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Scorsese And His Use Of Red

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 5632 words Published: 16th May 2017

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The eminent and much revered director Martin Scorsese first achieved critical acclaim with his 1973 picture, Mean Streets. The film was an independent production which also began his long standing collaboration with the actor Robert DeNiro. Without major studio backing, Scorsese operated with a very small budget, yet he overcame this setback with exceptionally strong acting creative and performances, powerful and striking visuals. Mean Streets is a brutal, moody and sharply detailed story about life in New York City’s Little Italy, as seen through the experiences of a group of small time hoodlums. Scorsese brings his own obsessions into all his movies, and Mean Streets is no exception. His ambivalence towards group and family loyalties, macho values, and the notion of success and the price it demands are all evident, helping to set up the unstable, confused and destructive world of the film, and in particular the main protagonist Charlie. Vital to the creation of this world is the recurrent incorporation of the colour red into the mise en scene.

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Different colours has been used as a filmic code by numerous directors however this was not possible until colour film was technologically feasible, “As a code, colour takes its cue from social codes: red is associated with passion and violence; blue with coolness and melancholy” (Lacey: 38). One of the ways in which colour is used is to focus the audience’s awareness within the mise en scene. It is “done with bright colours, which draw the eye more than pastel shades. Colour is obviously linked with lighting. Film directors may suffuse their film with a particular coloured light: red in Taxi Driver […] and blue in Blue Steel (1989, Kathryn Bigelow). The effect of this is to link various themes in the film.” (38 Lacey) The colour red has a instinctive impact when we first see it, not just in the form of blood, but also on fire trucks, stop signs, police lights and stoplights. Red lights constantly indicate warning and or danger unless they are in a ‘red light district,’ where they imply a different kind of prohibited activity as seen in Taxi Driver. Scorsese frequently encoded the colour red into his films for many reasons.

On the New York, New York special edition DVD introduction, he said that his codification was influenced by the films of the Classical Hollywood period which had the stamp of Hollywood of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Some of things he mentions are:

“the artifice of the film, the sets themselves, the obvious sets, sometimes the sets were painted, you could see it wasn’t real. The street kerbs that were supposed to be in New York were too high. […] But we understood it to be a different kind of reality, a parallel universe in a way, to the reality I knew […] in the streets or at home. That didn’t mean that the films are any less true, you see. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that, because they’re coded in a sense […] a code that occurs. The happy endings weren’t quite realistic or true. There was something else going on emotionally in those films that were very true to the human condition. I tried to bring that out, but place it against and upon the old template. I decided the way to handle New York, New York would be to deal with the artifice right up front.”

As you can see from his interview is that he was implying that his films were heavily coded just like the films from the Classical Hollywood period. In this paper I will attempt to decode his films with principal emphasis on his use of the colour red.

Scorsese’s profound stylised use of the colour red was inspired by The Red Shoes (1948, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger) which is included his ‘Top Ten English Language Film List’ which exemplifies “the use of light and color”.[1] In an interview Scorsese remarked that the use of “color in the movie isn’t realistic. But it really reflects the heightened world of the ballet, the heightened world of theater. Color is always something that is going to be an aesthetic comment, no matter how you do it.”[2] It is very clear, as the use of red in the film is very dominant in The Red Shoes. Such as the theatre curtains are red and so are Vicki Page’s hair. “The color exhibits a sexual power and an artistic passion.” (LoBrutto: 29) The use of red in the film therefore does not represent sin or violence like in some of Scorsese’s films.

The colour red connotes numerous diverse meanings, one of most well-known being alarm or danger, perhaps it is because it is the colour of blood. During the first few scenes in Mean Streets, Scorsese introducers us to the four main characters by colour coding their clothing. Firstly, Tony, who we see walking into the toilets of his own bar, where much of the action takes place, we notice on him, moments before he uses force to remove a heroin user from the toilets, and attacking a drug pusher – a prominent red shirt. This subtly demonstrates his harsh, violent nature, and unites him with the bright red Hell that is his bar and his world. In other words his red shirt coordinates with the infernal red glow of his bar, denoting his sinful, damaging existence within its realm. After all, only a man of perilous intent with a taste for danger would fulfil his dream of caging a pet lion and a panther in his basement, illegally or not. Furthermore, the distinctive red shirt worn by Johnny Boy introduces him in a similar light to Tony, as a dangerous, unyielding individual. His mindless prank of exploding a red mail box immediately after he appears on screen only reinforces his reckless character suggested by the shirt, and unites him with the malevolent life of Tony’s bar.

Additionally in Mean Streets, Michael’s superior involvement within the group of friends is signified by his striking red tie. The garment itself connotes his strong business aspirations and his destination “for higher things, probably as a third rank mafia hood”, whereas the colour connotes his brutal, dangerous nature, the result of which being the eventual bloodbath that marks the films ending. Indeed, one could not examine the colour red in Mean Streets and ignore the extensive use of blood in the film’s final sequence. In contrast to the other three characters, when we first see Charlie, he is wearing a white vest which subliminally separates him from everyone else. The first shot of the film is of Charlie waking up; as he stands up and walks across to his mirror we see two crosses. Firstly the one he is wearing around his neck and the second on his wall. This Christian symbolism, together with his white vest symbolises his ‘purity’.

Through out the film Charlie comes across people who are wearing red and tempt him into sin. This is best exemplified by the black dancer in Tony’s bar who is wearing nothing apart from red underwear. The close up shot of the red underwear worn by the dancer on stage reinforces the moral dilemma Charlie faces between his religion and his social aspirations. The existence of this red underwear present, in Scorsese’s terms, the notion of her being a “whore” – as opposed to the virginal white dress worn by Vickie in Raging Bull, or Betsy in Taxi Driver, who “appeared like an angel”, or even Charlie’s white vest at the beginning of the film. The red underwear implies that the girl is immediately connected to the immoral world of Mean Streets, and therefore brands her a “whore”. However, the red also connotes Charlie’s obvious desire for the girl, an emotion strong enough for him to dance with her. Nevertheless, the dance is immediately followed by Charlie’s own penance of burning his finger on naked flame, a ritual of his we are first introduced to in the opening scene in the church, which again reminds us of how his religion has helped confuse his moral state of mind. Indeed, Charlie’s Catholic upbringing contributes greatly to his rejection of the black dancer from Tony’s bar, even though he desires her. Comparably, J.D.’s Catholic persuasion leads to his rejection of ‘The Girl’ from Who’s That Knocking At My Door, which is due to his need for a ‘virginal’ bride. This example is particularly harsh, as his refusal is a consequence of her previous rape, which in his eyes means she is a “whore”. Who’s That Knocking at My Door and Raging Bull play like diagnostics of the Madonna/Whore complex. The black and white cinematography only heightens the sexual stereotyping. As I have mentioned above that Vickie in Raging Bull, or Betsy in Taxi Driver wear white, Scorsese makes all his blondes wear white when we first see them in his films, such as Sharon Stone in Casino. The white clothing adds to their virtuousness and virginal aesthetics before they are corrupted by the main male protagonists- very often played by DeNiro himself. The blonde in a white clothing could also be a reference to Alfred Hitchcock, as he also used to present his blonde female characters in white when we first see them. In Raging Bull, Jake Le Motta even buys his wife a white dress and white sunglasses as he wants her to be the virginal and virtuous type, as throughout the film he believes that she is cheating on him.

In Mean Streets, the colour red serves as a metaphor for the hostile nature of the protagonist Charlie, his world and the destiny of him and those surrounding him within the film. Moreover, the brining red of Max Cady’s sports car is perfect example of how the colour red has been incorporated as a subtext in Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear. The gruesome, violent acts performed by Cady throughout the film, together with his brutal nature, are suggested by his extreme choice of vehicle. This frightening aspect of the colour red could be reference to The Counterfeit Traitor (1962, George Seaton). As Scorsese said of the film once- “for kids brought up on the black-and-white battlegrounds of newsreels, the use of color here — especially the color red, which is very important — gave the film a presence and an immediacy that frightened us.”[3] As this quote shows that the colour red was sometimes used by Scorsese to scare his audience.

This heavy use of red clothing is not only present in Mean Streets but almost all of Scorsese’s protagonists wear red – such as DeNiro, Pesci and Stone in Casino wear it at various moments in the film. Scorsese in an interview said that on the streets of Little Italy that- “The one thing you couldn’t wear was the colour red. I remember wanting a red jacket, and my father said, “Only pimps wear red, you’re not having one and that’s that.” Wearing red was also a sure way to attract police attention.”[4] As this quote shows Scorsese is very aware of the various associations with wearing red clothing, such as you might be associated with “pimps” and that you might “attract police attention”. This adds credence to the moral dilemma that Charlie faces in the film.

The introduction of Michael – considering the religious themes in the film his character could be a reference to Lucifer as he hunts them down and shoots them during the film’s climax at the end – is important when considering Scorsese’s use of the colour red with relation to the rest of Mean Streets. Firstly, he delivers a large red box of Marlboro cigarettes to Charlie, which he places on the table between the two characters. The cigarettes are positioned centrally on the screen, automatically capturing the audience’s attention. Initially, Charlie complains about the brand of cigarettes, but accepts them after Michael explains that “for these prices Charlie, you shouldn’t complain.” Therefore, we assume Scorsese focuses on the cigarettes, by means of their red colour and positioning in the mise-en-scene, in order to present the ineffectual nature of Charlie within the realm of his world. Surely, forsaking his preferred choice of cigarettes is a minor, yet noticeable sacrifice; one he must make to be a part of the ‘gangster life’.

As I have mentioned, Michael Powell’s influence is all over Scorsese’s work. His distinct usage of the colour red is a direct homage to Powell. It is interesting that Powell twice counselled Scorsese against the colour red. The first time was When Powell saw 8mm test footage of DeNiro sparring, he remarked that “The red boxing gloves are too red.” And Scorsese agreed and “that was one of the reasons why [he] decided to make the film [in] black-and-white.”[5] Another reason why Scorsese did not shoot the film in colour was because A number of boxing films were in production such as “Rocky II, The Main Event, a remake of The Champ, and Matilda” and so “Scorsese wanted to go another way” (LoBrutto: 223) and be original.

Another scene that inspired Scorsese’s use of red, in The Red Shoes, was the main protagonist’s use of bright red lipstick which he used for Francine in New York, New York. As LoBrutto wrote that “Francine’s deep red lipstick is accurate for the period but another opportunity to dominate many of the images with the color of his obsessions of hot tempers more than sexual temperature.” (LoBrutto: 210) As the quote shows that this time Scorsese used the colour red not to symbolise violence or sin but as a sexual code.

The colour red was no doubt a major colour not only in Mean Streets but also in Taxi Driver, particularly the scene set in the brothel. Red can imply danger, but in the case of the ambience of the brothel, the colour red could also imply wilful or morally wrong behaviour. The night time setting and the low key lighting has been significantly used in Taxi Driver and the constructed space closely echoes the look of film noirs. The red low key lighting produces a sombre and mysterious mood and emphasising deep shadows to create tension in the scene. During the final climax in Taxi Driver, the face of Travis and Sport have been clearly highlighted by the strong light effects from indoors and with red light emanating from the neon lights of the street – even though there are not that many street lights when we saw an exterior shot of the building. At one moment during that sequence of the film we see a halo of white light dimly reflected over Travis’ shaved Mohican head which neutralises his violence and gives him the appearance of an (avenging) angel. As since white by tradition represents purity and innocence. Since red light draws the audience’s attention, the function of flashing red lights increases the power of the colour such as the rotating red and blue light from the police car at the end of Taxi Driver.

The colour red is not only used at night but also in the daytime. In these cases, Scorsese fills the mise en scene with bright red objects. For example when Henry crosses the street, to teach Karen’s neighbour a lesson for touching her, by beating his face with the end of his gun: the car, the flowers, the toolbox and even the house itself are all bright red. This scene shows that even the peaceful leafy suburbs are not safe during the day time when there are hoodlums present and that no one is safe from them. Also when Henry first explains how Jimmy hijacks trucks without using any force, we see Jimmy completely covered in red lighting. Or when Henry spends a paranoid day driving around his neighbourhood, prepping a batch of cocaine for delivery, and he keeps calling home to ensure his brother is properly stirring the bright red source (a symbolic reference to blood).

In Taxi Driver, this technique is apparent throughout the film, with the streets of New York presented as an inferno of evil and treachery or as Bickle calls it: “an open sewer full of filth and scum.” Scorsese’s use of expressionistic colour shows us how Bickle observes the nocturnal world around him. Contrasting to the darkness, neon lights appear extra bright, and many shots are taken of blurry colours seen through water on the windshield. This palette of colour once again takes the audience inside Bickle’s mind. During the scene were Travis shoots the pimp, Scorsese employs the use of surrealistic colour. Everything inside the building seems grungy and dirty, and the extra bright red colour of the blood stands out over everything else. This theme was again used by Scorsese in After Hours, which again happened predominantly at night with various neon lights incorporated into the mise-en-scene.

Both Minnelli and DeNiro in New York, New York wear red clothing which again connects their characters with the red symbolism of the city. By making the city red, Scorsese represents the city as malevolent. In Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas the city is colour coded in bright red. This is especially true in New York, New York, the city, no matter if it is interior space or exterior is predominantly red, and yet the opposite can be seen in the film. As DeNiro and Minnelli meet outside of the city in the woods, their clothing and setting is white or pale. This sudden change in colour instils in the audience the contrast between the peaceful and pure rural space with the sinful inner-city space.

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Not only is red an important colour in Christianity but also brown. In Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ (1988), he uses a very monochromatic brown colour to emphasise Jesus’ humanity and to contrast Jesus the poor peasant with the power and riches of Rome which are decorated in red and gold. However like his other films, red is another major colour symbolising the final spilling of Jesus’ blood. Of course in this respect, red is a prominent colour in many Jesus films, none more than Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Whilst the film opens under a blue filter, the rest of the film is subject to the bright red blood of Jesus.

Religion is also at the heart of Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear. Max in the film is sent to the family by God to test them. Each member of the family displays a tendency toward immoral behaviour or what they perceive to be immoral behaviour. Such as when Sam is asleep, Leigh is seen grooming herself in the bedroom mirror and day dreaming of other men, at which point Max appears outside the house, backed by a dazzling display of fireworks which is a sexually charged image as the night sky is associated with the feminine and fireworks can represent the male orgasm. The colour red is again important in the film as when she and Sam go out to investigate she guiltily wipes the red lipstick from her lips. It almost seems that her sinful thoughts provoked Max’s presence. Max’s superhuman ability to withstand pain is yet another religious clue. He is superhuman because he is what he claims to be, a messenger from God sent to test the family, he even says: “You’re a VIP on Earth. I’m a VIP in heaven”. This is why he is able to fight back against the three thugs despite a beating that would render any human demobilised. Another religious use of the colour red can be found in the scene in which Sam hallucinates crucifixion wounds in his hands which can represent that his soul has been saved. This can not be said about many of Scorsese’s characters in his other films as most have committed too many sins to be saved or die before they can be saved such as the final climax in the lift in The Departed. As LoBrutto noted, “Red is also identified with blood, the Passion of Christ, the Crucifixion, and the suffering Jesus endured on earth for the salvation of mankind. […] The stigmata are wounds that bleed openly, corresponding to the feet, hands, side and brow of the crucified Christ. A substitute for a baptism of holy water is blood.” (LoBrutto: 64-65) So therefore a character can be born again via ‘blood baptism’, for example, Travis during the climax of the film is covered in blood and therefore born again as he saves the girl. As LoBrutto also wrote: “Scorsese was revealing his obsessions with Old Testament values: revenge, redemption, and the ancient rite of purification by blood.” (LoBrutto: 64-65) These themes Scorsese has obsessed about for his entire career as they appear repeatedly in his films.

As a young man, Scorsese wanted to become a priest, but he decided to become a filmmaker after his many visits to the movie theatre. He proposed that films are a new “secular religion” and that they can offer the viewer and the director “redemption and salvation.”[6] That is why in Mean Streets, it is not surprising that Charlie’s confessional speech in church at the beginning of the film focuses on the forgiveness of sin, an important theme that runs throughout the film, often in his narration. His tormented dialogue begins with the narration of Scorsese himself: “Lord, I’m not worthy to eat your flesh, to drink your blood”. This profound image demonstrates immediately the importance of religion to the character of Charlie, and indeed Scorsese, as he himself explains: “My voice is inter-cut with Harvey [Kietel]’s throughout the film, and for me that was a way of trying to come to terms with myself, trying to redeem myself.” In this sense we realise exactly how personal the film is to Scorsese, as a creative form of art, and as a source of redemption, and are able to make a comparison between Charlie and himself.

Furthermore, Charlie’s narrative reference to blood relates to the ‘blood red’ imagery apparent throughout the film, in this case utilising it to realise Charlie’s discomfort with his religion. As Charlie stands to move to another part of the church, we are presented with an aerial long shot of the chapel, whereby the dark red of the chairs seem almost like a tide of blood from the countless confessions typical to that of Charlie’s, in which the blood of Christ has been spilt in vain. Indeed Charlie explains before this scene his perception that: “you don’t make up for your sins in church, you do it in the streets and at home; the rest is bullshit.” Consequently, we are aware that religion is not so much a belief of Charlie’s, but merely a formality, and as in Boxcar Bertha “religion is an insidious, pervasive, destructive idea, inescapability allied to the forces of greed and manipulation.”

Moreover, the overt use of red candles surrounding Charlie in the church, which is similar to that in Iris’s confessional scene in Taxi Driver, is symbolic of the burning hell he experiences, much of which is due to his overpowering dilemma with his religion. He explains that “pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand – the kind you can feel in your heart, and the spiritual side. And you know the worse of the two is the spiritual.” Whilst he is uttering these words, the action on screen reverts from the church to the burning red of Tony’s bar. Immediately we realise a connection between the hell Charlie describes in church, and the hell we perceive of his social climate, the colour red being a vital link in presenting this hell.

Colour can affect us subliminally, and this is best exemplified in the modern day by restaurants – fast food restaurants like Burger King have a lot of bright colours including red -which makes you want to buy the food quickly and leave – whilst expensive restaurants use mainly neutral colours which make you more relaxed and stay for longer. Therefore the effect of the use of red in Tony’s bar, in Mean Streets, could also then represent their fast pasted lifestyles in New York. The emphasised red glare evident within Tony’s bar metaphorically can also instils a sense of hell being an unbearable inferno; suggesting an atmosphere full of sin and corruption, the occupants of which are doomed. Even when Scorsese showed Mean Streets to Michael Powell, Powell advised him the second time (the first being the red mitts in Raging Bull) told him that “he overused the colour” red in Mean Streets and that he should remove some of the red lighting, which Scorsese refused. [7] This expressionistic use of red lighting can be examined in films as far back as 1927, when Fritz Lang emphasised the hellish qualities of the underground slave factory in Metropolis by bathing the entire mise-en-scene in ominous red tint. Whereas Lang’s use of red reinforces his overtly expressionistic style, Scorsese’s appears simply as a flash of expression, which combined with the strong, documentary style realism of Mean Streets, seems all the more significant.

Furthermore, the long motion tracking shot on entering Tony’s bar works well with the glaring red effect, establishing a tense, almost nauseating atmosphere, which emulates perfectly with the hell described by Charlie; a feeling that is further intensified by the use of soundtrack, in particular Jumping Jack Flash by the Rolling Stones. The sequence is similar in style to that of Goodfellas, whereby the camera slowly closes in on Jimmy, and using just only 30 frames of film per second. Although his character has no verbal narrative in this scene, the expressive combination of slow camera movement and contemporary music highlight Jimmy’s tension and anger, enabling the audience to share his hatred, and assume his intention to get rid off Mauri. This slowing-down of the film has become a trade mark for Scorsese as he uses it in almost every single film he has made, even in his earliest short films like The Big Shave.

In Mean Streets, the red walls of the restaurant Charlie visits later in this extract is also an important device of Scorsese, used to subtextually progress the narrative through the elaborate mise-en-scene. On one level we could understand this use to be symbolic of Charlie’s frustration due to his long awaited possession of the restaurant. However, with relation to the red of Tony’s bar it suggests, contrary to Charlie’s belief, the venture may not be a way of escaping his hell. In other words his moving from one red inferno, that of Tony’s bar, to another, the restaurant, neither improving nor solving his problems. As Roger Ebert wrote in his “Great Movies” essay on the film, “The real world is shot in ordinary colors, but then Charlie descends into the bar run by his friend Tony, and it is always bathed in red, the color of sex, blood and guilt.”[8] This quote can also applies to the bar in Goodfellas, The Bamboo Lounge, which is also lit with a similar red glow with the red lighting of the bar lounge making the character’s face completely red. Or on Henry’s first date with Karen, when his influence and generous tipping allows them to skip the line at the Copacabana, the entire club is awash in red lighting. A similar technique is employed in Taxi Driver, where the red walls of the Palentine building suggest Betsy will not be the answer to Travis’s problems, and she will not relieve him from the Hell in which he suffers.

Scorsese has continually used red lighting to create an insidious inferno for his immoral protagonist to dwell. In the book Gangster Priest: The Italian American Cinema of Martin Scorsese, Robert Casillo writes that the red in Goodfellas is associated with “blood, violence, suffering, and passion.” It can even be read as more simple than that. Nearly every shocking deed of all shapes and sizes is emphasised onscreen by a splash of bright vibrant red. When the mafia men do something as gruesome as beat a man to death for insulting Pesci, they do it in a bar room filled with red lighting. And when he comes alive in their trunk as they try to dispose of the body, the car’s brake lights casts an unbelievably strong red glare on DeNiro and Pesci. They are literally a washed in a bright red smoke filled mise en scene when burying their victim Billy. The malevolent extent of their crime highlighted by this expressive use of lighting, and the immoral world they share is inflamed upon us. The sequence even ends with a highly unusual fade to red. When they have to go back six months later and dig up the same body, things get even more abstract. It’s as if their collective sins have stained the film stock permanently. There is no other colour apart from red in that scene. All of these scenes gave the impression to the audience of the images of Hell, which increased the insinuation of violence. As LoBrutto noted that as much as Scorsese enjoyed musicals and comedies it was the morality and street justice of “the gangster film [that was] most reflective of the life he lived in Little Italy. […] He was raised in a coded culture that fenced out all others. […] He was tortured by conflicts presented by his two masters – the church and the cinema.” (LoBrutto: 63) As Charlie struggles with finding the right path in Mean Streets, the film begins with a shot of a projector showing us the film we are about to see. It is as though the characters now that they are in a movie and so Scorsese ties in the church and the cinema at the same time.

Scorsese’s overtly violent style often involves an overwhelming amount of blood on screen, from his early short film The Big Shave, to Cape Fear, and here it helps to present a horrific image of the ‘pain and penance’ experienced by Johnny Boy and Charlie for their sins, and highlight the extremely harsh consequence for Teresa who is oblivious to the extent of her brother’s trouble.

The Big Shave was widely read as a metaphor for the Vietnam War. On screen a young man enters a pristine white bathroom and walks up to a mirror just like Charlie does in the opening scene of Mean Streets in which he walks up to a mirror and scratches his face. The man in the bathroom begins to apply the puffy white shaving cream on his face which again connects to the notion of innocence and purity. Whilst shaving, one of the razor strokes pierces the skin and he begins to bleed. Confused, he continues his morning shave but now each lash of the blade tears into his tender flesh deeper and deeper. Soon his plain features are totally cut open. A daring ear to ear swipe of the razor literally slashes his throat open. Blood covers him and falls around him, the bright red contrasting the perfect spotlessness of the bathroom. The same way Scorsese’s blondes contrast at the beginning of his films as they wear white and the setting is filled with red. At the end of The Big Shave, there is even a fade to red just like the ending of the scene in which DeNiro, Pesci and Layoota bury Baits. As if the blood of the self torture soaks into the celluloid and fills the entire frame. So therefore The Big Shave is representative of USA’s irresponsible participation in the Vietnam War, especially their self destructiveness. As LoBrutto noted that The Big Shave shifted the “emphasis from personal to political” (LoBrutto: 62) and so the red of the blood now represents the spilled blood of Vietnamese and American soldiers.

In Mean Streets, we finally realise the true hell that constitutes Little Italy, and understand the violent outcome when anyone tries to subvert the statue quo. In addition, Scorsese’s powerful, gut-wrenching sequence in Taxi Driver, where Travis savagely ‘takes out’ an entire brothel has been acknowledged for its abundant overflow of blood. Indeed, the MPAA was ready to give it an X rating for violence. They suggested he tone it down the red blood, in order to get an ‘R’ rating. So, Scorsese put the scene through a special chemical treatment that made the blood darker. The darker version of the red blood turned out almost more powerful than the splattered ketchup style colour of the original. In Scorsese’s view, it made the scene more sickening and disturbing, but he got his R rating. And yet it is still the colour red as Jean-Luc Godard put it: “It’s not blood, it’s red.”[9]

Scorsese also uses the colour red for his opening titles as he himself has recognised that the burning credits and foreboding red glare of the opening of King Vidor’s classic western Duel in the Sun (also in his top ten English Language film list which exemplifies “the use of light and color”[10]), has affected his use of red at the beginning of his films and he also said how as a child he was “amazed how the use of colour could produce such a powerful effect.”

Possibly one of the most blatant incorporations of the colour red in Scorsese’s work is the credit sequence in Raging Bull, whereby the prominent red letters of the film’s title and DeNiro’s name is set against the gloomy black and white image of the boxing ring. The boxing ring’s ropes split the screen into four distinct parts representing four different parts of his lif


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