The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese

The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese

The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese

The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese

Synopsis

Academy Award–winning director Martin Scorsese is one of the most significant American filmmakers in the history of cinema. Although best known for his movies about gangsters and violence, such as Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino,and Taxi Driver, Scorsese has addressed a much wider range of themes and topics in the four decades of his career. In The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese, an impressive cast of contributors explores the complex themes and philosophical underpinnings of Martin Scorsese's films. The essays concerning Scorsese's films about crime and violence investigate the nature of friendship, the ethics of vigilantism, and the nature of unhappiness. The authors delve deeply into the minds of Scorsese's tortured characters and explore how the men and women he depicts grapple with moral codes and their emotions. Several of the essays explore specific themes in individual films. The authors describe how Scorsese addresses the nuances of social mores and values in The Age of Innocence, the nature of temptation and self-sacrifice in The Last Temptation of Christand Bringing Out the Dead, and the complexities of innovation and ambition in The Aviator. Other chapters in the collection examine larger philosophical questions. In a world where everything can be interpreted as meaningful, Scorsese at times uses his films to teach audiences about the meaning in life beyond the everyday world depicted in the cinema. For example, his films touching on religious subjects, such as Kundun and The Last Temptation of Christ,allow the director to explore spiritualism and peaceful ways of responding to the chaos in the world. Filled with penetrating insights on Scorsese's body of work,The Philosophy of Martin Scorseseshows the director engaging with many of the most basic questions about our humanity and how we relate to one another in a complex world.

Excerpt

In the introduction to The Philosophy of Neo-Noir (University Press of Kentucky, 2007), I noted the conspicuous absence in that volume of the films of Martin Scorsese, who might rightly be regarded as a master neo-noir filmmaker. Indeed, Scorsese is best known for his works centering on the noirish elements of gangsters and/or violence, such as Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990), and Casino (1995), to the point where he’s identified with these types of films in the way that Billy Wilder is often thought of as primarily a maker of screwball comedies (The Seven Year Itch [1955], Some Like It Hot [1959]) or Woody Allen is often seen as the maker of existentialist comedy/dramas (Annie Hall [1977], Manhattan [1979]). But we should remember that Billy Wilder also directed Double Indemnity (1944) and Sunset Boulevard (1950) and that Woody Allen’s oeuvre includes Interiors (1978), Another Woman (1988), and Match Point (2005). The stereotyping of Scorsese is equally unjustified since, over his career of some thirty-four years and counting, his films have covered a wide range of topics and themes, from the Dalai Lama in Kundun (1997) and Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) to Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004), social roles and mores in nineteenth-century New York in The Age of Innocence (1993), pool hustling in The Color of Money (1986), and the boxer Jake La Motta in Raging Bull (1980). Indeed, Scorsese’s work hasn’t been limited to narrative feature films, also including documentaries (The Last Waltz [1978], No Direction Home: Bob Dylan [2005]) and music videos (Michael Jackson’s Bad [1987]).

As I also noted in the neo-noir introduction, I omitted Scorsese from The Philosophy of Neo-Noir because I planned to devote an entire volume in the Philosophy of Popular Culture series to his films, and the present work is the fulfillment of that promise. The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese investigates the philosophical themes and underpinnings of the films of this master auteur as well as using the movies as a vehicle for exploring and explicating traditional philosophical ideas. It comprises thirteen essays from scholars in both philosophy and film and media studies. The essays are . . .

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