Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Aviator

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..."

12 Comments:

Anonymous Michael said...

I have yet to see The Aviator; with the exception of Casino, I've avoided all of Scorcese's work since Goodfellas. But I do think your description of Scorcese's enthusiasm for movies is spot on -- it's one of the reasons I respect him, and hearing him talk about films is, as you say, infectious.

October 14, 2005 1:07 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Michael, I think the one Scorsese movie since Goodfellas that I really love is the A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies, the BFI documentary he made about his movie-love. It's a 2-DVD set and I've seen it (or parts of it) several times. I think both The Age Of Innocence and Kundun are interesting movies, and I've been meaning to watch them again. The latter is especially fascinating because it is a movie about a character defined primarily by his willful inaction, making him the complete antithesis of a Scorsese character. And yet it is a very gentle and sympathetic film. Casino marked a turning point for me with his work. While it has many brilliant sequences, the violence in it (to me anyway) is clearly sadistic--Scorsese is getting off on it, no question.

October 14, 2005 8:20 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Scorsese was in Paris for the opening of the new Cinémathèque, as a representant of all the filmmaker-cinéphiles who always supported the archive work of Henri Langlois, and also as the president of The Film Fondation.
And he announced he will extend its mission to the preservation/restoration of 3rd world cinema too. I'm not a fan of Scorsese films, but I admire his passion for cinema and his commitment to save it.

October 14, 2005 10:25 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

I've seen his Personal Journey film twice; I think it's great. What I think is not great is Bring Out the Dead: the film struck me as curiously dead as well, rote and uninspired.

Casino annoyed me just for its lensing--I thought it tried a bit too hard to show opulence through those gauzy shots making every diamond glitter just a bit more. Mostly it reminded me of going around with dirty glasses, wishing I had a bit of water and some soap.

October 14, 2005 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Yeah, that BFI documentary is great, although I haven't seen it in its entirety. I agree with you about the sadism of Casino, one of things that turned me off to it, and to Scorcese. I've thought from time to time about renting The Age of Innocence and still might do so.

October 14, 2005 1:21 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

While Scorsese did not originate The Aviator, coming in after the script was written, his hand is obvious in the visual style and use of color. Keep in mind that Raging Bull was DeNiro's project in the beginning. I did think The Aviator was Scorsese's most entertaining film in quite a while. The Departed is also another project that he did not originate. A question that I will always have is what if Scorsese had made Schindler's List as was once planned?

October 14, 2005 2:31 PM  
Blogger girish said...

It was a great kick to see Scorsese cast three Wainwrights--Loudon, Rufus and Martha--as singers in different scenes in the film.

October 14, 2005 2:55 PM  
Anonymous rakesh said...

I don't think Scorsese will be able to make a movie like "Taxidriver" ever again. That was his peak, his best. That movie still haunts me...

October 15, 2005 7:55 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

My favorite quote regarding the Aviator comes from Nicholas Ray's book I was Interrupted:


For the NY Times Classifieds:

MAY ANY FILM MADE ABOUT HOWARD HUGHES NOT DIRECTED BY NICHOLAS RAY BE PUT TO REST IN A VAULT AND MAY THE VAULT HAVE SEVEN ROOMS AND MAY EACH ROOM HAVE SEVEN SHELVES AND MAY THE FILM BE SHIFTED EVERY SEVEN YEARS FROM SHELF TO SHELF TO ROOM TO ROOM UNSEEN AND UNREMEMBERED.

1977

October 15, 2005 6:54 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh, that's precious.

October 15, 2005 7:05 PM  
Blogger phil said...

i am a highly inexperienced scorcese watcher and part of that has been because i was very turned off by those films of his that i did see...

turned off in the utmost sense of the phrase...the movies i've seen build to anti-climactic and unconstructive finishes...i walk away from his movies exactly who i was before, except for being just a little more let down by scorcese. he fails to deliver for me. fails to bring significance.

October 16, 2005 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Pacze Moj said...

I've been waiting for Scorsese to better, or at least equal, Mean Streets for a long, long time. Aviator, Gangs and all those are just a different filmmaker -- though still enjoyable.

Excellent blog, by the way!

October 16, 2005 9:13 PM  

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