Scorsese has become the ultimate smuggler, after a brief early period of icon clashing. In that period he made mean streets, taxi driver and raging bull, founded in the New York of his younger years with the rules of the Italian community, the church and the local underworld. He followed up on his earlier successes with a few commercial failures, like new york, new york. Eventually he chose for the more mainstream cinema of Hollywood and adapting to another set of conventions. He has paid a price for choosing Hollywood. Not every film will be a personal one. Still, he hasn’t sold his entire soul and although it took a lot of patience and effort, he has succeeded in making ambitious projects he wanted to make: the King of Comedy, Goodfellas, the Last Temptation of Christ, the Age of Innocence, Gangs of New york and the Aviator.
Lesser personal projects, like Cape fear, the Departed, Shutter Island, After Hours and to a lesser extent the Color of Money, still are virtuoso exercises in genre filmmaking that sharpen his visual craft abilities and stimulate his smuggler’s spirit. All in all not too bad for someone whose entry of his first feature Who’s That Knocking At My Door (then with the title Bring on the Dancing Girls) at the 1965 New York Film Festival was returned with the comment: “I believe you are living aesthetically beyond your means”.
In his learning period at New York University Scorsese was adamant to apply all his ideals of free story telling in the making of this film. He had made the first version without an elaborate script. It was to be a non-synchronous tale based on impressions about a young man (Harvey Keitel) and his relations with his friends against the backdrop of Little Italy. After seeing movies like salvatore giuliano (1962) by Francesco Rosi, Scorsese was determined to film in 35 mm black and white: “The black and white was delicious, you could just bathe in it, it was so beautiful”. Unfortunately the Mitchell-camera proved to be so big that the actors barely had any room to move in the interiors locations. This won’t happen again with the even bigger 3D-cameras of Hugo Cabret.
SCORSESE IN AMSTERDAM
“I loved the camerawork of the guys, Harvey was great, the girls were terrific. It really was …. quite something!”
(Scorsese about the scene shot in Amsterdam)
In 1967 Scorsese tried again with his first feature. He shot a second part and edited it with the first movie to a more logic narrative to become I Call First. I Call First did not get a distribution deal either. On invitation of his school friend Richard Coll, Scorsese traveled to Europe to do a few odd jobs and make a little money. Coll lived in Amsterdam as cameraman for a company that made commercials. One of the owners of this company was Max Fischer. Scorsese had found a sponsor in Jacques Ledoux, curator of the Cinematheque Royale in Brussel. His anti-Vietnam short the Big Shave had won a price on Ledoux’s EXPRMTL 4 festival in Knokke. There he met Pim de la Parra whose short Heart Beat Fresco with Cox Habbema was screened.
In 1963 de la Parra had, together with Gied Jaspars, Wim Verstappen and Nikolai van der Heyde, founded the movie magazine Skoop. Skoop aimed its arrows against the establishment of the Dutch film critique. De la Parra also founded production company $corpio Films with Verstappen. Traffic in international movie art was heavy in those days. Lots of international filmmakers visited Amsterdam for different reasons. Due to the international success of de Minder Gelukkige Terugkeer van Joszef Katus naar het Land van Rembrandt in 1966 from $corpio Films, filmmakers in Amsterdam enjoyed some status in international avant-garde circles. One could also enjoy the other liberties in Amsterdam in those days of morality exceeding arts and scandal. In any case, de la Parra’s house in Osdorp became a much-favored meeting place, not in the least, according to de la Parra, because wife Liesje Oei Tjoe Hwa was such an excellent cook. Scorsese was also a regular guest here. He was quite often in Amsterdam, because he could stay for free at Coll’s house. From Amsterdam he could travel easily to other European hotspots like London, Paris and Munich.
In the meantime, Joseph Brenner, an independent distributor in New York, was willing to take a gamble on i call first. Brenner, with a catalogue of titles like cuban rebel girls, karate – the hand of death, after mein kampf en freudus sexualis, saw some possibility in a crossover film. There were conditions though, the biggest one being the insertion of a nudity scene. Brenner also wanted another title. This became who’s that knocking at my door referring to the accompanying song of The Genies in the movie. Harvey Keitel came over from New York to Max Fischer’s studio for the dream scene with naked ladies. Fischer filmed the scène in 35mm, the camera whirling around the actors to the sounds of The end of The Doors. He had also arranged for the actresses. Eventually Anne Collette, French actress, got third billing beneath principal actors Keitel en Zina Bethune. Presumably Collette got this status, because she played opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Luc Godard’s Charlotte et Son Jules. Collette had remained in The Netherlands after playing in Een Ochtend van Zes Wekenby Nikolai van der Heyde.
Next to Collette, Tsuai Yu-Lan en Saskia Holleman also featured on the opening credits. Holleman made headlines in The Netherlands later on by posing fully naked on a poster PSP Ontwapenend ( “PSP Disarming”, The PSP was a pacifist left-wing political part) from1971 van George Noordanus.
Not credited is Marijke Boonstra. Through her role in this scène she came to the attention of Pim de la Parra and Wim Verstappen and she acted in three of their films, in 1969 in Obsessions, in 1971 in best-seller Blue Movie and in 1972 in VD.