A History of American Movies in Martin Scorsese’s A Personal Journey through American Films

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Martin Scorsese’s “A Personal Journey through American Film” is a summary and analysis of the history of American Movies. A legendary filmmaker in his own right, Scorsese highlights not only the hits but also the lesser known but revolutionary titles. His analysis is clearly from a director’s point of view, which gives it an interesting and novel perspective. After a brief introduction, Scorsese highlights what he calls “the director’s dilemma.” A good director, he says, is able to balance his or her own vision with that of the producers. This was far more significant in the past, as the director was beholden to the producers. The best filmmakers were able to overcome this obstacle and produce great movies. These days, directors are given significantly more artistic license, and producers do little more than fund the idea and put the team together. The director is a storyteller first, claims Scorsese. He quotes Raoul Walsh: “If you haven’t got the story, you haven’t got anything.” Documentary style films were always a secondary to fiction. This has improved as the industry matured, but still holds true today. “For better or for worse, a Hollywood director is an entertainer. He is in the business of telling stories,” Scorsese tells us. He outlines the birth of the classic American genres, ones that moviegoers take for granted today. Directors, producers, and fans alike love familiar tropes and genres. Similar themes pervade all movies, recycled and reworked into new
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