The awareness and sensitivity of Martin Scorsese they are not to be found in his shots, in the trolleys, in the slow motion, in the close-ups, in the use of the steadicam. They’re not in his way of directing the actors, in his work when writing, they probably aren’t even in his filmic thought. His awareness and sensitivity are to be found in the management of his legacy as a male, white, Catholic (by choice) and North American. They are to be sought in taking charge of him, more than all others Movie Brats (as the generation of filmmakers of his contemporaries was called), of the duty to reconnect with the directors who broke with “Old Hollywood”. Those who set themselves the goal of dismantling the classic cornerstones of the representation of US society and, above all, of the American man. The man a la Gary Cooper, “the strong silent type“, as Tony Soprano defined it very clearly and succinctly in the first season of the legendary series by David Chase.
A man, a male, idolized for generations, starting with the works of Hughes, Kurosawa and Ford (of which Scorsese was an incredible fan, which is why his next film, Killers of the Flower Moonacquires a completely different flavor), and from which it took many years to emancipate, after wanting to exorcise, elaborate and overcome it.
For the filmmaker it is not just a way to look in the mirror, but also to look at the photographs of his fathers and the faces of their idols, guilty of making him feel inadequate for his own frailties, needs and sensitivities, labeled as weaknesses, instead to be accepted as a virtue. They are the ones who have transformed their children into toxic men sick of loneliness, who take refuge in harmful companies, in luxuries and in the most superficial riches, who are incapable of living up to authentic love and who sublimate in the violence daughter of jealousy an impotence that from sexual also becomes emotional, emotional and social.
The description of the decline of his men is the means through which Martin Scorsese has looked at the world and his home, has sought himself and his spirituality, has told his cinema to the public and has therefore, consequently, become the code language with which he tried to express himself throughout his life.
We will review several of the men present in the director’s filmography, even if, we premise, we will not mention them all. Which perhaps would not even be too useful for the meaning of the article.
Men who don’t deserve women
Already with Who is knocking on my door e America 1929 – Exterminate them without mercyScorsese presented us with his first male prototypes, crushed by a paternal inheritance which became a social and cultural self-stigmatization so strong as to make them unable to look beyond it.
It is mainly the women who pay the price for this, characters with whom the filmmaker hardly manages to get in full harmony, just look at the many women of Out of hours it’s from The Age of Innocence or Ginger’s Casino or, again, to the Alice of Alice no longer lives here. All always depicted according to their men: those they have lost, those they have to look after and those they fall in love with. All violent, lost, in crisis, incapable of real maturity.
Yet will there be one who is saved? Maybe a more aware one? Scorsese tries to propose it for the first time in Mean Streets – Church Sunday, Hell Monday, in which he presents his narrative and aesthetic system based on a praise of violence and camaraderie, the son of a social and moral unease and the only remedy for existential loneliness. Such a man is lost there only the moment he becomes aware, which misfortune befalls the head of Charlie Cappawhich however, in the end, fails to get out of its canons.
A speech that will be taken up by Scorsese with the subsequent protagonists of his Mafia Movies (but also with Jordan Belfort Of Wolf of Wall Streetwhich basically that is) and so we too will pick it up later.
Killers of the Flower Moon, from Leo DiCaprio to Native Americans: why we are waiting for Scorsese’s film
The violence of the human condition and, specifically, that in which the North American man exists, Scorsese manages to best tell us about it only after meeting with Paul Schraderstill today the last exponent of a “new Hollywood” discourse on a certain type of male and masculinity in crisis, daughter of Peckinpah and Siegel, and it is he who signs or co-signs the screenplays of Taxi Driver, Wild bull, The Last Temptation of Christ e Beyond life.
Staying with the first two titles we find Travis Bickle e Jake LaMotta, two of the most successful versions of a male son of the violence of the society in which he lives, unable to get out of a spiral of loneliness and paranoia and who only finds his sense of existence in a return to violence. A different type of violence, which opposes the compelling one (such as the image of silence bought for 5 dollars or a fixed boxing match) to become liberating (freeing a child who is a prostitute or punching one’s own brother ), although never constructive. A cathartic idea of self-recovery which is nothing more than the extreme attempt to recover worthy of a borderline profile: frayed, insecure and besieged by himself. Here he is, the Scorsesian man.
Decadent figures moved by a primordial spirit, a masculinity that becomes a creed and therefore universal slavery, which transforms itself into a sort of Leitmotif and therefore a way of relating to each other, as also very well illustrated Cape Fear – The Cape of Fearuntil it becomes the key to reading stories with biblical or epic elements.
Characters and stories as bloody and terrifying as they are imposing and foundational, to the point of being able to see them as fertile ground for the birth of a nation, as in Gangs of New York, in which a story of revenge, of lost fathers and found fathers, of cultural clash and therefore also religious, finds its resolution in blood. An extraordinary leitmotif that we find to a large extent also in The Departed – Good and Evil, even if there are two sons and fathers. But speaking of sons and fathers…
The son and the father
Toxic males and orphaned men. Toxic males because orphaned men. Orphans of a father who died for real or who betrayed them. A biological father or a spiritual father. Scorsese once said that through his films he searched for God, the voice of God to be precise, without ever being able to find it.
Paradoxically, the search for the father is consciously present in his filmography for the first time King for a night, where it became a means of implementing a desired status, even if there was no real father in the film. More an idol (do you remember idols?), a surrogate. An idol that the director has tried to humanize with The Aviatoril biopic su Howard Hughes which, as previously written, was one of his main references. The arrival of resignation, the definitive stamp that the director places on the awareness that he would remain unheard and, in turn, that he would remain unable to listen to the voice of the Father we find in Silence.
Although before that there had actually been another film in which the director tried to come to terms with the fear that evokes spirituality and the Oedipus complex on which the whole of Western thought was based.
The Last Temptation of Christ is the story of a Jesus human being, who decides to free himself from the maximum sacrifice that God demands. Emancipate oneself from the role of a son seen as a “sacrificial lamb who takes away the sins of the world”. A male Messiah made the supreme expression of the condemnation of the Scorsesian male, who however can’t help but return to the only possible path, so much so that he must then return to being a lamb.
Once again a liberating and sublimating violence, this time openly biblical, in which you can express yourself and all your pain and save others.
From Taxi Driver to Silence: Martin Scorsese’s anti-heroes between faith, redemption and martyrdom
The sunset of an era
This type of man also exerts a not indifferent dose of charm on Martin Scorsese. We can say that deep down he esteems him or that he envies him a little. After all, he is a man who has among his merits that of being able to take an alternative life to the one proposed by the canonical social model, redeeming his own minority and even making it an elite, a sort of overturned imperialism, in which he can express his own violence and feel like royalty. Except then (it’s true) always finding yourself faced with your own miseries.
Men like Henry Hill Of Those good guys, the “non-spaghetti-eater” who becomes the best friend of the “spaghetti-eaters” and who through that life finds a way to become the king of the world. Status which then means not queuing to enter the most exclusive nightclubs, always wearing a jacket and tie or eating well even when you go to jail.
The mafia is the maximum expression of that type of masculinity, the one in force the law of “who has it harder” in an even more ritualized way than it was in the westerns of the 50s. Here the exception is the man who uses his brain and who is worth to his brain, as Sam “Asso” Rothstein Of Casino, an extraordinary film that tells us how the only Heaven on Earth that can be created from scratch is the fake one, based on a dream of cheap wealth and happiness, which is the best way to fall into the abyss. Like the mafia systems, made up of men who are extraordinary in their own way, but who have ultimately lost. Their failure lies in the impossibility of seriously creating a new world, a new life, a new cycle.
The Irishman it is, therefore, the wake of Martin Scorsese and his male. A film that celebrates the memory of that kind of man, played by Frank Sheeran, exalting the part linked to honour, the one for which one can find oneself forced to perform acts that one would never want to perform. Going over the comrades in the name of some type of code to then die alone, without one’s loved ones, one’s family and, above all, without that very code, with which it all started. Outdated, as the Gary Cooper man is outdated,”the strong sylent tipe“.