Haruki Murakami’s Passion for Jazz: Discover the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

Any seri­ous read­er of Haru­ki Muraka­mi — and even most of the casu­al ones — will have picked up on the fact that, apart from the work that has made him quite pos­si­bly the world’s most beloved liv­ing nov­el­ist, the man has two pas­sions: run­ning and jazz. In his mem­oir What I Talk About When I Talk About Run­ning, he tells the sto­ry of how he became a run­ner, which he sees as inex­tri­ca­bly bound up with how he became a writer. Both per­son­al trans­for­ma­tions occurred in his ear­ly thir­ties, after he sold Peter Cat, the Tokyo jazz bar he spent most of the 1970s oper­at­ing. Yet he hard­ly put the music behind him, con­tin­u­ing to main­tain a siz­able per­son­al record library, weave jazz ref­er­ences into his fic­tion, and even to write the essay col­lec­tions Por­trait in Jazz and Por­trait in Jazz 2.

Murakami Short

Image comes from Ilana Simons’ ani­mat­ed intro­duc­tion to Muraka­mi

“I had my first encounter with jazz in 1964 when I was 15,” Muraka­mi writes in the New York Times. “Art Blakey and the Jazz Mes­sen­gers per­formed in Kobe in Jan­u­ary that year, and I got a tick­et for a birth­day present. This was the first time I real­ly lis­tened to jazz, and it bowled me over. I was thun­der­struck.” Though unskilled in music him­self, he often felt that, in his head, “some­thing like my own music was swirling around in a rich, strong surge. I won­dered if it might be pos­si­ble for me to trans­fer that music into writ­ing. That was how my style got start­ed.”

He found writ­ing and jazz sim­i­lar endeav­ors, in that both need “a good, nat­ur­al, steady rhythm,” a melody, “which, in lit­er­a­ture, means the appro­pri­ate arrange­ment of the words to match the rhythm,” har­mo­ny, “the inter­nal men­tal sounds that sup­port the words,” and free impro­vi­sa­tion, where­in, “through some spe­cial chan­nel, the sto­ry comes welling out freely from inside. All I have to do is get into the flow.”

With Peter Cat long gone, fans have nowhere to go to get into the flow of Murakami’s per­son­al  jazz selec­tions. Still, at the top of the post, you can lis­ten to a playlist assem­bled by YouTube user Ron­ny Po of songs men­tioned in Por­trait in Jazz, fea­tur­ing Chet Bak­er, Char­lie Park­er, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, and Miles Davis. (You can find anoth­er extend­ed playlist of 56 songs here.) Should you make the trip out to Tokyo, you can also pay a vis­it to Cafe Roku­ji­gen, pro­filed in the short video just above, where Muraka­mi read­ers con­gre­gate to read their favorite author’s books while lis­ten­ing to the music that, in his words, taught him every­thing he need­ed to know to write them. And else­where on the very same sub­way line, you can also vis­it the old site of Peter Cat: just fol­low in the foot­steps tak­en by A Geek in Japan author Héc­tor Gar­cía, who set out to find it after read­ing Murakami’s rem­i­nis­cences in What I Talk About When I Talk About Run­ning. And what plays in the great emi­nence-out­sider of Japan­ese let­ters’ ear­buds while he runs? “I love lis­ten­ing to the Lovin’ Spoon­ful,” he writes. Hey, you can’t spin to Thelo­nious Monk all the time.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Muraka­mi, Japan’s Jazz and Base­ball-Lov­ing Post­mod­ern Nov­el­ist

A 56-Song Playlist of Music in Haru­ki Murakami’s Nov­els: Ray Charles, Glenn Gould, the Beach Boys & More

In Search of Haru­ki Muraka­mi, Japan’s Great Post­mod­ernist Nov­el­ist

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Trans­lates The Great Gats­by, the Nov­el That Influ­enced Him Most

1959: The Year that Changed Jazz

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Allen Ginsberg & The Clash Perform the Punk Poem “Capitol Air,” Live Onstage in Times Square (1981)

The Clash had been called sell­outs ever since they signed with CBS and made their 1977 debut, so the charge was pret­ty stale when cer­tain crit­ics lobbed it at their turn to dis­co-fla­vored new wave and “are­na rock” in 1982’s pop­u­lar Com­bat Rock. As All­mu­sic writes of the record, “if this album is, as it has often been claimed, the Clash’s sell­out effort, it’s a very strange way to sell out.” Com­bat Rock’s hits—“Rock the Cas­bah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go”—are catchy and anthemic, respec­tive­ly, but this hard­ly breaks new styl­is­tic ground, though the sounds are clean­er and the influ­ences more dif­fuse. But the true stand­outs for my mon­ey—“Straight to Hell” and “Ghet­to Defen­dant”—per­fect the strain of reg­gae-punk The Clash had made their career-long exper­i­ment.

The lat­ter track, a midtem­po dub take on the pathos of hero­in addic­tion and under­class angst, fea­tures a cameo spo­ken-word vocal from Allen Gins­berg, who co-wrote the song with Joe Strum­mer. Far from sim­ply lend­ing the song Beat cred—as Bur­roughs would for a string of artists, to vary­ing degrees of artis­tic success—the Gins­berg appear­ance feels pos­i­tive­ly essen­tial, such that the poet joined the band on stage dur­ing the New York leg of their tour in sup­port of the album.

But before “Ghet­to Defen­dant,” there was “Capi­tol Air,” a com­po­si­tion of Ginsberg’s own that he per­formed impromp­tu with the band in New York in 1981. As Gins­berg tells it, he joined the band back­stage dur­ing one of their 17 shows at Bonds Club in Times Square dur­ing the San­din­ista tour. Strum­mer invit­ed the poet onstage to riff on Cen­tral Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, and Gins­berg instead taught the band his very own punk song, which after 5 min­utes of rehearsal, they took to the stage and played.

Just above, hear that one­time live per­for­mance of “Capi­tol Air,” one of those anti-author­i­tar­i­an rants Gins­berg turned into an art form all its own—ripping cap­i­tal­ists, com­mu­nists, bureau­crats, and the police state—as the band backs him up with a chug­ging three-chord jam. Gins­berg wrote the song, accord­ing to the Allen Gins­berg Project, in 1980, after return­ing from Yugoslavia and “real­iz­ing that police bureau­cra­cies in Amer­i­ca and in East­ern Europe were the same, mir­ror images of each oth­er final­ly,” a feel­ing cap­tured in the lines “No Hope Com­mu­nism, No Hope Cap­i­tal­ism, Yeah. Every­body is lying on both sides.” Many of these same themes worked their way into “Ghet­to Defen­dant,” writ­ten and record­ed six months lat­er.

Here you can hear the Com­bat Rock album ver­sion of “Ghet­to Defen­dant.” (The track appeared in longer form on the record’s first, unre­leased, incar­na­tion, Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg). Ginsberg’s con­tri­bu­tions to the track, which he intones as “the voice of God,” match his free-asso­cia­tive dark humor against Strummer’s nar­ra­tive con­crete­ness. Off the wall hip­ster lines like “Hooked on necrop­o­lis,” “Do the worm on the acrop­o­lis” and “Slam­dance the cos­mopo­lis” become ellip­ti­cal ref­er­ences to Arthur Rim­baud, Sal­vado­ri­an death squads, and Afghanistan before Gins­berg launch­es into the Bud­dhist heart sutra over Strummer’s final cho­rus. The effect is com­ic, hyp­not­ic, and dis­ori­ent­ing, rem­i­nis­cent of the sam­ple-based elec­tron­ic col­lages groups like Cabaret Voltaire and Throb­bing Gris­tle con­struct­ed around the same time. It’s such a per­fect sym­bio­sis that the song los­es much of its impact with­out Ginsberg’s nut­ty offer­ings, I think, though you can judge for your­self in the live, Gins­berg-less ver­sion below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Rare Live Footage Doc­u­ments The Clash From Their Raw Debut to the Career-Defin­ing Lon­don Call­ing

The First Record­ing of Allen Gins­berg Read­ing “Howl” (1956)

William S. Bur­roughs “Sings” R.E.M. and The Doors, Backed by the Orig­i­nal Bands

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Take a Road Trip with Cyberspace Visionary William Gibson, Watch No Maps for These Territories (2000)

“I prob­a­bly wor­ry less about the real future than the aver­age per­son,” says William Gib­son, the man who coined the term “cyber­space” and wrote books like Neu­ro­mancerIdoru, and Pat­tern Recog­ni­tionThese have become clas­sics of a sci­ence-fic­tion sub­genre brand­ed as “cyber­punk,” a label that seems to pain Gib­son him­self. “A snap­py label and a man­i­festo would have been two of the very last things on my own career want list,” he says to David Wal­lace-Wells in a 2011 Paris Review inter­view. Yet the pop­u­lar­i­ty of the con­cept of cyberspace — and, to a great extent, its hav­ing become a real­i­ty — still aston­ish­es him. “I saw it go from the yel­low legal pad to the Oxford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary, but cyber­space is every­where now, hav­ing evert­ed and col­o­nized the world. It starts to sound kind of ridicu­lous to speak of cyber­space as being some­where else.” A dozen years ear­li­er, in Mark Neale’s bio­graph­i­cal doc­u­men­tary No Maps for These Ter­ri­to­ries, the author tells of how he first con­ceived it as “an effec­tive buzz­word,” “evoca­tive and essen­tial­ly mean­ing­less,” and observes that, today, the pre­fix “cyber-” has very near­ly gone the way of “elec­tro-”: just as we’ve long since tak­en elec­tri­fi­ca­tion for grant­ed, so we now take con­nect­ed com­put­er­i­za­tion for grant­ed.

“Now,” of course, means the year 1999, when Neale shot the movie’s footage. He did it almost entire­ly in the back of a lim­ou­sine, tricked out for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and media pro­duc­tion, that car­ried Gib­son on a road trip across North Amer­i­ca. The long ride gives us an extend­ed look into Gib­son’s curi­ous, far-reach­ing mind as he explores issues of the inevitabil­i­ty with which we find our­selves “pen­e­trat­ed and co-opt­ed” by our tech­nol­o­gy; grow­ing up in a time when “the future with a cap­i­tal F was very much a going con­cern in North Amer­i­ca”; the loss of “the non-medi­at­ed world,” a coun­try to which we now “can­not find our way back”; the mod­ern real­i­ty’s com­bi­na­tion of “a per­va­sive sense of loss” and a Christ­mas morn­ing-like “excite­ment about what we could be gain­ing”; his ear­ly go-nowhere pas­tich­es of J.G. Bal­lard and how he then wrote Neu­ro­mancer as an approach to the “viable but essen­tial­ly derelict form” of sci­ence fic­tion; his fas­ci­na­tion with the sheer improb­a­bil­i­ty of those machines known as cities; and his mis­sion not to explain our moment, but to “make it acces­si­ble,” find­ing the vast, near-incom­pre­hen­si­ble struc­ture under­ly­ing the pound­ing waves of thought, trend, and tech­nol­o­gy through which we all move. Watch­ing No Maps for These Ter­ri­to­ries here in cyber­space, I kept for­get­ting that Gib­son said these things a tech-time eter­ni­ty ago, so per­ti­nent do they sound to this moment. And hap­pi­ness, as he puts it in one aside, “is being in the moment.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Tim­o­thy Leary Plans a Neu­ro­mancer Video Game, with Art by Kei­th Har­ing, Music by Devo & Cameos by David Byrne

William Gib­son, Father of Cyber­punk, Reads New Nov­el in Sec­ond Life

The Penul­ti­mate Truth About Philip K. Dick: Doc­u­men­tary Explores the Mys­te­ri­ous Uni­verse of PKD

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Learn the Elements of Cinema: Spielberg’s Long Takes, Scorsese’s Silence & Michael Bay’s Shots

Ever since the advent of YouTube and the release of Thom Ander­sen’s Los Ange­les Plays Itself, the video essay about film­mak­ing has blos­somed on the inter­net. When these essays are good, they force you to look at movies anew. Kog­o­na­da’s bril­liant inter­ro­ga­tion of Stan­ley Kubrick’s use of one-point per­spec­tive, Matt Zoller Seitz’s dis­sec­tion of Wes Anderson’s cin­e­mat­ic style and, in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent tone, Red Let­ter Media’s blis­ter­ing, exhaus­tive take down of George Lucas’s regret­table Star Wars pre­quels, all argue con­vinc­ing­ly that per­haps the best way to dis­cuss the mer­its and flaws of a movie or film­mak­er is through the medi­um of film itself.

Add to this list Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Pic­ture. An edi­tor by trade, Zhou has cre­at­ed a series of videos about how the mas­ters of cin­e­ma use the basic ele­ments of cin­e­ma – the dura­tion of a shot, the appli­ca­tion of sound, the use of a track­ing shot. In his ele­gant videos he makes argu­ments that are unex­pect­ed. Mar­tin Scors­ese, for instance, who is famous for his ground­break­ing use of music, is just as bril­liant with his judi­cious use of silence. You can watch it above.

And below, Zhou argues that Steven Spiel­berg, a film­mak­er not com­mon­ly asso­ci­at­ed with restraint, is actu­al­ly a mas­ter of the under­stat­ed long take.

And in this video, he argues that while Michael Bay might make ado­les­cent, over-stuffed, soul­less spec­ta­cles, he does know how to con­struct a shot.

You can nerd out and watch even more of Zhou’s films here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:
The Per­fect Sym­me­try of Wes Anderson’s Movies

Sig­na­ture Shots from the Films of Stan­ley Kubrick: One-Point Per­spec­tive

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 pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.


An Ivory Coast Cocoa Farmer Gets His Very First Taste of Chocolate

Here is how Metrop­o­lisTV, a glob­al col­lec­tive of young film­mak­ers and TV pro­duc­ers com­ing out of Hol­land, sets up their touch­ing video:

Farmer N’Da Alphonse grows cocoa [in the Ivory Coast] and has nev­er seen the fin­ished prod­uct. “To be hon­est I do not know what they make of my beans,” says farmer N’Da Alphonse. “I’ve heard they’re used as fla­vor­ing in cook­ing, but I’ve nev­er seen it. I do not even know if it’s true.”

It’s great — and yet, in its own way, sad — to watch his face light up as he gets his very first taste…

via Devour

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sci­ence & Cook­ing: Har­vard Profs Meet World-Class Chefs in Unique Online Course

The Recipes of Icon­ic Authors: Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Roald Dahl, the Mar­quis de Sade & More

MIT Teach­es You How to Speak Ital­ian & Cook Ital­ian Cui­sine All at Once (Free Online Course)

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Watch Mad Magazine’s Edgy, Never-Aired TV Special (1974)

1974 was a cyn­i­cal time. That was the year that Nixon resigned after the gru­el­ing Water­gate scan­dal, Viet­nam War was final­ly grind­ing to a halt and, thanks to the Oil Shock of ’73, the econ­o­my was in the toi­let. It was also a time when TV execs were scram­bling to keep up with America’s rapid­ly chang­ing cul­tur­al tastes. Audi­ences want­ed some­thing with a lit­tle edge. The TV adap­ta­tion of Robert Altman’s lac­er­at­ing war com­e­dy MASH became a huge hit. As did All in the Fam­i­ly, about everyone’s favorite arm­chair big­ot Archie Bunker. Sat­ur­day Night Live was just a year away from pre­mier­ing. So it isn’t sur­pris­ing that execs from ABC approached the “usu­al gang of idiots” at Mad Mag­a­zine — that fount of anti-author­i­tar­i­an satire — about mak­ing a series. The result­ing pilot, which was lat­er rebrand­ed as a TV spe­cial, nev­er aired because it pro­vid­ed way too much edge for the net­work. You can watch it above.

The show, culled from some of the bet­ter bits from the mag­a­zine, fea­tures art from Don Mar­tin, Mort Druck­er, Al Jaf­fee and Dave Berg – names that will be very famil­iar to you if you grew up obses­sive­ly read­ing the mag­a­zine as a child, like I did – and the ani­ma­tion was super­vised by Jim­my Muraka­mi along with Chris Ishii and Gor­don Bel­lamy.

The net­work claimed that the show was shelved because it had too much “adult” humor. In this post-South Park, post-Fam­i­ly Guy world, the adult humor in this show, by com­par­i­son, seems down­right tame. What the Mad Mag­a­zine TV Spe­cial does have in abun­dance is with­er­ing barbs. Some­thing about trans­lat­ing the cyn­i­cal, ado­les­cent humor of the mag­a­zine from the page to screen made its satire feel much, much sharp­er. Dur­ing their par­o­dy of The God­fa­ther, called the Odd­fa­ther, mafia don Vito Mine­strone (groan) tells a group of mob­sters that their gang war must stop. “We must stop destroy­ing each oth­er and start destroy­ing the plain, ordi­nary cit­i­zens again. Like nor­mal Amer­i­can busi­ness­men.”

The show’s most caus­tic zingers, how­ev­er, are reserved for America’s bloat­ed, com­pla­cent auto indus­try where a Wal­ter Cronkite-like jour­nal­ist inter­views auto exec Edsel Lemon. In five or so min­utes, the bit unspar­ing­ly lays out why GM and Ford even­tu­al­ly lost out to Toy­ota and Hon­da – crap­py cars, lousy safe­ty, and an upper man­age­ment that was as men­da­cious as it was short­sight­ed. While field test­ing a new mod­el, which involved coast­ing the car down a hill, Lemon quips, “If our pro­to­type can go 500 feet with­out falling apart we’ll put it into pro­duc­tion.” This seem­ing­ly explains how the Ford Pin­to got made.

In the end, the net­works squea­mish­ness with the show was more due to its ridicule of an indus­try with deep pock­ets than with its toi­let humor. As Dick DeBa­to­lo, the MAD’s mad­dest writer, who penned much of the show not­ed, “Nobody want­ed to spon­sor a show that made fun of prod­ucts that were adver­tised on TV, like car man­u­fac­tur­ers.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Shel Sil­ver­stein Nar­rates an Ani­mat­ed Ver­sion of The Giv­ing Tree (1973)

Watch 1970s Ani­ma­tions of Songs by Joni Mitchell, Jim Croce & The Kinks, Aired on The Son­ny & Cher Show

A Short His­to­ry of Amer­i­ca, Accord­ing to the Irrev­er­ent Com­ic Satirist Robert Crumb

Watch the First Ani­ma­tions of Peanuts: Com­mer­cials for the Ford Motor Com­pa­ny (1959–1961)

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 pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.

The Modern-Day Philosophers Podcast: Where Comedians Like Carl Reiner & Artie Lange Discuss Schopenhauer & Maimonides

The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined LifeThe His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any GapsPhi­los­o­phy BitesPhi­los­o­phize This!we’ve fea­tured quite a few enter­tain­ing and edu­ca­tion­al fruits of the still-new dis­ci­pline of pod­cast­ing’s incli­na­tion toward the very old dis­ci­pline of phi­los­o­phy. But the pod­cast has proven an even bet­ter fit for come­di­ans than it has for philoso­phers. Even if you’ve nev­er down­loaded an episode in your life, you’ve almost cer­tain­ly heard about the medi­um-legit­imiz­ing suc­cess­es of intel­li­gent, con­ver­sa­tion­al, high­ly opin­ion­at­ed, or oth­er­wise uncon­ven­tion­al fun­ny­men like Ricky Ger­vais with The Ricky Ger­vais ShowAdam Car­ol­la with his also-epony­mous pod­cast, and Marc Maron with WTF. Yet nobody dared to explic­it­ly cross pod­cast­ing’s comedic and philo­soph­i­cal strengths until last year, when Dan­ny Lobell launched Mod­ern Day Philoso­phers (web siteitunessound­cloud).

Lobell, him­self a pio­neer in not just philo­soph­i­cal com­e­dy pod­cast­ing but com­e­dy pod­cast­ing, and indeed pod­cast­ing itself, began his com­ic-inter­view­ing show Com­i­cal Radio a decade ago. “As pod­cast­ing grew in pop­u­lar­i­ty,” he writes, “many celebri­ty come­di­ans start­ed doing sim­i­lar shows to the one I was doing. [ … ] Before I knew it, what I had once felt was a unique and impor­tant under­tak­ing now no longer seemed like it served a pur­pose in the uni­verse for me.” This dark night of the soul saw him move from New York to Los Ange­les, this cra­dle of so many pod­casts comedic and oth­er­wise, where he turned his atten­tion back toward the sub­jects he neglect­ed in school. He paid spe­cial atten­tion to phi­los­o­phy, but strug­gled to under­stand the mate­r­i­al. “I real­ized that my friends, stand up come­di­ans, would make great study part­ners. I’ve often heard us referred to as the philoso­phers of our day which I fig­ured sound­ed like a good enough excuse to approach them.”

And so Lobell has pro­duced 40 episodes and count­ing fea­tur­ing philo­soph­i­cal dis­cus­sions con­duct­ed with some of today’s sharpest comics, many of them star pod­cast­ers in their own right. One recent con­ver­sa­tion finds Lobell in con­ver­sa­tion about John Cage — a philo­soph­i­cal fig­ure too often dis­missed as pri­mar­i­ly an artist — with the cere­bral, chance-ori­ent­ed, and some­what askew Reg­gie Watts (top). (The pair­ing makes espe­cial­ly good sense, since Cage influ­enced Bri­an Eno, and Watts has pub­licly dis­cussed Eno’s influ­ence on his own act.) A few months ago, Lobell talked the sui­cide-mind­ed Arthur Schopen­hauer with the once-sui­cide-mind­ed Artie Lange (mid­dle). And he even brings in elder states­men of com­e­dy to talk about mat­ters eter­nal, such as Carl Rein­er on reli­gion, prayer and mem­o­ry as reflect­ed upon by Mai­monides (above). Each episode con­tains a healthy con­sid­er­a­tion of not just the work of the philoso­pher in ques­tion, but that of the come­di­an as well. Per­son­al­ly, I can’t wait to hear what Yakov Smirnoff has to say about his fel­low Russ­ian artist-philoso­pher of note, Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky.

H/T Mark Lin­sen­may­er, a founder of Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life: A Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps – Peter Adamson’s Pod­cast Still Going Strong

Phi­los­o­phy Bites: Pod­cast­ing Ideas From Pla­to to Sin­gu­lar­i­ty Since 2007

Phi­los­o­phize This!: The Pop­u­lar, Enter­tain­ing Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast from an Uncon­ven­tion­al Teacher

Down­load 100 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es and Start Liv­ing the Exam­ined Life

Take First-Class Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es Any­where with Free Oxford Pod­casts

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

11-Year-Old Martin Scorsese Draws Storyboards for His Imagined Roman Epic Film, The Eternal City

Mar­tin Scorsese’s mean streets are as long gone as graf­fi­ti-fes­tooned sub­way trains, the real Max’s Kansas City, and Yogi Berra’s pen­nant-win­ning Mets. But while the 1973 film that broke open his career is now over forty years old, Scors­ese hasn’t looked back, nor has he stayed trapped in the rough milieu of New York gang­ster films. He’s adapt­ed Edith Whar­ton, told sto­ries of the Dalai Lama, Howard Hugh­es, hand­fuls of rock and blues stars, and cin­e­mat­ic hero Georges Méliès (sort of).

Last year’s The Wolf of Wall Street fur­ther cement­ed Scorsese’s rep­u­ta­tion as a direc­tor with more breadth than almost any of his con­tem­po­raries. But it would per­haps be a mis­take to call Scorsese’s genre-hop­ping an evo­lu­tion­ary devel­op­ment. The series of sto­ry­boards here for an imag­ined widescreen Roman epic called The Eter­nal City— drawn by 11-year-old Scorsese—show us that his vision always exceed­ed the cramped Lit­tle Italy streets of his youth.

Young Scors­ese described his Cecil B. Demille-like pro­duc­tion as “A fic­ti­tious sto­ry of Roy­al­ty in Ancient Rome,” and though he didn’t give us char­ac­ter names, he made sure to spec­i­fy the film’s actors, cast­ing Mar­lon Bran­do, Richard Bur­ton, Vir­ginia Mayo, and Alec Guin­ness, among oth­ers. As for Scorsese’s own role, The Inde­pen­dent notes, “it is strik­ing that he has giv­en him­self a big­ger cred­it as pro­duc­er-direc­tor than any of the stars.” Repro­duced in David Thompson’s series of inter­views, Scors­ese on Scors­ese, the draw­ings’ impres­sive lev­el of detail demon­strate a pre­co­cious eye for shot com­po­si­tion and the dra­mat­ic per­spec­tives that char­ac­ter­ize his mature work.

The direc­tor of such metic­u­lous­ly com­posed films as Taxi Dri­ver and Good­fel­las has had much to say about the impor­tance of sto­ry­boards to his process. (We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured his hand-drawn sto­ry­boards for Taxi Dri­ver.) They are, he’s said, “the way to visu­al­ize the entire movie in advance,” to “show how I would imag­ine a scene and how it should move to the next.” And while many direc­tors would make sim­i­lar claims about this essen­tial pro­duc­tion tool, Scors­ese cher­ish­es the craft as well as the util­i­ty of the sto­ry­board. “Pen­cil draw­ing is my favorite,” he remarks. “The pen­cil line leaves lit­tle impres­sion on the paper, so if the sto­ry­board is pho­to­copied it los­es some­thing. I refer back to my orig­i­nal draw­ings in order for me to con­jure up the idea I had when I saw the pen­cil line made.”

Can we look for­ward to Scors­ese look­ing back, just once, to his plans for The Eter­nal City? He’d have to recast, of course, but giv­en how con­fi­dent­ly he sketch­es out each of his films on paper, the 71-year-old direc­tor might find much to work with in this youth­ful cin­e­mat­ic vision of antiq­ui­ty.

View the sto­ry­boards in a larg­er for­mat here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Revis­it Mar­tin Scorsese’s Hand-Drawn Sto­ry­boards for Taxi Dri­ver

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

Saul Bass’ Vivid Sto­ry­boards for Kubrick’s Spar­ta­cus (1960)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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