Martin Scorsese Has An Announcement

Martin Scorsese, ‘the reigning king of cinema’, gets an honorary Golden Bear at the 74th Berlinale.
Aseem Chhabra reports.

IMAGE: Martin Scorsese at the Berlinale. Photograph: Aseem Chhabra

In 1978, German film-maker Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, Perfect Days) was on his way to the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. But he was driving and decided to take the scenic route along the Utah-Arizona border to see the Monument Valley.

For the longest time, he drove on the vast empty road with no one in sight. Then suddenly he saw a car parked on the side with a flat tire. One of the occupants of the car, Director Martin Scorsese, had managed to remove the flat tire.

Or as Wenders said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Martin Scorsese did manage to take off the flat tire.’

But the rented car did not have a spare tire.

In the pre-cell phone days, Scorsese and his friends, including the director’s then girlfriend, actress Isabella Rossellini (Scorsese and Rossellini would get married next year) were desperate for help. And Wenders appeared out of nowhere as an angel.

This past Tuesday night, Wenders narrated this story and showed black and white photographs he took at that time with a panoramic camera that he owned.

In the photographs, Scorsese, Rossellini and a few others are standing around an old American car.

The damaged tire is prominently displayed on the road. Wenders was not making up the story. The photographs were his evidence, he said.

IMAGE: Martin Scorsese and Win Wenders at the Berlinale. Photograph: Aseem Chhabra

Wenders spoke at the 74th Berlinale before Scorsese was presented with an honorary Golden Bear, a lifetime achievement award that the festival bestows on a senior film personality every year.

In introducing Scorsese, Wenders referred to him as ‘The Reigning King of Cinema’.

Wenders also said that while Scorsese is an American film-maker, his film-making style has European sensibilities, especially given how much he has been inspired by Italian neo-realist cinema.

The star-studded sold-out night was attended by many celebrities, including Scorsese’s longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker who has won three Oscars, all of for films directed by the film-maker (Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed), Sharon Stone (she played the lead in Scorsese’s Casino) and German Turkish director Fatih Akin.

The Berlinale Palast theatre with 1,800 seats was packed with fans of Scorsese who cheered the director and his young daughter Francesca.

The ceremony began with clips from Scorsese’s 2023 film, Killers of Flower Moon, nominated for 10 Academy Awards. The clips were accompanied by a live orchestra playing the score of the film composed by the late Robbie Robertson.

Another highlight of the programme was a separate set of clips from Scorsese’s other films including The Departed, After Hours (both of which are showing at the Berlinale in new restored prints), Taxi Driver, Age of Innocence, Kundan, Silence, Gangs of New York, Bringing Out the Dead, The Wolf of Wall Street, Cape Fear, Raging Bull and others, displaying his diverse story-telling skill.

IMAGE: Martin Scorsese at the Berlinale. Photograph: Aseem Chhabra

In his acceptance speech, Scorsese praised Wenders and referred to his latest film Perfect Days as one of the best of 2023.

Scorsese thanked the Berlinale and other festivals that gave opportunities to young film-makers.

Film festivals matter, the director said, referring to the year 1968 when Brian De Palma won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale for his film, Greetings.

That was an important turning point for many young film-makers, who were making low budget independent films in America, he said.

Hollywood studios started taking film-makers like De Palma, Scorsese, Jim McBride and Phil Kaufman seriously. Soon after, Scorsese directed his early films Boxcar Bertha (1972) and Mean Streets (1973).

Scorsese has made at least three trips to the Berlinale, unveiling Raging Bull (1980), The Rolling Stones documentary Shine a Light (2008) and The 50 Years Argument (2014). This year in addition to receiving the honorary Golden Bear, Scorsese had another documentary playing at the festival, Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger.

Earlier, Wenders said that Scorsese actually does not like making films because that forces him to wake up early. But Scorsese ended his acceptance speech with a little announcement.

The film-maker was still alive in the 82-year-old-master. Perhaps, he said, he would be back at the Berlinale in “a couple of years”.