Tag Archives: martin scorsese

Critics Choice at Beau Cinema: Silence

Silence movie posterAs pointed out by Wynter Tyson (one of the curators of the #CriticsChoice series at Beau Cinema) during his introduction to this screening of Martin Scorsese’s Silence, the revered director has, throughout his career, often explored elements of faith in his work.

From the more obvious in the The Last a Temptation Of Christ to references in Gangs of New York to, arguably, a mirroring of a kind of corrupted faith in Wolf of Wall StreetSilence though follows Last Temptation in being a more direct take on the subject.

The film tells the story of a pair for Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) on a mission to Japan in the 17th century to continue the development of Christianity in the country and seek out the fate of their teacher, Padre Ferreira (Liam Neeson).

From the start, a fog shrouded scene featuring severed heads and a particularly unique and specific form of torture being administered to a group of Christian priests told from the point of view of Ferreira, it’s clear this is going to be a deep, dark journey and exploration of faith, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Silence movie - Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver

Garfield and Driver

While Scorsese is perfectly adept at everything from b-movie style fare to bright modern drama, here he more than proves why he is as regarded as he is as one of Hollywood’s best directors.

Every moment of Silence feels created with all aspects coming together to create something all-encompassing.

The sound design particularly stands out (as the title might suggest) being very low-key but highlighting what it needs to without resorting to the grand sweeping orchestrations or stereotypically ethnic sounds a lesser director might.

Silence - Liam Neeson

Neeson

This allows the visuals, which range from the rusticity beautiful to the genuinely brutal, to really stand out and strike in a way that is never melodramatic, giving the whole thing a sense of realism that is really absorbing.

While Liam Neeson’s appearance feels something like an extended cameo in the mould of his turns as Qui-Gon Jin in The Phantom Menace or Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins (just a little more serious) and Adam Driver brings an impressive intensity to Padre Francisco Garupe, it is Andrew Garfield who owns the film.

Garfield, as Padre Sebastião Rodrigues, is the film’s centre and really, despite the historical themes surrounding him, it is his journey that is the central plot.

We watch him struggle with his faith both physically and psychologically in a way that is (for the most part) brilliantly understated but gradually works its way into a truly effective and effecting place that shows a side to him I honestly never thought possible based on his pair of outings as Spider-Man (an unfair comparison I realise, but it makes the point).

Silence - Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson

Garfield and Neeson

While I’m not sure the film effected me on the spiritual level that it would Scorsese, or indeed anyone of a more religious or spiritual bent, Silence is a genuinely impressive piece of cinema.

It both manages to capture a period of history I knew not as much about and also allows space for a very real feeling story to be told without resorting to typical over the top cinematic tricks to manipulate its audience or rushing to explain every last thing, meaning it will likely sit in the back of my mind for a good while to come.

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The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Wolf Of Wall Street posterI came to Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Wolf Of Wall Street on Blu-ray rather than in the cinema so there was already a fair amount of baggage coming along with it as I hit play – thankfully I soon became wrapped up in the story and the baggage, for the most part, fell away.

Really it is the story here that is the star, as it really should be with any film, but sadly isn’t always. Ok, it’s a story that’s been told before – self-made man loses any sense of conscience and, inevitably, gets something of a comeuppance – but in the hands of renowned master like Scorsese, and with the ever charismatic DiCaprio in the lead role, the story is certainly one worth hearing again, here through the prism of Wall Street and stock brokering.

Based on real events, DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort and the film follows his rise and fall and, if I’m honest, throughout he comes across as a pretty horrible human being. There are a few moments where I thought, maybe I’ll side with this guy now, but every time he ends up doing something to maintain his level of awfulness. The rest of the main group of characters aren’t much better, aside from some funny moments (mostly coming from Jonah Hill’s Donnie Azof), generally they are not people I could empathise with or side with at any point.

Wolf Of Wall Street - Leonardo DiCaprioSo, what was it that kept me interested for the three hours that the film runs (and certainly I did remain interested for that whole time)?

What I would put it down to is something of the director. Across his career Scorsese has focused a lot of his work on painting portraits of different aspects of his home city, New York, and, in one way or another that is what The Wolf Of Wall Street does as well.

Here we see the side of the city in the late 1980s and 1990s that is far removed from the street level of many of Scorsese’s other films but does feature some of the same aspects. There is an element of organised crime (albeit here doing its best to not be crime) and a lone character who is out for no one but himself.

the-wolf-of-wall-street-leonardo-dicaprio-martin-scorseseAnd so, it was this painting of a side of a city and an era, that is what kept my interest.

A couple of things did stick with me from what I’d heard before seeing the film; First was that Matthew McConaughey totally stole every scene he was in, which he did. Second was that the movie’s gender politics were far from healthy – again very much true, but this part of what made Belfort such an odious character.

The other thing was the excesses of the movie. At three hours it is, arguably, excessively long – though as I’ve said I didn’t feel it out stayed its welcome and so this excess very much worked in its favour. The other, more discussed, excess is in the depiction of sex of drugs, with many saying that it became dull and repetitive and some even saying pointless.

STA0408WOLF_360337kMaybe it’s a sign that I’m somewhat desensitized to some of these things, but I found that the sex and drugs depicted in The Wolf Of Wall Street were entirely appropriate for the movie and its story. Belfort’s life was, by his own admission, packed with such excesses for the period the movie focuses on and, according to some reports, the movie actually tones it down a bit.

Certainly this isn’t a family friendly, watered down, version of the story, but I thought the excess was far from as “bad” as some have claimed.

The Wolf Of Wall Street shows Scorsese and DiCaprio as joint auteurs, continuing their professional relationship (which has been going for the last decade or so) very well and, while the movie is flawed at times and doesn’t live up to some of the hype (good or bad), it is certainly still a good film and tackles a story we’ve heard before in a way that, for me, was certainly new and interesting – and with a great soundtrack running throughout, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes to Plastic Bertrand… I’m buying!

And well, just because, here’s some Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi:

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Hugo

Scorsese paints a great digital picture of 1930s Paris and gives us a lesson on early cinema, but does that make for a compelling story?

I will admit to coming to Hugo somewhat later than many (having only just watched it), so it was that I picked up a copy with a fair bit of the excess baggage of expectation based on good reviews and many recommendations.

That said, beyond a good film, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect – I knew the film was a family film and that it dealt with the early days of cinema but to be honest I wasn’t sure how those would fit together, and having watched it, I’m still not sure.

Telling the story of the adventures of a boy living inside the clocks of Paris train station is a great sounding set up to a film, but, rather than taking us on a typical adventure the journey the boy goes on explores not only the loss of his father but the story of Georges Méliès and his work in early cinema.

This is what makes this film odd, but also, possibly, much more interesting. We seem to live in a world now where major motion pictures can be clever, Christopher Nolan seems to get a lot credit for this down to his Batman films and Inception, but Hugo seems to fall into this same area too, albeit not quite as successfully.

Firstly I’ll look at the story of Hugo’s family. Hugo’s quest for knowledge of his father seems to be something of a macguffin to lead us into other areas and the whole story involving the station policeman, winding the clocks and Hugo’s uncle (a Frenchman played by Ray Winstone?) seems to end up oddly under developed, despite the fact in almost any other family movie this would be the main thread.

The other storyline concerns Hugo (along with Chloe Grace Moretz’s Isabelle) discovering the story of her grandfather, Hugo’s initial antagonist, who turns out to be Georges Méliès.

While this story is fascinating and, seemingly, based on the true story of Méliès’ life, I found it hard to connect to the characters, particularly Moretz, and ended up not really caring about any of them except for at one point not wanting the policeman to get Hugo because I wanted to find out more about Méliès.

If that sounds a bit confusing, I think maybe it’s because it is.

I certainly think Hugo will take another watch to try to see if I missed something crucial, but in general, while it looks great, Asa Butterfield puts in a good performance in the title role and all the stuff about early cinema appeals to the geek in me, I ended up thinking that a documentary about Méliès would probably have satisfied me much more.

But if nothing else, I guess it’s a good thing that any youngsters who did see the film might have learned something about early cinema they didn’t previously know, but they may have come away thinking it was all just a story.

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