Pulpish facility and skill is the American way with filmmaking, which explains Martin Scorsese’s extraordinary forty-year success. At his worst he sticks to the pulpish facility (Cape Fear, Shutter Island); at his most mediocre he coughs up fumes of art to obscure mere facility (After Hours, Gangs of New York, The Departed). But with his use of boomer classics, zooms, and overtones of religious feeling, Scorsese has become a unique phenomenon. Last year’s Silence was a rare peak in a director of his age: a rapt evocation of tortured fanaticism in a foreign country. It broke his sudden box office streak, and I say it’s about time; should he die tomorrow, it’s a worthy film on which to posit as a summa.
Although I like to love many films on the list below, he and I will never be simpatico: the mixture of pulp romanticism with machismo is a combination, I’ll admit, whose likes we’ll never see again in grand American cinema, but his combination we’ll study, like John Ford and Howard Hawks’, in film school without hope of repetition, for better or worse.
2. Life Lessons
3. Taxi Driver
4. Mean Streets
5. New York, New York
7. Raging Bull
8. The Last Temptation of Christ
9. The Age of Innocence
10. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
11. Who’s That Knocking at My Door
13. The Wolf of Wall Street
14. The Departed
15. The King of Comedy