I first heard of Martin Scorsese in 1969. Just back from Vietnam, I was home on military leave and trying to catch up on movies. Looking over the film section of my newspaper, I came across a film, I had never heard of, called “Who’s That Knocking at my Door” playing at the Carnegie Hall Cinema in Manhattan. The film was directed by a young director named Martin Scorsese of who I never heard of either. Filmed in Little Italy an area I was well acquainted with and made by an Italian-American, I was intrigued.
I loved the film, a bit rough around the edges but unique and different from the usual Hollywood film. It dealt with issues I could identify with, Catholic guilt, hell and damnation, growing up within the confines of an insular society and it had rock and roll, which I loved! While I can’t say for sure I believe “Who’s That Knocking at My Door”, (aka I Call First) may be the first film to have used rock and roll records on its soundtrack. Additionally, there was the use of the hand held camera and editing, much of what is common today but was unusual then in American film. Here I had discovered a film and a director who seemed to have grown up in the same world as I did a world of second generation Italian-Americans. I was hooked. When “Mean Streets” came out, I was there, first in line. I was living in Brooklyn at the time but I always traveled to Manhattan on weekends to go to see films that would never make it out to the outer boroughs. It all came together in “Mean Streets”, a world Scorsese captured perfectly. I have followed Scorsese’s career ever since. Over the years, I have never been disappointed in any Martin Scorsese film, though as you would expect I favor some more than others. He may be the most talented American filmmaker of his generation and certainly one of the most knowledgeable. I love listening to him speak about movies his knowledge is never ending. One of my joys is watching his two documentaries “A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies” and its sister film “My Voyage to Italy”. These two films combined are history lessons in cinema presented by a master.
In his new book “Scorsese by Ebert”, Roger Ebert tracks his own journey on how he came to discover Martin Scorsese in the wonderful introduction that opens the book. What follows is all of his original reviews and newer reviews or what Ebert calls “reconsiderations.” In addition, there are interviews and there is one in particular, a transcript of a long interview he did with Scorsese at Ohio State University, when Scorsese was given an award and tribute, which is worth the price of admission. Ebert is a knowledgeable and entertaining film critic who I have always enjoyed reading and the combination of Scorsese and Ebert is irresistible. Here’s a book that belongs on every film lovers bookshelf.