One of the most celebrated American directors never to have won an Academy Award, Scorsese is prominent in recent years almost as much for his visibility as a film preservationist and a champion of unsung and forgotten filmmakers as for such pictures as Goodfellas and Casino. In this companion to a British Film Institute documentary marking the centenary of the cinema, Scorsese, writing with Wilson (who co-wrote the documentary), offers a brief but vibrant survey of our cinematic heritage, with a heavy emphasis on the films that shaped his own career. Scorsese treats film history as the history of auteurs and particular films, eschewing a straightforward chronicle of the art in favor of chapters that focus on different aspects of the filmmaker's task. ""The Director as Storyteller"" describes the evolution of the western, the gangster film and the musical; ""The Director as Iconoclast"" deals with Hollywood renegades like Orson Welles and Elia Kazan. Commentary by directors, snippets of dialogue, summaries of scenes under discussion and, above all, hundreds of production stills punctuate explorations of the work of early innovators like D.W. Griffith and King Vidor; of the ""classical era"" of the 1930s and '40s, when the five major studios controlled production, distribution and exhibition; and of the wave of Hollywood immigrants after WWII, like Max Ophuls, Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder, who smuggled darker themes into conventional genres. Though too lightweight and partial as film history to rival such standards as Gerald Mast's A Short History of the Movies, this book is still both a splashy gift item and a primer on the multifaceted roots of Scorsese's own work. (Dec.) FYI: Scorsese's next film, Kundun, a biography of the Dalai Lama, will be released in late 1997.