A savor-less salad of cinematic tricks ...
14 October 2011
Guess who praised Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island"? Roger Ebert! The cinematography, the spooky atmosphere, the film noir's overtones, the whole psychological torment, the "buried trauma" to quote him, as so many voices speaking in favor of "Shutter Island", another great achievement from the greatest director of his generation.

Marty might be the greatest as the most consistent director of the New Hollywood generation but I hate how 'great Marty film' started working like a pleonasm, as to underline a tacit rule that any movie made by a great film-maker automatically deserves the benefit of the doubt, in other words: if you hate it, you didn't get it. I'm sorry again, but the director who committed this cinematic piece of unoriginality is not the passionate artist who enriched cinema with so many masterpieces, like "Mean Streets", "Raging Bull", "Goodfellas" and such delightful little gems like "The King of Comedy" or "After Hours". I'm sorry but Marty didn't gain in maturity, not even in craftsmanship, he purely and simply … lost his touch.

I have the biggest respect for Scorsese, and also for Ebert, and the reason I mentioned the latter is because he's certainly Scorsese's number one fan, but he's also one of these privileged persons who've seen so many movies in his life that he would be the least likely to get so easily impressed by a film, that blatantly exploits every single cinematic cliché, considering the story's material. The movie is so 'obvious' that it would be tragic if it wasn't so laughable. And it's obvious because it works on that reverse effect, as movie fans, we know that whatever seems obvious in the first act will probably be contradicted. True BUT whatever seems obvious is exactly the opposite of what is shown during that very first act, because we know we're being tricked by the director. In that case, it's like Scorsese was the 'sprinkled sprinkler', and Ebert's implicit denial of the script obviousness says a lot about his recurrent loss of subjectivity whenever it concerns Scorsese.

I don't want to number all the clichés: the two detectives investigating, the entrance in the island with a haunting atmosphere emphasized by an ominous music, begging you to be scared, or impressed, a weird feeling of unrealism in some backgrounds that made me question what the artistic approach was, let's just call it 'homage' to old-school cinema, this one never gets old. But I wouldn't have expected this emphasis on the tone, screaming "Beware … danger" not even from old-school directors, and certainly not from Hitchchock. Okay, we got the idea that something will go wrong; it doesn't even trust our patience as Di Caprio acts weirdly from the very first scenes. I was pleased by Ben Kingley's performance as the charming head doctor, but it's getting old since Nurse Ratched and I didn't mention Fritz Lang, because there are less risks that he might be known by the targeted audience.

And I'm not even implying that the movie is not worth watching, but it plays like an overlong build-up for a weak climax, a build-up, during which nothing very pleasing happens. And I mean 'pleasing' in the pleasing meaning of the word, seriously. What happened to Marty's sense of entertainment? Why such a constant need to be dark, Gothic and gloomy? Is that Cinema's new emotional trend? Are we supposed to endure this atmosphere during the whole picture? Can't we have a break? a distracting element, not necessarily a comic relief, but I don't know, a subplot, an interesting character, even Hitchcock did it…no, again, the time-filler relied on the guilty trauma, the good old theme so cherished by Marty, and that provides the best alibis to rationalize his films. And we discover his wife played by a beautiful Michelle Thomas, and some horrific flashbacks featuring the Nazi's atrocities, always a good taste to combine the supernatural horror with the real one, that's what the movie needed in case we thought we would cheer up at the end. Or was he just surfing on an opportunistic wave introduced by Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds"?

The weaknesses of the plot canceled out all the cinematographic attempts to justify the movie's cinematic merit. Nothing special happens, nothing really happens, and again, it's so damn hard to feel sympathetic toward Leonardo Di Caprio! Yes, I have a big problem with Di Caprio in Scorsese's film, because of that same constipated face he has to display, to remind us that he's playing a tough guy. Did Bogart look tough? Di Caprio is a good actor, even great sometimes, but this is becoming one of his most annoying trademarks. I miss the young, lively Di Caprio with sparkling eyes and youthful look, because tough he isn't, and he doesn't fool anyone, and this is probably why the only Marty's movie I thought he delivered a great and flamboyant performance was "The Aviator". The first thing I see in a Di Caprio film now, is the poster, tough-guy-constipated-face? I avoid.

An indigestible film with a risible attempt to scare us, I will stop here because I'm tired of being so critical about the director whom I praised most of his work from the 70's to the 90's. But he just doesn't do justice to his glorious filmography, Scorsese is a man of gripping realism of psychological torture and it doesn't need a supernatural flavor to taste good, it's scarier when real and more than that, Scorsese is a damn entertainer, with a unique talent of storyteller, and not only the story isn't told well, but it's not even a good story, as far as originality is concerned.

And when comes the final scene, with the final line, supposed to summarize the whole message of the film and justify the whole build-up, my only reaction was : "so, we got from that … to that?!" and this is my exact feeling when I compare between Marty's earlier and later works.
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