Short Film Showcase – The Big Shave (1967)

The Big Shave a.k.a. Viet ’67, 1967.

The Big Shave Martin ScorseseWritten, Directed, Produced & Edited by Martin Scorsese.
Starring Peter Bernuth.

For his final project as a student of New York University’s film school, Martin Scorsese produced the six-minute short The Big Shave as an anti-Vietnam piece for an “Angry Arts Against The War” demonstration. Dialogue-free and employing only a single location and character, Scorsese took a simple premise and crafted an accomplished and unsettling piece that is said to be a comment on the self-destructive nature of U.S. intervention in Vietnam.

Set to the musical styling of Bunny Berigan and his jazz classic I Can’t Get Started, The Big Shave sees a young man (Peter Bernauth) enter a bathroom and begin shaving, only to repeat the action over, mutilating his face into a bloody mess. Scorsese makes great use of the stark contrast in colour between the deep red blood and the pristine whiteness of the bathroom, and utilises inventive editing techniques such as repeat cuts to enhance the graphic imagery.

The success of The Big Shave paved the way for Scorsese to move into feature filmmaking by completing a project that had began in 1965 as a student film entitled Bring on the Dancing Girls, which went through a number of changes before being issued in 1968 under the title Who’s That Knocking at My Door.


For more on Martin Scorsese check out our latest filmmaker profile Understanding Scorsese.

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