With 2015 hours away, we’re fast closing in on the 10th anniversary of “The Departed,” the film that finally got Martin Scorsese his Oscar. Giving us a new perspective on the film, as well as providing some historical context for Scorsese’s direction, is a video essay from Cole Smith, via Press Play.
Running 10 minutes long, Smith’s essay argues that Scorsese’s twisty crime thriller owes a debt to the realism on display in Elia Kazan’s “On The Waterfront.” That 1954 classic marked a turn for Kazan towards a more overtly cinematic visual style with a roaming camera on-location and away from the stagey “photographed play” look of his previous films. You know, the ones that gave him his successes. It’s a move that transplanted Kazan’s intensely human dramas from sound stages and backlots to shooting on actual streets with an eye towards realism.
Kazan’s film, based on a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles, is set in a world of violence and men and guilt, a world that Scorsese has continually been compelled to explore. It’s not a stretch to posit that Scorsese’s work in “The Departed” is built upon Kazan’s work in “On The Waterfront” – a film that Scorsese famously directly referenced in “Raging Bull” – especially since both films deal with men making hard choices and doing terrible things to try to achieve the American dream. Kazan’s dock workers want to be more than what they are in the same way Matt Damon’s character desperately wants to be the kind of guy that belongs in Beacon Hill.
Start your new year off right by watching Smith’s video essay below and do your own double feature of “On The Waterfront” and “The Departed.”