His father was a clothes presser and an actor, and his mother was a seamstress and an actress. Scorsese was raised in a devoutly Catholic environment. As a teenager in the Bronx, Scorsese frequently rented Powell and Pressburger 's The Tales of Hoffmann from a store that had one copy of the reel.
Scorsese was one of only two people who regularly rented that reel; the other was future Night of the Living Dead director George A. He has also spoken of the influence of the Powell and Pressburger film Black Narcissus , whose innovative techniques later impacted his filmmaking. Scorsese also developed an admiration for neorealist cinema at this time.
He went on to earn his M. His most famous short of the period is the darkly comic The Big Shave , which features Peter Bernuth.
The film is an indictment of America's involvement in Vietnam , suggested by its alternative title Viet ' In , Scorsese made his first feature-length film, the black and white I Call First, which was later retitled Who's That Knocking at My Door with his fellow students actor Harvey Keitel and editor Thelma Schoonmaker , both of whom were to become long-term collaborators.
This film was intended to be the first of Scorsese's semiautobiographical J. Trilogy, which also would have included a later film, Mean Streets. During this period he worked as the assistant director and one of the editors on the documentary Woodstock and met actor—director John Cassavetes , who would also go on to become a close friend and mentor.
Following the film's release, Cassavetes encouraged Scorsese to make the films that he wanted to make, rather than someone else's projects. By now the signature Scorsese style was in place: Although the film was innovative, its wired atmosphere, edgy documentary style, and gritty street-level direction owed a debt to directors Cassavetes, Samuel Fuller and early Jean-Luc Godard.
Although well regarded, the film remains an anomaly in the director's early career as it focuses on a central female character. Returning to Little Italy to explore his ethnic roots, Scorsese next came up with Italianamerican , a documentary featuring his parents Charles and Catherine Scorsese. The film established Scorsese as an accomplished filmmaker and also brought attention to cinematographer Michael Chapman , whose style tends towards high contrasts, strong colors, and complex camera movements.
The film co-starred Jodie Foster in a highly controversial role as an underage prostitute, and Harvey Keitel as her pimp, Matthew, called "Sport". Taxi Driver also marked the start of a series of collaborations between Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader , whose influences included the diary of would-be assassin Arthur Bremer and Pickpocket , a film by the French director Robert Bresson.
He subsequently blamed his act on his obsession with Jodie Foster's Taxi Driver character in the film, De Niro's character, Travis Bickle , makes an assassination attempt on a senator. The critical success of Taxi Driver encouraged Scorsese to move ahead with his first big-budget project: This tribute to Scorsese's home town and the classic Hollywood musical was a box-office failure. The film is best remembered today for the title theme song, which was popularized by Frank Sinatra.
Although possessing Scorsese's usual visual panache and stylistic bravura, many critics felt its enclosed studio-bound atmosphere left it leaden in comparison with his earlier work. Despite its weak reception, the film is positively regarded by some critics. Richard Brody in The New Yorker wrote: For Scorsese, a lifelong cinephile, the essence of New York could be found in its depiction in classic Hollywood movies.
Remarkably, his backward-looking tribute to the golden age of musicals and noirish romantic melodramas turned out to be one of his most freewheeling and personal films. By this stage the director had also developed a serious cocaine addiction.
However, he did find the creative drive to make the highly regarded The Last Waltz , documenting the final concert by The Band. However, Scorsese's commitments to other projects delayed the release of the film until Other works in s Another Scorsese-directed documentary, titled American Boy , also appeared in , focusing on Steven Prince, the cocky gun salesman who appeared in Taxi Driver.
A period of wild partying followed, damaging the director's already fragile health. Scorsese also helped provide footage for the documentary Elvis on Tour. Convinced that he would never make another movie, he poured his energies into making this violent biopic of middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta , calling it a kamikaze method of film-making. From this work onwards, Scorsese's films are always labeled as "A Martin Scorsese Picture" on promotional material.
Raging Bull, filmed in high contrast black and white, is where Scorsese's style reached its zenith: Taxi Driver and New York, New York had used elements of expressionism to replicate psychological points of view, but here the style was taken to new extremes, employing extensive slow-motion, complex tracking shots, and extravagant distortion of perspective for example, the size of boxing rings would change from fight to fight. Although the screenplay for Raging Bull was credited to Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin who earlier co-wrote Mean Streets , the finished script differed extensively from Schrader's original draft.
The final draft was largely written by Scorsese and Robert De Niro. It is a satire on the world of media and celebrity, whose central character is a troubled loner who ironically becomes famous through a criminal act kidnapping. Visually, it was far less kinetic than the style Scorsese had previously developed, often using a static camera and long takes.
It still bore many of Scorsese's trademarks, however. The King of Comedy failed at the box office, but has become increasingly well regarded by critics in the years since its release. German director Wim Wenders numbered it among his 15 favorite films.
Filmed on an extremely low budget, on location, and at night in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, the film is a black comedy about one increasingly misfortunate night for a mild New York word processor Griffin Dunne and featured cameos by such disparate actors as Teri Garr and Cheech and Chong.
Although adhering to Scorsese's established style, The Color of Money was the director's first official foray into mainstream film-making. The film finally won actor Paul Newman an Oscar and gave Scorsese the clout to finally secure backing for a project that had been a longtime goal for him: The Last Temptation of Christ.
In , Scorsese began work on a long-cherished personal project, The Last Temptation of Christ , based on the novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis that retold the life of Christ in human rather than divine terms.
Barbara Hershey recalls introducing Scorsese to the book while they were filming Boxcar Bertha. In the version, these roles were played respectively by Willem Dafoe and David Bowie.
However, following his mids flirtation with commercial Hollywood, Scorsese made a major return to personal filmmaking with the project, which was ultimately released in Even prior to its release, the film adapted by Taxi Driver and Raging Bull veteran Paul Schrader caused a massive furor, with worldwide protests against its perceived blasphemy effectively turning a low-budget independent film into a media sensation. Looking past the controversy, The Last Temptation of Christ gained critical acclaim and remains an important work in Scorsese's canon: The director went on to receive his second nomination for a Best Director Academy Award again unsuccessfully, this time losing to Barry Levinson for Rain Man.
Other works in s Scorsese made a brief cameo appearance in the film Anna Pavlova also known as A Woman for All Time , originally intended to be directed by one of his heroes, Michael Powell. This led to a more significant role in Bertrand Tavernier 's jazz film Round Midnight. He also made a brief venture into television, directing an episode of Steven Spielberg 's Amazing Stories. De Niro and Joe Pesci offered a virtuoso display of the director's bravura cinematic technique in the film and re-established, enhanced, and consolidated his reputation.
After the film was released Roger Ebert , a friend and supporter of Scorsese, named Goodfellas "the best mob movie ever" and is ranked No. On the updated version they moved Goodfellas up to No. In , he also released his only short-form documentary: Made in Milan about fashion designer Giorgio Armani.
The following year brought Cape Fear , a remake of a cult movie of the same name and the director's seventh collaboration with De Niro. Another foray into the mainstream, the film was a stylized thriller taking its cues heavily from Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Laughton 's The Night of the Hunter Cape Fear received a mixed critical reception and was lambasted in many quarters for its scenes depicting misogynistic violence.
However, the lurid subject matter gave Scorsese a chance to experiment with visual tricks and effects. The film garnered two Oscar nominations. The film also marked the first time Scorsese used wide-screen Panavision with an aspect ratio of 2. The Age of Innocence was a significant departure for Scorsese, a period adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel about the constrictive high society of lateth century New York. It was highly lauded by critics upon original release, but was a box office bomb , making an overall loss.
As noted in Scorsese on Scorsese by editor—interviewer Ian Christie, the news that Scorsese wanted to make a film about a failed 19th-century romance raised many eyebrows among the film fraternity; all the more when Scorsese made it clear that it was a personal project and not a studio for-hire job.
Scorsese was interested in doing a "romantic piece". His friend Jay Cocks gave him the Wharton novel in , suggesting that this should be the romantic piece Scorsese should film as Cocks felt it best represented his sensibility.
In Scorsese on Scorsese he noted that Although the film deals with New York aristocracy and a period of New York history that has been neglected, and although it deals with code and ritual, and with love that's not unrequited but unconsummated—which pretty much covers all the themes I usually deal with—when I read the book, I didn't say, "Oh good, all those themes are here.
To this aim, Scorsese sought influence from diverse period films that made an emotional impact on him. Although The Age of Innocence was ultimately different from these films in terms of narrative, story, and thematic concern, the presence of a lost society, of lost values as well as detailed re-creations of social customs and rituals continues the tradition of these films.
It came back into the public eye, especially in countries such as the UK and France, but still is largely neglected in North America. Casino , like The Age of Innocence before it, focused on a tightly wound male whose well-ordered life is disrupted by the arrival of unpredictable forces. The fact that it was a violent gangster film made it more palatable to fans of the director who perhaps were baffled by the apparent departure of the earlier film.
Casino was a box office success,  but the film received mixed notices from critics. In large part this was due to its huge stylistic similarities to his earlier Goodfellas, and its excessive violence that garnered it a reputation as possibly the most violent American gangster film ever made.
Indeed, many of the tropes and tricks of the earlier film resurfaced more or less intact, most obviously the casting of both Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, Pesci once again playing an unbridled psychopath. During the filming Scorsese played a background part as a gambler at one of the tables. Scorsese still found time for a four-hour documentary in , titled A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies , offering a thorough trek through American cinema.
It covered the silent era to , a year after which Scorsese began his feature career, stating, "I wouldn't feel right commenting on myself or my contemporaries. Murnau, who created new editing techniques among other innovations that made the appearance of sound and color possible later on; 3 the director as a smuggler—filmmakers such as Douglas Sirk, Samuel Fuller, and Vincente Minnelli, who used to hide subversive messages in their films; and 4 the director as iconoclast.
If The Age of Innocence alienated and confused some fans, then Kundun went several steps further, offering an account of the early life of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama , the People's Liberation Army 's entering of Tibet , and the Dalai Lama's subsequent exile to India. Not least a departure in subject matter, Kundun also saw Scorsese employing a fresh narrative and visual approach. Traditional dramatic devices were substituted for a trance-like meditation achieved through an elaborate tableau of colorful visual images.
In the short term, the sheer eclecticism in evidence enhanced the director's reputation. In the long term, however, it generally appears Kundun has been sidelined in most critical appraisals of the director, mostly noted as a stylistic and thematic detour.
Kundun was the director's second attempt to profile the life of a great religious leader, following The Last Temptation of Christ. Bringing Out the Dead was a return to familiar territory, with the director and writer Paul Schrader constructing a pitch-black comic take on their own earlier Taxi Driver. It received generally positive reviews,  although not the universal critical acclaim of some of his other films. Scorsese's cameo appearance in the Robert Redford film Quiz Show is remembered for the telling line: