Martin Scorsese is an indelible director, whose films have plunged themselves into our minds and embedded their celluloid scenes onto our universal subconscious. He is a masterful auteur with a breadth of work that is quite literally breathtaking. His career has spanned over six decades, with almost as many films created in that time. This phenomenal achievement showcases with clarity the sublime creativity, vision and passion that the Academy Award® winning Scorsese possesses.
ACMI’s latest exhibition, SCORSESE, is a journey deep into the world of this masterful director, screenwriter, editor, producer and cinema legacy preserver. From his beginnings growing up in an Italian-American working class family in New York’s Little Italy, we see just how much Scorsese’s life has permeated his work. It is interesting to note that as a child he was quite sickly with asthma and much of his childhood was ‘spent looking down at the world from his apartment window and up at the screen in his local cinema’. It is this time spent observing the world and the screen, where Scorsese’s cognition of the deep-seated desires, tensions, rebellions, failings, hopes and ambitions that we humans possess are tapped into and eventually mirrored in his anti-hero characters – that are as flawed as they are determined. This dichotomy of emotive driving forces is what makes Scorsese’s protagonists so fascinating and memorable; many to a point where their powerful presence has enlisted them to the forefront of film legend and popular culture. Think Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, Ray Liotta in Goodfellas or Robert De Niro in Cape Fear (and Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Mean Streets for that matter!).
SCORSESE the exhibition is a fascinating look into the director’s films, many of which will have you saying, “Oh my GAWD, yes, that was a Scorsese film! I love that movie!!” It is a true testament to just how much of your cinema watching years have been infiltrated by Scorsese and his brilliant mind. The exhibition contains many personal and rare parts of Scorsese’s life and movies. There are five never before seen costumes from films such as The Aviator, Hugo and Gangs of New York, all designed by three-time Academy Award® winner, Sandy Powell. I did appropriately fan-girl out to both the costumes from Gangs of New York (“this is likely going to be as close to Daniel Day Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio as I’m ever going to get!”) which included the actual eagle motif contact lens Lewis wore throughout shooting, and Hugo, as worn by Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sacha Baron Cohen. But I tell you what, seeing that little automaton sitting at his writing desk will have you catching your breath as your heart stops momentarily from joy (“I didn’t think you would be here!”). If you have watched and loved Hugo, this may well be a highlight for you, as you reminisce on what is a poignant and beautiful gem of a film, and quite the departure for Scorsese yet embedded with his technical cinema eye and penchant for a darn good plot and story.
Not only is Scorcese one of the most prolific directors of our time, he has managed to direct not only films, but television series (hello Boardwalk Empire), music documentaries (for bob Dylan and George Harrison) and film clips (can you believe his directing credits include Michael Jackson’s Bad??!!). He is also an avid champion for the exhibition, preservation and restoration of film, establishing The Film Foundation in 1990.
There are many behind the scenes photographs and script notes that are so intimate and fascinating, they highlight in hand written glory the precision in which Scorsese directs (Robert De Niro’s tattoo positions from Cape Fear, and the shooting script from Gangs of New York are prime examples).
Scorsese himself is as impressed with the exhibition as you will be as you walk out of the mesmerizing shadows of the ACMI basement. In a pre-recorded message played at the opening night of the exhibition, Scorsese described the exhibition as a “great honour.” “Some of the objects you are going to see were literally taken off walls and shelves in my office and editing room…A lot of these things are very, very personal; things from my mother and father’s apartment…I’m really happy to know that a number of the movie posters that are rarely seen and usually in my poster cabinet are going to be on display because that’s what they’re really there for; to be seen…I hope that these objects, memorabilia, all of this, give you some sense of this lifelong passion I’ve had for the cinema and what it means to me.”
A visionary of our time, Scorsese seems to have laid his life out for us to view in vivid and often violent celluloid. However, ACMI’s SCORSESE exhibition further uncovers this stalwart director, helping us to fully appreciate the mark his creativity, boldness and gritty storytelling has left on the world of cinema and beyond.
This not to be missed exhibition is now open to the public and runs from May 26 – September 18, 2016.
Visit https://www.acmi.net.au/exhibitions/scorsese/ for more details.