Three Lessons From The Films Of Mr Martin Scorsese

October 2019Words by Mr Jim Merrett

Mr Robert De Niro in King Of Comedy (1983). Photograph by The Ronald Grant Archive

Mr Martin Scorsese has made great films, there can be no doubt about that. Sure, it took the Academy until 2006’s The Departed to give him the nod for Best Director (after five nominations, and two more since), but of the New Hollywood-era auteurs, he is among the most influential, most prolific while consistently good and seemingly untroubled by the #metoo movement. But even if the often-lengthy running times (his new effort, The Irishman, clocks in at 210 minutes, which might prove a challenge for the algorithms of Netflix, who financed the project), it is probably moments, rather than entire films, that Mr Scorsese is best known for.

This is not a fact that the director shies away from, given his 2015 book Martin Scorsese In Ten Scenes. In this, he points to the Copacabana scene in Goodfellas as his standout moment, a single-shot set piece, which the director describes as being “choreographed like a ballet”. But for our money, his use of Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla” to provide the turning point in the same movie, when the paranoia starts to seep in and the bodies begin to spill out into everyday life, is on a par.

For students of cinema, these two scenes could provide numerous lessons in the art of filmmaking. But for the rest of us, there are more general pointers for everyday life to glean from Mr Scorsese’s work. Here, then, are three key moments from Mr Scorsese’s canon and what you can learn from them.