We saw "The Departed" this week, which we both really enjoyed. Highly suspenseful, great plot twists, brilliant writing and the usual fantastic filming and directing from Scorsese and his crew. I even liked Jack Nicholson's performance. In recent years he has seemed like a caricature to me, playing Jack Nicholson more than anything else. Perhaps the Scorsese touch resuscitated his talent, or perhaps it was the material, but I found Nicholson's performance very credible and compelling.
But that's not why I'm blogging about this. "The Departed" on DVD comes with a bonus disk that is well worth your time. There's a fascinating featurette on some of the real-life underpinnings of the movie, the notorious Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger and the Irish-American neighbourhood of South Boston that helped shield him.
There's also an entire second movie, Scorsese On Scorsese, which originally aired on Turner Classic Movies, part of their Directors on Directing series. Scorsese walks you through his filmography, talking about his influences, his intentions, his goals. There are some fascinating bits of background, and although I know quite a bit about Scorsese's life and influences, it was still exciting to hear the man talk about his own work.
I used to love Martin Scorsese's movies. I saw them all up to a certain point, then found myself losing interest in his material, and skipped several of his latter-day efforts. I never saw "Casino," "Kundun," or "The Aviator" (which still looks dreadful to me), although we did see, and loved, "Gangs of New York". Some clunkers aside (and all great artists have them), Scorsese is one of the greatest American filmmakers. Hearing him talk about his own movies is a real treat. Did you know "Are you talking to me?" was originally ad-libbed?
Anything about Scorsese's early influences and movies is also about New York City. I never get tired of seeing the City's influence on any artist's work. The only disappointment for me in the "Scorsese On Scorsese" movie was there was nothing about "The Last Waltz"! He references that period only once, in a bit of heavily coded shorthand: "Then I had some problems of my own, came out the other side, and woke up alive." Problems indeed. He was busy doing massive amounts of drugs with Robbie Robertson and the rest of The Band, filming all day, doing drugs all night, seeing how far they could push both enterprises. Even knowing Scorsese almost died from the experience, I am still wildly envious.
There are two other tracks on the bonus disk. One is about Scorsese's take on organized crime. This is marred by the inclusion of film critic Peter Travers, who gives the most banal, obvious commentary. Scorsese himself is also in this one, and it would have been much better to hear the director's own words, instead of Travers's boring pseudo-analysis. There are also the usual deleted scenes, but each scene is prefaced by Scorsese explaining what he was trying to do and why the scene didn't make the final cut.
If you're into movies, it's worth renting "The Departed" on DVD even if you don't want to see the movie again. It might make you add 5 or 10 movies to your must-see list.