Scorsese Onscreen: What the Director’s Cameos Reveal About His Storytelling

Silent, talking, or making – they all say something.

Talk to most people about director cameos and nearly everyone brings up Alfred Hitchcock, who slipped himself briefly into every film he made. Or maybe they’ll mention M. Night Shyamalan, who gives himself a scene with dialogue in most of his movies. While the former is done quickly and largely tongue-in-cheek, the latter is longer and more serious, more reflective of the actual filmmaker.

Standing between these extremes is Martin Scorsese, who has also popped up in a good chunk of his own films, and in both ways described above. In films like Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, New York Stories, The Color of Money, or even Michael Jackson’s Bad video, the director is a blink-and-you-miss-him element, background art, furniture; while in movies like Boxcar Bertha, Taxi Driver, or Hugo he gives himself more of a presence, even some dialogue on occasion. And then there are his documentaries. Like Herzog, Scorsese’s presence in such films aren’t wholly objective, they are meant to reveal how the director thinks about both his subject and the filmmaking process, serving as a kind of doc within a doc.

In a new video for Fandor edited by Leigh Singer, the different ways in which Scorsese appears in his own work is surveyed and examined for intent and impact. What it reveals about the filmmaker will grant you an even larger appreciation for his storytelling ability and his commitment to the art of film.

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