John Cassavetes and Martin Scorsese played a vital role in the evolution of the New Hollywood movement that would go on to define the future of American filmmaking traditions. Both Cassavetes and Scorsese created enigmatic masterpieces such as A Woman Under the Influence and Taxi Driver which facilitated the reconfiguration of artistic sensibilities in the landscape of American cinema.
In many ways, Cassavetes was like a mentor for Scorsese and helped him out on numerous occasions. During the early years of Scorsese’s career, Cassavetes helped the unemployed future visionary by hiring him as an assistant sound editor for his 1971 film Minnie and Moskowitz and even gave him a place to stay by letting him occupy the apartment used for filming. He learnt a lot from Cassavetes and engaged in regular discussions with him about cinema.
While they had differences in their respective artistic visions, it was those conversations with Cassavetes that encouraged Scorsese to pursue the dream of becoming a top filmmaker with everything he had. Following the production of Boxcar Bertha, Scorsese managed to create one of the most definitive cinematic masterpieces of the New Hollywood era which had a significant impact on the movement – Mean Streets.
Even after that, Cassavetes remained an important figure in Scorsese’s life and he continued to get gigs for him. According to Ray Carney, it was Cassavetes who regularly called Warner Bros. in order to convince them to hire Scorsese as the director for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore even though it has also been reported that the film’s star – Ellen Burstyn – was also a huge fan of Scorsese’s works.
“Making films is an obsession and very few people can put everything they have into it, they have other gods but I think Marty has one god and that’s film,” Cassavetes said in an interview while talking about what it was that set Scorsese apart from the rest. Cassavetes fervently believed that Scorsese was a true auteur in every sense of the word.
Cassavetes even named Mean Streets among his favourite cinematic gems, explaining: “Mean Streets is, I think, a magnificent film with Bob De Niro and Harvey Keitel. Beautifully done film and something that’s so sensitive, so good that I think you miss it the first time you see it. You have to see it twice! You should see it two months later to realise how sensitive an artist this man is.”
Since Cassavetes was familiar with the details about Scorsese’s filmmaking vision and his operation on a film set, he insisted that Scorsese was meant for making films because he knew just how to provide the necessary momentum to each and every element. “[He] generates the energy behind everything that is accomplished in a film,” Cassavetes declared.
Cassavetes also believed that Scorsese was the kind of filmmaker with a unified artistic vision. “I think a director of his stature only makes on film,” he said while claiming that all the different masterpieces that Scorsese had produced over the years were a part of one grand fabric. As the years have rolled by, this statement has remained incredibly relevant since more and more audience members have studied Scorsese’s filmography as different facets of the same artwork.