It's Not Just You, Murray! ★★★½

A highly accomplished student film by Scorsese that establishes one of the director’s major themes while giving a nice glimpse into the influences that shaped him.

Specifically, the theme is the Criminal Life, and the influences range from the French New Wave (particularly Truffaut; I was reminded of both Shoot the Piano Player and Jules and Jim), classical American cinema (the movie both spoofs and pays hommage to the gangster film, and there’s also a musical number looking forward to New York, New York), a hint of Cassavetes (through smallness of scale and ruggedness of approach, but also through the looseness actor Ira Rubin employs in shaping the title role) and a not so subtle (but likeable) Fellini reference.

Interestingly, while the film sheds light on the gangster subject that would later flower in Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Casino, it also shows the director’s aptitude for comedy. It’s Not Just You, Murray! is often very funny, and after watching it After Hours seems like less of an outlier than ever before. There’s also the youthful interest in experimentation that, in stark contrast to many other students, remained with him long after he finished his education and slowly climbed to the top tier of American filmmakers.

As evidence, the use here of an unreliable narrator is reminiscent of The Wolf of Wall Street, especially due to the breaking of the fourth wall. And while this 15 minute short is occasionally belittled as being of interest mainly in terms of foreshadowing what Scorsese would accomplish later, I found that the director was already in control of the artistic flourishes that would eventually mark his personal style.

It’s surprisingly mature for a student work, and while It’s Not Just You, Murray! can be viewed as one seed in what would eventually bloom into the New Hollywood, it also fits very nicely in the milieu of street-level New York filmmaking in the 1960s. Had Scorsese never made another movie, this one would still be very worthwhile.