Scorsese's Film Heroes

Newsweek, November 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

Scorsese's Film Heroes


The legendary director picks his favorite cinematic moments of guts and glory.

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES

This is a picture about the heroism of coming home from the war, facing your loved ones and your job and a world that knows nothing of what you've endured. It was directed by William Wyler, who himself had served. The homecomings; Dana Andrews's flier being soothed after a nightmare by Teresa Wright; Harold Russell (a real vet with prosthetic hands) calling on his father to help him into bed--these are among the most moving passages in American cinema.

BICYCLE THIEVES

At the end of this Italian neorealist classic by Vittorio De Sica, a young boy (Enzo Staiola) sees his father (Lamberto Maggiorani) scorned, humiliated, almost sent to jail, and then takes his hand and walks proudly by his side. In

one beautiful moment, the son realizes that their roles must reverse and that, at least for the moment, he needs to look out for his father.

LA PROMESSE

From the Dardenne brothers in Belgium, another story of a young boy (Jeremie Renier) who must grow up quickly. His loyalties are divided between his father (Olivier Gourmet) and the wife (Assita Ouedraogo) of a man who has been killed at their makeshift "hotel" for illegal immigrants. This is the story of a boy's moral awakening, a spiritual suspense film in which a young soul denies what he's familiar with and stands up for humanity--the dead man's and his own.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN AND THE THIN R E D L I N E

Two very different pictures about the heroism of battle that came out in the same year, the first from Steven Spielberg and the second from Terrence Malick. Both films look at the question of heroism in war from a variety of angles (like the moment in the Malick picture where Elias Koteas's captain bravely refuses an order from his commanding officer, played by Nick Nolte), and both feature harrowing assaults on an enemy stronghold in which each soldier knows that he must keep moving forward and that he could be blown to bits at any moment. Two great modern war epics.

THE SEARCHERS

Near the end of John Ford's now-canonical Western epic of time and space, John Wayne picks up Natalie Wood, his niece, for whom he's spent the last 10 years searching. Along the way, she has lived her life among the Indians and become an object of hatred in his eyes. He lifts her by the arms, looks into her eyes, his hatred drains away, and he cradles her in his arms like the child she was when he last saw her. It's one of the most stunning reversals in cinema. …

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