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SCORSESE SHORTS (2020)

Scorsese ShortsThe Criterion Collection’ have recently released a selection of films directed by Martin Scorsese during his early years as a filmmaker. There are five films in total, and each one has been digitally enhanced to improve the overall quality, including, 'Italianamerican', 'American Boy', 'The Big Shave', 'It's Not Just You, Murray!', and 'What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?'. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the Blu-ray edition comes with a pre-recorded interview with the main man himself, Scorsese, a discussion between the filmmakers, Ari Aster and the Safdie brothers, as well as an early radio appearance made by Scorsese during the 1970s. Please enjoy.


Scorsese Shorts (The Criterion Collection)


Italianamerican (1974)
Italianamerican (1974)

Duration: 49 minutes.
Starring: Catherine and Charles Scorsese.
Genre: Documentary.
Synopsis: In the month of October, 1974, Martin Scorsese visited his parents in their New York apartment so they could both talk about a number of notable topics, such as: (1) Growing older. (2) Their family history. (3) How their neighborhood has changed over the years. (4) What some Italians had to go through in order to reach America. (5) Their belated honeymoon in Sicily. (6) Cultural prejudice. (7) How not to make wine. (8) How to make Italian meatballs. And (9) Much, much more. Eventually, Catherine and Charles Scorsese concluded their conversation by serving their son some dinner before telling him to go home. Lovely.

Italianamerican (1974)
What Did I Think Of It:
Before I begin, please allow me to make one thing perfectly clear. Both of my parents were born in Yialousa, Cyprus, and came over to England in the late nineteen-fifties, along with many of my aunties, uncles, and other relatives, in order to build a better life for themselves in a more prosperous country. So, as you can imagine, while I was growing up, I was told many, many stories about ‘the homeland’ that strangely placed it in a somewhat elusive light. Mystical even, but only because these tales alluded to emotional turmoil where X did Y to Z, due to political wrongdoings, external conflict, and civil unrest. Or in other words, shit happened so my folks had to run like f#ck, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to thrive and survive. Which they did, up to a point, just like Scorsese’s folks did too. So in many ways, I think this shared-history explains why I loved watching this documentary so much, as I could identify with Catherine’s charming stories and Charles’s down-to-earth behavior. Stories that were wonderful to listen to and nicely framed by their unshaved son, Martin. My, what a nice boy.


American Boy (1978)
American Boy (1978)


Duration: 55 minutes.
Starring: Steven Prince.
Genre: Documentary.
Synopsis: Do you know Steven Prince? If not, don’t worry, because Steven Prince didn’t know who Steven Prince was either. Not until Martin Scorsese paid him a visit so Steven could tell Scorsese about his life as a drug addict and his career as a road manager for Neil Diamond, the famous musician. Steven also tells Martin about: (1) His relationship with his family. (2) His battle with his addictions. (3) His thoughts on his Jewish faith. (4) His trick for getting out of the army. (5) His electrocution story. And (6) His feelings about saving a woman’s life and killing a man in self-defense. All this, plus a complementary soundtrack, ‘Time Fades Away’, sung by Neil Young.

American Boy (1978)
What Did I Think Of It:
If ‘Italianamerican’ was Scorsese’s version of ‘Meet the Parents’, then ‘American Boy’ was his version of ‘Meet his mates’. Or pals. Or buddies. Or whatever Martin wanted to call the man he hired to star in his 1973 classic, ‘Mean Streets’, who played the dealer that sold a gun to the character Robert De Niro played. In any event, Martin's interview with Steven kind of feels like a continuation of his interview with his parents. The only difference, though, is that in this film, Steven appears to be far more debonair in comparison because he gradually conveyed a selection of very colorful stories that have since been showcased in other films. For instance, in Quentin Tarantino’s crime-drama, ‘Pulp Fiction’, his story about reviving a girl who overdosed on drugs was re-enacted by the character John Travolta played. While in Richard Linklater’s fantasy-adventure, ‘Waking Life’, his story about shooting a man in self-defense was brought back to life in animated form. Also, in 2009,  Tommy Pallotta made a sequel to this film called ‘American Prince’, which is also worth a watch.


The Big Shave (1967)
The Big Shave (1967)

Duration: 5 minutes.
Starring: Peter Bernuth.
Genre: Horror.
Synopsis: One day, a nice healthy young man, easily in his early 20s (Peter Bernuth), walks into a shiny white bathroom furnished with chrome taps, a mirrored cupboard, as well as all of the usual things you’d expect to see in a room equipped to preserve cleanliness. When suddenly, he briskly takes off his shirt, takes out a can of shaving cream, and then proceeds to take on... the big shave. Or as I like to call it, Aarrrrhhhhh, blood-blood-blood!

The Big Shave (1967)
What Did I Think Of It:
Last year, 'Gillette' produced a subversive TV commercial which made a bold statement about the concept of ‘Toxic Masculinity’. In fact, it was so subversive, that a large portion of the public criticized it for being ‘blatantly bias’ and totally ‘off-topic’. Similarly, this subversive short shaped by Scorsese is also shocking to see. Although, in this instance, it was created in a very artistic fashion, with the use of tight, close-up shots, and clear, vivid lighting that evened out the canvas. That said, however, it was a little bit too gruesome for my own liking, and if you look closely, you’ll notice that the continuity was slightly hazy in places (with shaving foam reappearing where previously it was shaved). So, more or less, this film’s a 50/50.


It's Not Just You, Murray! (1964)
It's Not Just You, Murray! (1964)

Duration: 16 minutes.
Starring: Ira Rubin, Sam DeFazio, Andrea Martin, Catherine Scorsese, and Robert Uricola.
Genre: Comedy.
Synopsis: At face value, Murray (Ira Rubin) appears to be a fairly conventional New York gangster because he started his career as a bumbling bootlegger before evolving into a fully-fledged entrepreneur. But upon closer inspection, no, Murray isn’t just a gangster, as he’s also a humongous idiot. So much so, in fact, that he doesn’t even realize that his best friend/business partner, Joe (Sam DeFazio), is having an affair with his wife behind his back (Andrea Martin).

It's Not Just You, Murray! (1964)
What Did I Think Of It:
I’ve been watching films directed by Martin Scorsese for quite a while now, and during that time, I didn’t know that his first gangster film was a full-on comedy. Well, when I say ‘comedy’, I suppose a better word to use would have to be something like ‘pastiche’, because it was rather rough around the edges but managed to show several glimpses of things yet to come. Things like, voice-over narration that added some extra depth to the story being told (similar to 'Goodfellas'), a great two-sided narrative that focused on two conflicted crooks (similar to 'Casino'), as well as a basic plot which chronicled the rise and fall of a gangster (similar to 'Mean Streets' and the rest). There was also a bizarre 20s vibe added to this flick, almost as if Martin wanted to remake an old James Cagney film without the star of the show. Even so, it was a pretty decent film to watch, as it came across like a perverted character study.


What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963)
What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963)


Duration: 10 minutes.
Starring: Zeph Michaelis, Mimi Stark, Sarah Braveman, Fred Sica, and Robert Uricola.
Genre: Drama.
Synopsis: Harry (Zeph Michaelis) is a writer who has a major problem putting pen to paper because he can’t motivate himself to sit down and write. So, to resolve this issue, he drastically changes his life by getting married (Mimi Stark), seeing a shrink (Sarah Braveman), and talking to his best friend (Fred Sica), with the hope that his writer's block doesn’t end up sinking his career. Fingers crossed. 

What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963)
What Did I Think Of It:
Now I know this may sound like a silly thing to say, but in many ways, this film feels like Martin Scorsese's attempt at making a Woody Allen film. After all, it’s about a neurotic writer from New York who tries to resolve his problems by talking to his therapist and conversing with his best friend. But when that doesn’t work out, he miraculously finds love and, well, things happen, blah-blah-blah, etc-etc-etc. Having said that, though, Martin’s interpretation of this type of story is more 'amusing' than it is 'laugh-out-loud’ funny, plus it does seem more experimental in nature due to his use of stop-motion animation, garbled voice-over narration, as well as creative camera angles that overemphasized the plot. 



Conclusion:
On the whole, I thought this selection of films were fairly enjoyable to watch, but only because I’m a big fan of the director, Martin Scorsese, and enjoy art house films and down-to-earth biographies. So if you’re not keen on this sort of thing, I wouldn’t recommend that you pick up the ‘Scorsese Shorts’. Otherwise, go for it and prepare yourself for a real treat

SCORSESE SHORTS (2020) SCORSESE SHORTS (2020) Reviewed by David Andrews on July 06, 2020 Rating: 5

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