Conversations with Scorsese

Extensive and detailed, these chats are a master class---but not the whole story.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Mile-a-minute Marty is more than just a household name—he's probably the most recognizable director since Alfred Hitchcock. He's mocked himself in television ads, The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm; no one needs urging to take the man's art more seriously, except maybe his agent.

In addition to Scorsese's critical prominence, his own story is widely known: the sickly childhood in Little Italy, the aborted aspirations for the priesthood, the coke use and Hollywood comeback. This might have proved problematic for an interview book, but Richard Schickel, a friend of the director for decades, has a better idea. Rather than poring over the familiar details, he decides to go micro with these new chats—it's a smart call. Every movie, from Raging Bull and Goodfellas to minor whiffs like Scorsese's 2008 Rolling Stones' concert doc Shine a Light, gets its own Q&A chapter (as do general subjects like music and editing). If the insights have been repeated elsewhere, they still make up a worthy compendium.

The best moments, though, reveal vulnerability. On his histrionic Shutter Island, Scorsese is wounded: "I don't even want to talk about it because it's like I can't handle any more criticism of it. Sorry." (But talk about it they do.) And the director reveals an unspoken political fury in the context of Gangs of New York, railing against the breakdown of civilization in the Middle East ("We're in for hundreds of years of it"). Scorsese's true fans suspect he's on the verge of yet a new chapter with this fall's Hugo Cabret, his first movie for children. Conversations with Scorsese will then require updating; it's not quite the final word.

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By Richard Schickel. Knopf, $30.