Scorsese and Tedeschi’s film about the New York Review of Books is not a documentary about the magazine so much as it is a love letter to it. (To be fair, in the subsequent conversation, Scorsese said he wasn’t interested in “conventional” documentaries – that is documentaries as journalism. Rather he wants to make Cinema.) Also, it is, unsurprisingly, a movie that treats New York as the centre of the universe over the last half century.
Both of these things are things I dislike; I dislike such bias and I dislike anything that is overly “New York is the Greatest City in History.”
But that doesn’t matter. Scorsese – and Tedeschi, his long-time collaborator, first time co-director – has created an incredible celebration of a magazine, its editor and its contributors. The way he makes this movie not just talking heads and quotes but something with a pace, and moments of surprise and emotion. It’s instructive to watch such a well-made documentary after watching Natural Resistance, a thrown-together film about a subject perhaps more easy to film. This is the kind of movie that should be shown in film classes for making a seemingly unfilmable subject filmable. It’s yet another film that confirms Scorsese as a master of the medium.
A note about “meeting” Martin Scorsese
Of course I didn’t meet him, I only saw him walk into the theatre and then sat there while he spoke. But I have perhaps never been so starstruck in my life. Scorsese isn’t even among my favourite filmmakers, but he is among the greatest American filmmakers of his generation (and of all time) and to be in the presence of him was extraordinary.
I have to say I haven’t felt that way when I’ve been in the presence of other famous people. Usually I am not so overcome. Usually I’m just like “Oh, that’s neat, I just saw Willem Dafoe for the second time” and its over. But this was different. I am still “high” from it 12 hours later. The best part was it was a surprise. I didn’t know it was going to happen.