Martin Scorsese’s career stretches over half a century and spans many different genres beyond the gangster films for which he is so well known. He has dedicated his life to the cause of cinema – not only to making films, but to watching them, learning, teaching, writing, talking and making documentaries about them, promoting them, preserving them and restoring them. This selection of features and reviews from the archives of Sight & Sound and Monthly Film Bulletin for our Auteurs series, which celebrates the work of the most important film directors in history, gathers together analysis by many of Scorsese’s most eloquent and insightful critics and historians – and includes many interviews with the maestro himself.
Part 1: New York, New York… where the story begins
Mean streets: the sweetness of hell
Half a year after Monthly Film Bulletin reviewed Boxcar Bertha, the first Scorsese feature released in Britain, Sight & Sound ran its first feature on a promising new talent. David Denby had seen Mean Streets and was duly impressed.
What’s a Nice Girl like You Doing in a Place like This? reviewed by Jonathan Romney
It’s Not Just You, Murray! reviewed by Jill McGreal
Who’s That Knocking at My Door reviewed by Kate Stables
The Big Shave reviewed by Richard Combs
Boxcar Bertha reviewed by Tom Milne
Mean Streets reviewed by Tom Milne
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore reviewed by Richard Combs
God’s lonely man
In 1999, Amy Taubin, author of a then imminent BFI Classic on Taxi Driver, took the opportunity to look back at a remarkable film: the circumstances of its making, its relationship to earlier movies, and its treatment of racism and masculinity.
Taxi Driver reviewed by Richard Combs
New York, New York reviewed by Tom Milne
Italianamerican reviewed by Tom Milne
American Boy reviewed by Tom Milne
The earliest interview with Scorsese in S&S was conducted in 1977 by Richard Combs and Louise Sweet during a break from editing The Last Waltz and American Boy.
The Last Waltz reviewed by Tom Milne
Raging Bull reviewed by Steve Jenkins
Part 2: new directions… a time for experiment
Martin Scorsese’s still life
Upon its release The King of Comedy struck many as strikingly different from Scorsese’s previous films. Even the director felt he was ‘starting all over’. Terrence Rafferty spoke to him and examined the film within the context of his work to date.
The King of Comedy reviewed by Steve Jenkins
After Hours reviewed by Richard Combs
The Color of Money reviewed by Steve Jenkins
From the pit of hell
Making The Last Temptation of Christ was a labour of love for Scorsese, with a decade and a half passing between reading the novel and finally completing the film. Steve Jenkins chronicled the complex and troubled history of the production.
The Last Temptation of Christ reviewed by Pam Cook
New York Stories reviewed by Richard Combs
GoodFellas reviewed by Tom Milne
GoodFellas to the end
From its release GoodFellas enjoyed a reputation as one of its director’s most iconic movies, an archetypal Scorsesean mix of underworld content and virtuoso cinematic style. In 2017, in an examination of the film’s ending, Trevor Johnston considered its enduring appeal.
Cape Fear reviewed by Angela McRobbie
Sacred and profane
Cape Fear was seen by some as a deliberate attempt at a commercial hit, by others as a radical reworking of J. Lee Thompson’s original film. J. Hoberman compared the two movies and came to his own conclusions.
Part 3: new horizons… exploration and consolidation
Dread and desire
When it was announced that Scorsese would film an Edith Wharton novel, many were astonished. But in considering The Age of Innocence, Amy Taubin found the director and the writer had more in common than one might expect.
The Age of Innocence reviewed by Pam Cook
Martin Scorsese: between God and the goodfellas
For the BFI-produced Century of Cinema TV series, Scorsese directed the three-part A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies. Raymond Durgnat looked at what the documentary revealed about the director’s tastes in film.
Martin Scorsese’s testament
Though set in the desert oasis that is Las Vegas, Casino was in some respects a return to the concerns and style of GoodFellas. Ian Christie interviewed Scorsese about its relation to real-life events, its making and its many cultural references.
Casino reviewed by Jonathan Romney
The road not taken/Everything is form
To many, of all Scorsese’s surprise projects, a biography of the Dalai Lama felt the most unlikely. But Amy Taubin found Kundun both deeply personal and formally audacious, and spoke to the director about his motives and methods in making it.
Kundun reviewed by Andrew O’Hehir
Bringing out the Dead reviewed by Kevin Jackson
Three decades after Scorsese first read Herbert Asbury’s book, he finally completed the enormously ambitious Gangs of New York. Ian Christie spoke to him about his abiding fascination with the subject matter and the film’s problematic production history.
Gangs of New York reviewed by David Thompson
Part 4: forever young… songs of innocence and experience
Tales of a fly guy
The Aviator, about billionaire industrialist, filmmaker and aviation nut
Howard Hughes, was Scorsese’s first feature to deal directly with the movie business. Ian Christie visited the set and was struck by the scale and ambition of the project.
The Aviator reviewed by Kevin Jackson
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan reviewed by Rob White
The Departed reviewed by Nick James
Shine a Light reviewed by John Lewis
Island of lost souls
Shutter Island, an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s bestselling novel, allowed Scorsese to explore his protagonist’s mental turmoil by drawing on his deep knowledge of film history. Graham Fuller surveyed his homage to Hollywood’s genre cinema.
Shutter Island reviewed by Jonathan Romney
Hugo was Scorsese’s first feature adapted from a children’s book, but it was also a foray into the world of early cinema. Ian Christie, himself an expert in the field, elucidated the film’s affectionate tribute to the pioneering director Georges Méliès.
Hugo reviewed by Andrew Osmond
The Wolf of Wall Street reviewed by Nick Pinkerton
Birth of a salesman
In making The Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese was again capturing the American zeitgeist. But, as Ian Christie noted, this time the tone was different, with Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance perfectly pitched for a darkly comic social satire.
Part 5: matters of life and death… the story so far…
An activist in the archives
Scorsese is famous not only for making films but for devoting his life to cinema. Ian Christie lauded his work as an archivist, historian, educator and conservationist, who has often focused on forgotten and neglected films from around the world.
Martin Scorsese: Catholic tastes
It took Scorsese nearly three decades to fulfil his dream of turning Endo Shusaku’s novel Silence into a film. Philip Horne spoke to him about making the movie, religious faith and his love of Japanese cinema.
Silence reviewed by Richard Combs
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese reviewed by Matthew Taylor
The Irishman reviewed by Graham Fuller
Three and a half hours with Scorsese
Though The Irishman was a return to American gangsters and reunited him with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel, it also, as Philip Horne discovered in a lengthy interview, saw the director still looking for fresh ways to create cinematic magic.