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The classic Martin Scorsese movie that was booed at Cannes Film Festival


Whooped, clapped, cheered and adored at film festivals across the world, Martin Scorsese is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time, making his mark with such films as Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Casino among many others. Typified by gritty, enigmatic stories about troubled individuals on the brink of personal transformation, the films of Scorsese have gone on to inspire generations.

As well as an efficient filmmaker, Scorsese is also a wise purveyor of classic cinema with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of foreign movies, supporting the artistic visions of Jean Renoir, Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini and Jean-Luc Godard. In fact, when asked by Criterion to pick out his top ten picks from the iconic collection, he picked out Godard’s 1963 film Contempt and proceeded to gush about the film’s beauty.  

Contempt is one of the most moving films of its era,” Scorsese explained, adding, “over the years Contempt has grown increasingly, almost unbearably, moving to me. It’s a shattering portrait of a marriage going wrong, and it cuts very deep, especially during the lengthy and justifiably famous scene between Piccoli and Bardot in their apartment”. 

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Where the films of Jean-Luc Godard have gone down in the history of art cinema, so too has Scorsese’s, taking several of his films to the Cannes Film Festival where four of his films have been nominated for a Palme d’Or, with just one taking home the grand prize.

Unusually, the very same film that won the Palme d’Or for Scorsese was also poorly received at the same festival, with the violence of Taxi Driver simply being too much for the audiences of the time to handle. The movie, starring Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Jodie Foster, was jeered and loudly booed at the Cannes premiere with several audience members also walking out of the screening thanks to the film’s notorious reputation for gore. 

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2016 about the film’s reputation at the time, Jodie Foster commented, “The whole issue about the violence in the movie kind of exploded,” adding that Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel “kind of got stuck at the Hotel du Cap and didn’t come out very much”.

As not only one of Martin Scorsese’s greatest ever films but up there with the greatest films of all time, the Palme d’Or winning film elevated the status of its director and shot its star, Robert De Niro, into the limelight of Hollywood cinema. An uncompromising psychoanalysis of a man on the edge of insanity, Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader crafted one of the finest New York dramas, riddled with intensity and dense characterisation. 

Drawing inspiration from the likes of Arthur Bremer to Alfred Hitchcock, in films like The Wrong Man, Schrader’s story is a dark and troubled one influenced by his own dissatisfaction in his youth. In conversation with the American Film Institute, the screenwriter compared the writing of the film to “self-therapy”, explaining that he found it a cathartic experience penning his real-life experience onto the page.