The exhibition provides a fascinating insight into the work of one of the most influential film directors of our time. With more than 60 director credits achieved in almost as many years, Scorsese’s work includes epics (Raging Bull, Gangs of New York), thrillers (The Departed, Shutter Island) and spiritual quests (The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun). There are also biographical dramas (The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street), period adaptations (The Age of Innocence), adventure (Hugo), television (HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and 2016 release Vinyl) – and even a music video (Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’).
At the same time the exhibition also raises such questions as why Scorsese has made so few movies about women. As the exhibition highlights, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is his only major film driven by a female lead (Ellen Burstyn won an Oscar for her role). In most of his movies affairs between men and women are possessive and uneasy. And apart from his mother – who had a cameo role in several of his early movies – the same actress rarely regularly appears in his movies, unlike male actors such as Robert De Niro and Leonardo Di Caprio.
For my friend Michelle, a Scorsese fan, the exhibition also raised a question from her past – was Goodfellas really the ideal picture for a first date?! Unlike me, she has always been a fan of Scorsese and has seen many of his movies. The only ones I can recall watching are The Age of Innocence, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Aviator. Now I know why. I am not a great fan of violence and as this exhibition shows, many of his movies are very violent. For this reason ACMI recommends the exhibition for adults only.
Curated by the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum for Film and Television, Berlin – the exhibition features more than 600 objects including private letters, storyboards, hand annotated film scripts, unpublished production stills, costumes and film clips – many from Scorsese’s personal collection.
Indeed according to Scorsese some of the objects on show were literally taken off walls and shelves in his office and editing room. Many are very personal including items from his parents’ home. Highlights include the numerous video clips covering all aspects of his works including one of my favourites, an Alfred Hitchcock inspired advertisement he made for a champagne company starring Simon Baker. There are also clips from movies that have inspired him.
The exhibition also includes five never before seen costumes from The Aviator, Hugo and Gangs of New York. Then there’s the boxing ring flanked by two screens showing clips from Raging Bull.
The exhibition takes as its starting point Scorsese’s family life and journeys through themes including the power dynamics between men (be they brothers or gangsters), the troubled relationships between men and women, and life in New York. As Michelle noted his interest in the immigrant experience in New York is also reflected in the exhibition. As well as learning about Scorsese’s life, his thoughts and work, the exhibition also provides an insight into the film making process.
Michelle loved the little details – the annotated scripts and letters that reminded her that these great heroes of cinema sent thank you notes, had letterhead and conducted business as well as made art.
While I won’t be rushing to see his more violent films, as a result of the exhibition Michelle has already watched Goodfellas again. Her verdict – it’s a great movie, but probably not the best choice for a romantic evening!
Scorsese is on at ACMI until Sunday 18 September. For tickets and information on the exhibition and program of film screenings, talks and live events ACMI is staging, visit the ACMI website.
*Jenny Burns attended the exhibition as a guest of ACMI.
- ACMI, exhibitions, reviews
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