Martin Scorsese’s Influences
Whether it’s the speed of the camera, the angle of the shot, the performance of the actors, or even just the colors that are used, Martin has drawn inspiration from the many different components of classic movies.
In some films, Martin’s homages to his old favorites have been apparent, like how the final scene in Goodfellas mirrors the one in Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903). If you look at his filmography, it’s clear some of Martin’s strongest inspirations were old gangster films. The Irishman, released in 2019, is Martin’s most recent foray back into the crime drama genre, and is already being lauded as one of his best.
Other movies and creators that had a profound effect on Martin Scorsese’s filmmaking include:
- Citizen Kane (1941): Orson Welles’s masterpiece taught Martin all about camera positions and editing. Welles was a risk taker, which inspired Martin to go after his own unique shots. Martin’s camera angles are often motivated by character, and by editing the speed of such moments, he’s able to build tension or present how a character is feeling.
- The Red Shoes (1948): Unique, dark, and beautifully made, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s musical classic was one of the earliest creative inspirations for a young Martin Scorsese. At its core, The Red Shoes is about a ballet dancer’s deep dedication to her craft, and the effect that obsession can ultimately have on a person. Martin utilized a similar sentiment for Raging Bull (1980).
- The Searchers (1956). In John Ford’s The Searchers, often referred to as one of the greatest American westerns of all time, John Wayne plays the dark, complicated lead, driven by his own twisted moral compass. This was a heavy influence on Martin, who also used unsettling and unlikeable traits for his own main character of Travis in Taxi Driver (1976).
- Jules and Jim (1962). The quick pacing and use of voice-over in this François Truffaut classic are most often cited as influences for Goodfellas. In Jules and Jim, the voice-over is used to express the joy and warmth between the two title characters and their freewheeling way of living. Martin learned that voice-over wasn’t just a way of conveying information; rather, it could be a way of enriching the story and character that were already there. Voice-over can be a cinematic element, not a literary one.
- Medea (1969). Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film, like many of his others, didn’t appear too encumbered by production design, and had a sense of freedom and authenticity. Martin often expresses the importance of keeping things simple, and it’s because he learned early on that sometimes less is more. Martin admired Pasolini’s ability to do so much with so little.
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