"This may be the single-best tool you could ever study to understand how one great cinematic mind realized its vision. Scorsese is selfless; he shows us how his vision came to be. Most directors would rather us not see how their illusions are created; Scorsese's purpose is the complete opposite.This set includes three video cassettes (75 minutes apiece). He begins by focusing on the American Western, an understandable starting place as the American Western is arguably the most indigenous genre Americans can lay claim to. The most enlightening section from this section was his analysis of three John Ford movies, starring John Wayne. Scorsese's purpose was to show how the Western, along with Ford, grew more complex in three decades. As he says, "Same Director, Ford. Same star, John Wayne. Same setting, Monument Valley." However the image of the black-and-white cowboy-and-Indian hero of "Stagecoach" is a contrast between Ford's later "The Searchers," where Wayne's character Ethan Allen is "richer, more complex," Scorsese says. He IS richer and more complex -- a frightening hero. Scorsese's point is made: that cinema is ever expanding, the pallete becoming ever more complex, that filmmakers grow themselves. The second half of tape-1 focuses on gangster films; Scorsese was in territory he loved here. His study of the gangster film's development from "The Musketeers of Pig Alley" through Howard Hawkes's "Scarface," to Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather" epic is an education in the development of American cinema itself.The second tape is my favorite. Scorsese focuses on films you might not have heard of, but films that are achievements in American cinema: films that touched him. Jacque's Tourneau's "Cat People" (I think that's the title) and "I Walked With A Zombie," movies that are truly rich films but that have sadly been forgotten or dubbed 'B'-class films, Scorsese says. And it's true. These films created techniques and philosophies that changed American cinema -- they enhanced and developed the techniques that are the "illusions" that we too often take for granted as being the modern movie. From watching this section I realized how a film like "Blair Witch" (whether you liked it or hated it) was influenced by guys working on shoe-string budgets (Tourneau) but with the love of cinema; in the case of Tourneau, of scaring the pants off an audience with a minimal budget. Likewise, it becomes clear to see how Film Noir was "a mood," Scorsese says. And it was a mood. It was cool. It was indifferent. It was Pulp Fiction. There are comments by the legendary Billy Wilder on film noir, his "Double Indemnity" epitomizing the style. Wilder's comments were insightful, and Wilder is a pleasure to see on camera. I love this guy. He's like a blend of Yoda and Robin Williams.The second half focuses on the "Director as Smuggler" and this blends into the third tape's "Director as Smuggler II." Comments by Douglas Sirk, Nicholas Ray -- eye-patch and all, insightful, insightful stuff. Ray says something that was kind a revelation to me. If you're hero isn't neurotic, or as neurotic as the audience, if he isn't as [messed] up then how can an audience identify with him, you know? Paint the hero flawed -- or at least as flawed as you and I -- and that way when they do something great, when they do something heroic, we can identify and say, "Man, I could have done that." The behind-the-scenes footage of Samuel Fuller was hilarious -- tragic, in its own way -- and yet funny. "Don't wave the GD flag at me!" And Hoover objected, Fuller said. I loved this! There are comments by more contemporary "smugglers" George Lucas, Francis Coppola -- on the digital age of American cinema. Coppola's advice is to embrace the new technology. Lucas's was less convincing, but not-without-point. "Why spend the money," Lucas says, "To transport hundreds of extras, to feed them, to clothe them, when they can be reproduced digitally." I listened to this skeptically -- thinking of film's like "Braveheart," where the director (Gibson) did haul all those extras out there and shoot those scenes. And then I thought of "Gladiator" -- Academy Awards or no -- it was easy to see that many of the epic shots were digitally reproduced. And I realized movies such as "Braveheart," "The Fall of the Roman Empire" (which Scorsese discusses) are sadly part of bygone era. It's simply too expensive to make those kinds of movies without digital "smuggling." So, I suppose Coppola's words ring true -- it's wise to embrace the new technology.The final part of the third tape focuses on "The Iconoclast" -- filmmaker's who went at the system head-on. Here you'll find more recognizable names and Scorsese's discussions on how their films engaged him personally: DW Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, John Cassevetas. I've watched the section on Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" several times just to realize exactly what Scorsese sees when he discusses individual scenes in the film. It's really a trip to see these movies through his eyes, while he discusses them. There's a discussion of "Citizen Kane" -- naturally -- not to be missed with comments by Orson Welles, years later, on what it was like to have that kind of personal freedom while making a movie; and what it's like to have it taken away. Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" is looked at -- funny, funny stuff. And not without more profound implications, too.Bottom line: this is an excellent journey through Amerian cinema, through the eyes of one our most gifted artists. Scorsese, I hope, will be remembered for giving us a gift, his gift. He has done more to preserve film history -- films, directors, and these directors' personal visions of our world, all of which would otherwise be forgotten -- Scorsese's done more to preserve all of this than any other single human being. It is a selfless journey."
A Brilliant, Unpretentious Film Teacher
carol irvin | United States | 05/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know if Marty Scorsese teaches at New York University's Film School anymore. If he doesn't, it is a huge loss to the school. Here is a man, who if he weren't one of the world's top film directors, could have had an equally eminent career as one of the great film teachers of all time. Scorsese tells us that this is his highly personal collection of American film which had a profound influence upon him as a filmmaker. With this one qualifying statement, he then shows us film clip after film clip with his accompanying commentary about exactly what was so important to filmmakers about each film and how it influenced him. His delivery is casual, unpretentious, friendly and approachable. Hubby and I have watched this series several times and learned a great deal from it even though we thought we already knew a great deal. Since these are Scorsese's personal choices, naturally some films that we would have liked to have seen discussed aren't here. He's made it clear from the start though that you are sharing his journey; he is not sharing yours. Hard to see how you can go wrong with this series even if you disagree with every one of his choices since there is so much for the inquiring mind to discover from him."
Masterful Movie Commentary by The Master
Stacey Cochran | 09/13/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Equally fascinating for the film novice and scholar alike, Martin Scorsese provides us with an uniquely personal view of American cinema. This thoroughly fascinating video series will intrigue all those who are open-minded enough to learn from the broad vartiety of films which Scorsese has selected. This is a far cry from pretentious film school fare. Scorsese is equally comfortable discussing B-films as well as the more established classics. If you love American movies, you positively MUST own this boxed set. If you're new to film study, these tapes will help you to fall in love with film. An extraordinary delight."
A Master Directors Vision
Leon C. Rodriguez | Austin, Texas | 10/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those of us who admire and study one of the true maestros of American film, this set is priceless! Going through Martin Scorsese's own chronologic recollections of the films, directors, cinematographers etc., that influenced his thinking and sensibilities, one is left with a sense of having been with him thorough this development. What a treat!
Understand that, just like his films, Scorsese covers a topic from his own, now recognizable perspective. He says, "I can't be objective here ...", right off the bat. The very title denotes the vision is "Personal...". It's Scorsese's vantage point. He makes no bones about that. I love that he doesn't even try to be global and universal on any of it. Isn't that what we love about a Scorsese film? He has a personal vision on what he experiences and shares it honestly, openly and candidly. And isn't that what a director does? Nobody does it like Scorsese.
I say: Thanks for sharing those thoughts with us Maestro Scorsese. What a personal pleasure it is having your notes on all those great films, on the era, on the cinematic technology, on the concurrent cinematic history that runs throughout, for another exposure to the Scorsese views and visions. Bravo, Maestro!Leon Rodriguez
Every cinema buff and film student should own a copy
Gerald Everett Jones | Santa Monica, CA USA | 02/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How close is this to the syllabus of Prof. Scorsese's course at NYU? It really doesn't really make a difference to me whether these are his "personal" opinions or not--it's an incredibly valuable survey of cinematic technique. Particularly striking is the section entitled "The Director as Smuggler," highlighting how once-controversial themes were cloaked in the familiar fabric of genre pictures. Today when everything has to be so in-your-face obvious, there's a lot to be learned from these subtle visual and narrative tricks."