Thursday, December 30, 2010

Martin Scorsese: Mean Streets

Welcome to the blog for the SNC Independent Film class. If you'd like to download a syllabus, here are links:

Special Topics:

Film Studies, 1960s-Present:

This week in Film Syntax: The Shot

The subway scene from Code Unknown (dir. Michael Haneke, 5min 30sec):,28779/
Commentary by Scott Tobias, of the Onion AV Club.

Assignment: Required Viewing and Writing

Watch this clip of Scorsese talking about artifice and reality (approx 4 mins):

Artifice and Truth with Martin Scorsese from Jim Emerson on Vimeo.

For your first assignment, I want you to make a blog post about a film, or a scene from a film, that you remember as being very "real": something in a film that connected with your personal experience in some powerful way, that gave you the feeling that something authentic from your own life had found its way up on screen. Mean Streets has a kind of regional authenticity -- people from Scorsese's neighborhood responded to the way he captured modes of speech and dress and attitude -- elements from a milieu that had never appeared in film before. You can pick a film that has that kind of authenticity for you, or you could choose a film that had the type of "coded" reality Scorsese talks about in the clip above -- where the visual trappings or situations are noticeably artificial, but the emotional reality seems authentic.

Your response should be at least three paragraphs -- one paragraph giving an idea of the film in general, one paragraph on the elements from the film that seemed "real," and one paragraph that explains what sort of "realism" the film used -- an anthropological realism, a "coded" realism, or some other kind of realism entirely. Feel free to include still or clips from the film, if available.

Recommended/Optional Viewing and Reading:

Critic Matt Zoller Sietz, on Scorsese's influence on Wes Anderson (this is an effective video essay, which lays out elements of visual style):

Here's a link to the text of the essay:

Scorsese-directed films on netflix instant view (asterisks for the ones I particularly like):

Shutter Island
*The Age of Innocence
The Last Temptation of Christ
*Mean Streets
Boxcar Bertha
Who's That Knocking at My Door?

He appears as an actor, as Vincent Van Gogh, in Akira Kursawa's Dreams, also on instant view.

Other good Scorsese films, not on instant view:
Taxi Driver
King of Comedy
Raging Bull

Scorsese talking about making Mean Streets:

Italianamerican -- a funny, loose-limbed documentary Scorsese made about his parents -- it gives a nice sense of his family background (in 5 parts):

A Scorsese student film, made at NYU (in two parts -- it's rough, but you can see elements of his emerging style):

1 comment:

  1. "Scott Pilgrim versus the World" was definitely one of the more unique, and overall fun to watch movies of 2010. The story centers around Scott Pilgrim, a young hipster, who is lonely and desperate for a girlfriend, when he encounters the elusive Ramona Flowers at a party. As time goes on, the two slowly warm up to each other, but one day Scott finds himself at odds with all seven of Ramona's super-powered former lovers, and finds that he has to defeat them all in order to win the right to date Ramona.

    The movie is constantly utilizing references to video games, both to recognizable video games and to common mechanics. Using the bathroom causes Scott to drain his "pee meter" to 0%, defeated enemies vibrantly explode into coins-which Scott is all to quick to gather the first time it occurs-and large, bold-lettered words flash across the screen anytime Scott discovers a new power. The common belief is that the various video game mechanics and references used throughout the movie are to be taken at face value-an appeal to gamers and a means of offering a unique aesthetic.

    However, there is also another way of looking at it. Despite being the main character and initially sympathetic, Scott quickly reveals himself to be a selfish, manipulative brat. He exploits his own misfortune and downtrodden status to pair himself with a young, naive schoolgirl early on in the film, but upon meeting Ramona, he quickly casts her aside, seeing no problem with breaking her heart in order to free himself to chase after the "better girl." It could be said, then, that the entire movie is a metaphor for a growing experience, where the "evil exes" take the place of more mundane, cliched misfortunes in the act of, as Moviebob put it, "beating a healthy dose of 'get over yourself' into him."