Peripherally, American Boy is about Martin Scorsese and his crew populating sporadic bit role player and sometime music groupie Steven Prince's living room while he recounts various stories from his life. Centrally, I don't know what it's about. I think it's about Steven Prince, and how the stories he tells may or may not inform the person he apparently is when Scorsese and his crew show up at his place to film him. The reason I watched all 55 minutes is not because I wasn't able to justify turning off a film directed by one of American cinema's greatest living assets, but because these anecdotes are very engrossing. That, and that alone, is the appeal of this piece. You want to hear a guy tell a story? Look here.
The way I felt when I was watching American Boy was anticipatory, expectant of some sort of culmination. Well, the anecdotes are increasingly personal, more and more poignant and evidently felt by the titular teller. End of movie. What I think Scorsese's intention was, aside from being determined to stay busy, involved embracing the slightest, most minute and everyday thing. The charm of the film is that we always expect much more out of a film, even the subtle and slight ones. But think about how many themes and meanings are buried within some of the most fleeting shots of a given Scorsese feature. Think about how much he can say in such a short breath, both with his films and in person.
He wants nothing more from us than to look and listen here. That's all. This guy, not a celebrity or a scholar or a notorious figure, just a dude. What's the situation? He's having his friend Marty over and Marty brought some of his own friends, and they have a camera and sound stuff. Martin Scorsese understands very clearly, much clearer than a lot of modern filmmakers, that a movie is exactly what it shows you, nothing more and nothing less.
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