The BFI commemorate Martin Scorsese this January and February with a season of films to run alongside the film-maker’s latest release Silence, in cinemas now. The program screens both the legendary director’s old classics and his newer work. There is also space for some of the New Yorker’s lesser known projects, as well as talks on Scorsese himself. We give you a quick run down of what’s on and what not to miss.
Scorsese has made some of the most iconic films of American cinema – and this BFI season is a chance to see his greatest films up on the big screen once again. Raging Bull isn’t included in the season, but Taxi Driver – somehow only 31 on Sight & Sounds Top 100 films of all time – screens from the 10-27 February. The 1976 classic was written by Paul Schrader, and has Robert De Niro as the unhinged Travis Bickle, a cab driver winding his way through the hellish New York nights. Goodfellas gets a similarly long release, running from 20 January to 9 February at the NFT, and selected cinemas nationwide. This growing-up-with-the-mafia life story isn’t quite as good as you remember it, but has endless memorable moments and features one of the greatest all time movie performances from Joe Pesci as wild Tommy DeVito. Finally, Scorsese’s most recent classic Wolf of Wall Street gets selected showings between the 25-29 January. Leonardo DiCaprio gives his greatest performance as man-with-the-money Jordan Belfort, taking quaaludes (that’s apparently how it’s spelt) and tossing dwarves all the way to the top of the American finance industry. If you haven’t already seen any of these: shame on you. Book your tickets now.
Lesser Known Greats
The BFI’s season takes a particularly close look at Scorsese’s extended back catalogue, and hidden therein are plenty of cinematic treasures. When you think Scorsese and De Niro you probably think of all the films we just mentioned – Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, maybe Mean Streets. You may not have heard of King of Comedy. It is, as the name suggests, a comedy – but a particularly dark one. De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, a failed stand-up who decides to kidnap his idol, actual television personality Jerry Lewis. What evolves is a strange and bleak portrait of the desire for stardom. Similar themes appear throughout another De Niro-Scorsese collaboration, New York, New York, screening on 11 & 16 February. A budding jazz saxophonist and a singer meet at the beginning of their careers and struggle to maintain their relationship as their trajectories head in opposite directions. Liza Minelli provides a strong performance as rising star Francine, in one of the few Scorsese films with a detailed portrait of a female protagonist.
Scorsese has turned himself into a bit of a music documentary wizard since the 00s, and the BFI’s season screens three of his toe-tapping projects. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan shows on 4 & 12 February, an in depth look at the legendary musician – and now Nobel Prize winner – in his (most would say) prime of the early 60s. The film also features folk artist Joan Baez and poet Allen Ginsberg, in a gander through all things Greenwich Village and beyond. Much-celebrated documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World features in the season with two dates – 19 & 25 February. This is by far the best of the plethora of Beatles bios, and an in-depth look at ‘the quiet Beatle’ Harrison and his incredible, unique mind. At the BFI IMAX on 9 February are two screenings of concert film Shine A Light, the Rolling Stones rocking out in 2006. It was impressive they were still going back then. Ten years on, they are still strumming away the blues. Catch all their biggest hits on the BFI’s biggest screen.
As well as films there are a number of lectures analysing the Scorsese’s work. Film historian and theorist Richard Martin discusses on Martin Scorsese’s History of New York, a look at the director’s romance with his hometown. The talk includes an exploration of New York from the 60s and Taxi Driver, through to the 90s with Wolf of Wall Street, and even goes all the way back to the 1890s with Gangs of New York. Catherine Wheatley also presents The Catholic Imagination of Martin Scorsese, inspecting the themes of faith and devotion across the film-makers near 50 year career. Passion of the Christ and new release Silence are particularly in focus as clips will be used to examine cinematic guilt, sacrifice and salvation.
The BFI’s Martin Scorsese season has started and runs until the 28 February. For times and venues, see their website.