TARANTINO RECENTLY suggested Scorsese’s best days are behind him. Kundun, Bringing Out The Dead, Gangs Of New York?it’s not just that these movies struggled to connect with audiences, Scorsese himself seemed unable to get a firm grasp on them. Is this still ‘the greatest living American film-maker’? At least this long-overdue three-film box set reminds us how he earned that title. Check out his 1969 debut, Who’s That Knocking At My Door? (released here for the first time on DVD)?a portrait of the artist as a young movie nut, starring Harvey Keitel and parading pretensions to an American ‘new wave’. Scorsese seems mildly embarrassed by it now (“It’s like looking at your high school yearbook”), but for fans this is a fascinating glimpse of the evolution of his signature obsessive-compulsive style, and it provided the blueprint for his first classic movie, ’73’s Mean Streets.
In 1974, he was a left-field choice for bittersweet road movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (also making its DVD premiere), but Scorsese’s aggressive, urban energy propelled Ellen Burstyn to the Oscar and proved he was as responsive to Hollywood as to European film-making. After Hours (1985) is one of Scorsese’s most overlooked ?part screwball comedy, part Kafkaesque nightmare, with Griffin Dunne chasing tail into bohemian SoHo and barely escaping with his own intact. Recommended.