Martin Scorsese: a Sight & Sound special

The second in Sight & Sound’s Auteurs series, this edition tells the full career story (so far) of Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest living filmmakers, via classic features, iconic images and incisive reviews. Now available in shops, and to order from BFI Shop.

The Auteurs series volume 2: Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s career stretches over half a century and spans many different genres beyond the gangster films for which he is so well known. He has dedicated his life to the cause of cinema – not only to making films, but to watching them, learning, teaching, writing, talking and making documentaries about them, promoting them, preserving them and restoring them. This selection of features and reviews from the archives of Sight & Sound and Monthly Film Bulletin for our Auteurs series, which celebrates the work of the most important film directors in history, gathers together analysis by many of Scorsese’s most eloquent and insightful critics and historians – and includes many interviews with the maestro himself.


New York New York… Where the story begins. Pictured: Scorsese and Robert De Niro on the set of Mean Streets (1973)

Part 1: New York, New York… where the story begins

Mean streets: the sweetness of hell

Half a year after Monthly Film Bulletin reviewed Boxcar Bertha, the first Scorsese feature released in Britain, Sight & Sound ran its first feature on a promising new talent. David Denby had seen Mean Streets and was duly impressed.

What’s a Nice Girl like You Doing in a Place like This? reviewed by Jonathan Romney

It’s Not Just You, Murray! reviewed by Jill McGreal

Who’s That Knocking at My Door reviewed by Kate Stables

Mean Streets: the sweetness of hell. Pictured: Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro in Mean Streets

The Big Shave reviewed by Richard Combs

Boxcar Bertha reviewed by Tom Milne

Mean Streets reviewed by Tom Milne

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore reviewed by Richard Combs

God’s lonely man

In 1999, Amy Taubin, author of a then imminent BFI Classic on Taxi Driver, took the opportunity to look back at a remarkable film: the circumstances of its making, its relationship to earlier movies, and its treatment of racism and masculinity.

Taxi Driver reviewed by Richard Combs

New York, New York reviewed by Tom Milne

Italianamerican reviewed by Tom Milne

American Boy reviewed by Tom Milne

American boy

The earliest interview with Scorsese in S&S was conducted in 1977 by Richard Combs and Louise Sweet during a break from editing The Last Waltz and American Boy.

The Last Waltz reviewed by Tom Milne

Raging Bull reviewed by Steve Jenkins

New directions… a time for experiment. Pictured: Scorsese directing Paul Newman in The Color of Money (1986)

Part 2: new directions… a time for experiment

Martin Scorsese’s still life

Upon its release The King of Comedy struck many as strikingly different from Scorsese’s previous films. Even the director felt he was ‘starting all over’. Terrence Rafferty spoke to him and examined the film within the context of his work to date.

The King of Comedy reviewed by Steve Jenkins

After Hours reviewed by Richard Combs

The Color of Money reviewed by Steve Jenkins

From the pit of hell

Sacred and profane: Robert De Niro (pictured) in Cape Fear (1991)

Making The Last Temptation of Christ was a labour of love for Scorsese, with a decade and a half passing between reading the novel and finally completing the film. Steve Jenkins chronicled the complex and troubled history of the production.

The Last Temptation of Christ reviewed by Pam Cook

New York Stories reviewed by Richard Combs

GoodFellas reviewed by Tom Milne

GoodFellas to the end

From its release GoodFellas enjoyed a reputation as one of its director’s most iconic movies, an archetypal Scorsesean mix of underworld content and virtuoso cinematic style. In 2017, in an examination of the film’s ending, Trevor Johnston considered its enduring appeal.

Cape Fear reviewed by Angela McRobbie

Sacred and profane

Cape Fear was seen by some as a deliberate attempt at a commercial hit, by others as a radical reworking of J. Lee Thompson’s original film. J. Hoberman compared the two movies and came to his own conclusions.

New horizons… Exploration and consolidation. Pictured: Scorsese directing Kundun (1997)

Part 3: new horizons… exploration and consolidation

Dread and desire

When it was announced that Scorsese would film an Edith Wharton novel, many were astonished. But in considering The Age of Innocence, Amy Taubin found the director and the writer had more in common than one might expect.

The Age of Innocence reviewed by Pam Cook

Martin Scorsese: between God and the goodfellas

For the BFI-produced Century of Cinema TV series, Scorsese directed the three-part A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies. Raymond Durgnat looked at what the documentary revealed about the director’s tastes in film.

Martin Scorsese’s testament

Martin Scorsese’s testament. Pictured, Scorsese and De Niro filming Casino (1995)

Though set in the desert oasis that is Las Vegas, Casino was in some respects a return to the concerns and style of GoodFellas. Ian Christie interviewed Scorsese about its relation to real-life events, its making and its many cultural references.

Casino reviewed by Jonathan Romney

The road not taken/Everything is form

To many, of all Scorsese’s surprise projects, a biography of the Dalai Lama felt the most unlikely. But Amy Taubin found Kundun both deeply personal and formally audacious, and spoke to the director about his motives and methods in making it.

Kundun reviewed by Andrew O’Hehir

Bringing out the Dead reviewed by Kevin Jackson

Manhattan asylum

Three decades after Scorsese first read Herbert Asbury’s book, he finally completed the enormously ambitious Gangs of New York. Ian Christie spoke to him about his abiding fascination with the subject matter and the film’s problematic production history.

Gangs of New York reviewed by David Thompson

Forever young… songs of innocence and experience. Pictured: Scorsese directing Leonardo Di Caprio in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Part 4: forever young… songs of innocence and experience

Tales of a fly guy

The Aviator, about billionaire industrialist, filmmaker and aviation nut

Howard Hughes, was Scorsese’s first feature to deal directly with the movie business. Ian Christie visited the set and was struck by the scale and ambition of the project.

The Aviator reviewed by Kevin Jackson

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan reviewed by Rob White

The Departed reviewed by Nick James

Shine a Light reviewed by John Lewis

Island of lost souls

Birth of a salesman: Leonardo Di Caprio (pictured) in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Shutter Island, an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s bestselling novel, allowed Scorsese to explore his protagonist’s mental turmoil by drawing on his deep knowledge of film history. Graham Fuller surveyed his homage to Hollywood’s genre cinema.

Shutter Island reviewed by Jonathan Romney

The illusionist

Hugo was Scorsese’s first feature adapted from a children’s book, but it was also a foray into the world of early cinema. Ian Christie, himself an expert in the field, elucidated the film’s affectionate tribute to the pioneering director Georges Méliès.

Hugo reviewed by Andrew Osmond

The Wolf of Wall Street reviewed by Nick Pinkerton

Birth of a salesman

In making The Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese was again capturing the American zeitgeist. But, as Ian Christie noted, this time the tone was different, with Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance perfectly pitched for a darkly comic social satire.

Matters of life and death… the story so far.

Part 5: matters of life and death… the story so far…

An activist in the archives

Scorsese is famous not only for making films but for devoting his life to cinema. Ian Christie lauded his work as an archivist, historian, educator and conservationist, who has often focused on forgotten and neglected films from around the world.

Martin Scorsese: Catholic tastes

Martin Scorsese: Catholic tastes. Pictured: Scorsese directing Silence (2016)

It took Scorsese nearly three decades to fulfil his dream of turning Endo Shusaku’s novel Silence into a film. Philip Horne spoke to him about making the movie, religious faith and his love of Japanese cinema.

Silence reviewed by Richard Combs

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese reviewed by Matthew Taylor

The Irishman reviewed by Graham Fuller

Three and a half hours with Scorsese

Though The Irishman was a return to American gangsters and reunited him with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel, it also, as Philip Horne discovered in a lengthy interview, saw the director still looking for fresh ways to create cinematic magic.


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