Professor Haig Manoogian – The One Who Inspired Martin Scorsese

Professor Haig ManoogianSo, for the second time, [the Pharisees] summoned the man who had been blind and said: “Speak the truth before God. We know this fellow is a sinner.” “Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know,” the man replied. “All I know is this: once I was blind and now I can see.” John IX, 24-26 The New English Bible Remembering Haig P. Manoogian, teacher. May 23, 1916 – May 26, 1980 With Love and resolution, Marty

This text appeared in the end titles of Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film “Raging Bull”, a winner of two Academy Awards.

Everything began in the 1960s. No one influenced and inspired American director Martin Scorsese as much as Haig Manoogian, a humble professor of cinematography at the New York University, an individual who helped a whole generation of film students to formulate their own philosophy.

Scorsese realized that his Italian ancestry, Catholic faith, and his inner turmoil can be united on the screen. Cinematography could do that. The visions of Manoogian allowed Scorsese to find his mission. Later, the American director would write that Manoogian had helped him realize that all his religious passions could become sources for his films.

The degree of Manoogian’s film theory’s influence on Scorsese, as well as the degree of his religious passions in films can be clearly seen in the negative review of the “Raging Bull” by American film critic Pauline Kael who condemned Scorsese for mixing cinematography with religion and for his desire to become a sacred figure in the industry. Whether or not he did it knowingly, Martin Scorsese has been in fact fighting for that title, often successfully.

Those who had known Haig Manoogian would probably recall how he passionately obliged the students of New York University to see and then connect the nature of art with religion. In his essay “The art of a film director”, Manoogian cited 19th-century art critic John Ruskin:

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, — all in one.”

Scorsese found poetry, prophecy, and religion in the life and struggle of LaMotta in the “Raging Bull” so that the viewers could share his vision.



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