Inherently personal to us all, movies can mean much to many. They make different memories for individual audience members, but there may be no better narrator for the history and personal touches of American cinema than the esteemed director and cinema buff, Martin Scorsese. He has had his hands deep in the effective characters and creativity of the Hollywood mainstream for decades, and in that time has carved out a knack for the knowledge and a necessary experience with creating, and not just cruising along, consuming art day after day. A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies sees his beliefs and thoughts on the pictures that formed him and the future of cinema displayed with passion and integrity.
Both staples of Scorsese, infatuation with film and honesty as a director, make him the perfect host. He is knowledgeable and light, humorous and sprinkling detail where it is desperately needed. Scorsese is happy to take the back seat and let the clips do the talking. They do that well, and with brief observations to steer the ship, Scorsese takes the role of talisman, rather than a documentarian. He speaks to his audience, rather than at them. One crucial change in the flow of this is directing his thoughts and comments to the individuals sat at home, watching on in awe. He does not make generalisations, he is specific about what he wishes to point out, why he is doing so, and what the effect is on film. Recommending films, showcasing the impact and how it affected him personally is a nice touch.
What really sells A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies is that we know of his success. He has triumphed in charting the waters of cinema and is still asking himself how he can improve and what he can do to one-up himself. Much of the documentary series feels like a cathartic release, as he weaves through the features that inspired him, questioning where he can go next. His interpretation of cinema is not just from the perspective of the artist, but the audience too. Not every film sets out to coax an audience into loving it for its entertainment value, and Scorsese spends much time flickering through those films that challenged the aesthetic of style, and why it was important to do so. Those moments are captured with simplicity and are thoroughly effective and convincing.
“The antidote to film is more film,” Scorsese says. That much is true. A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies and its three sublime episodes kindles love for cinema and is effective enough to rekindle the missing links for film fans. It is a helpful, interesting document that picks examples from the past and how they shaped the future. Sound and colour, technical merits and the movement of a camera are all taken for granted now. Why wouldn’t it be? Those innovators of old understood how satisfying and incredibly important these merits were, and Scorsese narrates these changes in style and perception with confidence. He is an all-knowing cinema fanatic, and he showcases his passion with such brilliance. “Study the old masters, enrich your palette, expand the canvas,” is his opening advice for the third and final episode. That is not just advice for students of cinema, but for anyone and everyone striving forward toward something creatively rewarding.