The Big Shave (Martin Scorsese / U.S., 1967):

"There's no such thing as a life of passion," Lord Byron is to have said. "Who would ever shave in such a state?" Martin Scorsese the NYU upstart sets out to prove otherwise in six minutes of tingly, visceral cinema. The sparkling whiteness of the bathroom is arcanely credited to Melville, in walks a young man (Peter Bernuth), smooth-faced and rather sleepy, who coats his jaw with shaving cream and pulls out a razor. The act is completed and repeated but the skin crumbles away the second time, blood spills onto the porcelain (a few drops first, then entire streams) and his face becomes an open wound -- his neck is finally sliced, the whole ritual is conducted calmly before a mirror and set to Bunny Berigan's "I Can't Get Started." The models are Warhol and Anger, the format is the TV commercial; Scorsese's joke lies in the literalization of the edit as a "cut," urged to its extremes until there's only a hand feebly placing the blade back on the gory sink. Vietnam has been proposed as the impetus, though film's capacity for the aestheticization of violence contributes to its voluptuousness; the operatic tenor was picked up by Stephen Sondheim, there's a brief echo in The Royal Tenenbaums. Cinematography by Ares Demertzis.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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