I had the rare opportunity to witness Martin Scorcese being interviewed on stage at the BFI (British Film Institute) in London tonight, nearly eleven years since his last outing at an intimate event to celebrate archive film. Martin doesn’t give many interviews and comments on his passion and inspiration even less, but tonight was different. Tonight we were all supporting the extraordinary work that the BFI team do on restoring classic film. Film that is often destroyed almost beyond repair, hazy from mould or chemical leakage and which is painstakingly put back together.
I have a confession. For me, a seventies child, black and white film represents something of a barrier. I’d just rather watch colour or more likely iPlayer (TV in the UK on line) or Youtube. I’ve seem some classics, but I felt slightly over-awed in the room as people remembered the exact year of an Alfred Hitchcock silent movie. Did you know he made ten silent movies, one of which is sadly lost due to the passage of time and poor stewardship? For that the BFI should be applauded, there is an amazing team which opened my eyes to the technique and beauty of older films. What was interesting was the inspiration of many of the classic scenes in Taxi Driver or Good Fellas actually come from films Scorcese watched earlier in his life. Not only that, they were British films. In fact the great man himself said “Why do British people feel the need to defend British Films? You don’t need to”.
As perhaps the solitary geek in the audience, I was fascinated by the technical detail and analysis of ‘tricks of the trade’ that Scorcese pointed out as well as his observation of the “human condition”, both of which were timeless. He also loved ‘Sexy Beast” and Ray Winstone. I’m not one to argue on that. I was genuinely captivated by his love of the art of cinema and the stories of famous scenes in his films that go back to much earlier art, much of it from the UK. He’s also a man of action not just words. Outside, we found displays of memorabilia, some of it bought for the BFI by Mr Scorcese like the red shoes from ‘Red Shoes’. In the audience, just in front of me, sat Terry Gilliam and Paul Gambaccini, but in a way the pianist who accompanied a rare clip of archive film stole the show. I came away thinking “so that’s what life was like in the 1930’s”. Sadly TV just doesn’t cover that era and against my better judgement, it fascinated me.
I asked Mr Scorcese a question at the end, after he’d been pigeon holed as ‘film noir’ – “If there is one archive film that inspires Scorcese to do something different, something that we don’t expect, what would it be?”. It turns out, that despite five or more ‘street flicks’ like the Departed, Martin would like to make a kids movie, inspired in part by his ten year old daughter. He thought Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox, which opened the London Film Festival was delightful so watch out for a Roald Dahl sequel maybe? For now though, his next film is based on the brilliant book ‘Shutter Island‘ and is out in March 2010.
Outside I introduced the concept of MOFILM and our work with aspiring filmmakers. We got his card and Gilliam’s agent’s details. Strangely I was more impressed by that than many stars we met in the course of MOFILM so far. Maybe the geek in me appreciated the enormous attention to detail and talent that film directors need to succeed. Watch this space….
For more on the BFI’s work with archive film visit: http://www.bfi.org.uk/nftva/Back