Will our boy finally get the big O this year? Whatever: Here, four of his ’70s films are shipped together, ranging from his yeoman stint on the Depression-era crime bio-comedy Boxcar Bertha (1972) to the courageous holy work of Raging Bull (1980). The Promethean stretch of those eight years still amazes, and the blunt force trauma of Bull remains an achievement no other filmmaker has even attempted to assimilate. Bertha exudes Depression-nostalgia ’70s dust in the new wavy way no one can manage anymore. New York, New York (1977) is a bristling, hostile period musical—the transposition of Little Italy strife onto the big-band era, by way of Betty Grable and Harry James. Actually an expansion of the 1946 Ida Lupino melodrama The Man I Love, the movie’s critical evaluation (genre pretzel, misogynist tirade, or sheer production debacle?) is far from finished. The Last Waltz (1978) is a heartfelt valentine to the Band, and a reminder of how much Scorsese owes to rock—even if he keeps returning to the pre-Elvis eras. By any standard, the preservation of performances by Van Morrison and Paul Butterfield is all the justification required. The various additionals are abundant and fab: Scorsese the king of the commentary track never shuts up, and the films have up to three separate yap tracks each. Bull has five making-of docs and newsreel footage of the real Jake LaMotta. Archival outtakes, deleted scenes, booklets, you name it.
Also worth considering:
Bitter Victory (Sony) Nicholas Ray’s violent WW II thriller—its desert landscapes, captured with a painterly touch, were unmatched until Lawrence of Arabia.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 15, 2005