yearzerowriters

Issue 3

Shutter Island  ****   Scorcese the thief?

 

Another issue, another exclusive. This time it’s little Martin and his adapt of the guy who wrote Mystic River’s Shutter Island, a novel the guy who wrote Mystic River himself said was ‘a time-passer, a cheap thriller made to lighten the psychological load.’ I guess that means he was depressed after writing about Kiddie fiddling in…shit, this is the third time I’m saying this, and it’s only the first paragraph…Mystic River. What it also means is that Scorcese’s passing the time again until…well until nothing, really, let’s face it he’s pretty much spent in terms of his own stories to tell. All he’s got now is style and other people’s visions, so let’s see how he’s getting on…

      First off, a reference to his last one, ‘The Departed’. A lot of people said it was a time passer, that ‘Infernal Affairs’ was superior, that it was slick but what was the point really? These people are idiots. And there’s one scene that serves as a response, a quick comparison between the two versions of that film: One, Tony Leung gets shot in the head and the director puts on the tape and plays some flashbacks while Andy Lau does what? Goes back to his trailer while the audience feels? Two, DiCaprio gets shot in the head and there’s no sound, just the elevator doors trying to close. To sum up, and to move on, Scorcese is superior to almost every director out there.

      So, what does he do with Shutter Island? He steals, pretty much. From Bunuel, Renoir, Powell and Pressburger, Chris Columbus. But that’s ok, because he tells every interviewer he steals and what he steals from, just like Tarantino, and isn’t that admirable? He knows there’s not much else left to innovate in film so the only way to proceed is to look back at the weirdest films made from the days of yonk and rip them off.

      Anyway, back to the film

      The plot is basically DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, as cops, going to a mental asylum on an isolated island to find an escaped nut [Emily Mortimer]. The power goes down, DiCaprio starts seeing his dead wife [Michelle Williams], and Ruffalo walks around pointing his gun a lot and trying to turn on every lightswitch he comes across. It sounds generic, but it sure doesn’t look that way as Dicaprio has a weird, semi-bowl haircut and wears the uniform of a nut for most of the film, and the shots Scorcese uses [or steals] are very unsettling. Example, there’s a scene where DiCaprio holds his dead wife and ash rains down from the ceiling, and it looks like two different styles of scene melded together, but in an impossible way. It’s too hard to express exactly what it looks like, but I haven’t seen anything like it since the flashback scenes on ‘Ghostship.’ Another scene shows DiCaprio talking to another nut behind bars, I think it’s the nut from ‘Watchmen’, the guy in the inky mask, and the shots skew and vary, incorporating the cell bars and the position of the actors in quite incredible ways, so you forget which of the two guys is actually the captive. I doubt Mystic River guy had that in mind when passing the time with his cheap thriller.

      The acting? DiCaprio seems to have hit a rut media-wise, meaning he keeps knocking it out of the park, but the reviews stay the same. Very good, but no higher. I guess it’s not his time right now, and others are in line for the superlatives, but here, in this film, he shows that he is probably the best young actor working today. There are perhaps two slips in the film, two moments where I didn’t totally believe in his character [they were both scenes with his wife, perhaps showing a habit left over from the turbulent marriage to Winslet in his last film], but on the whole he’s convincing, his face, his eyes, his shuffling, awkward body language transforming him from solid cop to a kind of madness. Ruffalo, on the other hand, gets screwed. Why did he choose another role like this? The straight guy, the serious one, the guy trying to get the power back on without any kind of history to his character. I don’t know. He’s adequate, but the role’s a waste.

      And Scorcese? He’s winding down well, stealing and styling, and making very good films out of average material.

      

 

Inglourious Basterds  **  Quentin the writer?

Two stars seems harsh, but this has been coming for a while now. Tarantino’s on his seventh film as director and where’s he at? The same place he was with his second film pretty much. Let’s look back.

      Dogs: Bright start, different, lots of talking.

      Pulp Fiction: Great structure, lots of talking.

      Jackie Brown: There’s a disease of modern reviewing, I think it’s called revisionalisationism, where if a film gets a muted reaction on its initial release then ten years later it must be an underrated work of genius. But, really, ten years later, Jackie Brown, is still a piece of shit with lots of talking.

      Kill Bill 1&2: Lucy Liu screams ‘muthafucka’ in Japanese. I’m getting bored.

      Basically, Tarantino’s regarded for his dialogue. This, according to most critics, is what makes him special. But does it? The man himself has said that to be a great writer, you have to challenge yourself. You have to write more than one voice. So where’s the challenge in ‘Inglourious Basterds’?

      It opens with a twenty minute scene, a two-hander between a French farmer and the Jew Hunter, Hans Landa, where the latter subtly interrogates and tries to smoke a pipe. As a scene it’s fine, tense and exciting, but within the actual plot it is basic and generic. And this stretches to the rest of the film. The plot is simply about revenge, the characters are all versions of Tarantino, and the dialogue is just things that he says in real life.

      But isn’t the dialogue his strength? Not really, not anymore, not for me. I’m sick of the way he talks, I was sick of it by Jackie Brown, and in Kill Bill it was embarrassing. Someone like Kurt Vonnegut, he managed about ten books in the same voice before I started getting bored of it, and Tarantino managed two. The irony is he still believes it to be riveting, and perhaps it is for some people as you still hear people quoting it, but he has to know that his real strength is in his ideas, and when to end a scene. The whole concept of Inglourious Basterds is its selling point, not the plot itself, but the idea of fictional characters coming into history and doing what ever the fuck they want with it. The way Tarantino puts in that opening scene and lets it run and run, and the way he does it again later with a twenty minute bar-room scene. The way he doesn’t give a fuck what people think when he kills off Hitler at the end. This is the base he should work from, not the dialogue.

      Can I go back to the dialogue again? Fuck it, the dialogue he puts into his characters’ mouths is painful at times. It’s so elaborate, it’s so one-note, like every one of them is a gobby, big chinned twat who used to work in a video shop and knows a shit load about films. Brad Pitt, yes, he gets a different accent, and others get different rhythms of speech, but it’s all the same shade of Quentin, isn’t it? In fact, in all his seven films I think there’ve been two characters which have been different. DeNiro in ‘Jackie Brown’, and Hans Landa in this. Apart from that, krist, he even wrote a group of women who sounded like him, four fucking women who spoke and thought like Quentin Tarantino.

      So two stars then, and a plea to Quentin to write a film about a mute.

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