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How Jean-Luc Godard influenced Martin Scorsese's 'Casino'

Martin Scorsese has drawn inspiration from a wide variety of sources over the course of his illustrious career. A true cinephile, he has cited giants of the medium such as Satyajit Ray and Alfred Hitchcock as formative influences while also urging films fans to pay attention to contemporary visionaries like Ari Aster among others.

In addition to his cinematic knowledge, Scorsese’s vision of cinema is also deeply informed by his love for music. While he has made multiple documentaries on the subject of music, he has also demonstrated a remarkable penchant for scoring his features perfectly – with songs from iconic bands like The Rolling Stones and The Clash among others.

For his 1995 crime epic Casino, Scorsese actually took inspiration from a Jean-Luc Godard film when it came to the score. That film was none other than Contempt, Godard’s irresistibly beautiful 1963 opus about a dysfunctional marriage which operates within a self-reflexive examination of the cinematic medium.

In an interview, Scorsese once said: “I used to think of Godard and Antonioni as the great modern visual artists of cinema—great colourists who composed frames the way painters composed their canvases. I still think so, but I also connect with them on the emotional level. And for me, Contempt is one of the most moving films of its era.”

One of the most sublime elements of Contempt is the masterful score by Georges Delerue which was incorporated into Casino as well. Scorsese used Delerue’s ‘Contempt – Theme De Camille’ to create a very specific vision in Casino while exploring the dissolution of human relationships in an ever-changing cityscape.

Expressing his love for the film, Scorsese added: “Contempt is also a lament for a kind of cinema that was disappearing at the time, embodied by Fritz Lang and the impossible adaptation of The Odyssey that he’s directing. And it is a profound cinematic encounter with eternity, in which both the lost marriage and the cinema seem to dissolve. It’s one of the most frightening great films ever made.”

The filmmaker admitted that it was actually the lead guitarist of The Band – Robbie Robertson – who had suggested Delerue’s score for Casino. Robertson has provided his input on many of Scorsese’s projects and he worked as a “music consultant” on Casino. When Scorsese asked him to suggest something that wasn’t classic and that wouldn’t take anything away from the Bach chorus, Delerue’s genius popped into Robertson’s mind.

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