The whiz kids who stormed Hollywood in the 1970s were, in one key respect, different from the directors who preceded them: They were movie geeks. Previously, filmmakers had come from the stage, or risen through the crew, or even stumbled in from the writers’ bungalow. But Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, George Lucas—they logged hours in the dark, inhaling cinema until it came out their pores. And the biggest geek of them all was Martin Scorsese.
He’ll merrily cop to it, of course, and often does, most of all in the chatty and insanely informative 1995 documentary/clip-show A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, which, at $32.99 list price for a 226-minute DVD, has to be the cheapest film school out there. (The graduate course, a recent tour through Italian cinema called Il Mio Viaggio in Italia, has yet to hit video.) To hear Scorsese talk about the movies he loves is to see, beneath that dapper, graying exterior, the sickly kid rapt in front of his TV, holding his breath with joy.
So much of that restless intelligence has been channeled into his own movies that it seems unfair that only Criterion’s The Last Temptation of Christ offers a commentary track. Still, you can hear his voice in every cut of every film, from 1972’s Boxcar Bertha (soon due on DVD and featuring minor characters named Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) through the classics that dissect the comedy and stupidity and inevitability of violence–Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), GoodFellas (1990)—and into the forays he has made away from home turf: the Kunduns and Cape Fears and Age of Innocences. They’re all on DVD, with a few exceptions—no Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore or New York, New York, no After Hours or The King of Comedy…yet. But even if some discs are short on extras (and GoodFellas is a flipper, for Pete’s sake), there’s more than enough here to set some kid, somewhere, dreaming of possibilities.