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Sunday, September 21, 2008

A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES (1995)

Unlike the similar troll Martin Scorsese took thru Italian cinema, this earlier docu isn’t as mainstream (or obvious). That’s all to the good, as the quirky, out-of-the-way, half-forgotten titles play nicely with more established classics in this overview of the American cinema. But Scorsese’s choices are so selective in putting forth sweeping ideas about the shifts in the American cinema, that he could have ‘proven’ just about anything that caught his fancy. He’s trying to have it both ways, general studies and personal quirks, and it turns all his arguments to mush. Film students would get more insights thumbing thru David Thomson’s BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF FILM, but that doesn't come with film clips. It’s telling that in his comparison between two films that look at the industry, the smooth, but overrated THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL/’52 and the awkward, but undervalued TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN/’62, Scorsese mentions their common Producer, Director & Star, but not their common scripter.* Even on more congenial territory, he discusses Douglas Sirk’s themes in isolation from his extraordinary stylistics in composition, color, pace, mise-en-scène, and use of indicative rather than Method acting thereby missing both the point and the greatness of Sirk's work. At least, his reaction to Kubrick’s embalmed BARRY LYNDON/’75 helps to explain his own misconceived THE AGE OF INNOCENCE/’93.

*CONTEST: Name that writer and the two other films he wrote that are referenced in this survey to win our usual prize, a Write-Up on any NetFlix DVD of your choice.

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