Featuring relics such as Robert De Niro’s shirt drenched in fake blood from Cape Fear and his battered boxing gloves from Raging Bull, the show at the Museum for Film and Television offers an in-depth look at Scorsese’s half-century of cinema.
The 70-year-old Oscar winner could not attend the gala opening because he is editing The Wolf of Wall Street, his fifth picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio, whose filming was delayed by Hurricane Sandy in October.
But he said in a video message shown to reporters that he was honoured to be the subject of a show at a museum whose permanent collection is devoted to the work of icons such as Marlene Dietrich, Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau.
“Some of the objects you will see have literally been taken off the walls of my house and my office,” said Scorsese, who also narrates the show’s audio guide.
“I hope these objects and the exhibition… help give you an idea or convey my lifelong passion for film.”
Scorsese made available his personal collection of scripts covered in hand-written notes, vintage posters and photographs for what the museum called the first exhibition devoted exclusively to Scorsese’s monumental output.
The show offers up crowd-pleasers such as Cate Blanchett’s mustard-yellow evening gown from her Academy Award-winning turn as Katharine Hepburn in Aviator and DiCaprio’s ragged 19th century suit from Gangs of New York.
But it also gives aficionados a chance to scrutinise the master’s notoriously exacting method with the help of letters between De Niro and Scorsese about developing indelible characters, and hand-drawn storyboards from Taxi Driver and Mean Streets.
“The one bit of direction he gave us for the exhibition was not to focus too much on violence because his work is often reduced to that (by critics),” co-curator Nils Warnecke said.
“And it’s true – if you look at the entire body of work, it really represents only a minority of the films.”
The show is broken into three sections starting with a focus on Scorsese’s home neighbourhood of Little Italy in Manhattan where family was a source of orientation in a rough world as well as the nucleus of organised crime.
His parents’ kitchen table, curios and wedding pictures are among the highlights.
The second section looks at Scorsese as a passionate curator of cinema history who has worked tirelessly to restore classic pictures. The final chapter focuses on the Scorsese aesthetic in his feature films and music documentaries.
The museum’s cinema is showing a retrospective of the director’s best-known films until January 15.
The exhibition, which will run until May 12 then continue on to Turin and Geneva, is opening just weeks before next month’s 63rd Berlin film festival.