One of the niftiest things about the French New Wave was that most of its filmmakers — like Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rohmer and Rivette — were cinephiles. They not only made movies, they watched them, wrote about them, passionately debated them, and held them close as they lived their daily lives.
Alas, it has rarely been so in the specialization-driven socio-economic system that is the U.S. There are filmmakers, there are critics, and there are academic scholars — and in separate worlds they usually dwell.
Which is why one feels like cheering Martin Scorsese. He's that rare American filmmaker who knows and cherishes the history of cinema. His enthusiasm for movies is rousing and infectious, and this makes me want to love every movie he makes. And yet the last great Scorsese film was Goodfellas, over fifteen years ago. Granted — since then he's made some interesting feature films and some even more interesting documentaries about movies.
But for me, The Aviator is not one of them. Scorsese spends most of this interminable film recreating in excruciating, obsessive-compulsive fashion......Howard Hughes's obsessive-compulsive behavior. Which would be fine if it actually revealed something about Hughes's inner life. But this is a film that is all surface — expensive, fastidious, and brilliantined. Every penny of its hundred-million-dollar budget shines brazenly on the screen, but it is illumination of human beings that is nowhere to be found.
Still, upon noticing producer credits for both Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Mann, a part of me (optimistically) thought: "Well, maybe Scorsese was just a hired gun on this one..."