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Martin Scorsese: Biography, Works, and Criticism


The legendary director Martin Scorsese has become the embodiment of cinematic classics. Despite his impressive age, he never ceases to delight audiences with new films that, once released, become some of the most famous and highest-grossing films in the world. This unique man is a genius and talented in everything he undertakes. In addition to directing, he is also a great screenwriter, actor, and producer.

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Biography and Awards

Martin Scorsese is a prominent American movie director, winner of the prestigious Academy Award, producer, screenwriter, and even actor. In 2010 ‘Paste’ magazine pronounced Scorsese the best living director according to the results of the polls. Martin Scorsese has also been named one of the most influential filmmakers of a generation and compared to legendary Stanley Kubrick. Producer and director Martin Scorsese was born on November 17, 1942, in Queens (Grierson, 2016). Martin was born into a family of zealous Catholics; his parents were peaceful people who also brought up children in the same spirit. Martin Scorsese rarely went on the street; he was impressionable and gentle. Moreover, his classmates teased him because he was constantly taking pills; he had a heavy form of asthma. Martin Scorsese spent his days alone; the teenager not only invented characters, he carefully thought through the scenes and the plot’s development. Probably already then, a director was growing in him.

Scorsese’s first famous project was ‘Taxi Driver,’ this picture was popular with American youth. After three years, the chairman of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival accused the director of advocating violence, but ‘Taxi Driver’ still won the Palme d’Or and the Oscar. Besides that, the movie ‘Raging Bull,’ which is about the life of American boxer Jack La Motta was presented in 8 Oscar nominations and won 2 statuettes. In 1991 Martin Scorsese directed ‘Cape Fear’ with a budget of $34 million; the thriller was a huge success, and he instantly became a great director (Grierson, 2016). Among his other cult films is ‘Casino’; this project was the height of skill of the De Niro-Scorsese creative tandem. The story tells the story of a Las Vegas gambler, the history of his rise and fall.

In 2006, the dramatic crime thriller ‘The Departed’ with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon in the lead roles was released. The picture about two ‘double agents’ – an undercover cop and a mafia man in the police, it won four Oscar statuettes, one of which was for best director. In 2010, Scorsese directed and produced the drama series ‘The Underground Empire’ about the Prohibition era and the emergence of the famous Atlantic City gambling center. In 2010, the famous psychological drama ‘Island of the Damned’ with Leonardo DiCaprio was also produced. In 2013, the director presented another film with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role, the black satire ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ which became famous (Grierson, 2016). The picture has won several awards and five nominations for the prestigious Oscar. Today the genius director is successfully continuing his professional career.


‘The Irishman’ is Martin Scorsese’s 25th full-length film and the first work since ‘The Departed’ in the gangster movie genre in which the director has made his name. It is also one of the greatest pictures of his filmography, claiming the title of a magnum opus. Perhaps that’s why the audience waited so long for its release. The narration in the film is calm and measured, the lion’s share of it based around dialogues in restaurants, offices, and cars. Episodes of violence are brief, occasional, and shot in the same pattern. It even becomes unclear why Scorsese needed a budget of over $100 million – the number of large-scale scenes in the film can be counted on the fingers of one hand (Barnett, 2020). According to the critics, the film has no deep psychologism and no emotional ties.

Moreover, even before Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ premiere, he predicted at least a nomination for the most prestigious film award, ‘Oscar,’ and a victory. However, with the picture’s release on world screens, everything changed. Only one nomination in the category ‘Best Cinematographer,’ and the film reviews are rather contradictory. For example, ‘Variety’ provided the following description: ‘Silence’ is not a magnificent film, although it is made by one of the greatest masters at the height of his maturity (Maryks, 2017). Though undeniably spectacular, it is too long, often boring, and woefully unappealing at its most critical moments. It is too dark for Scorsese fans, profound for so many movie buffs. The Guardian also pointed out some weaknesses in its review: ‘Silence’ falters in its quest to touch eternal truths. Still, it is obviously Scorsese’s most personal work since ‘Mean Streets,’ addressing questions of faith and doubt.

Filming Techniques

In the film ‘The Departed,’ Scorsese used the latest editing techniques, due to which the effect of documentary authenticity of the events was achieved. Furthermore, traditional parallel editing was utilized in the abovementioned movie. It is the primary approach of the film, which is not limited to the change of scenes of the main characters but is present deeper in the second level (Hambuch & Papavasileiou, 2021). It is used as a basis, and the editing scheme is more complex. It is essential to note that when shooting the so-called ‘eights,’ the camera moves to the opposite side not technically but always justifiably. It shows either a change of state, and consequently facial expressions, or a retaliatory line. This transition is often carried out on the percussive accent words of the cue.

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A montage of ‘time compression’ is actively employed, especially at the beginning. There is a rhythmic illustration of the development and life of the central characters before the film’s events. The montage on the sound emphasis often occurs; for example, the frame cuts off at an emotional line, the audience hears the shot and ‘frame-flash’ shooting a gun. After that, heroes have a completely different place, the beach, although the scene continues. In general, frequent jumps to diverse locations are actively used in editing this film; they determine the dynamics and stylistics.

The film ‘Casino’ where De Niro’s character tries to find a painless way to leave this world should also be mentioned. Scorsese again focuses on the reflection of the main character, dissecting his feelings. However, unlike in ‘Taxi Driver’ or ‘Goodfellas,’ he uses the voice-over more actively to emphasize the aloof personality as if telling about the events he experiences from outside (Hambuch & Papavasileiou, 2021). Thus, sound acting for Martin Scorsese is another tool for a successful film.

It is worth noting that Martin Scorsese’s “Irishman” also impresses the audience with the acting and directing techniques and the visual effects. The most impressive of these is the computer rejuvenation of the actors. The initial stage in enhancing the effects in the film was the development of a new camera system. During the work, the technical team built an unusual device: in the center was the camera operator, on the left and right sides of the infrared cameras (Barnett, 2020). This solution made it possible to avoid using markers on the actors’ faces. For the Flux camera system, the challenges of working on visual effects in the film were the movements, motion blur, and blocking of objects; however, the three-camera setup handled all situations.

If the authors had no problems with the rejuvenation of faces, the characters’ bodies had difficulties. Especially labor-intensive were the scenes where they had to create the effect of rejuvenation when the characters in the story were 30-40 years old. The game of real actors sometimes lacked plasticity and as the shooting was done without dubbers, the computer graphics specialists had to adjust the actors’ bodies in 2D-composition rather than in 3D (Tomasulo, 2019). The visual effects in ‘The Irishman’ demonstrated the power and possibilities of modern technology. In collaboration with Martin Scorsese, ILM Studio has advanced its skills in creating rejuvenating effects to a new level.

The film ‘Shutter Island’ deserves special attention as one of the most impressive works of the author. The most meaningful visual task was to convey the unstable mental state of the main character; the primary means for this were light and color. They were used to create a sense of ‘blurring the boundaries between reality and hallucinations,’ the subjective and the objective. In terms of light, one can trace a tendency – the more obvious the protagonist’s madness evolves, the more frequent are the scenes in which rays become more and more intense in the narrative (Tomasulo, 2019). The flashes were made with Mini-Brute lamps with nine tungsten halogen lights giving a bright, soft glow. They made the picture so exposed that the viewer could well convey the shock felt by the main character.

Furthermore, practical and visual effects are used in the film, especially noticeable in the main scene in which the main character’s lover falls to ashes in his arms. The scene first starred Michelle Williams with water pouring out of her and a blood prop. Then the actress was replaced by a copy made of special rubber by Legacy Effects. The model had wires and tubes of combustible material that would burn, smoke, and turn to ash. In addition, a digital replica of Williams was made. It should also be mentioned that a considerable number of close-ups and sharp camera movements were operated to show the characters’ emotions.

The most notable role in the picture is played by the musical background, which was developed consisted of refusing to write music for the film in favor of a kind of gloomy medley, selecting fragments from existing works of modern composers, and the search for ‘new combinations.’ As a result of this careful search, excerpts from such composers as Ingram Marshall, Krzysztof Penderecki, John Cage, Max Richter, Brian Eno, and Gustav Mahler were included in the movie (Tomasulo, 2019). The overall disturbing intonation of this music, according to Scorsese, is what helps unite the experiences of all the personalities in the Scorsese together with the leader of The Band, Robbie Robertson. The unusual approach

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Thus, it can be concluded that Martin Scorsese is one of the best directors, grateful to dozens of magnificent works published. The magic and genius of the author’s works are that here the boundaries between reality and fantasy, the physical and the mental, disappear. The director creates a very powerful cinema, which is not just a part of reality, but an extension of it. Through the use of effects and a unique vision, one can sometimes not see the truth, surrendering to illusions even if this reality is laid out right in front of eyes.


Barnett, C. B. (2020). The Irishman dir. by Martin Scorsese. American Catholic Studies, 131(2), 58-62.

Grierson, T. (2016). Martin Scorsese in 10 scenes. Routledge.

Hambuch, D., & Papavasileiou, I. G. (2021). Bridges within the Arts: Bob Dylan and Martin Scorsese. Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, 48(1), 119-133.

Maryks, R. A. (2017). Silence (2016), written by Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese. Journal of Jesuit Studies, 4(4), 693-694.

Tomasulo, F. P. (2019). Pleasure in American cinema. Projections, 13(3), 135-142.

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