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Scorsese Shorts Criterion Blu-ray Review

Scorsese

“Scorsese Shorts” showcases Martin Scorsese’s early work.

Martin Scorsese fans can rejoice! Thanks to the Criterion Collection, a new Blu-ray disc release collects 5 of Scorsese’s short films- “The Big Shave,” “Italianamerican,” “American Boy,” “What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This?” and “It’s Not Just You, Murray!”

1963’s B&W 10 minute short “What’s A Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This?” is the most whimsical short here. The story concerns the uncertain life of Harry (a writer) and a painting that seems to haunt him. 

1964’s 16 minute short “It’s Not Just You, Murray” revolves around the titular Murray- a wealthy and successful criminal whose life of luxury is largely due to his pal Joe. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this short is just how much you can see “Goodfellas” within it. Granted, this short is more comedic, but still.

“The Big Shave” is a 5 minute 1967 short that involves a young man shaving in his bathroom. Don’t expect a clean shave, however, as the short is a metaphor for the Vietnam war. Let’s just say the not so subtle short is not for the squeamish. 

1974’s “Italianamerican” is a 49 minute documentary short in which Scorsese turns the lens on his own parents. Through their own words, he learns about their past, his own family, traditions, the neighborhood, and, of course, food. It’s a very personal and nostalgic tale about Scorsese’s family, heritage, and the Italian American experience.

Last, but not least is 1978’s 55 minute “American Boy” which is the best of the lot in my personal opinion. It’s another documentary short only this time the subject is a man named Steven prince who has lived a wild life to say the least. Spliced together with home videos, the honest and open Prince talks about his work as a road manager, his addiction to heroin, his sexuality, the horrors he has seen, his family, etc. I don’t want to spoil everything as Prince’s stories are nothing if not engrossing. Note: Keep your ears peeled for a story that very much resembles something Tarantino would go on to use in “Pulp Fiction.”

As a whole, the documentary shorts are clearly the stand-outs here. One peels back the layers on Scorsese’s own family while the other sheds light on a man who has lived quite the life. The scripted shorts are fine in their own right, but, to me, they are more of a curiosity. The most engaging parts about them are seeing the cinematic influences (namely Fellini and Truffaut), observing how he has evolved as a filmmaker, and, above all, seeing the ideas and themes that he was clearly passionate about then and now ala Italian American culture, NY, violence, crime, etc. 

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.33:1 1080p. How does it look? The shorts have been given 4K digital restorations and, to no surprise, this is the best they have ever looked.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How do they sound? Audio varies from short to short with ‘Girl’ having a bit of a snowy sound, but, for the most part, the audio is satisfactory enough.

Extras:
* A booklet featuring credits, photos, storyboards, archival material, and an essay by writer Bilge Ebiri
* A 1970 WNYC radio interview with Martin Scorsese on the “Artists In The City” program.
* A laidback 24 minute newly recorded conversation with directors Josh and Benny Safdie and Ari Aster about Martin Scorsese’s shorts. A fun film nerd conversation to be sure.
* “Martin Scorsese And Farran Smith Nehme”- A newly recorded 43 minute interview between Scorsese and film critic Farran Smith Nehme. Conversations range between his childhood to cinema.  

May 24, 2020 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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