Martin Scorsese Creates a List of 39 Essential Foreign Films for a Young Filmmaker

in Film | October 15th, 2014


Eight or so years ago, young filmmaker Colin Levy got an opportunity of a lifetime. He got a one-on-one meeting with Martin Scorsese. After spending much of his time in high school making a five-minute short, Levy won the national YoungArts award — and, with it, the chance to chat with the guy who directed Goodfellas, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

After getting a personal tour of Scorsese’s office and editing bays by none other than legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Levy met the man himself. “It was a defining moment in my path as a filmmaker,” he later wrote on his blog.

Martin Scorsese was intimidating, to say the least. But very jovial, very talkative, and he took me seriously. (Or convinced me, at least.) I pretty much kept my mouth shut. Every 30 seconds he would mention an actor, producer, director or film title I had never heard of before. I was stunned just to be in his presence. He liked my film, he said. “How did you do the little creatures?” I tried to explain how I figured out the basics of 3D animation. His eyes lit up and he started talking about the digital effects in The Aviator.

The juxtaposition of scales was overpowering. I felt like I was in a movie. Why he spent so much time with me I do not know, but it was amazing just to be in his presence. A few weeks afterwards I labored over a thank-you card, in which I expressed the overwhelming impression I had gotten that I don’t know enough about anything. I specially don’t know enough about film history and foreign cinema. I asked if he had any suggestions for where to start.

A couple weeks later, Scorsese’s assistant sent him a handful of books and 39 foreign movies personally picked by the filmmaker. “Mr. Scorsese asked that I send this your way,” his assistant wrote to Colin. “This should be a jump start to your film education!”

Scorsese’s selections – which you can see above – are a fascinating insight into what influenced the filmmaker. Several movies are perennial film school classics: Italian neorealist masterpieces like the Bicycle Thief and Umberto D pop up on the list along with groundbreaking French New Wave works like 400 Blows and Breathless. More unexpected is surprisingly strong showings of both Japanese post-war movies and New German cinema. Both Akira Kurosawa and Rainer Werner Fassbinder get three films each. And while there are some rather eccentric, unexpected inclusions in the list–Rocco and his Brothers? Il Sorpasso? Death by Hanging? – there are also some pretty striking omissions; big name art house figures like Ingmar Bergman, Robert Bresson and most surprisingly Federico Fellini didn’t make the cut. In any case, as Scorsese’s assistant writes, this list is a great place to start for anyone looking to learn more about foreign film.

At least the first few films on the list you will find in our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

via Huffington Post

Related Content:
Martin Scorsese Reveals His 12 Favorite Movies (and Writes a New Essay on Film Preservation)

Martin Scorsese’s Very First Films: Three Imaginative Short Works

Martin Scorsese Brings “Lost” Hitchcock Film to Screen in Short Faux Documentary

Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

by | Make a Comment (9)

Comments (9)

  1. SLFerguson says . . .
    October 15, 2014 / 10:30 am

    I wouldn’t read too hard into any “omissions.” We all know how list generating goes…you either labor for way too long, entirely aware of what you might be missing due to either length constraints or brain blarts, or you have a great time just generating the list in your brain at that given moment.

    A bit impressed and entirely heartened to see genuine communication going on. And while I can’t be Colin, it sure is fun to get a look at the note.

    Now off to see the titles I haven’t yet. Or at least at them to the “to see pile.” Because you know how THOSE go.

  2. Riitta Fränti says . . .
    October 16, 2014 / 7:23 pm

    I’ve seen these films and I could sign the list.

  3. nallendran says . . .
    October 17, 2014 / 1:14 pm

    aspiring to be good movie buff to relish
    and explore and experiance a wide range of emotions and equations,

  4. Parkino says . . .
    February 25, 2015 / 3:12 am

    Great list.
    But ‘Rocco and his Brothers’ should be no surprise: an epic melodrama about Italian economic migrants, boxing, and brotherhood.

  5. Dan Colman says . . .
    February 25, 2015 / 7:51 am

    Hi there,

    Does anyone happen to know who featured our post on Facebook today?

    Many thanks,
    Dan (editor)

  6. Paul D says . . .
    February 25, 2015 / 7:55 am

    No “The Leopard” I thought that would be first on his list

  7. Stanley says . . .
    February 26, 2015 / 2:45 pm

    Can we see the list of books, too? Would love to know which ones he recommends.

  8. Ralph Brown says . . .
    April 18, 2015 / 10:37 pm

    No Bunuel. No Bergman. No Tarkovsky.

    the best 3 film-makers ever.

  9. Hamid says . . .
    August 22, 2015 / 12:16 pm

    Scorsese’s book suggestions would be more interesting.

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