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Martin Scorsese picks his 10 favourite arthouse films


“Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.” – Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese, the acclaimed director who is part of the New Hollywood wave of filmmaking, is widely regarded as one of the most influential auteurs in cinematic history.

Scorsese’s love for cinema knows no bounds, a deep-seated obsession that has been engrained into his life from the age of three when his parents began taking him to the cinema. “Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things,” the filmmaker once said. “They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our life time, we need to keep them alive,” he added.

With cinematic masterpieces such as Raging BullTaxi Driver, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas and Casino to his name, pictures that push Scorsese’s legacy to new bounds, the director has been one of the rawest advocates for cinematic beauty in recent times. In his defence of the movie artform, Scorsese wrote: “For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters — the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves.”

The director added: “In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.”

In the current rise of superhero films and the dominance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the box office, Scorsese has, in recent times, found himself in the highly debated area of classic cinema. In his love for the arthouse film, Scorsese’s controversial criticism of Marvel has been met with both disappointment and approval on each side of the fence.

While Scorsese’s essay on the preservation of cinema details his deep admiration for the art form, the director went a step further by collecting a list of his 10 favourite arthouse films of all time in a feature for The Criterion. In it, Scorsese names the likes of Roberto Rossellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean-Luc Godard and the great Federico Fellini.

See the full list, below.

Martin Scorsese’s 10 favourite films:

  1. Paisan – Roberto Rossellini, 1964.
  2. The Red Shoes – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1948.
  3. The River – Jean Renoir, 1951.
  4. Ugetsu – Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953.
  5. Ashes and Diamonds – Andrzej Wajda, 1958.
  6. L’avventura – Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960.
  7. Salvatore Giuliano – Francesco Rosi, 1962.
  8. – Federico Fellini, 1963.
  9. Contempt – Jean-Luc Godard, 1963.
  10. The Leopard – Luchino Visconti, 1963.

While speaking about Ugetsu, Scorsese said: “Mizoguchi is one of the greatest masters who ever worked in the medium of film; he’s right up there with Renoir and Murnau and Ford.”

He added: “All of his artistry is channelled into the most extraordinary simplicity. You’re face-to-face with something mysterious, tragically inevitable, and then, in the end, peacefully removed.”

Head over to the Criterion to read his full explanations.

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Source: Criterion