Screen legend Ellen Burstyn will receive a nine-film career retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (April 30-May 6). She will make an in-person appearance on May 3 after a screening of Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, for which she won the Academy Award.
There’s a reason why Alice is the only film Scorsese has ever made with a female protagonist — Burstyn hired him. After shooting The Exorcist, she decided to make the kind of movie she wanted to see more of. She recalls for TCM:
“It was early in the woman’s movement, and we were all just waking up and having a look at the pattern of our lives and wanting it to be different…. I wanted to make a different kind of film. A film from a woman’s point of view, but a woman that I recognized, that I knew. And not just myself, but my friends, what we were all going through at the time. So my agent found Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore….
“When I read it I liked it a lot. I sent it to Warner Brothers and they agreed to do it. Then they asked who I wanted to direct it. I said that I didn’t know, but I wanted somebody new and young and exciting. I called Francis Coppola and asked who was young and exciting and he said, ‘Go look at a movie called Mean Streets and see what you think.’ It hadn’t been released yet, so I booked a screening to look at it and I felt that it was exactly what… Alice needed, because [it] was a wonderful script and well written, but for my taste it was a little slick. You know — in a good way, in a kind of Doris Day-Rock Hudson kind of way. I wanted something a bit more gritty.”
The films in the Burstyn tribute at BAMcinematek are:
The Exorcist (1973)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
A Dream of Passion (1978)
Same Time, Next Year (1978)