The 60's as we have noted was a time of change for America, a time of uncertainty and experimentation for not only the public for the private sector as well. The 1950's had served as a "seedbed of discontent" with movements such as the Beats lying bear the historical and cultural shifts between generations. Our internal struggle as a nation was at a high because of our involvement with the Cold War, the atomic and hydrogen bombs, and the overall disbelief in government because of it's nuclear policies. Consequently a new and different culture emerged and trickled down into all segments of society, including the film industry.
The collapse of the studio system, the antitrust lawsuit, and the vertical monopoly, were changing the ways in which films were made. In addition television was pulling millions out of the theaters, studios were scrambling to find something new in hopes to recapture audience response. Directors such as Alfred Hitchcock recognized that audiences were changing (the youth counter-culture) and subsequently looking for something new, something different and in his later films gives them just that. "Psycho" was an unprecedented film for it's time, it shocked audiences and critics alike, and forever changed the face of the horror genre.
Perhaps Scorsese also recognized that audiences had grown tired and weary with films and his attempt/intentions were also to shock/horrify viewers and their expectations. He certainly grabbed by attention, however not in a good/positive fashion since I probably missed more than half of his short film "The Big Shave". Like the others that have responded I am not a big fan of gratuitous scenes of violence. But that's what the artists of the time did, they used the tensions of the times as art.
Can "The Big Shave" be seen as an anti-Vietnam film, as Scorsese suggests?
The film starts out simple enough - doing a routine thing - shaving. The man does it every day (presumably) and is just going about his normal activities. So, too, was the United States (or so they thought) going about routine actions. Through the 1940's - 1960's (and all the way through Reagan at least, if not more) America has believed they had the right to install the governments they wanted when they could. The US also, in a way, believes it has the duty (the right) to "protect" other countries/governments.
However, things go terribly wrong. The man begins to bleed profusely. America, after 1968 or so, really began to lose the war. Casualties were at an all-time high while morale (on the front and at home) was at an all-time low. Things weren't working.
The man continues to shave, feeling that if he just perseveres, it will all work out. Instead of stopping the war, the US sends more boys to give their lives for a lost cause. It just won't work.
As I was watching "The Big Shave", I (and probably many of my classmates) asked "Why doesn't he stop and fix himself?" Scorsese was asking with this film "Why doesn't the US stop and fix itself?" The US got consumed by something and didn't do the logical thing when it had the chance. And what it was left with was a mess.
It was late one September night in 1984,on Hudson Street in lower Manhattan. The last of the trucks that feed into the Holland Tunnel had bumped their way back into Jersey. The workers that clog this area of small manufacturers, wholesale merchants, and artists' lofts during the day had gone home. Night had transformed the neighborhood into a frontier where ordinary city life confronted another world. This was the milieu of After Hours, a film Scorsese had agreed to direct in order to survive the cancellation of The Last Temptation of Christ.
In an atmosphere reminiscent of Woodstock, Martin Scorsese and his cameramen friends gathered to film a concert....The Band...who had backed Bob Dylan for fifteen yearsand created rock 'n' roll history with albums like "Music from Big Pink," were holding their farewell performance at Winterland in San Francisco, on Thanksgiving Day. They invited a few of their friends -- including Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan and Ringo Starr -- to join them in this final jam....
Scorsese, still revved up from shooting miles of film on "New York, New York," supervised the action, a whirling dervish in headphones. On the notebook in front of him were lyrics of all the songs, broken down and matched to camera movements. Order was difficult to maintain in the barrage of sound. He screamed instructions to the various cameras, gesturing to them over the music, but his real focus was on stage.
--Martin Scorsese; "The Last Waltz"
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