Entries in Martin Scorsese (23)
Michael C here to reflect on a cinematic milestone. This month marks twenty-five years since the release of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Growing up Catholic I was taught that Jesus was both human and divine, yet the depictions of Jesus I was presented with invariably paid minimal lip service to his human side while emphasizing the holy. Flicks like King of Kings and The Greatest Story Ever Told presented a Christ with all the humanity of a figure on a stained glass window. The Jesus in these movies is forever staring off into the distance, beatific smile on his face, arms outstretched, making proclamations in the gentle tones of an easy listening DJ. Even his words seem to be walking on water.
It wasn’t until college when I saw Scorsese’s version that I finally grasped what it meant for Jesus to have the same frailties as the rest of us, rather than have a Jesus who appears human but who has none of the weaknesses of humanity. The troubled, doubting savior portrayed by Willem Dafoe in Last Temptaion bears little resemblance to the star of those comforting but shallow Biblical pageants. [more...]
As I was constructing the new Best Picture charts -- yes, they're finally up. Have a looksie -- it occurred to me that I was foolishly betting against a lot of regular Oscar players. Why couldn't I find room for, say, George Clooney (Monuments Men), Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis), and Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street), for example? The answer came in three parts.
For Jodie Foster Week I invited guests to talk about favorite Foster films. Here is one of my favorite authors Manuel Muñoz ("What You see in the Dark," "The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue") on a pre-Taxi Driver Scorsese/Foster collaboration. - Nathaniel R]
Coming up with another word for “precocious” is hard, since its precision begs no real qualification. The word bothers me a little as a go-to choice to describe Jodie Foster’s brief appearance in 1974’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. What are we seeing in her portrayal of a girl who dislikes her real name (Doris) so much that she ditches it in favor of another (Audrey)? I thought my pleasure in rewatching Alice would come in getting to see Foster in that vulnerable adolescence where few of us had learned to mask, moderate, or amplify our sexual identities. How much more apparent would this be on camera, especially when we, as viewers, sometimes willingly blur the lines between performer and performance?
I’m happy to come away from Alice seeing Doris/Audrey as more than a thinly written tomboy role... [More]
Robert here with my second Distant Relatives of the week, making sure the series covers the major Oscar contenders before the big day (sorry The Help). Plus, Hugo arrives on DVD Tuesday for those of you who haven't yet seen it.
Two weeks ago I compared The Artist to Sunset Blvd delighting in the contrasts between the inspirational modern film and the cynical classic. Hugo might have been an even better point of comparison to Sunset Blvd since both are about young men discovering titans of the silent era whom time has forgotten but a film has many fathers and I'm intrigued by the relationship between Hugo and a film like Charlie Chaplin's Limelight. Like Hugo, Limelight is a film about a rediscovered artist, that's really a film about love of silent cinema that may really really be about the filmmaker himself.
There must have been several things compelling Martin Scorsese to adapt the book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret": Scorsese's legendary love of cinema, his passion for the cause of film restoration and preservation, and as his story goes, a desire to make a children's film that his own child could watch. But might the tale of an underappreciated filmmaker from years past held more personal resonance? In Hugo our hero Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) discovers the presence of Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) through a series of adventures in the train station in which he lives. Through further adventures the young boy attempts to bring about Méliès rediscovery.
In the age of the home viewing and the internet it's pleasant to believe (however optimistically) that we don't forget such brilliant filmmakers. But how often must Scorsese have heard in recent years that his best, most productive years and most influential films were behind him. In fact, any of his contemporaries from the 1970's, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, have heard the same from time to time or quite often. And while we may not forget their seminal works as the world forgot the work of Méliès, how quick are we to dismiss them as great artists of the past or bores of the present.
Speaking of which, Charlie Chaplin made Limelight in 1952, almost twenty-five years after the arrival of talkies forever changed his canvas. Of course he hung on as long as he could, making silent films or semi-silents until the late thirties and then scoring a couple of talkie hits. But by the time the fifties came around, Chaplin was most definitely yesterday's news. It's not surprising that he wrote a film about a long forgotten clown named Calvero (Chaplin) rediscovered by a beautiful ballerina (Claire Bloom) and eventually given the tribute he deserves. Of course the film isn't about the art of the clown as much as it is the art of the silent comedian, punctuated by final performance by Calvero and his old partner (played by Buster Keaton). And of course the film isn't about anything as much as the lost prestige of Chaplin who was being banned from the US for his "communist sympathies" just as Limelight was being released.
In these films about young characters who discover old artists, it's entirely possible that Scorsese and Chaplin feel a kinship with the characters of both generations. While it's debatable that Scorsese sees similarities between himself and Méliès, I don't doubt that he knows what it's like to be Hugo, the young boy whose life is defined by the magic of movies. And Chaplin may not be an exact match with the ballerina who falls in love with a clown, but he certainly has an understanding of being a performer whose life is altered after discovering the brilliance and art of real clowns.
What's further telling is how the young people in both films lead sad, dreary, almost hopeless lives until they discover the magic that the rest of the world has forgotten. For Chaplin and Scorsese, these films are a look back at their pivotal moments and a look forward at those who may very well be discovering them, and perhaps a plea for our own lives and our own sakes, not to forget the magic. In an odd way they're both true stories too, however embellished. Méliès was re-discovered and re-appreciated in his life. And the real-life counterpoint for Calvero the clown had his moment too.