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Scorsese by Ebert is a film by film chronicle on the major films produced by one of the greatest Producers, Martin Scorsese. The Author, Robert, is a film journalist who is a big fan of Scorsese, and found the courage to summarise his films and bring out the producer, who was before the, little known or appreciated. Ebert and Scorsese, seem to have a lot in common as Ebert writes, they have a strong connection to Catholicism, were raised up with working class parents, and have a passion for movies.
Scorsese revolves around cinematic output as opposed to what are expected, biographic details about Martin. It centralises on his films and production rather than his life.
The book is divided into six main parts, each part analysing a film then later the film's reconsideration, in relation to Martin Scorsese real life. This is more so because Ebert finds a strong connection between Martin's life and the nature of the films he produces. Each of them seems to mark a turning point in his life. Scorsese is obsessed with finding love and happiness in real life, therefore producing films to bring out this aspect of his life. His films centre on loneliness, prostitution, frustration, and violence.
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In the first part, based on the film "who's that knocking on my door?" Scorsese tell a story about a young man, J.R, who gets involved with a local, fall in love and plans to marry her. However, when he learns that she was once raped, this news troubles him and he later changes his mind. This makes him feel guilty and leads him to a life of loneliness. Both of them do not marry and live their lives in loneliness. Martin's life, as he reveals to Ebert about his remarriages and break ups, especially to his wife Isabel, seems to have run in this film because Martin himself does not remarry and lives alone.
King of comedy follows with an almost similar plot, but with focus on sexuality, rejection and violence. The film is about the life of a young man, Rupert Pupkin who fantasizes about being a television star with his own stand up comedy show hosted by Jerry Langford. This fantasy of fame drives him to haunt down Jerry, waiting for him at meeting corridors, jumping into his car, and even visiting his home in order to convince him to offer him a chance at his show. Not wanting to admit the rejection he constantly receives with jerry, Rupert represses these feelings and in turn, postpones the pain he feels. He is troubled and is always in seclusion, at his apartment basement, practising his line and holding conversation with cardboard cut-outs. He finally kidnaps Jerry, demanding an opening in Jerry's show as his ransom. All seem to end well for Rupert as he is released from prison and finally gets notice on television comedy.
The Raging bull is centred on brutality, force, anger, sexuality and grief. It revolves around a man (LaMotta) with low self esteem who rises up from slum life to become a middle weight champion. He does not respect women beyond the sense of seeing them as either whores or virgin. He does not believe there is more to woman than her sexuality. This mental stance is exhibited by the relationship he has with his wife Vickie, whom he first adores but later becomes violent towards. He accuses her of infidelity and that she seduces men, which is not the case. His insecurity is released through violence, beating people at the ring. His relationship with his brother Joey turns sour when he suspects he had cheated with his wife Vickie. He beats up Joey, and at the end, Vickie files for a divorce, and he remains alone.
This chapter is based on Freud's writing about Madonna-whore syndrome, explaining the category of men who idolize women but after getting what they want, they reject them.
The Taxi Driver is also another film by Scorsese chronicled by Ebert (Ebert 65). The taxi driver is set in New York. Travis Bickle, a lonely and depressed man who resolved to be a taxi man at night in order to counter his insomnia, is the one who starred it. For his relaxation, visits Porn theatres. Bickle develops a sexual interest in Betsy, who is a political campaigner. He haunts her down and manages to convince her out for a coffee date. He takes her to watch a movie, "language of love" which offends her, and she later resolves not to reconcile with Bickle, despite his please. His thought later becomes violent and he purchases a gun, which he uses to shoot a suspect robber. He is disgusted with the prostitution in the streets which he drives through, meets Iris, a young prostitute, whom he tries to help quit prostitution. He is involved in a shoot out and ends up being shot.
Goodfellas is closely linked to Taxi driver as it also centres on guns and violence. The story is about Henry Hill, who grows up fantasizing about being a gangster. This makes him quit school to join a crime family. His father's efforts to stop him are met with threats from the gang members who warn him to leave Henry alone. His gangster career flourishes and he becomes rich, meeting Karen, who he marries. Henry has an extra marital affair with Janice, (a waitress) and when Karen finds out, she threatens to kill them both. Things get sour for Henry's gang when they kill another gang member. Most of his gang members are killed. He gets involved in drug dealing hoping to get more money. Realising his life was in danger; he enrols for a witness protection program, leaves gang life and is arrested on drug charges.
Scorsese catholic background and unfortunate love life is best expressed in the film," the Last temptation" the story follows Jesus' biblical story as carpenter who is at first confused about his human and divine role. This internal conflict leads to self-hate. He gains follower like Judas Iscariot, whose role is to betray him. The story explains Jesus involvement with Mary Magdalene, who was Jewish prostitute and who he later saved from being stoned by a mob. He goes to the desert to be tempted by Satan. Three times, he manages to resist temptation, thereby acknowledging his divine nature. He later performs miracle and in the process, offends people and gains enemies. He is crucified but on the cross, something happens to divert it from the biblical story. He is "saved" by an angel, who leads him to Mary Magdalene. They get married and when they were expecting a child, Mary dies, leaving Jesus sad and lonely. Jesus later marries Lazarus sisters with whom he bears many children. At his old age, his disciples come to visit him on his death bed. Judas is present, and reveals to him that the "angel" who rescued him from the cross is actually Satan Jesus id overcome by remorse and goes through a burning Jerusalem back to the cross to fulfil his divine calling of dying for the sins of the world. This story also brings out the aspect of prostitution and violence in Scorsese films.
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Alice doesn't live here anymore is also chapter summarised by Ebert in Martins' Films. The story is about a woman, Alice, whose husband gets killed in accident leaving him with a boy, Tommy. She leaves their home to pursue her singing career. Due to lack of money, Alice is forced to temporarily stay in Arizona, singing in a bar. While there, she meets Ben and they become sexually involved. Ben's wife discovers and confronts Alice. Ben beats up his wife, and Alice together with his son flees Arizona, fearing for their lives. She later gets a job in Tuscan as a waitress and is soon acquainted to her co workers Flo and Vera. There, she meets David who seems to have a positive influence on Tommy. Tommy gets involved with a girl whose mother is a prostitute. The couple disagree when David tries to Discipline Tommy, and Alice objects. It ends with the two reconciling and Alice deciding to stay and develop her career, and David selling his ranch to cater for her needs.
The last part of the book is about an interview Martin had Woodstock. The interview is mainly about his films, their relevance to his life and competitors. He is asked questions about the films, which he answers. The main theme in the book that Ebert brings out in his analysis is the link between Scorsese real lives with the films he produces. His movies however seem to have commonality with Violence, sexuality, rejection and love. This describes martins that had a sense of solitude, and guilt.
In my opinion, Scorsese is biased in the portrayal he gives women. He equates violence with sexuality and seems to portray women as initiators of sex-violence. In all the films, there seems to be a woman either fighting for her husband's affection, being beaten by her husband or being a victim of sex, as prostitutes. There are no strong leads given to women, all of them are subject to men, waiting and needing men's protection and love. With this, I conclude that the main theme could be gender inequality and the treatment of women. This is because Alice is portrayed as always getting together with a man, and if things don't work, she runs away, only to get another. In the ends, she even marries. Vickie is no better. She had sexual intercourse with "the whole neighbourhood" including Joey, her husband's brother. Karen gets the same treatment from Henry, who gets involved with another woman. Janice, and who threatens to shoot her. Last temptation shows Mary Magdalene as a prostitute who is later married to Jesus, after her death, Jesus marries Martha and Mary (Lazarus sisters).