For nearly three hours on Monday night, a large audience at the Arlington was thoroughly charmed by the sparkling wit, generous demeanor, and immense achievement of master director Martin Scorsese. Under the guidance of interviewer Leonard Maltin, Scorsese, a self-confessed cinema fanatic, offered an astute analysis of the films he has made, of the influence of his Italian-American upbringing on his work, and of the changing cultural climate in which his talent came of age. Along the way he dropped many delightful images of his collaborators and of himself. These included everything from a touching portrait of his years as an asthmatic adolescent accompanying his mostly silent father to such great American films at The Bad and the Beautiful and On the Waterfront, to an image of himself onstage at Woodstock (he helped shoot and edit the successful documentary) as “the only guy at Woodstock wearing cufflinks.”
Scorsese reserved special praise for the intelligence and work ethic of iconic actor Robert DeNiro, offering a handful of reminiscences that went all the way back to moments shared in their respective New York neighborhoods, when both men were still in their teens. Highlights from the film clips that Scorsese chose to show included a wonderfully loving argument between his parents from the less-than-well-known documentary Italian American to a fabulous dialogue between DeNiro and Harvey Keitel from Mean Streets, as well as two vivid sequences involving music, one of Muddy Waters’s performance in The Last Waltz and the other from Scorsese’s enigmatic Bob Dylan biopic, No Direction Home.
When it’s time to accept your American Riviera Award, you might want to find out if Ben Kingsley is available to present it. Kingsley’s speech was delivered with extraordinary dignity, force, and affection, capping a great night for Scorsese, for American cinema, and for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.