Tag Archive: Martin Scorsese

Rolling Thunder Revue – A Bob Dylan Story directed by Martin Scorsese (Netflix, 2019)

mv5bzjnlodjmy2qtywi3ms00nmy3ltg0nmitmjayotbiowmyngfixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjg2njqwmdq40._v1_The opening shot of this documentary is of a magician in a silent movie manipulating film to create a disappearing act. This illusionist sets the scene for a movie in which not all is as it seems.

It is as though Martin Scorsese has been corrupted by the example set by the incumbent and repugnant POTUS. Scorsese bamboozles viewers with post truths to the point that you are never quite sure of the line between fact and fiction. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg called Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder revue “a con-man carny medicine show of old” and Scorsese is more than happy to play the part of the snake oil salesman. Continue reading


NOCTURNAL ANIMALS directed by Tom Ford (USA, 2016)

“All the animals come out at night” – Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver (1976)
“Now it’s dark” – Frank Booth – Blue Velvet (1986)

nocturnal_animals_posterInspiring comparisons with the finest works of Martin Scorsese and David Lynch is a sign of how impressed I am by this magnificent movie.

Tom Ford’s equally fine debut A Single Man from 2009 can no longer be dismissed as a one-off.

Well-established as a hugely successful fashion designer, Ford does not need further acclaim or money. Wealth does not guarantee creative inspiration but it does buy a certain freedom. Perhaps this is how he has been able to be so uncompromising and daring in his adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan. Continue reading

Mark Cousins

scenebysceneIn previous posts I have praised Mark Cousins’ epic  ‘Story of Film’ – both the book and the Channel 4 TV series.

Cousins has an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and the gift of articulating his enthusiasm for movies.

This talent is also evident in interviews he conducted for the BBC Scotland between 1999 and 2001 in a series called Scene By Scene.

The idea, which originated at the Edinburgh Film Festival  through an interview with Sean Connery, was a simple one. Top directors and actors were shown clips from films they had made or appeared in and talk about the background to them.

Cousins is from Ulster and his Irish accent is often confused for Scots. From comments on various forums, it’s obvious that his speaking voice irritates the hell out of many. Personally, I find the sing-song quality charming but whatever you may think about how he talks, it’s hard to criticise him for the passion and preparation he puts into his work.

Television is so full of shallow chat shows or banal documentaries that tell you nothing, that it’s a pleasure to find someone who doesn’t insult or patronise the audience. Continue reading

JOHNNY GUITAR directed by Nicholas Ray (USA, 1954)


220px-johnny_guitarDismissed by critics at the time of its release, this low-budget feature has since come to be regarded as one of the greatest westerns of all time.

Certainly, it is one of the most original and radical in terms of re-appraising the genre.

Ray turns expectations of a male-driven plot on their head by having women as the two main rivals and the participants in the final shoot-out.

Sterling Hayden as Johnny Guitar is the first character we see and ,as this is the title role, you would expect him to be the movie’s heroic protagonist.

But doubts that he has the necessary credentials emerge immediately when we learn that he has renounced his gun slinging past (as Johnny Logan) and now carries a guitar rather than a weapon.

It is his employer and, we soon learn, ex-lover Vienna who dominates the action, Joan Crawford is perfectly cast in this part as a formidable saloon owner on the outskirts of Albuquerque, a barren outback soon to be transformed by the arrival of a railroad.

A motley four man gang arrive on the scene led by The Dancin’ Kid (Scott Brady); not an alias designed to strike fear into the heart of his enemies. It turns out that this dancing fool is another old flame of Vienna’s, something that patently incurs the wrath of Emma (Mercedes McCambridge).

Vienna (Joan Crawford) and Johnny Guitar (Sterling ) share a tense moment.

Vienna (Joan Crawford) and Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) share a tense moment.

Driven by jealousy, Emma talks a group of weak-willed bankers and lawmakers into forcing Vienna to close her business on the pretext that the saloon is a haven for criminals.

Martin Scorsese says that, in America particularly, this movie confused, and even angered, audiences who felt Ray had stripped the genre of its essential macho orientated ingredients.

The main actors did not leap to Ray’s defence either. Hayden hated his part and Crawford said “there’s no excuse for a picture being this bad”.

It made a more immediate impact in Europe, particularly in France. Francois Truffaut recognised that it was a “phony western” but praised the boldness of Ray’s vision saying that anyone who rejected it “should never go to see movies again”.

Viewed now, it’s a film that was clearly ahead of its time particularly in giving the women such prominent and affirmative roles.

Normally their function is merely to satisfy the lust or justify the toughness of their male counterparts. Here, the men are not redundant but are made to look ineffectual; placed as they are in relatively passive roles as observers and procrastinators.

An example of this is when Turkey, a rookie in the Dancin’ Kid’s gang, offers to be Vienna’s protector. He tries to impress her by a demonstration of sharp shooting. Vienna makes it plain that she is perfectly capable of looking after herself and delivers a classic put down: “Boys who play with guns have to be ready to die like men”.

By the end,  Vienna and Johnny are free to ride off into the sunset but we are left in no doubt who calls the shots in this relationship.


Say ‘cheese’!  L to r – Henry, Johnny, Paulie and Tommy.

GOODFELLAS directed by Martin Scorsese (USA, 1990)

To Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) you’re either a shmuck or a somebody. There is no middle way. The former are those who have “shitty jobs with bum pay checks”, the latter are gangsters, wiseguys and “movie stars with muscle”.

Being part of the exclusive club of these ‘goodfellas’ is to be part of a family, albeit a very violent one. They adhere to a code of ethics which includes being nice to their moms and never ratting on your friends, but the work also requires hands on experience of intimidation and murder.

The perks of the job are that you dress well, drive swanky cars, get laid a lot and,provided you give tips to the right people, you are practically above the law. Continue reading

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