The Film Theorists have hit on something crucial about Martin Scorsese in their newest video essay, which is that his movies rely on the tension between the everyday, the grit, the grim, the signs of humanity at its worst, and an ongoing desire to transcend that element through cinematic technique. In ‘Goodfellas,’ we see the humble upbringings of the titular thugs contrasted with outsized violence, outsized dreams, outsized immorality. In ‘Raging Bull,’ we see the simplicity and primacy of boxing itself re-cast with outrageous camera angles, distended perspectives, drip-slow motion. And on and on. The makers of the video describe this tension in terms of the director’s lineage, his roots in the neorealism of Rossellini and Fellini, and the explosion that occurred when the director discovered these paradigms could be subverted–but the tension could be more integral than that, perhaps something within Scorsese himself that, like many geniuses before him, is able to maintain two contrasting ideas in mind at the same time.
Watch: Martin Scorsese Embodies a Clash Between Neo-Realism and Postmodernism