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Scorsese Identifies With Isolation in ‘The Departed'

6 Feb, 2007 By: Jessica Wolf

(L-R): Martin Scorsese and Richard Schickel

Martin Scorsese, Oscar-nominated director of The Departed, found familiar themes in his critically acclaimed work, elements that exist both in his professional oeuvre and personal history, the director said.

The evening before he was honored with a Director's Guild Award for The Departed, Scorsese turned out for a special screening to celebrate the upcoming DVD release of his much-lauded crime drama.

The Departed two-disc special-edition DVD arrives Feb. 13 — just a little less than two weeks before the Academy Awards ceremony — from Warner Home Video with the documentary Scorsese on Scorsese directed by Time Magazine critic Richard Schickel. In addition to Scorsese's directing nom, the film was nominated in the best picture, best supporting actor (Mark Wahlberg), best adapted screenplay and film editing categories.

Schickel chatted with Scorsese in front of an audience prior to the screening of The Departed Feb. 4, touching on the film as well as his history in moviemaking.

There are themes of isolation and power struggles and desperation in so many Scorsese films, Schickel pointed out, asking the director if that's what drew him to the William Monahan-penned The Departed, which is a re-imagining of a classic Hong Kong action drama, Infernal Affairs.

“I guess it goes back to the world I grew up in,” Scorsese said, recalling his childhood living in a very insulated Sicilian neighborhood in Queens where powerful men and would-be powerful men walked the streets, and where hardworking Italian immigrant families lived and spoke in the cadence of their native culture.

“Pretty much, I have more than one foot in the old world at all times,” he said.

Scorsese and Schickel touched on stories that run through the DVD documentary — stories about Scorsese's asthmatic childhood that kept him out of sports and rowdy street games and often in the movie theaters, where Technicolor Westerns and horses caught the young boy's imagination and influenced his early thoughts on filmmaking.

“I've said before, I once thought I would make Westerns,” Scorsese joked. “The closest I ever got was Gangs of New York. I made an ‘Eastern.’

With The Departed, Scorsese knew he couldn't tackle the film in its Hong Kong Cinema roots.

“I can't attempt to make anything in that style, so I very reluctantly opened the script,” he said.

Monahan's treatment of the original Chinese storyline drew the director in immediately.

“I started to visualize scenes as I got involved with the characters,” he said.

Scorsese said he originally intended to make the film an exercise in style, rattling off a list of influences including Le Samourai by Jean-Pierre Melville, noir classic The Third Man and Ashes and Diamonds by Andrzej Wajda.

“[But] the making of any film is a bastard of a situation,” he said. “As I got to know these characters and worked with the actors, I found I was stripping away style.”

The language of The Departed, the Irish-Catholic colloquialism of the characters' dialogue, behavior and mentality, appealed to him, Scorsese said, as did the isolation of the characters.

“I've been very lucky to do pictures that I feel very strongly about,” he said. “Looking back, I must have been attracted to stories that have that sense of isolation I had as a kid.”

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