By Richard Schickel
This epic, wide-ranging conversation between two people who together may know more about movies than anyone else in America offers nothing but pleasure for 400-plus pages. A biography in conversation, the book opens with oft- and not-so-oft-told tales of a cloistered, asthmatic childhood in 1940s Little Italy and digs deeply into the artistic and cultural forces that drove Scorsese toward his cinematic avocation, lingering for a full and toothsome 100 pages before he comes into his own with Mean Streets (1973). Here, the sickly, wide-eyed child is ever alive in the adult artist, and what came early—the church, the mob, the movies—influences everything afterward. Where other, more starstruck interviewers might be shy about criticizing the director's lesser works, Schickel is bold but sympathetic as he lays out his problems with New York, New York (1977) or Shutter Island (2010), for instance, and Scorsese is no less forthcoming and occasionally quite self-lacerating. The 10-year age gap between interviewer and subject—Schickel is jazz, Scorsese more rock 'n' roll—adds a productive tension, but they are unified by having grown up in the Golden Age of postwar moviegoing when, as they agree, it was still possible to have a sense of the entirety of movie history. The book concludes with chapters on aspects of filmmaking including music selection, use of color, directing actors, editing, and storyboarding—it's like film school in a box. Handsomely mounted and endlessly instructive, it's a book worth treasuring and rereading for years to come.
Review written by John Patterson.