How Martin Scorsese uses His Own Life Experiences, Freeze frames and Voiceovers to Make Himself One of The Best Known Auteurs

Paper by Sam Fielding. Viewed online.

Martin Scorsese was part of the New Hollywood wave of filmmaking; he is regarded as one of the most significant and influential filmmakers in cinema history. Having won over 100 awards to date, including Oscar winning films, he is easily identified as one of the great directors. It is noticeable that Scorsese is known for his use of crime, violence and gangster themes in his movies. He likes using the same actors, themes, freeze frames and voiceovers in his movies; ‘Gangs of New York (2002), ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013), ‘GoodFellas’ (1990) and ‘Casino’ (1995). These movies have specific scenes in them, one of that is the theme of violence and guilt, the other being the way Scorsese operates his camera angles and shots to engaged with the audience and make them feel part of the movie. Martin Scorsese uses freeze frames camera shots in his films to represent and emphasize the emotion seen of the still image that gives him the opportunity to use voiceovers to speak over the image. Scorsese also uses similar themes in his movies and two of these are gangsters and violence. They are common themes but are used to engage the audience. One more thing I noticed is that Scorsese uses blonde women in his movies, and this is something Alfred Hitchcock used and this also could be violent related and to create an atmosphere inside the movie. These techniques and themes make Martin Scorsese an auteur in his area of film.

In the movies that I have watched, Scorsese uses freeze frame shots to empathize the emotion by the characters and to introduce the voiceovers that occur in many of his movies. In the movie ‘GoodFellas’ there are a few scenes where Scorsese uses the freeze frames and these are great to analyze because it shows the audience exactly what the protagonist actors are thinking and feeling. The first freeze frame occurs in the opening scene. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), James Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) are driving in the dark when they hear a banging noise coming from the back of their car. When they pull over and begin to investigate, it comes to their surprise that the person that they had intended to kill in fact wasn’t dead as he was rolling around with blood smeared all over his face and clothes. This leads James and Tommy having to stab and shoot the man in the trunk to finish the job off. The scene freezes with Henry looking over the corpse. The freeze frame captures Henry’s expression as he looks deranged slightly, however after he closes the truck, a non-diegetic, narrative voice says, “As far back as I knew, I always wanted to be a gangster”. Moving on to another movies of Scorsese’s, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street, He uses freeze frames again at the start of the movie. Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Di Caprio) and his work employees are having some fun at work. They decide to throw midgets at a gigantic dartboard. Jordan Belfort hands out a prize of $25,000 to whoever can throw one of the midgets at the bullseye on the board. This leads to Jordan and one of his employees’ throw one of the midgets and once he hits the board, the frame freezes. This leads to the introduction “My name is Jordan Belfort.” We now get to the know the character and how he started off as a middle class citizen and to where he is know in the stock market earning hundreds of thousands. Even though we don’t really see the expressions during the freeze frames, we do see before how excited he is at work with all of his friends.

The freeze frames are used to see the emotion of the characters and most of these camera shots do lead to voiceovers and that’s exactly what we see in the two scenes that have been analyzed. In the article ‘The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese’ written by Mark T. Conard, he talks about how the camera shots were used. ‘Throughout the film, and early on especially, Scorsese utilizes stop frames in addition to Henry’s narration to tell his life story. These cinematic features act as photographs with captions, conveying critical moments in Henry’s life’ (Page 32). You have to agree with what Mark because each of these freeze frames talks about a specific period of time in the life of Henry and we as the audience get to know the ins and outs of why its important in his life. Scorsese is known for these freeze frames and they are unique to him because he is the master of it. Just like Alfred Hitchcock is the master of suspense. This is what makes him an auteur because he is adding his own life experiences, growing up in a town / city full of gangsters and then putting that together with his camera shots to show emotion and to create a story mode within the movie. In Danielle Del Prado’s Prezi presentation ‘Auteur Study: Martin Scorsese’ she states that “The use of freeze frames make Scorsese an auteur because it allows him to speak to his audience and create a relationship with them’ (Slide 10/18). Again you have to look and say that his is what makes him an auteur. This unique technique and way of presenting his characters emotion gets the audience engaged and this is something he does on a regular basis.

The theme of violence is something that Scorsese uses a lot in his movies. In almost every one of the four movies that were analyzed, violence was used in one way or another. Violence is used throughout his films and this and it is like he is creating something that is about to come to life. In the movies ‘Casino’ the violence is presented in the way of gangsters. This happens when one group gangs up on people to make them feel weak and vulnerable. One example in this movie is when Joe Pesci, who plays Nicky Santoro starts stabbing one of his enemies with a pen. The violence breaks out into a fight and Scorsese changes his camera angles so we can see how brutal the action really is in the scene. This violence is continuous within the movie and another example would be when Nicky dies. We see that his friends stitch up Nicky and people he has travelled up with are the ones who attack him and put him in a vulnerable situation. Comparing this to another movies that was watched, ‘Gangs of New York’, we see in the first gruesome scene of Gangs of New York, Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day Lewis) goes on a rampage to kill the members of the opposite church. He is first seen with his chosen weapon, a butcher’s knife, hence where his nickname comes from. This again shows the violent themes that Scorsese uses and due to its popularity with his movies and that’s why he continues to use it and why he is known as an auteur.

There are some very close similarities between Martin Scorsese and the great Alfred Hitchcock, who was analyzed back in the first five units of this class. What is noticeable is that both these directors use beautiful blonde women in their movies. Looking back in time, Hitchcock presented the women with blonde hair, red lipsticks and in some ways with a bit of attitude. If we look at ‘Dial M for Murder’, the beautiful Grace Kelly plays Margot. She is presented very vulnerable and weak. She is innocent but has that dark side and that comes with the murder of Swann. When we focus on Martin Scorsese and his way of presenting women, it is very similar to what we saw with Margot. In the movie ‘Casino’ and another film that was watched, ‘Taxi Driver’ we see that the protagonist males in these movies have a beautiful blonde girlfriend. For example in the movie ‘Casino’, Ginger (Sharon Stone) is introduced with this power and style that makes her stand out to the casino owner Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro). She walks in with this beautiful long blonde hair and red lipstick and makes the place shine. However, later on in the movie we see that she changes personality when things don’t go her way. We don’t see this beautiful long blonde hair, we see a women who doesn’t take pride in her appearance and this is due to how she is used in Scorsese’ movie. This happens in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ with Naomi who is Jordan Belfort’s wife in the latter stages. Ginger is very vulnerable in the middle / end of the movie ‘Casino’ and when we look at these two great directors, they both have similar styles and themes with beautiful blonde girls and violence.

All of the above is relevant in today’s word because now Scorsese and Hitchcock have set a trend during their time but now times have changed and we are seeing less women being looked down on by the males and more are taking the roles of the main characters. Looking more at Scorsese, his work from the 70s to the present day has set a trend that is looked at now as some of the best work in the film industry. The camera shots that are used in Scorsese’s work are unique along with the theme of violence and this is what makes him an auteur. For the violence, Danielle Del Prado said in her Prezi power point that his ‘use of violence makes him an auteur because his deep character studies allows him to create a realistic immoral figure that the audience can sometimes relate to’ (Slide 7/18). With all these techniques and themes being used in almost every film, we can identify that we are watching the same director’s film and as the audience we will have a feeling of what might happen in the movie because of the Italian American characters / actors, the themes of guilt and violence and then the style of camera shots, freeze frames. Scorsese is an auteur just like Hitchcock and that’s with the style that he uses when directing his movies. He is probably one of the most exhilarating directors and even now he continues to create more big hit movies that will excite people of all ages and make people want to work with him or use his techniques to create movies of a similar caliber. Martin Scorsese is definitely one of the best auteurs in the movie business.

Work Cited Page

Conard, Mark T. “The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese.” Lexington: U of Kentucky.
2007. Web. 23 July 2014.

Prado, Danielle Del. “Auteur Study: Martin Scorsese.” N.p., 14 Oct.
2013. Web. 24 July 2014.

Dana Regna. “Mafia Movies: A Reader. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2012.” The Journal of Popular Culture 45.1 (2012): 229-31. Web. 24 July 2014.

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