Milkowski, Concept AV, Berlin
Lighting design: OSRAM
Media and lighting installations: Stephan Werner
Technical services: Frank Köppke, Roberti Siefert
Communications management: Tatjana Petersen
Marketing: Sandra Hollmann
Press: Heidi Berit Zapke
Museum education: Jurek Sehrt
Assistance to the exhibition office: Antje Materna, Georg Simbeni
Finance: Uwe Meder-Seidel
Audio guide: Linon Medien, Berlin
Martin Scorsese Collection, New York
Brigitte Lacombe, New York
Deutsche Kinemathek – Fotoarchiv, Berlin
Dante Ferretti, Rom
Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, Austin
Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles
Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Turin
Museum of the Moving Image, New York
Sandy Powell, London
We wish to extend our particular gratitude to Martin Scorsese for his trust and generous cooperation. We are also indebted to Marianne Bower from Mr. Scorsese’s office in New York for her support and outstanding coordination of this project.
In addition, we would like to thank:
Michael Ballhaus, Berlin and Munich
Alberto Barbera, Turin
Claudia Bozzone, Turin
Anna Maria and Riccardo Buzzanca, Rome
Anne Coco, Los Angeles
Dante Ferretti, Rome
Janet Johnson, New York
Brigitte Lacombe, New York
Keith Lodwick, London
Jill K. Morena, Austin
Nicoletta Pacini, Turin
Sandy Powell, London
Sonja P. Reid, Austin
Angela Savoldi, Turin
R. Colin Tait, Austin
Apryl L. Voskamp, Austin
Molly Welch, New York
Steve Wilson, Austin
and all of our colleagues at the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen.
In collaboration with
Museo Nazionale del Cinema Torino
Ghent International Film Festival
With the support of
Italienisches Kulturinstitut Berlin / Kulturabteilung Italienische Botschaft
radio eins rbb
Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus
The Deutsche Kinemathek is supported by
Der Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien
by a resolution of the German Bundestag