News

Martin Scorsese is all about making history these days

Roger Moore
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

For Martin Scorsese, the older he gets, the more at home he is in the past.

Look at his new film — "Shutter Island." It's set in 1954. A filmmaker already known for his film biographies ("Raging Bull," "The Aviator"), he has a Sinatra biography he wants to shoot. And "Silence," his next project, is about Jesuit priests in 18th century Japan.

"I like the recreation of aspects of lost worlds, lost times," Scorsese says. "We forget these other times and how much knowing what happened then can tell us about our present time. We need to know the past to live the present, create the future."

Named in poll after poll, in magazines from Total Film to Empire and Entertainment Weekly as the cinema's "greatest living filmmaker," Scorsese won his Oscar for directing "The Departed," the sort of film he's most associated with — a crime picture with gangsters, crooked cops and rackets. But Scorsese, 67, has embraced history throughout his career, from Civil War-era New York ("Gangs of New York"), to Gilded Age Manhattan ("The Age of Innocence"), Jazz Age New York ("New York, New York"), to Biblical Jerusalem ("The Last Temptation of Christ").

"Shutter Island" allowed Scorsese to recreate the 1950s, with flashbacks set in World War II during the Holocaust. And ever the film historian, he paid homage to Alfred Hitchcock ("Vertigo") and producer Val Lewton's Jacques Tourneur-directed horror films as he did so.

"'Cat People' and 'I Walked with a Zombie' — terrible titles, but beautiful works of film poetry, both made in the early 1940s. These two have a mood and tone and atmosphere and poetic dimension that make them timeless."

In "Shutter Island," based on Dennis Lehane's novel, a federal marshal (Leonardo DiCaprio) comes to an island prison hospital off the coast of Massachusetts where a prisoner has escaped. His uncertainty over what is going on in the place is amplified by dark shadows in his own past — his war memories, the recent death of his wife and children. Scorsese saw an opportunity to do a paranoid thriller set in a paranoid age.

"I was very, very young — just 12 or 13 in the mid-50s — but I lived through that era. I was very aware of the paranoia. We expected to be bombed any day. I was part of that generation of schoolchildren who were ordered to take cover under their desks from an H-bomb attack."

At 67, Scorsese is looking back in more ways than one. He's putting the finishing touches on a documentary about the late Beatle George Harrison, to go along with his earlier blues and Bob Dylan documentaries and concert films "The Last Waltz" and "Shine a Light." And he threw a little weight behind Showtime's upcoming Roaring '20s series, "Boardwalk Empire." He directed the pilot and as Steve Buscemi, one of many name character actors to join the cast, put it, "When you hear Scorsese's involved, you sign up. No questions asked."

"We recreated Atlantic City in the '20s. Fun!" Scorsese gushes. "I was born in '42, and by 1954-55, there was this big resurgence of interest in the '20s — in the culture, on TV. They were a time of epic changes in the culture, a new openness in conflict with this 'intention to do well' with temperance unions and Prohibition, good societal impulses that turned out to be a very bad choice to make."

So what might on the surface be another gangsters-with-guns picture from the master is actually him recreating another "lost world." After that, and finishing up the Harrison documentary, it may be feudal Japan for "Silence." Or maybe he'll get to make a variation of his long-planned Rat Pack biography — "Sinatra." And alas, he just grudgingly had to back out of a planned young Teddy Roosevelt film biography, another piece of history he wanted to jam onto his crowded plate.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.