Monday, April 25, 2011

Scorsese's Repeated Theme

Scorsese’s films are somewhat sporadic in terms of different genres, as well as themes. He has directed dozens of films with different genres and themes. However, Martin Scorsese uses on particular theme in several of his movies. From his first popular film Mean Streets in 1973, to a more recent film he directed in 2010 titled, The Departed, one theme that is present in four of Scorsese’s most highly publicized films is the theme of a replacement father. Generally, this father figure has a negative impact on each of the characters in some way, which helps build the conflict in the film. In Mean Streets, the audience is exposed to several levels of replacement fathers. Charlie plays that role to Robert De Niro’s Johnny Boy, but inevitably fails in helping him stay on a legit path. Also in the film, Charlie’s uncle plays the same role to him, but also fails as a result of Charlie’s relationship with Johnny Boy. The theme of a replacement father is also seen in Taxi Driver. It is seen between the main character, Travis, and the character Iris; who is a teenage prostitute played by Jodie Foster. Iris gets advice from Travis on several occasions to leave the streets and go home to her family. Because of Travis’ influence, the viewer is lead to believe that Iris has returned to her family and has begun attending school again, abandoning her life on the streets. This same theme also appears in the film Goodfellas. Ray Liota’s character, Henry Hill, finds a father figure in Paul Cicero. Paul is also an Italian mob boss. Liota’s character also finds a father figure in Johnny Conway, who is also involved in the mob. The story ends in disaster. Anyone that is associated with Conway finds himself dead and Liota’s character ends up in witness protection. Similar to Goodfellas is the film The Departed. Two characters, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, also find a replacement father figure in a mob boss. DiCaprio and Damon’s characters find a father figure in Irish mob boss Frank Costello. With each on the opposite side of the law, and their only connection between them being Costello, the story ends in tragedy, with both of them shot dead because of their relationship with Costello. Even though Scorsese uses several different themes throughout his films, the theme of a replacement father is evident in these films.

Braudy, L. (1986). The sacrements of genre: Cappola, depalma, scorsese. Film quaterly , 39 (3), 17-28.

Tyrangiel, J. (2006). The gang's all here. Time , 168 (15), 62-66.

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