What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?

Scorsese's short about a writer unaccountably obsessed by a photo he buys

Genre: Comedy

Length: 09:21

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4 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : none given,

Director/s : Martin Scorsese, 

Writer/s : Martin Scorsese, 

Actor/s : Zeph Michaelis, Mimi Stark


Genius in the making

One of Martin Scorsese’s student offerings, this comedy verges on the surreal. Harry moves into a small apartment, decorates it, and becomes obsessed with a photo he’s bought. He can’t eat, he can’t work… so he throws a party, where he meets a girl, and his obsession is over. For a while…

Scorsese was a 21 year old student, and even then he had confidence and style, using Harry’s voice over black and white images. There are cutaways to a friend (who looks like a mobster) and his therapist (who looks like prison warder). The voiceover says “I have a vivid imagination. Even my friends say it” and we cut to the friend saying “You know Harry, you’ve got a vivid imagination.” (He’d repeat this device in Goodfallas.) But we don’t see Harry or his wife speak.

It’s full of quirky and inventive detail: a caption “Harry” as the friend says his name. A strange musical interlude. A Groucho-esque one-liner “We had our honeymoon at the New York World’s Fair. It was still under construction, but we didn’t mind.”

You feel at times that young Marty was sure what he wanted. One shot stands out: Harry, drawn to the picture, literally glides across the room towards it, presumably on wheels just out of frame. And then at other times, you feel he had material, and he was going to find a page in this scrapbook for it, such as footage of the singer, and access to the World Fair site.

Subject matter and story veer between inventive and random, and the French New Wave influences are palpable. It would be fascinating to go back in time and see what his contemporaries at New York’s Tisch School of Arts were doing, what became of them, and if they recognised a genius in the making.