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


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, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via Huff­in­g­ton Post

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­tin Scors­ese Teach­es His First Online Course on Film­mak­ing: Fea­tures 30 Video Lessons

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

Mar­tin Scors­ese Cre­ate a List of 38 Essen­tial Films About Amer­i­can Democ­ra­cy

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.

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Comments (10)
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  • SLFerguson says:

    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.

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

  • nallendran says:

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

  • Parkino says:

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

  • Paul D says:

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

  • Stanley says:

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

  • Ralph Brown says:

    No Bunuel. No Bergman. No Tarkovsky.

    the best 3 film-mak­ers ever.

  • Hamid says:

    Scors­ese’s book sug­ges­tions would be more inter­est­ing.

  • Dan Andersen says:

    Roc­co and his broth­ers is for sure,a great movie,and the Leop­ard too.But not men­tion­ing Tarkovski,is a mistake,but dont let it ruin your day,i dont know all that is worth to see.Theres so many good movies that to see them all would make your eyes fall out!!!Excuse me here,off course you know him,but not tak­ing him in,is a mistake.So,there,i avoid­ed look­ing like a jerk!Its only me ram­bling on,take it easy,i do…

  • Jeram says:

    Sur­prised Tarkovsky was­n’t on there, giv­en he went to rus­sia to get the orig­i­nal print of Andrei Rublev. but hey, these kind of lists could be end­less to a film buff…

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