Martin Scorsese's lesser known gems

    So we’ve heard it all before — “Martin Scorsese is the best living filmmaker.”  With Shutter Island hitting theaters Friday, we will probably hear this proclamation repeatedly over the next few days. Subjective it may be, but it is hard to refute the consistency and depth of Scorsese’s filmography.

    Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Departed are widely accepted as among the greatest of their respective decades. However, even Scorsese’s “lesser” works are essential viewing for movie lovers. Here are a few gems to watch if you have not already had the chance.

    A Short Introduction

    Marty got his start making short films at New York University, where he received both a Bachelors and a Masters in film. The most famous of these films is The Big Shave (1967), in which a man shaves his face until it bleeds profusely. Even early in his career, Scorsese was fascinated with images of blood and violence.

    Warning: The following video is very graphic.

    “You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets.”

    The low-budget Mean Streets (1973) established many of the motifs that would appear throughout Scorsese’s career: blaring rock music, gangsters and Robert De Niro. Harvey Keitel stars as Charlie, a young man plagued by Catholic guilt. He believes he can redeem himself by saving the reckless Johnny Boy (De Niro) from self-destruction. The film’s infamous pool hall brawl set to “Please Mr. Postman” would become the template for fight scenes in Scorsese’s later hard-hitting movies, including The Departed.

    Actually, We Do Think He’s Funny

    Don’t tell Joe Pesci that he’s a funny guy, but that’s a compliment that Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy (1983) desperately needs to hear. Rupert (De Niro, again) is a pathetically lonely comedian, aspiring to be a star. One day, he thinks he finds his way into show business after meeting Jerry Langford, a talk show host played by Jerry Lewis. When nothing happens, Rubert decides to claim fame for himself by force. This wickedly hilarious comedy is proof that Scorsese and De Niro can succeed with a non-gangster movie. Watch Mr. Pupkin stuck in his world of fantasy, only to be interrupted by his mother…

    The Worst Night Ever

    Imagine you are a simple word processor, looking for something to do at night.  You meet a nice girl, but she ends up committing suicide on you. You need money to get home, but the guy about to lend it to you turns out to be the dead girl’s boyfriend. Unfortunate mishaps such as these snowball until half of New York is looking for you, wanting to kill you for some reason or another. That’s the predicament Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) finds himself in the wild, overlooked After Hours (1985). Scorsese shows us that he has a real knack for dark comedy and, more importantly, that he can make a great movie without Robert De Niro.

    What if Jesus abandoned the cross and had sex?

    The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) is perhaps Scorsese’s strangest movie, exploring the humanity of Jesus Christ. The cast itself stands as a testament to how bizarre this film is — Willem Dafoe as Jesus, Harvey Keitel as Judas and Davis Bowie as Pontius Pilate. The movie asks what would have happened if Jesus was too weak to carry the burden of the cross, forsaking his duty as the Son of God and instead giving into his selfish desire. Some call it blasphemous, but closely following the Bible wasn’t the point. Rather, The Last Temptation of Christ is Scorsese’s endlessly thoughtful look at the duality of Christ.


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