Gangster Priest: The Italian American Cinema of Martin Scorsese

Robert Casillo, University of Miami

Widely acclaimed as America’s greatest living film director, Martin Scorsese is also, some argue, the pre-eminent Italian-American artist. His most sustained filmmaking and the core of his achievement consist of five films on Italian-American subjects – Who’s That Knocking at My Door?, Mean Streets, “Raging Bull,” “GoodFellas,” and Casino – in addition to the documentary Italianamerican. In his book Gangster Priest (University of Toronto Press), Robert Casillo examines these films in the context of the history and culture of Southern Italy, from which the majority of Italian Americans derive. Forming a unified whole, Scorsese’s Italian-American films offer a prolonged meditation on the immigrant experience, the relationship between Southern Italy and Italian America, intergenerational conflicts, and the development of Italian-American identity. Casillo argues that these films cannot be fully appreciated either thematically or formally without understanding the various aspects of Italian American ethnicity, as well as the nature of Italian-American cinema and the difficulties facing assimilating third-generation artists.