A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies


(1995, USA)

Director: Martin Scorsese, Michael Henry Wilson
Written by: Martin Scorsese, Michael Henry Wilson
Features: Martin Scorsese (host), Frank Capra, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, ao.

Running Time: 225 mins.

When Scorsese starts to talk there is no ending. For nearly four hours, he talks about American films. From the silent era to the sixties when he started making movies himself. Luckily for the viewer, Scorsese is a very interesting storyteller and film lovers will be glued to the screen.

His ode to American cinema is a mix of personal anecdotes, film fragments, interviews and razor-sharp observations. Scorsese starts with Hollywood pioneers like King Vidor, D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille. He then takes a closer look at the genres that made Hollywood great; the westerns, the musicals and the gangster films.

Many cinema hallmarks pass by. From the transition from silent to sound films and how technical effects evolved over the years. Scorsese also explains how his own cinematic mind was formed by observing characters like the infamous Ethan Edwards in The Searchers. He explains how the change in genres reflect on the times in which they were made. Like how post WW2 big businesses advanced in gangster films and the musicals got gloomier.

Scorsese provides great insight in the Hollywood system. How producers like David O. Selznick called the shots in the early days and how iconoclasts like Erich von Stroheim and Orson Welles attacked the system and sometimes paid the ultimate price for it. He calls Hollywood films censored art and shows many of the old masters at work. The rarely seen interviews with legendary directors such as Billy Wilder and John Ford alone are worth the four hour investment of watching this documentary.

No less than 60 films are discussed. From most of them a fragment is shown while Scorsese discusses their significance in a voice-over. For the complete list of films discussed click here. Scorsese and his team have created an incredibly rich and insightful documentary. Even the most hardened film buff will find some unseen cinema treasures here.


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