Three Movies Directed by Martin Scorsese

by Max Carlson

Steven Spielberg once said: "Most movies are whispers. Marty’s movies are shouts." I have to agree. This summer I watched some Scorsese movies up north at our cabin and decided to write about three of them and how I think they measure up.

Taxi Driver was made with a very low budget but it was one of the most successful films of 1976. It’s a pretty simple story that’s easy to follow. Robert De Niro is Travis, a former Vietnam veteran, who is now a taxi driver. He searches for love and meets Betsy, a young campaign worker (played by Cybill Shepherd), but he is rejected swiftly. His tortured mind finally gets the best of him, and he purchases a whole mess of firearms and trains himself (in his own apartment) for warfare. He encounters a 12-year-old prostitute named Iris (a young Jodie Foster) and decides to save her and send her back home. He does this by killing her pimp, one of his men, and Iris’s client. The press hails him as a hero and Travis resumes his cab driving.

The movie starts out pretty normally but ends with a surprisingly violent climax. So violent that in order to keep its "R" rating the blood was tinted to a less vibrant and deep color. No one could play Travis better than De Niro. It is probably one of his finest and most memorable performances. Harvey Keitel (one of my favorite actors) plays the disgusting pimp. There is a lot of racy stuff in Taxi Driver. I think people will either like or dislike it—there’s no in-between in this case. I liked it and give it a B+.

The Last Temptation of Christ is the film Martin Scorsese felt he was destined to make. It is based on the book by Nikos Kazantzakis which tries to show us the human nature of Christ as well as his familiar divine side. Scorsese, who considered joining the priesthood before turning to film, was fascinated by the duel nature of Christ. The human side of Christ isn’t usually acknowledged in most literature.

William Defoe (the role of Jesus was originally intended for Robert De Niro if you can believe that) plays Jesus wonderfully and Harvey Keitel, whom I wouldn’t expect to be in a film like this one, does a great job playing Judas. I will admit that this film isn’t perfect. There are some very disagreeable moments and unwatchable scenes. I would recommend the film only to deep thinkers who can welcome the film’s ideas with an open mind. I give it a B-.

Goodfellas is Scorsese’s most recent of the three movies. It, just like the Godfather films by Francis Ford Coppola, looks at life in the Mafia. It’s not quite as good as The Godfather or The Godfather II, but it certainly is a well-done flick with plenty of convincing acting. It delivers a message too: don’t rat on your buddies unless you’re guaranteed safety. Nicholas Pileggi wrote the screenplay which was based on an actual, true account given by Henry Hill, a former gangster. In Goodfellas, Henry Hill is played by Ray Liotta. He does a fine job, as do Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci who are also hit men for the local New York mob. The film (like all mob flicks) is pretty violent thanks to Joe Pesci’s volatile personality, but he really does steal the show. My favorite part is the prison scene. In their own, private cell these mob guys are cook-ing fine Italian meals with ingredients they obtained from the black market. I mean you know these guys have style. Instead of importing drugs and weap-ons, they’re importing tomatoes, meat, and fine wines. I give Goodfellas an A-.

Max Carlson studies music and cinema at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

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