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  American Boy The StorytellerBuy this film here.
Year: 1978
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Steven Prince, Martin Scorsese, George Memmoli
Genre: Documentary
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Martin Scorsese had known Steven Prince for a number of years, and thought so much of his colourful stories, all drawn from Prince's own experiences, that he had the idea of capturing some of them on film. The cameras were set up, Prince was invited over, and their chat could begin, though not before another of Scorsese's friends, actor George Memmoli, indulged in a bout of wrestling with Prince practically the second he walked through the front door. Once the physical horseplay was finally over, the anecdotes commenced...

As a director, Martin Scorsese is best known for his fictional films, but he has always maintained an interest in the documentary form as well, with his most famous effort in that field being the stultifyingly reverential The Last Waltz. American Boy, subtitled A Profile of - Steven Prince, was on the surface about as far from that self-important subject matter and style as it was possible to get, yet you could sense Scorsese's respect for Prince in every frame, as if his powers as a storyteller were something the filmmaker could look up to; after all, he was in the business of spinning yarns himself, if usually on a grander scale.

He warms up the speaker by prompting him to tell tales of his family and upbringing, and the short film - just under an hour - is broken up into sections by home movie footage of the young Steven, enjoying birthdays, summer holidays, and the like. In truth, when he's talking about his family they're pretty much the kind of stories you'd expect, and the kind that many people have: how their parents had their idiosyncrasies (his father was high up in the military), or how their grandmother was an indomitable sort, that kind of thing. But Prince is just getting started, and soon he is relating some hair-raising material.

He's not like a stand-up comedian, exactly, although he is humorous at times, and all these anecdotes are intended to have the listener impressed in some way or another, so without namedropping Prince will say how he was a manager for Neil Diamond on tour, as all the while he was a heavy drug user, which leads on to his war stories. Drugs seem to have taken up a major part of his life up to that time, and he speaks of being in a permanent state of intoxication for quite a while, and how once the house he was living in was raided by the Hollywood narcotics police division only he got out of being arrested when he cried himself into a massive nosebleed.

There's also a couple of reminiscences that would show up in later films, the first being the one about reviving an overdosing girl with an adrenaline shot that Quentin Tarantino evidently thought was too good to languish in obscurity and recreated almost to the letter in the far more famous Pulp Fiction. Then there's the one about how Prince killed a man in self defence at a gas station, which showed up in Richard Linklater's Waking Life, except that recreation was more "official" as it was Steven Prince himself doing recollecting. If he truly made his mark on cinema history as the gun salesman in Taxi Driver, then it's good that there are still those select few who remember the night captured in American Boy where he took the floor and explained his life to that point; you're not sure if you warm to him, but he is interesting, and if you wanted more he returned in the thirty years later documentary American Prince.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Martin Scorsese  (1941 - )

American writer and director who emerged as one of the brightest and most vital of the generation of filmmakers who came to prominence during the 1970s with his heartfelt, vivid and at times lurid works. After deciding against joining the priesthood, he turned to his other passion - movies - and started with short efforts at film school until Roger Corman hired him to direct Boxcar Bertha.

However, it was New York drama Mean Streets that really made Scorsese's name as a talent to watch, and his succeeding films, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (which won Ellen Burstyn an Oscar and is the only Scorsese movie to be made into a sitcom) and the cult classic Taxi Driver (starring Robert De Niro, forever associated with the director's work) only confirmed this.

Unfortunately, his tribute to the musical New York, New York was a flop, and he retreated into releasing concert movie The Last Waltz before bouncing back with boxing biopic Raging Bull, which many consider his greatest achievement. The rest of the eighties were not as stellar for him, but The King of Comedy and After Hours were cult hits, The Color of Money a well-received sequel to The Hustler and The Last Temptation of Christ kept his name in the headlines.

In the nineties, Scorsese began with the searing gangster saga Goodfellas, and continued with the over-the-top remake of Cape Fear before a change of pace with quietly emotional period piece The Age of Innocence. Casino saw a return to gangsters, and Kundun was a visually ravishing story of the Dalai Lama. Bringing Out the Dead returned to New York for a medical tale of redemption, and Gangs of New York was a muddled historical epic.

Still the Best Director Oscar eluded him, but the 2000s gave what many saw as his best chance at winning. Slick Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator didn't make it, but remake of Infernal Affairs The Departed finally won him the prize. Outlandish thriller Shutter Island then provided him with the biggest hit of his career after which he surprised everyone by making family film Hugo - another huge hit.

This was followed by an even bigger success with extreme broker takedown The Wolf of Wall Street, and a return to his religious origins with the austere, redemption through torture drama Silence. He also directed Michael Jackson's Bad music video.

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