Perhaps no other filmmaker has used popular music as well in his movies nor made as many classic movies as Martin Scorsese. It was only a matter of time before Shane Scheel and Chris Bratten made Marty’s oeuvre the centerpiece of one of their “For the Record” productions.
Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas are arguably some of the best American movies ever made. Not that the rest of his resume is so awful: Casino, The Gangs of New York, The Aviator and his Oscar-winning The Departed. From this list of films the show pulls songs by The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Derek and the Dominos, and more.
For the Record: Martin Scorsese is the second completely unique show to take advantage of the expanded space that was once Vermont Restaurant and is now Rockwell Table and Stage. This has made the show more all encompassing and the seating much less cramped.
95% of this show works very well, but there is a slight problem in tone. There are certainly moments that are so well know that laughter is a natural response. Robert DeNiro’s classic “You talkin’ to me” monologue from Taxi Driver is so familiar that a few giggles are to be expected. But Sharon Stone’s epic flip-out from Casino is played so broadly as to encourage guffaws. It wasn’t funny in the movie, and I’m not sure why it’s staged for humor. The great thing about the Paul Thomas Anderson show is that it was played straight all the way through. The sex in that show, like the violence in this one, is going to provoke some nervous laughter, but that should have been the extent of things here.
The band rocks – as usual. The cast is also rock solid. Ben Goldberg is straight up in the DeNiro track. Von Smith not only does right by the DiCaprio roles, he sings U2’s “The Hands That Built America” better than they did. Justin Mortelliti out-Jaggers Mick himself, and Jason Paige was born to be Joe Pesci. Women don’t play major roles for the most part in Scorsese’s movies (unless you include New York, New York and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, but neither is represented here), so the women don’t have as much to do. That doesn’t stop Dionne Gipson, Ginnifer King, and Lindsey Gort from making the most of their songs.
It will be exciting to see where they take this series in 2013. Wherever it goes, the creators will be hard-pressed to find a director who has so creatively embedded music into his films’ narratives. Until then, making For the Record: Martin Scorsese part of your plans is a great way to celebrate the master filmmaker’s 70th birthday.