Commissioned by the British Film Institute as part of its celebration of filmmaking's centennial, the three-tape A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies offers an intimate look at the American cinematic tradition as interpreted by a member of its pantheon. Part personal reminiscence, part "Intro To Film" class, A Personal Journey is aptly titled. The project, which Scorsese co-wrote and directed with film scholar Michael Henry Wilson, is made enjoyable by the director's knowledgeable, articulate narration. Covering the years leading up to the beginning of Scorsese's own career in the late '60s, the series takes a look at important directors, trends, and genres through the decades. Though he doesn't offer many original observations, Scorsese illustrates his points with numerous well-chosen, less-than-obvious examples, and nicely balances his scholarly side with his personal side. No one in their right mind would call Duel In The Sun, David O. Selznick's occasionally insane follow-up to Gone With The Wind, a masterpiece. But with its hypnotic imagery and vision of a life in which passion can be destructive and good doesn't always triumph, it made quite an impression on the future director of films like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. One of A Personal Journey's greatest triumphs is Scorsese's infectious appreciation of the full spectrum of American filmmaking, and not just the established canon. The director nicely illustrates how even flawed movies can sometimes be more compelling than universally acclaimed masterpieces. Even at nearly four hours, the series flies by; it should be enjoyed by film scholars and casual viewers in equal measure.

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