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“I Never Kid About Money”: Marty Goes Mainstream With “The Colour of Money”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, continued our belated Summer of Scorsese last week with a look at Goodfellas. Next week, we’ll looking at Casino. It is a fun and broad discussion that is well worth your time, but the season ends up largely avoiding Scorsese’s output during the 1980s. So I thought it might be worth taking a look back at The Colour of Money.

For Martin Scorsese, the eighties come sandwiched between two masterpieces: Raging Bull and Goodfellas.

These are two of the quintessential Martin Scorsese movies. They are frequently ranked among the best movies that Scorsese has made, and often included in lists of the best movies ever made. Indeed, there’s a famous Hollywood myth that director Brian de Palma reacted to a screening of Goodfellas by involking Raging Bull, proclaiming, “You made the best movie of the eighties and, God damn it, we’re barely into the nineties and you’ve already made the best movie of this decade, too!”

With that in mind, there’s a tendency of overlook Scorsese’s work during the eighties – to treat it as something equivalent to a cinematic lost decade largely defined by the failure of King of Comedy and the controversy over The Last Temptation of Christ. This is understandable, but it is also unfair. Indeed, recent years have seen a welcome push to reassess Martin Scorsese’s tumultuous journey through the era of excess.

Scorsese’s eighties might not have been the best decade or most productive decade in his filmography, but they were instructive. They were a time of growth and evolution for the filmmaker, a point at which the director seemed to finally figure out how to reconcile the movies that he wanted to make with movies that studios wanted to finance. Although often overlooked and ignored in this context, The Colour of Money is perhaps the most instructive of Scorsese’s films from this period.

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