DVD review: Martin Scorsese’s Short Films [M15+]

Dir: Martin Scorsese

The Film
This DVD is a collection of Martin Scorsese’s Short Films, and I’ll briefly give an over view of each one.

‘Whats A Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This?
This short film from 1963 runs about 9 minutes long, I believe the film is a portrait of one’s obsession and anxiety. It shows a man called Harry by his friends become infatuated by a picture of a boat. It becomes an obsession and he is unable to lead a normal life; even meeting and eventually marrying a woman does not help him. In the end he disappears into the picture. This film really shows the beginnings of a great filmmaker, his ideas and execution are fantastic. It is more of a surreal piece, and feels very much ahead of its time. Framing and lighting are superb, what he has used here continues to be trademarks of his.

‘It’s Not Just You, Murray!’
This short film from 1964 runs about 15 minutes long, this is Scorsese’s first dive into the mobster/crime genre that he has become so well known for. It tells the story of a middle-aged mobster, who looks back at his rise to riches and the ‘friend’ he has Joe. The story goes on to show that in a life of crime, there are no friends. Seeing Scorsese’s start in this genre is quite amazing, from so early on it is easy to see this is something that comes naturally to him. He knows how to successfully tell a story, and portray the different elements of this crime life. The film is shot in a very 50’s and 60’s Italian style, with a very clear and appropriate narration. The film feels very much like Scorsese’s portrayal of what he might have witnessed within his own neighbourhood, and those he came across. Without this film, I don’t think Scorsese would have gone to make Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. This is a must see, not only for fans of Scorsese but those of crime films.

‘The Big Shave’
This short film from 1967 runs about 5 minutes long, it is what the title suggests, a shave. Set to music, a man goes into the bathroom and shaves; he shaves so much he cuts himself continuously. The film is worth a watch on so many levels, it was expertly directed with the scene playing in unison to the music. The visuals and cinematography are stunning, especially considering with what you are seeing on screen. The film could be a metaphor for many different things; back when this was shot the world was a very different place. This could be seen as a political piece, a metaphor about war. In the end though it is up to the viewer to decide, which I think Scorsese did purposely.

This piece is a personal documentary short with a running time of around 49 minutes from 1974. The film’s focus is his parents and their lives; they run us through different aspects. In the film we see his parents through his eyes, and it give us an in-sight to who he was as a person back then. These people and their decision helped shaped him, and you can see there is much love for them. The film came along after the likes of Mean Streets, and he was starting to see more opportunities. Perhaps he wanted to go back and pay tribute to his personal roots in this specific way, I am not sure but I am glad he did and had the chance to see this. His family and where he comes from is very reminiscent of my own background and family, and it is interesting to see the contrast between the two and also relish in the commonalities. Scorsese was working on Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore at the time he shot this. It is interesting that he chose to do this little project around the time that would be known as his break-through. Perhaps if he had not made this film, we’d have seen a different man emerge. Definitely well worth a look.

‘American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince’
The most controversial film out of the lot, it is another documentary type, running around an hour long and from 1978. This film sees Scorsese have an in-depth conversation with Steven Prince. The film I believe was not really available until the 90’s and it isn’t difficult to understand why. Steven Prince is quite the subject matter, and quite perfect for Scorsese to take focus on. With this and Italianamerican, you can really see where his documentary roots came from and why he loves to do it. There is so much a person can tell, especially when they have lead quite a life. His subjects are always quite extraordinary in their own way, and this film is a great example of that. Rather than tell you what you’re in for, this is something you just have to experience. Learning about Steven and Prince and his life up until that point is something that will stick with me as it will with you. I am so happy we’ve been given the opportunity to experience these early works, of someone who has undoubtedly become one of the best and most memorable filmmakers of the past 40 years.

This set is an excellent compilation and a must-have for Scorsese fans, as well as fans of cinema in general.

The Australian DVD 
Audio/Video: The video is a 4:3 Full Frame presentation. Picture quality appears to have been cleaned up from the original source, it definitely looks better than it should. Audio is presented with English Mono, it isn’t the greatest quality but again it feels cleaned up and the commentary is perfectly clear.

Extras: The DVD release comes with an additional extra:
* Audio Commentary for all films by Dr Mark Nicholls, Senior Lecturer, University of Melbourne and author of ‘Scorsese’s Men: Melancholia and the Mob’ – The insight from Dr Mark Nicholls is a great added bonus, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him. The films and what Scorsese was doing with each film benefit from an expert’s point of view. I would have loved to have heard Scorsese talk about these, but this was still very good. The in-sight goes beyond the films themselves and gives us some history on that point in time of Scorsese’s life and what influenced him back then and how it contrasts to his later work.


Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.

One thought on “DVD review: Martin Scorsese’s Short Films [M15+]

  1. Pingback: Film Michael Wood | The Blue Pixel

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