Note: It is incredibly tough to crunch a four page review into 140 words. But, given the attention span of today’s readers, we have to embrace change with a heavy heart.
The Goodfella of Wall Street Rating: ****
The Wolf of Wall Street is Martin Scorsese’s homecoming. If you set aside the visually appealing Hugo and the dark Shutter Island, you’ll have a career spanning the best and the most vicious films we have seen in the last forty years.
The Wolf of Wall Street is also Leonardo DiCaprio’s “grand slam home run”. He has been on the bench – Scorsese’s bench – waiting for his turn. Every DiCaprio–Scorsese collaboration – Gangs of New York, Aviator, The Departed and Shutter Island – has been a joy ride. But only The Wolf of Wall Street showcases his abilities.
The Wolf of Wall Street has all the qualities of a classic Scorsese film – drugs, money, women, sex, unexpected humour and the obsessive compulsive character. If you’re a hardcore Scorsese fan, this one’s for you.
There are movies that come as packaged entertainers and there are movies that give the viewers the liberty to unwrap and feel what’s inside. And then, there are the select few that seem out of the blue with a hint of nostalgia and courteously unwrap themselves for us to just sit back and enjoy.
The Artist and Hugo belong to the third class. The Artist was screened at Cannes where Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Award and then it vanished as Hollywood distributors kept waiting for it to appear on the radar again. And once it did, the hubbub resumed and what was supposedly a comedy drama about a movie star from the silent era became a trip down the memory lane where movies were just pure entertainment and nothing else.
Both films are set in a time where there were no dark elements that Christopher Nolan brought forth. There was no trail blazing action the Stallones and Schwarzeneggers brought forth. There were no teen fantasies that the Twilight and Harry Potter films brought forth. There was just pure art and entertainment.
The Artist is set in 1927 and the years leading to the introduction of talkies. George Valentin is introduced as a phenomenon. Played by Dujardin, Valentin is a cross between yesteryear’s Clark Gable and today’s George Clooney. To quote his award-winning speech at the Golden Globes: “The agent said my face is too big and expressive.” Dujardin’s emphatic smile has the strength to lure masses and his mass stature in the French film industry is an example.
Hugo takes place in 1931 well after The Artist has finished its duties. But, Hugo isn’t about the success of talkies, it’s about a certain filmmaker who made over hundreds of silent films and soon became forgotten. It is rare that Martin Scorsese has directed a film suited for family audiences. Every now and then, I was looking out for Irish gangsters to turn up in Paris, shoot down drug dealers and quip four-letter profanities. But that never seemed to happen. The characters speak fluently in the now-defunct Victorian English.
14-year old Chloe Grace Moretz has that radiant glow in her as she fills the life of lonely Hugo Cabret (played by Asa Butterfield) with an adventure that takes the viewers to the silent films of the early 1900s. This film is shot in beautiful, glorious color and Scorsese has made sure the existence of animation and 3D is brought out as the camera moves from long shots of Parisian skylines to bustling scenes inside a railway station.
The Artist has it all from panoramic characters to heroic dogs to that sound of orchestras which fuel the soul. This is perhaps one of the best contenders at the awards season and whatever it wins, it rightfully deserves them.
Hugo has an extensive cast but it’s the story that becomes the central character – the story of an artist losing faith and regaining it due to the continuous struggles of a little boy. But, Scorsese remains in that world and chooses not to tread further and his persistence makes Hugo a film that Walt Disney is more likely to make.
Whether it was a budget of $150 million (Hugo) or $15 million (The Artist), Hollywood proves that it can redeem itself. These alongside films such as Midnight in Paris and My Week With Marilyn will stand out as part of a film renaissance.