CINEMA

WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR – DOOM IS MARTIN SCORSESE’S VISION OF A MODERN ROMANCE

young-martin-scorsese-2

Martin Scorsese comes knocking with a BFI re-release of what is perhaps his most personal and autobiographical film. Shot for pennies over the duration of four years (1964-68), the film stars Harvey Keitel as a Marty alter-ego college dropout who falls terribly in love with a middle-class blonde girl, played by Zina Bethune. Keitel’s character is confused by his feelings and spends the entire picture in turmoil over his ethnic and Catholic background versus the liberation involved in riding up to Greenwich village and making-love in a bedroom instead of mating meaninglessly with “broads” on the streets.

File_000

In part, the film acts as a prequel to Mean Streets, where Scorsese would again realise his incipient vision of a protagonist brought together by two opposing forces of sainthood and recklessness. It is the image of a man whose core values are pure, but who relies on audacious behaviours to get from A to B. And thematically, there is no hiding from the fact that Scorsese’s young male protagonists from the 60s and 70s are rooted in chauvinism and psychosexual tension; rape is viewed as a male crisis etc. The main storyline in Who’s That Knocking At My Door surprisingly has nothing to do with a crime narrative, it is simply about man’s dilemma as to whether or not a woman can love him who is no longer a virgin, as she is therefore able to sleep with any man she pleases, but here it is the case of a woman who has also been raped, an additional dilemma for the character.

File_005

It is shot in the landmark locations of Little Italy and tiny local clubs where unemployed youths play poker and act out on the fringes of society. Every scene bleeds with the vision of a filmmaker learning his craft and exploring inventive camera-work and blocking. The scene where Keitel meets the girl is spectacularly shot with a single camera turning a two-shot dialogue sequence into an entirely spherical playing field. The dialogue is also on fire – it feels improvised and yet is actually carefully scripted and the shots even storyboarded (as per Scorsese’s commentary). No doubt, the film has many imperfections, but with Scorsese, stylistic error manages to equate with innovation and poetry. A lack of professionalism does not mean the film lacks orchestration in mind of a cohesive whole. The hallmarks of the great auteur are there, in detail and in subject matter. His talent is fledging. It is definitely a debut “picture” worth revisiting.

Advertisements
Standard
CINEMA

The Wolf of Wall Street – “I always wanted to be a broker”

Leonardo Dicaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street

MOVIE REVIEW

The Wolf of Wall Street
Sikilia Productions, Red Granite Pictures et al, US
179 Min

2.35:1
Release UK: 17th January 2014

DIR Martin Scorsese
EXEC Georgia Kacandes, Alexandra Milchan, Irwin Winkler
PROD Riza Aziz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland, Martin Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
SCR Terence Winter, Jordan Belfort
DP Rodrigo Prieto
CAST Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie

This film really excites me. Martin Scorsese is ‘back’ and more prevalent than ever. Not that he ever really left, his recent films Hugo, Shutter Island, The Departed etc. have all been fantastic and full of Scorsese, but The Wolf of Wall Street truly reverberates the man we love. There are vast swirling sets, sweeping cameras, explosive/implosive characters, assertive narratives told with an expressive pace, brimming bag of laughs and a wicked sense of underlying controversy. Scorsese is truly extraordinary at understanding and communicating his visual language: cinema.

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Ray Liotta as Henry Hill at the start of Goodfellas is distinctively comparable to Di Caprio’s Jordan Belfort’s opening confession: “The year I turned 26, I made 49 million dollars, which really pissed me off because it was three shy of a million a week.” Both characters can be interpreted as zealous apprentice wise guys. Belfort and Hills’ journeys are strikingly similar, though Belfort is in the stock market as a supercharged salesman on Wall Street and Hill is pursuing ruthless trades with gangsters on the street in Brooklyn. They both learn the ropes early on, initially innocent. This is soon surpassed by a fast rise through the ranks and become fixated with work, drugs and girls. Who would have thought gangsters and brokers would be so alike?

What everything boils down to for Belfort, is tasting the sweet smell of success. But, like most over-their-head entrepreneurs, he can’t get enough of the taste, even when he knows the feds are beginning to tread on his back. Lets talk about Di Caprio’s performance here for a second, mind-blowing. It could be the performance of his career, but that can be said for most Di Caprio performances, he is a great actor. However, as Belfort, Di Caprio has really unleashes a charismatic turn as he swings and swaggers through the frame. He was as invigorating and magnetic as Al Pacino playing Tony Montana in Scarface.

The-Wolf-of-Wall-Street-Trailer

Of course, the soundtrack is entertaining and always tipping and topping and the editing is high-powered and frenetic making all the hustle and bustle seem ten times as ferocious. Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s long-term editing partner, has some interesting comments to say in this February’s issue of Sight & Sound. “Marty’s guiding principle in all his films is to never tell the audience what to think, but to make them engage with what they’re seeing and hearing.” As I touched upon earlier, this is Scorsese letting us engage in his visual language how we see fit, he is a master and commander of visual communication.

There is a particular scene in the film that I wish to note in this heady review. It involves Di Caprio dragging his face along a concrete floor and rolling down a flight of steps, literally. I won’t explain why, but it has to be the most hilarious scene I can ever recall seeing in cinema. “Marty was delighted to see that the actors could all improvise beautifully, and so he made the daring choice to give them lots of freedom to do that.” (Schoonmaker). Most certainly! The improvisation in this film gives it a fresh outlook whilst retaining a remarkably existent presence.

Lastly, it is important to recognize that this film is an absolute rarity for Hollywood. The Wolf of Wall Street should be cherished and watched over and over, with laughs becoming ever greater. It is a bold screwball comedy about the state of America, then and now, and it is, therefore, not your typical Hollywood package. And, neither is a three-hour film where every frame and beat is wild and virile with a lifetime’s accumulated genius.

If this film came out in 2013, it would be side-by-side with the other three-hour epic at my number one spot, Blue is the Warmest Colour. Lets hope there’s something else this year that can match the wolf; I’m looking in your direction 12 Years a Slave.

5/5 stars

Watch the trailer below:

Standard
FILMMAKING

Wise Words from the Bosses Themselves

lucas-spielberg

Recently, there has been some big thoughts on the film industry coming from the big guns, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.

Firstly, Spielberg and Lucas were quoted last week saying that the film industry as we knew it would soon “implode.” But, what does this mean?

It refers to the mass uprising of media consumption and various forms of media outlets. Tracing back from the 80s to the dawn of cinema, audiences could only really consume film by going to the movie theatre, then they had video (VHS), Cable TV and DVDs, which arrived in the last 20 years of the 20th century. However, now we have hundreds of VOD (video-on-demand) outlets too. Shall I watch Netflix, Blinkbox, iTunes, YouTube or a DVD tonight?

The marketplace is clearly expanding and is thereby creating more room and opportunity for indie movies. At the same time however, costs for watching indie movies are dropping whereas studio films are getting more expensive to watch online. Why pay £12 for a new movie on iTunes when you can go see it at the theatres for £8? Wait… why not just watch a better indie movie for £2.50?

Spielberg and Lucas are suggesting that a system will emerge whereby you pay different amounts of money to see a movie based on that movies budget. This is happening. However, they also imagine that movie theatres will become decked out like sports arenas and offer more varied selections like TV stations. The small screen and big screen would have to finally call a truce and merge, but could you imagine going to the movies to sit and watch telly? Our lovely weather ladies may not seem so pretty.

This supports the fact that studio movies will continue to have bigger and bigger budgets, relying on franchises to recoup these budgets. The spots available to direct studio movies will become slimmer and slimmer, where working your way up from ‘below the line’ will be near impossible. Spielberg and Lucas are suggesting that one should work from the other side of this equation: take advantage of the vast expansion of media outlets and drop in production costs to make your own movies.

Spielberg and Lucas started the wave of the ‘film school generation’ of the 60s, 70s and even 80s. They hit the industry when it was on its knees and revolutionised the blockbuster. Everyone knows this: it is well-studied, the filmmakers are living legends and the film schools boast about them all the time. However, film schools can rarely boast about the present. The latest wave of filmmakers have not been from film school – they skipped it, grabbed their bags, cameras and lights and started making their own movies. We’ve all heard of Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Guy Ritchie, okay you get the point.

The modern day director will work with smart budgets, reach their audience more directly, create a fan base and therefore demonstrate a market value. The film industry today is all about market value, those who have it stand a better chance at gaining investment capital for independent projects, or even better, representation and a shot at higher echelon jobs. Well, this is what Spielberg and Lucas think…

martin-scorsese-01

Next up, Marty (I double-dared myself) has some pretty serious thoughts on where the movie industry in going in an open letter to his daughter. Everyone knows that Scorsese’s heart is living and breathing cinema, but apparently the cinema we all know and love is pretty much dead. But, Scorsese is quick to say that the future is in fact bright, just a tad unpredictable. I quote, ” The most unpredictable element of all? Cinema. And the people who make it.” Brilliant.

Scorsese is tapping into a similar message as Spielberg and Lucas, he mentions directors who have all managed to get their films made despite the tough times, including artists from around the world. He also mentions the vast complexity of different media outlets available today and how movies are so cheap to make. “In the future, you’ll probably see less and less of what we recognize as cinema on multiplex screens and more and more of it in smaller theaters, online, and, I suppose, in spaces and circumstances that I can’t predict.” However, movies are still hard to make and still require strong will and a clear vision. There is no getting off the hook just because it’s cheaper, “the tools don’t make the movie, you make the movie.” A quote for the books.

So, in essence, Scorsese, Lucas and Spielberg are pronouncing that the movie industry is their to be scooped up, it is at a crossroads and it is cheaper than ever to make movies (not necessarily easier), but Scorsese is also clear to state that there are no shortcuts to getting your movie made. I’ve got one: start now!

Read the full letter that was originally published in L’Espresso here.

And just for fun, here’s the trailer for Scorsese’s new film The Wolf of Wall Street:

Standard