The Irishman, directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese, widely regarded as one of the all time finest directors, is one of the most anticipated movies of the year, opening to highly positive reviews at early festival screenings before it hits Netflix on November 27th. This decades spanning organized crime saga is adapted from the account of a hitman who claimed to have worked for, and later killed Jimmy Hoffa. You can get an early taste of the movie by placing a request on the library’s copy of the book, I Heard You Paint Houses.
Scorsese has excelled at nearly everything in his career from the crime genre he is most associated with in films such as The Departed and Goodfellas, to biopics such as Kundun (about the Dali Lama) and The Aviator (about Howard Hughes). One constant of Scorsese’s choice of films is adaptations of books, not just any run of the mill bestseller either, but some of the best of the best. Not even limited to a few genres but covering the whole spectrum including memoirs, children’s books, religious themed fiction, and literary fiction. Here, in alphabetical order, are some of the novels Scorsese has most successfully brought to the screen.
Age of Innocence is one of those novels with such a classic story. A man who is quite popular in the local social circle of the upper class has a perfectly nice fiancée but he desires a more socially controversial woman. The book offers a finely crafted protagonist and picture of it’s setting (1870’s New York) that it is a must read for any aficionado of the English novels cannon.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a children’s novel with such a great coming of age story at the center of it. An orphaned boy lives in a train station stealing parts to fix his father’s final project until he meets a family that changes his life. In the midst of all this the historic element sneaks up on you. One of the main characters in the story is one of the real life pioneers of cinema, Georges Melies, which makes this the easy reading choice for Scorsese fans specifically interested in cinema.
The Last Temptation of Christ was controversial enough on first publication it has been speculated it cost the author, Nikos Kazantzakis, a Nobel Prize in literature. It has since become one of the most famous Greek novels. This story offers an alternate interpretation of Jesus’s life where he must overcome much internal doubt to achieve his goals, and indeed even discover what those goals are in the first place. Kazantzakis sums up the story’s appeal perfectly in his foreword to the novel, “My principal anguish and the source of all my joys and sorrows from my youth onward has been incessant, merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh.” The intensity of feeling in this book is remarkable.
Silence is considered a classic in world literature. This piece of historical fiction depicts two priests who go to Japan to search for their missing mentor at a time when Christianity is outlawed, a rule that is often carried out violently. The somewhat specialized subject matter does not take away from the appeal of the story, the individual who attempts to determine what is right in a situation where morals he has lived his whole life may not be useful, or the complexity of the themes. Scorsese wrote an introduction to the novel in 2007, nine years before the film came out, which appears in all subsequent editions.
The Wolf of Wall Street is fascinating to look back on with the end of the 2010’s so near. Currently politicians are the ones whose potentially questionable behaviour dominates headlines, but at the start of the decade it was everyone involved with heading up big business, particularly banks and other companies involved in the handling of money for clients. The tendency to potentially forget makes this book, also initially controversial due to it’s shocking content, even more vivid and unexpected then ever.
Still looking for more? If you want a sneak peek at a movie that hasn’t even been filmed yet, Scorsese’s next film, set to star Leonardo DiCaprio, is to be based on the true crime non-fiction book Killers of Flower Moon. It details the FBI’s mishandling on one of the first major cases they ever took on. Here’s hoping it’s the first of many more decades of great books to be adapted by this master filmmaker!