Roger Ebert is a great movie critic, and I say that for two important reasons: first, I find that, whether I agree with his rating on a movie or not, I can always get a sense of whether I will enjoy the movie or not. Second, he is absolutely in love with the movies, and it is great to read reviews from someone who is trying to enjoy the experience, rather than trying to nitpick and tear a movie down. (Additionally, he is a huge fan of Werner Herzog, with whom I am slightly obsessed.)
Scorsese by Ebert is a collection of his previous writings on Martin Scorsese and his movies - reviews, interviews with the man himself, and articles written for Ebert’s ‘Great Movies’ collection - and re-considerations of some of the movies. Reading it was fairly pleasurable, as I like Ebert’s writing and have seen enough of Scorsese’s movies to have some sense of what Ebert is going on about, but have missed a few to make it interesting to read the reviews. Reading all of Ebert’s writing on Scorsese has its pitfalls - many movies feature a review, an interview and a ‘Great Movie’ essay or reconsideration that mention many of the same plot points or images, making it repetitive to read it all at once - but also has a certain appeal. Reading all of it in a few days made me want to make a point of watching Scorsese’s whole output to see the common themes and the evolution of those themes, and his visual style, throughout the decades. I not only want to seek out for the first time After Hours, Mean Streets, and New York, New York, but I want to rewatch those inarguable classics Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas - and the mind-trippy, not respected enough The Last Temptation of Christ. (Willem DaFoe is a great Jesus, and I don’t find the movie blasphemous.)
Perhaps most interestingly, the book made me rethink the role of women in Scorsese’s movies. They seem to be firmly on one side or the other of the Madonna/Whore divide, and I usually find this pretty weak and a sign of unimaginative, uncompelling movie making. But through the interviews, Ebert shows that Scorsese is painfully aware of this division, and that it reflects his own struggle with a dichotomy that he rationally knows is false, rather than an unexamined simplification of half the world’s population.
Scorsese by Ebert is a good read for movie fans, but better as something to page through and read what interests you than to read all the way through.