Thursday, 12 August 2010

Martin Scorsese's American Boy

Filmed in January 1977, American Boy is a wonderful 55-min documentary about Scorsese's friend Steven Prince, a fast-talkin' New York hipster who appeared in Taxi Driver as a gun salesman, and New York New York as a record producer. Prince spins stories of his life, from his childhood when he tuned a fast buck selling bagels to wealthy New York Jews, to his adventures as road manager for Neil Diamond when he was just 21, and his experience with drugs from which he developed a serious dope habit.
Prince knows how to tell a funny story, but behind the hollowed out eye sockets there's a kind of world weary wisdom - Prince had watched a kid get electrocuted when setting up a stage show, and he himself shot a hopped-up stick-up man six times when he was working the til of a gas station. Prince rightly describes himself as a "survivor" and in one of the final scenes Scorsese tries to push his subject's buttons by asking him to describe his relationship with his dying father - something that is obviously painful for Prince, but he holds tough and remains composed. Watching the film I wondered if Scorsese had been a fan of Portrait of Jason, Shirley Jackson's 1967 indie documentary about a black, gay hustler. Certainly Quentin Tarantino has seen American Boy - the scene in Pulp Fiction where Uma Thurman gets an adrenaline shot into the heart is lifted directly from one of Prince's anecdotes...

2 comments:

  1. It sounds very interesting - Scorcese is amazing in the breadth of his work - I'd never even heard of this before reading this post. Let's see if I can track it down...

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  2. Scorsese's early shorts and documentaries really deserve a wider audience and this one especially would make a great companion to any edition of Taxi Driver - same goes for Italianamerican and Mean Streets. I imagine Scorsese owns all these early films and documentaries so I must assume he's content with them languishing in obscurity...

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