Conversations with Scorsese
By Richard Schickel
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307268402, 448pp.)
Publication Date: March 8, 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun, The Departed, The Aviator, Shutter Island: these are just a few of the critically acclaimed films, startling experimental works, and spectacular commercial blockbusters with which Martin Scorsese has forever enriched American cinema. Here is a rare and wonderfully insightful chance to experience all of these films, and the history and process of moviemaking in general, through the words and wit of the master director.
Richard Schickel’s canny and intelligent interviews guide us through Scorsese’s life and work, from the child who escaped the realities of Little Italy in the 1950s through movies to the man whose increasingly encyclopedic knowledge of film shaped his ambitions and art. Scorsese reveals which films are most autobiographical and which have been forays into unknown territory in content or aesthetics. He talks about his lesser-known movies, those already considered classics, his documentaries, and his influences. He explains his personal style, the close attention he pays to detail, and his attraction to genre films. And he discusses what being a lifelong student of film has taught him about acting, directing, music, and camerawork, among many other topics.
The result is a vivid, immensely enlightening history of modern Hollywood seen through the eyes of one intrepid filmmaker. We see audiences’ expectations tested by what Scorsese was willing to put on the screen in explorations of prostitution, institutionalized violence, and religion. We see the unavoidable frustrations and exhilarating rewards of filming live concerts for The Band and at Woodstock. And we see many of the rewarding artistic and personal relationships of Scorsese’s career, including collaborations with Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Jack Nicholson, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
An invaluable appreciation of one of our most admired film directors.
Richard Schickel is a film critic, filmmaker, and movie historian who has written more than thirty-five books, including Clint Eastwood: A Biography and The Disney Version. He is, as well, the director-writer-producer of thirty documentary films, among them Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin, Woody Allen: A Life in Film, and Shooting War. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the British Film Institute Book Prize, the Maurice Bessy Prize for film criticism, and the William K. Everson Award for Film History. He lives in Los Angeles.
"Blend one great film critic with one great director. Lace with a mutual love of film history and heaping portions of insight, empathy, and fellowship. Richard Schickel’s Conversations with Scorsese is a richly textured and totally engaging triumph."
-Leo Braudy, author of The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon
“I loved it. It offers all the pleasures of eavesdropping on a riveting and wonderfully entertaining private conversation.”
“Conversations with Scorsese is the My Dinner with Andre of movie books . . . only much better. Schickel’s relaxed, but astute questioning has bought out the very best in Scorsese, and generated thoughts and memories from him that have never been published before. The two men are not only having a real conversation but also having fun doing it. This book is a treasure, and anyone who loves Scorsese’s work should own it.”
-Jeanine Basinger, The Star Machine
“What a high for film lovers, this conversation between one of America’s greatest directors and a similarly eminent critic. The two cinephiles bring together Scorsese’s life and career from various perspectives, encompassing the trauma and betrayals of a mean-street childhood, the genesis and on-the-set details of each movie, the films and people that have shaped his directorial personality. Schickel offers insights and criticisms along with empathy and the intimate film knowledge to spark fresh and interesting insights from the king of mavericks in a retrospective mood. Wide-ranging and astute, it’s film school on steroids.”
-Molly Haskell, author of Frankly, My Dear: Gone with the Wind Revisited
“Conversations-with-directors books can go one of two ways: Either the directors want to analyze their work, or they don’t. Those who do either obscure the films with trivial esoterica or—as is the case with Martin Scorsese, in Richard Schickel’s Conversations with Scorsese—illuminate their choices with a pragmatic instinct verging on the intimate, as though they were discussing not shots and lenses but their own biography.”
-Sam Wasson, LA Weekly
“Putting [Martin Scorsese and Richard Schickel] together is a perfect pairing for an epic discourse about the movies . . . Conversations with Scorsese is likely to stand as the definitive source for Scorsese’s views because he is so engaged—and because Schickel knows just the questions to ask . . . Schickel makes no secret that he is a fan and a friend. Still, he challenges the director, presses a point and states outright whether a particular film works for him. He also manages to keep Scorsese on topic without missing an opportunity to explore an interesting tangent. And there are plenty of tangents—just what you would expect in a spirited back-and-forth between two cinephiles at the top of their game.”
-Douglass K. Daniel, Associated Press
“A veritable library of criticism and collected interviews has been published on Martin Scorsese in the last ten years, but none remotely as valuable as this entry . . . The combination of [Schickel’s] insightful questions and Scorsese’s rapid-fire patter and stream-of-consciousness style makes this an educational and entertaining read . . . Both men’s excitement and admiration for the art and history of filmmaking fills every page. This is no shallow series of how and why questions but a true conversation about art and how one individual has endeavored to create it . . . Readers will be left simply wanting more. Perhaps the definitive piece of self-commentary that will ever be produced about the work of Scorsese.”
-Starred review, Library Journal
“Schickel almost always strikes the right interrogatory note . . . Along the way, Scorsese and Schickel, who are both steeped in film history, share views about dozens of old pictures—their opinionated enthusiasm should lengthen many Netflix queues. Offering a deep look into the aesthetic, technical and commercial realities of filmmaking, Scorsese provides intimate details about the making of his acknowledged masterpieces . . . Scorsese emerges as a fascinating, obsessive, complex guy. He has always seemed the most companionable of film artists, and, except for his own expansive, autobiographically driven documentaries on American and Italian movies, this is the most probing and enjoyable explication of his accomplished career. A feast for cineastes.”
“A cross between a film master class and after-hours jam session . . . Scorsese and Schickel’s long friendship and their encyclopedic film knowledge bring a comfort and complexity to their interaction. Scorsese has always been a fluid raconteur, and Schickel brings out the best in him . . . Anyone with even a passing interest in Scorsese’s career or in film history will find a gem on every page.”
“An illuminating autobiography-cum-film-studies-course from one of the nation’s foremost directors . . . The in-depth treatment provides fascinating insights into Scorsese’s films; even his most obsessed fans will discover new revelations, and hearing him discuss his entire body of work in a single lengthy narrative ties such outliers as The Age of Innocence and Kundun to more-characteristic masterworks like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Both Schickel and Scorsese are utterly movie-obsessed, so a significant chunk of the conversation is inevitably devoted to the classic films they both love; for cinephiles, these passages, where two passionate and supremely informed fans articulately chat about the subjects of their fixation, might be the most rewarding part of this fascinating document.”