12 THE lIST
()verall. Scorsese‘s back catalogue « which includes The King Of ('iiiiic’tfy'. xlflc'i' Hours”. (hurdle/firs. The Age ()ffllllﬂt't’llt'c’. (‘USTIHL The ('ii/iiiir ()l'lliiiiev and Kiiiii/iin - is the work of one of America‘s finest filmmakers. liy en those films not shot in New York are informed by his personal concerns: family. faith. masculinity. Ironically. his next film. (iiings ()l'.\'eii' York. a S|()() million epic about 19th century street gangs and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. is being shot in Rome's ('inecitta Studios. It‘s as if somehow. between the sequels. the period pieces and the mob epics. Scorsese failed to find time to get back to the streets where the sleeping bums had their shoes stolen — until now.
‘()ne of the reasons I wanted to do Bringing ()iii The l)(’(l(/ was to throw myself back into it. having allowed myself to be desensitised to compassion for these people.‘ he explains. 'Your mother and father want to raise you well: they don‘t want to raise you seeing ugly things. After a while you become desensitised. especially when you move out of your cloisterecl ethnic area.
'To live in an urban area like New York. which has so many different groups of cultures mixed together. you have to stop caring. Well. I can't do that; there’s an obligation. It's a (‘hristian obligation. ()ne way of meeting that obligation is to make a movie like this. I hope it‘s not in a liberal American way. because that‘s not it. I don't say we should all get in an ambulance and start bringing people home — some people do that and I think they’re amazing. they're really living out (‘hristiari teachings. But it's about throwing yourself or the audience into a situation about compassion. about suffering and about the obligation that everyone has as a human being.'
In Bringing ()iii The Dead. Pierce’s spiritual crisis stems from the seemingly futile work of the paramedics. ‘Tag ‘em and bag 'em‘ is the motto of these lost souls whose efforts to ease the flow of human detritus requires them to be undertakers more often than medics —— hence the film's title. Pierce‘s driving partners handle their crises in different ways: one turns to alcohol. another relies on humour. while a third opts to destroy rather than save lives. ()nly Pierce attempts to come to terms with his suffering. and he sees a sign of hope in a chaste woman with a chequered past named Mary (Patricia Arquette). The religious symbolism. originating as much from Scorsese‘s (‘atholic upbringing as the film’s source material. is self-evident.
Bringing (hit The Dead is set in early ‘)()s New York. a period during which the city. with its high crime rate. mass homelessness and crack epidemic at its peak. resembled the streets Travis Bickle patrolled two decades earlier. It‘s also a period prior to the changes wrought by Mayor Rudy (iiuliani. whose controversial methods have lead to a safer. cleaner city. 01' have they'.’
‘I went down to Houston Street to film the bums. tramps. winos. whatever you want to call them — those poor guys I grew up with — and I didn‘t see any of them.‘ recalls Scorsese. ‘To a certain extent it‘s been cleaned up. but it's cleaned tip for tourists and for rich people and upper class people. so they don‘t have to see these terrible things — the suffering. I know “out of sight. out of mind" is not the right way. It's not the right way.‘
Scorsese‘s is a love/hate relationship with his tough city. It has
provided him with the inspiration and energy to make half a dozen great New York films. including at least two which are among the century's best. It’s likely he‘ll continue to make more.
‘You can never let your guard down in this city. I'm telling ya.’ he says as a warning. 'lt's just the nature of it. There are lots of different ethnic groups and people coming in from different parts of the world trying to make it. There are so many cultures clashing. (‘entral Park'.’ I never go there. liven in the daylight. I won't go there — you’d get mugged. I became paranoid. totally paranoid. and for good reason. When I made 'Iiixi Driver. John Lindsay was mayor and his slogan was "New York is a summer festival" — and l was making 'Iim’ Driver! I don‘t buy any of that New York. but Bringing ()iii The Dead is my homage to Manhattan. This is a great city. I love the city. I love it!‘
Bringing Out The Dead opens on Fri 7 Jan. See review, page 25.
Martin Scorsese isn't the only director with a particular vision of New York. Here's another four who regularly take bites of the Big Apple.
.".I’\ Miles Fielder
lllannattan i1979l remains one of the definitive New York films, but Alien s other movies ~ Annie Hall, Han/xi"? And Her Sisters, Crimes And lisdeir‘eano's, etc have defined a specific New York community that's Cultured, intellectual and neurotic Then there's that Woody Allen nostalgia —- Broadway Danny Rose, Bullets Over Broadway and Radio Days which hark back to his Brooklyn upbringing Allen's films are undeniably autobiographical, as is his portrayal of the city
No one does depravny like Ferrara But his notorious debut, The Driller Killer r1979), is no dumb Video nasty, like Taxr Driver, it's a portrait of urban decay - the killer's disgust With New York lowlife is his motivation for Violence Ferrara continued to dredge the city's gutters With China Girl, lVls 45, King Of New York and Bad Lieutenant, often pulling his characters towards a gritty, grubby sense of redemption
Lee has stayed true to his city, from his debut, She’s Gotta Have It (1986), to his most recent film, Summer Of Sam The issues have always involved raCial prejudice it exploded out of Brooklyn and onto the screen in Do The Right Thing Crooklyn took a comic look at the same borough, while Clockers revealed the cycle of poverty in the tenement proiects Lee's thing is the peOple, as much as the place
Unsurprisingly, Warhol had much to say on film abOut New York There's the lengthy and experimental Chelsea Girls (proiected onto two seperate screensl and the even lengthier Empire, an eight-hour static View of what was once the tallest building in the City. Warhol also produced Paul Morrissey’s Trash and Flesh, which dealt wrth Junkies and Johns liVing on the Lower East Side
Across 7 70th Street, Another Girl, Another Planet, The Apartment, A Bronx Tale, Carlito’s Way, The Cotton Club, Cruising, The Daytrippers, Die Hard With A Vengeance, Escape From New York, Fort Apache 7- The Bronx, The French Connection, The Godfather (and Part II), A Great Day In Harlem, In The Soup, Kids, Just Another Girl On The lRT, King Kong, Last but To Brooklyn, Laws Of Grawty, Metropolitan, Mrs Parker And The Vicious Circle, On The Town, On The Waterfront, The Pope Of Greenwrch Village, The Prisoner Of Second Avenue, A Rage ln Harlem, Shadows, Smoke (and Blue In The Face), Straight Out Of Brooklyn, Sweet Smell Of Success, The Taking Of Pe/ham 723, The Warriors, West Side Story