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(Credits: Far Out / YouTube)

Film

Short of the Week: An early Martin Scorsese student film

'What's a Nice Girl like You Doing in a Place like This?' - Martin Scorsese
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Martin Scorsese might be one of the biggest filmmakers in the world right now but in 1963, he was just another film student trying to develop his own artistic style. The result of those unique experiments is this early short film by Scorsese called What’s a Nice Girl like You Doing in a Place like This? which he made during his time at NYU.

Although Scorsese’s iconic features such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull obviously attract most of the attention, his short films are also important for anyone who is interested in charting the director’s artistic trajectory. In this one, the film focuses on the obsession of a man who becomes enamoured by a picture on the wall.

A commentary on cinephilia itself as well as the fundamentally illusory nature of the cinematic medium, What’s a Nice Girl like You Doing in a Place like This? contains many precursors to Scorsese’s later works like Goodfellas. He decided to make the film right after being moved by Federico Fellini’s which inspired him in more ways than one.

Scorsese once said: “ has always been a touchstone for me, in so many ways—the freedom, the sense of invention, the underlying rigour and the deep core of longing, the bewitching, physical pull of the camera movements and the compositions (another great black-and-white film: every image gleams like a pearl—again, shot by Gianni Di Venanzo).”

Described as a “a tale of pure paranoia”, What’s a Nice Girl like You Doing in a Place like This? also featured a collaboration between Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker who was assigned to the project by a professor. Incorporating disruptive visual techniques such as jump cuts and freeze frames, the film shows the formation of a visual language that Scorsese would never forget.

According to Scorsese, the comedic aura of the film was purely accidental since his main intention was to explore the fear in the mind of the protagonist. Looking back at what he achieved with this one, Scorsese claimed that the film did not have depth but it was visually brilliant (thanks to Schoonmaker’s undeniable skills) which helped him win a scholarship.

Watch the short film below.