“America is now blood and tears instead of milk and honey.”
- “Who Sill Survive In America?”, Kanye West
Martin Scorsese began his filmmaking career in a turbulent time for both Hollywood cinema and America. The established order of the country was being broken down; so too was the Hollywood studio system and with it, the strictures of the Hays Code. From the ashes emerged a new group of young filmmakers with new perspectives on their homeland and their life. Scorsese would become instrumental in the American New Wave with films like Boxcar Bertha, Mean Streets and Taxi Driver.
His filmography boasts an eclectic collection of stories, themes and visual styles, but there is a group of films characterized by their depiction of male violence. When viewed not in chronological order of release but the period of time in which they are set, these films represent the historical development of American masculinity.
It’s a world set almost exclusively in New York, in which the smallest of slights lead to an explosion of male anger. Women exist but are relegated to the borders, perceived by men as the key to their salvation but never fully understood. They become excuses for violence, passed over for allegiances to a perceived brotherhood. They inhabit a smaller amount of this space, but the women in this world are more often able to recognize and understand the futility of that violence. Men who fail to recognize it are lost, doomed to repeat their mistakes.
Together these films tell the story of men whose lives are inextricably linked with violence, beginning in 1863 and ending in 2006. With Scorsese now acting as Producer on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, it seems his history of America is not over yet.