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SCORSESE: What you can expect from ACMI’s new exhibition

Natalie Ng

Fri May 27 2016


ONE of cinema’s most influential giants will be celebrated at ACMI’s new major exhibition, SCORSESE. Natalie Ng has attended the exhibit and has the highlights. 


Just the name alone brings up a thousand images. From the gritty streets of New York seen through the eyes of Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle and the bright neon lights of Las Vegas in Casino to the sweeping old world grandeur in The Age of Innocence or the wanton greed and excess in The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese‘s name is synonymous with American cinema and he is without a doubt one of Hollywood’s greatest living filmmakers.

The first exhibition celebrating Scorsese’s incredible and influential cinematic legacy has come to Melbourne’s ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image). Having just opened on Thursday, May 26, SCORSESE has been curated by the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum for Film and Television in Berlin, and will be making its only Australian stop at ACMI in Melbourne so it is not to be missed.

The exhibition presents clips, interviews, storyboards, costumes, props, notes, and unpublished production stills from the entirety of his filmography. Among these include his first experimental beginnings in 1959 to his Hollywood successes from the ’70s to present day.

Storyboard by Martin Scorsese RAGING BULL, USA 1980 Source: Sikelia Productions, New York

Storyboard by Martin Scorsese for RAGING BULL, USA 1980 | Source: Sikelia Productions, New York

Many of the objects on display at the exhibition are hand-picked from Scorsese’s own offices and home and are very personal. Photographs of his parents’ and grandparents’, journals chronicling his film watching habits, and scribbled notes from frequent collaborator Robert De Niro are just some of the things you can expect to find that belong to Scorsese himself.

Other highlights include a set of letters between Scorsese and legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa (whom Scorsese collaborated with on Kurosawa’s film Dreams), as well as storyboards an 11 year old Martin Scorsese painstakingly drew and coloured for a swords and sandals epic.

The exhibition is divided into the key features and recurring themes in Scorsese’s films. These help to explain how the prolific filmmaker’s own life influenced his work; his humble beginnings in a working class Italian-American family in New York; the power dynamics between brothers and men; his often complex, tumultuous relationships between men and women; his troubled, lonely antiheroes; and of course, his ability to capture the multi faceted sprawling ‘mean streets’ of his beloved New York.

The ‘mean streets’ section of the exhibition is particularly stunning, and highlights just how Scorsese has continually rediscovered his city, finding new ways to showcase New York on screen — from the raw beginnings of early immigrants in Gangs of New York, the grand but socially oppressive upper class New York society in The Age of Innocence, to the streets that the gangsters of Goodfellas prowled in the 1980s.

The wealth of props, script notes, sketches and storyboards showcase the craft and detail that Scorsese, along with his key collaborators such as editor Thelma Schoonmaker, writer Paul Schrader, actors Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio and costume designer Sandy Powell, has put into making each of these stories come to life on screen.

Exclusive to Melbourne’s ACMI exhibition are five never before seen costumes from films such as The Aviator, Hugo and Gangs of New York, all designed by three-time Academy Award winner for costume design, Sandy Powell.

Costumes designed by Sandy Powell worn by actresses Gwen Stefani and Cate Blanchett in The Aviator. photo by Natalie Ng

Costumes designed by Sandy Powell worn by actresses Gwen Stefani and Cate Blanchett in The Aviator. | Photo by Natalie Ng

The exhibition also makes a point of highlighting Scorsese as a champion of cinema with his tireless work to restore numerous films from Hollywood’s Golden Age which have deteriorated as the result of age.

An entire section of the exhibition is dedicated to his work with The Film Foundation an organisation which Scorsese founded in 1990 that aims to raise funds to preserve classic cinema and educate the public about film preservation. Visitors can expect to see clips from restored films like The Red Shoes and Vertigo, witness the importance of that film restoration, as well as take note of two of Scorsese’s personal favourite films and the influence they have had on his work.

A particular highlight from this section are the letters he received from countless figures through cinema supporting his campaign to raise funds and awareness for film restoration and preservation. These include a hand written letter from Michael Powell of the Powell & Presburger team who famously directed one of Scorsese’s favourite films, The Red Shoes, and letters from Steven Spielberg, Liza Minnelli, Terrence Malick, Nagisa Oshima and Taxi Driver scriptwriter Paul Schrader.

photo by Natalie Ng

The Film Foundation section of the exhibition sheds light on the importance of film preversation and Scorsese’s committment to restore the past. | Photo: Natalie Ng

During the run of the exhibition, ACMI will be curating a series of works to pay tribute to Scorsese’s filmography, alongside the films that were influential and inspiring to Scorsese. Additionally, ACMI has lined up screenings, talks, live events and education programs to complement the exhibition. The ACMI shop will also be stocked with an exhibition book (Martin Scorsese, Silvana Editoriale $80) alongside numerous other exhibition exclusives and Scorsese related memorabilia.

Needless to say, this is one exhibition that is not to be missed by any discerning cinephile.

SCORSESE will run exclusively at ACMI from Thursday, May 26 to Sunday, September 18. The exhibition will be open 10.00am to 5.00pm daily and until 9.00pm on Fridays. For tickets and information visit the exhibtion’s official page at ACMI’s website.