Watch This: Behind the Scenes Footage from Two Scorsese Classics

Anyone reading this knows that movies don’t just happen. We are all aware that there is a lot of effort that goes on behind the scenes of even a modest film. At its best though, we see none of the sweat that has gone into the final product. We are swept away into the vision that the filmmakers want us to share. In the case of the greatest filmmakers, that vision can be so comprehensive and so enveloping that we almost believe it is real.

Such is the case with Martin Scorsese. His films pulse with the rhythm of life. When he shows us characters seated around a dinner table or a bar, we are there too. So it’s a little bracing to watch the following two films. Fascinating, of course, but also a little disorienting.

The first is an amateur film made by a guy whose family’s home was being used as a location in GOODFELLAS (1990). It is narrated and edited much like a standard behind-the-scenes featurette, and the naivete on display is pretty charming – the Joe Pesci interview at 8:00 is the most awkward interview imaginable – but it also captures the place and time very effectively, even as it takes a dent or two out of the mystique of the film.


The second behind-the-scenes doc is a horse of quite a different color. It is made by a filmmaker who was a legend before Scorsese even picked up a camera to begin working in earnest. Jonas Mekas was a director, a programmer, a critical voice of almost unimaginable influence. So his observations on Scorsese’s working method on the set of THE DEPARTED (2006) are especially valuable. We see how Scorsese, while on a soundstage, transitions between his video village, where he watches the shot on a monitor, to the set, where he issues minute directions to the actors. Then we see how he manages his set on location. Most fascinatingly, we are privy to his spoken asides to Mekas about some of his memories watching avant-garde film and how it affected his perception of cinema’s possibilities. This film contains a lot of what some might call “down-time” but it rewards a close viewing in which every frame is valued as interesting and instructive.

NOTES ON AN AMERICAN FILM DIRECTOR AT WORK: MARTIN SCORSESE (Jonas Mekas, 2005) from Anthology Film Archives on Vimeo.

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