MARTIN SCORSESE & ROBBIE ROBERTSON: A PROFOUND & SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIP


FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

As many of you may know by now, I’m exceptionally passionate about keeping my personal life private. But nothing really happened in this instance. So I can actually talk about it with no possible repercussions…

I spotted ROBBIE ROBERTSON across a crowded room about ten years ago. He was awesomely gorgeous and magnetic – in exactly the way that you would expect him to be.

He never saw me. So we didn’t speak. I was so lightheaded I felt as if I would faint at any given second.

But I’m sure if he had talked to me I could have pulled out all the stops and made some effortlessly charming remarks.

That, my adorable readers, is something that has always been extraordinarily easy for me. It’s nice to have something to fall back on.

You never know when it may come in handy…

THE LAST WALTZ may have been a festive parting for the members of THE BAND, but for MARTIN SCORSESE and ROBBIE ROBERTSON it was the opening number.

Since directing ROBBIE and his bandmates in that famed 1978 concert film, he and MARTY have been close friends and consistent collaborators. From RAGING BULL to Mr. Scorsese’s latest film SHUTTER ISLAND (which opens in North America on Friday), ROBBIE has frequently consulted on the music in MARTY’S movies.

“We’ve always had this relationship going back and forth,” Mr. Scorsese commented in a recent interview.

“We started a kind of relationship in which we’d touch base as to every film I was doing and the type of music I was using.”

SHUTTER ISLAND, the eighth film they’ve worked on together by ROBBIE’S count, is one of their most interesting efforts. A Gothic thriller starring LEONARDO DICAPRIO, SHUTTER ISLAND is as much about mood and atmosphere as anything – making the music particularly critical.

While Mr. Scorsese’s loyalties to LEO and ROBERT DE NIRO have been widely documented, his work with ROBBIE has spanned more time than either. SANDY WEINTRAUB, a girlfriend of Mr. Scorsese’s in the 70s, once said that the best relationship MARTY (who has been married to his fifth wife, HELEN MORRIS, since 1999) ever had was with ROBBIE ROBERTSON.

“With some people you just know: We’re in it,” stated ROBBIE.

The two were first introduced by JONATHAN TAPLIN, who produced MEAN STREETS and also helped in the management of THE BAND, the revered, multitalented 70s act with whom ROBBIE ROBERTSON played guitar.

“He was too cool. Far too cool,” recalled Mr. Scorsese of his first impression.

“There was a different sensibility, I thought.”

When Mr. Scorsese came aboard to direct THE BAND’S final concert on Thanksgiving in 1976 at THE WINTERLAND BALLROOM in San Francisco, the project grew from a modest attempt to document the event to a full fledged production on 35mm film.

Despite their different backgrounds – one a paranoid Italian Catholic from New York, the other a Canadian born rocker of Jewish and Mohawk heritage – they hit it off. ROBBIE moved in with MARTY at his Mulholland Drive house in Los Angeles, where the two spiritedly shared their respective disciplines in marathon listening sessions and midnight double features.

It was also a time when cocaine was rampant around Hollywood, especially at MARTY’S house. The director recalls it as “a pretty heated time” that he narrowly survived, partly thanks to ROBERT DE NIRO’S intervention.

“It was almost like having a war buddy,” remarked ROBBIE.

“We were in the trenches together and we got out alive and a bomb went off right beside us. It’s that kind of feeling. In the course of that, it just made us really, really good friends.”

MARTY’S next film RAGING BULL would synthesize those times. It was also the first time ROBBIE assisted on a Scorsese score.

In nearly four decades of making movies, Mr. Scorsese has only worked with three composers: BERNARD HERMANN (TAXI DRIVER), ELMER BERNSTEIN (THE AGE OF INNOCENCE) and HOWARD SHORE.

HOWARD SHORE has contributed to AFTER HOURS, GANGS OF NEW YORK and THE DEPARTED, for which Mr. Scorsese said he wanted to be scored by tango “because the tango is dangerous.”

“I’ve always felt obliged not to do a conventional score because I don’t come from that world,” the director commented.

“I’m concerned that sometimes scores are used to tell you what to feel, when to feel it.”

Mr. Scorsese’s relationship to music is as strong as any filmmaker’s. Not only do moments like ERIC CLAPTON’S LAYLA in GOODFELLAS or THE ROLLING STONES in MEAN STREETS immediately come to mind, but MARTY’S filmography includes a number of music documentaries.

Aside from THE LAST WALTZ, there’s 2008’s SHINE A LIGHT (about THE ROLLING STONES), 2005’s NO DIRECTION HOME: BOB DYLAN and 2003’s miniseries THE BLUES. He’s also currently finishing a GEORGE HARRISON doc and planning a FRANK SINATRA biopic.

Rock & roll like THE ROLLING STONES, THE BEATLES, THE BAND and BOB DYLAN “scored my life,” Mr. Scorsese said, along with earlier ballads like KAY STARR’S WHEEL OF FORTUNE, which he called “a refrain echoing through the streets” of his childhood.

MARTY and ROBBIE had long wanted to do an untraditional score for a motion picture where you’d expect a traditional one. They decided the 50s set SHUTTER ISLAND – a twisting genre film in the tradition of film noirs like OUT OF THE PAST and LAURA – was the perfect opportunity.

ROBBIE suggested modern symphonic music and they gradually narrowed the sound, pinpointing works later than Charles Ives. They finished with a tonal score (Mr. Scorsese proudly asserted that “there’s no melody anywhere”) with composers such as BRIAN ENO, JOHN CAGE, MAX RICHTER and JOHN ADAMS.

“As all of this was coming together, it started to feel like, ‘This is really, really working,“‘ stated ROBBIE.

“Then we were getting excited – this kind of music with the faces of Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow. It all blended together.”

The most noticeable choice – “the boldest” selection, according to Mr. Scorsese – is the thundering Passacaglia movement from Krzysztof Penderecki’s Symphony No. 3.

It plays repeatedly, but is first heard when LEO’S detective character is arriving on Shutter Island. It’s foreboding to say the least.

“It even got to a place working on this where Marty was saying, ‘No, that sounds too much like movie music,”’ commented ROBBIE.

“And I thought, ‘Ah, now we’re talking.”’

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