Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Italianamerican and American Boy: 2 Nonfiction Films from Martin Scorsese

When Martin Scorsese has forayed into documentary filmmaking, it is usually to capture either music (The Last Waltz, No Direction Home, The Blues) or film (A Personal Journey...A Letter to Elia) topics. Early in his career however he aimed his camera at very personal subjects, interviewing first his parents and then a close friend in two separate hour long profiles. In Italianamerican, following his breakthrough success of Mean Streets, Scorsese interviews his parents Charles and Catherine who, with warm detail, tell of their experiences as second generation immigrants by way of story spinning and pictures, stopping occasionally to offer family recipes and berate their son. Made several years later, during a particular low point for the director, American Boy features Steve Prince, a man of many hats (one of which was a memorable bit as an actor in Taxi Driver), who tells wild stories of his often drug addled life on the road, some of which have found their way into films by modern directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater. Whether it's a big budget studio picture or two friends exchanging stories in an apartment, it has always boiled down to simple storytelling and with these two films we simply have one great storyteller introducing a few others.