Last night we attended possibly the biggest night for the 27th Santa Barbara Film Festival. I say biggest because you’d be hard pressed to find a greater film icon to honor than Martin Scorsese who was presented with the American Riviera Award at the historic Arlington Theater.
This award is bestowed upon an individual that has made a strong impact on American cinema and this was the first time it was being presented to a director (a fact even moderator Lenoard Maltin was surprised to hear when we spoke on the carpet).
It’s hard to argue that Scorsese has had anything but that type of impact. His career includes Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Shutter Island, and most recently, Hugo, which currently holds 11 Oscar nominations. More importantly, after more than 40 years in the industry, it seems that Scorsese is still creating his best work.
The night was moderated by long-time SBFF staple and film critic Leonard Maltin, and Scorsese was presented with the award by actor Sir Ben Kingsley who stars in his latest film. Kingsley spoke with us on the red carpet about what an honor it was to be selected to give this award to ‘My dear friend, Marty, out of the myriad of stars he’s created’. Kingsley was truly humbled by his selection and joked that he hoped Scorsese knew it was him that had been selected!
The truth to Kinglsey’s statement is clear. Scorsese discovered stars like Deniro, Di’Caprio, Keitel, and Liotta, who also need no introduction, and brought us their best performances. Scorsese is undoubtely an American icon and classic filmmaker, not to mention a great enteratiner himself which the crowd witnessed as the night unfolded.
I have to mention here that, Santa Barbara, is commonly referred to as the ‘American Riviera’ (perhaps, hence the award name) and it is easy to see why. The town may be the most pristine I’ve visited in all of California. It manages to have the small town feel and the city wrapped into one and it is nestled among the Santa Ynez Mountains and the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. The main strip, State Street, is lined with upscale shops and restaurants and the scenic drive (about an hour and half from LA) makes it a sure tourist destination.
While this is not my first trip to this city, this festival, or to the Spanish Colonial style Arlington Theater whose steeple proudly marks the home of the night’s festivities, I was still newly impressed.
Once inside, you can’t help but notice that the theater’s design makes you feel as if you are outside in the plaza of a Spanisch town, complete with featured houses, balconies, and a star-filled night sky for a ceiling. It certainly feels cinematic- a bit like a Hollywood dream.
And speaking of dreams, before you know it, festival director Roger Durling is at the podium speaking about a young Scorsese and his dreams. Roger Durling and Leonard Maltin introduce Scorsese as a man who only needs one name, like the great directors before him- Fellini, Hitchcock, DeMille, Kubrick, to name a few.
Then it is on! Scorsese and Maltin spent the next two, glorious hours, bantering about Scorsese’s career from the early days scribbling drawings (which Scorsese says he later learned were called storyboards) with his friends in his youth to creating some of the most memorable moments in cinema history. Scorsese reveals that one of his greatest influneces was seeing John Cassavetes’ Shadows during the early part of his career. ‘That did it. It had raw emotion, but was also Bohemian…There were no more excuses. It became a different style and quality.’
The night was interspersed with montages and clips from Scorsese’s work and life. It culminated with the award presentation and a look at his 3D masterpiece Hugo (basedon Brian Selznick’s New York Times Bestseller The Invention of Hugo Cabret) which tells the tale of an adventurous boy and his quest to unlock a secret left o him by his father.
The festival continues through this Sunday, February 5th. Visit Santa Barbara Film Festival to learn more.