In 1998, Martin Scorsese was just coming off production on “Kundun.” In some ways a surprising follow-up to “Casino,” “Kundun” took Scorsese overseas to China and Tibet. On April 4, 1998, he sat down with Irish filmmaker and critic Mark Cousins on the talk show “Scene By Scene’ to discuss select parts of his filmography that led to “Kundun.” This illuminating interview with the director splices clips from his films together, as well as archival footage of Scorsese and his cast and crews on set.
The interview opens with Cousins and Scorsese watching a scene from “After Hours,” in which Griffin Dunne delivers a monologue (while giving a massage) about having his tonsils removed as a young child. Watching the clip jogs Scorsese’s memory, and he explains how when he was a boy, his mother duped him into going under the knife to have his tonsils taken out. He recalls not speaking to her for three days after.
From there, the interview jumps around Scorsese’s filmography more or less chronologically from 1968 to 1997. He and Cousins visit iconic and lesser-known movies such as “Italianamerican,” “Raging Bull,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Mean Streets,” and of course “Taxi Driver.”
Scorsese reminisces about his early years at NYU and how, prior to making his forays into New York City’s East Village, he was “pretty much living in a little Sicilian village” in Manhattan. His exposure to new people and cultures opened his eyes and broadened his storytelling, leading in part to his short, “The Big Shave,” which Scorsese calls “angry arts against Vietnam.”
The pair don’t just focus on Scorsese’s films: the director also discusses the films and filmmakers that influenced him. A great example is his use of the color yellow in “The Age of Innocence.” Scorsese says his fade to yellow when Michelle Pfeiffer receives flowers was inspired by directors’ Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger use of red in “Black Narcissus.”
At one point, Scorsese talks about how he ignored a suggestion from Paul Schrader to change the ending to “Goodfellas,” so as not to alienate audiences who might not sympathize with Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill.
We could go on and on about all the gems in the interview, but we suggest you carve out the time to watch it for yourself. [Refocused Media]