Tag Archives: Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese: ‘Cinema is gone’

Martin Scorsese’s Manhattan office, in a midtown building a few blocks northwest of the cordoned-off Trump Tower, may be the most concentrated bastion of reverence for cinema on the face of the earth.

There’s a small screening room where Scorsese screens early cuts of his films and classic movies for his daughter and his friends. There’s his personal library of thousands of films, some he taped himself decades ago. Film posters line the walls. Bookshelves are stuffed with film histories. And there are editing suites, including the one where Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker regularly toil with a monitor dedicated to the continuous, muted playing of Turner Classic Movies.

“It’s a temple of worship, really,” says Schoonmaker.

Scorsese’s latest, “Silence,” may be the film that most purely fuses the twin passions of his life: God and cinema.

Scorsese, who briefly pursued becoming a priest before fervently dedicating himself to moviemaking, has sometimes seemed to conflate the two.

“Silence” is a solemn, religious epic about Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) in a violently anti-Catholic 17th century Japan. Scorsese has wanted to make it for nearly 30 years. He was given the book it’s based on, Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel, by a bishop after a screening of his famously controversial “The Last Temptation of Christ” in 1988.

“Silence” is an examination of belief and doubt and mysterious acts of faith.

But making the film was such an act in itself.

“Acting it out, maybe that’s what existence is all about,” Scorsese says of his faith. “The documentary on George Harrison I made, ‘Living in the Material World,’ that says it better. He said if you want an old man in the sky with a beard, fine. I don’t mean to be relativist about it. I happen to feel more comfortable with Christianity. But what is Christianity? That’s the issue and that’s why I made this film.”

It wasn’t easy.

Scorsese, 74, may be among the most revered directors in Hollywood, but “Silence” is almost the antithesis of today’s studio film.

To make it Scorsese had to drum up foreign money in Cannes and ultimately made the film for about $46 million. Everyone, including himself, worked for scale.

Few today are making movies with the scope and ambition of “Silence” — a fact, he grants, that makes him feel like one of the last of a dying breed in today’s film industry.

“Cinema is gone,” Scorsese says. “The cinema I grew up with and that I’m making, it’s gone.”

“The theater will always be there for that communal experience, there’s no doubt. But what kind of experience is it going to be?” he continues. “Is it always going to be a theme-park movie? I sound like an old man, which I am. The big screen for us in the ‘50s, you go from Westerns to ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ to the special experience of ‘2001’ in 1968. The experience of seeing ‘Vertigo’ and ‘The Searchers’ in VistaVision.”

Scorsese points to the proliferation of images and the overreliance on superficial techniques as trends that have diminished the power of cinema to younger audiences. “It should matter to your life,” he says. “Unfortunately the latest generations don’t know that it mattered so much.”

Scorsese’s comments echo a tender letter he wrote his daughter two years ago. The future of movies, he believes, is in the freedom that technology has yielded for anyone to make a movie.

“TV, I don’t think has taken that place. Not yet,” adds Scorsese, whose “Boardwalk Empire” was lauded but whose high-priced “Vinyl” was canceled after one season. “I tried it. I had success to a certain extent. ‘Vinyl’ we tried but we found that the atmosphere for the type of picture we wanted to make — the nature of the language, the drugs, the sex, depicting the rock ‘n’ roll world of the ‘70s — we got a lot of resistance. So I don’t know about that freedom.”

Since the election of Donald Trump, some have expressed hope for a return to the kind of ‘70s filmmaking Scorsese is synonymous with.

“If the younger people have something to say and they find a way to say through visual means as well as literary, there’s the new cinema,” says Scorsese.

But the current climate reminds him more of the ‘50s of his youth.

“I’m worried about double-think or triple-think, which is make you believe you have the freedom, but they can make it very difficult to get the picture shown, to get it made, ruin reputations. It’s happened before.”

“Silence,” which Scorsese screened for Jesuits at the Vatican before meeting with the pope, remains a powerful exception in a changing Hollywood.

“He wanted to make this film extremely differently from anything out there,” says Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s editor since “Raging Bull.” “He’s just tired of slam-bam-crash. Telling the audience what to think is what he really hates. Trying to do a meditative movie at this point, in this insane world we’re in now, was incredibly brave. He wanted to stamp the film with that throughout: the pace, the very subtle use of music.

“How many movies start without music at the very beginning under the logos?” she adds. “He said, ‘Take out all that big Hollywood.””

Scorsese, apostle of cinema, continues the fight.

His Film Foundation has helped restore more than 750 films. And he regularly pens supportive letters to young directors whose films he admires.

Imagine that in your mailbox. Almost like getting a letter from your god.

‘Deadpool’ in, ‘Silence’ out and more Globes film surprises

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association never fails to disappoint with their assortment of nominees, which always seem to include some expected picks, some inspired ones and some headscratchers too.

The nominations for the 74th annual Golden Globes certainly had some bombshells, too. Here are a few notable snubs and surprises.

OLD GUARD OUT

Past Globes glory didn’t seem to matter this year for Hollywood legends Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Warren Beatty, none of whom received directing nominations despite all having won in that category at least once. In fact, Eastwood’s “Sully” (that means no Tom Hanks nomination either) and Scorsese’s “Silence” were shut out completely, while Beatty’s big return to directing and acting, “Rules Don’t Apply,” scored only one nomination — for actress Lily Collins.

NO LOVE FOR ‘LOVE & FRIENDSHIP’

Whit Stillman’s Jane Austen adaptation “Love & Friendship” charmed audiences and critics, but was left without a single nomination — especially surprising in the case of Kate Beckinsale, whose performance as the conniving and ambitious Lady Susan Vernon has been widely regarded as one of her best. Instead, in the musical or comedy category, the HFPA singled out the little-seen John Carney musical “Sing Street.”

THE NAUGHTIEST SUPERHERO

Besides being a superhero movie, the irreverent and very R-rated “Deadpool” is about as far away as one can get from a stereotypically tasteful awards choice, but somehow still scored two nominations — one for best motion picture in the musical or comedy category and another for star Ryan Reynolds. Perhaps they draw the line at animated food orgy, though — “Sausage Party,” despite a big awards push, was left out of the fun.

LEFT FIELD ACTING CHOICES

The comedy and drama distinction always allows for a few out-of-nowhere contenders, but the best performance by an actor in a musical or comedy was stacked with unexpected picks, including Colin Farrell for his performance as a single guy looking for love in the dark as night comedy “The Lobster,” Ryan Reynolds for “Deadpool,” and Jonah Hill as a bro arms dealer in the generally panned “War Dogs.” In the supporting category, Aaron Taylor-Johnson sneaked in with a nod for his portrayal of a sadistic Texan in “Nocturnal Animals” and Simon Helberg for his crowd-pleasing piano player in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” which elicited a gasp from those in the room at the Beverly Hilton while the nominations were being announced.

MISS SLOANE TAKES CHARGE

“Miss Sloane,” the Jessica Chastain-led lobbying thriller, might have bombed at the box office this weekend and received generally tepid reviews from critics, but it didn’t stop the HFPA taking notice of Chastain’s performance as the always three steps ahead of the competition Elizabeth Sloane. Since 2012, Chastain has been nominated for four Golden Globes and won once, in 2013, for “Zero Dark Thirty.”

WOMEN BEHIND THE CAMERA

With the statistics of female representation behind the camera as dismal as they are, it might not be that much of a surprise to find zero films directed by women up for best picture or best director this year. Yet it is notable, especially with critically acclaimed fare like Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” and Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe,” both of which were shut out completely. The one saving grace is in the foreign category, where Maren Ade’s comedy “Toni Erdmann” is the nominee from Germany and Uda Benyamina’s “Divines” is nominated from France.

DiCaprio condemns Wall Street’s reckless greed and hedonism

The role that recently won Leonardo DiCaprio a Golden Globe Award and his fourth Oscar nomination is easily the most outrageous in the celebrated actor’s career. In Wolf of Wall Street, the once-innocuous boy who boarded the Titanic delves into the shocking excesses of wealth, greed, sex and drugs that tanked (temporarily) the life of real-life mega stockbroker Jordan Belfort. Fortunately, the 39-year-old actor is much too serious and sober to bask in such extremes in his own life. Although the Oscar-nominated film has been criticized for glamorizing the reckless hedonism of Wall Street while ignoring its victims, DiCaprio condemns the financial power mongers, the “almighty dollar” and the need for altruism.

I spoke with DiCaprio in Los Angeles.

Francesco Orsini: What have you learned about money from making this movie? What brings the wolf out in you?

Leonardo DiCaprio: I don’t know what gets the wolf out of me. Certain times people see movies about gangsters and all kinds of different worlds, and you never know how they are going to react to them. Some might see a certain film and say, “Yeah, I want to be like that guy. You know how many brokers that I spoke to that said, “I want to be that dude?” That dude crashed and burned, and they were like, “That’s what inspired me to get into the world of finance (laughs).” So you never know. I see obviously that if you have nothing else to ground you and if you have nothing else of equal value to your life, it could completely consume you and you could cut all kinds of corners in pursuit of that and it seems like an addiction, like a drug.

Why do you think this movie resonates today? 

I don’t know. Wall Street is a very tough subject matter to put in the title. People have a distaste for the people in the world of finance, and it’s not like you hear the words “Wall Street” and you want to go rushing to the theaters. But ultimately to me it’s not necessarily about Wall Street, it’s about this corrupted version of the American dream. That’s very representational of the time that we live in. As the economy keeps expanding, as our populations keeps growing, we keep acting as if there are endless resources and that we can keep expanding without any kind of downturn.

Do you think things will get better?

The state of things right now is pretty bizarre to me. It seems surreal. It’s pretty outrageous how the almighty dollar seems to rule everything and people are suffering — and our planet is suffering. It’s almost like a war zone out there from an environmentalist perspective to keep some of these sacred places intact, even to fight for things that have no voice because the economy keeps driving forward. It’s depressing to me that the almighty dollar seems to be the god of modern times. People get richer and richer, and prices seem to be surging. I thought we were in an economic downturn, and I look around, and I look at apartments in New York and things are quadruple the price that they were. It all makes no sense to me. And let’s not forget one thing: Jordan Belfort is a little minnow. There are whales out there that have decimated our economy for billions and billions of dollars. That’s what happens in an unregulated society and structure where people aren’t watched over and don’t need to pay the price for (their) actions. And this was a cycle that I feel that keeps happening in this country, where you have to reinvent our entire financial institutions, because there is one loophole and then everything gets funneled into that. It happened in the 1930s, it happened back then and it just happened recently. It’s like there needs to be a reset button in a system where there are no rules. People will certainly take advantage of it.

Are you personally interested in the finance industry?

I don’t follow the stock market whatsoever. It really made no sense to me and no sense to Marty (Scorsese, the film’s director) either, which is why we spoke directly to the camera and said, “Anyway, I know this shit is confusing to you, the point is, were they doing something illegal?” Absolutely, (they) were, and (my character) was getting really rich. That was our approach with this film. Because if you do a film that’s intricately about the world of finance, people are just going to zone out. It’s about the nature of what’s within us. And what I loved about Jordan Belfort’s book was the fact that he was so honest about that. It’s like the guy was writing down some incredibly embarrassing things.

Some people say the movie is quite apologetic of his path that he took in life. 

I think what he was doing was deplorable, and he’ll tell you the same thing. He looks at that period of his life as a time for learning. He’s now the way we picture him at the end of the movie. He’s going out doing seminars like the Tony Robbins-style seminars and talking about his past and mistakes that he’s made, the dark path that he went down. He is divulging all this stuff because he wants to teach people a lesson.

Do you think he has changed as a person?

I can only see the man, and I have gotten to know the man. I think we all want to vilify people for their past, and by no means do I not hold him accountable or responsible for what he did. But I see somebody that is trying everything they possibly can to change that and do something positive. So, I can certainly relate to that.

What was it actually like to enact such a story? After all he had quite an excessive life.

It was crazy. I could understand getting into that mind frame and then bending one little rule here, and then finding a little gray area of the law here and entering that, just to keep the machine going. It’s almost like he built this cult, and I really felt it when I was doing these speeches, because I’d been thinking about these speeches for like six years, and I had it very planned out. There were these Braveheart-type of speeches that I was giving to my brokers. But instead of fighting for their own personal freedom of their country, it was about going out and screwing as many people over as possible. It wasn’t until I really got on stage that I felt what Jordan must have felt like. The adoration — you feel like you’ve become Bono, or something like that. You feel like this crazy rock star.

Did you recognize the feeling from when you became a big star in Hollywood?

It’s a much different dynamic. When you do a movie, there’s always the distance from your audience, via the screen and having it be projected as opposed to being onstage.

Do you envy him?

Oh, I don’t envy the life that he lived, no.

How do you find something likeable in a character who’s essentially quite repulsive?

The truth is, I didn’t really think about whether he was likeable or not likeable. I just keyed into his motivation and ambition. That’s probably what audiences latch onto. Marty said to me very early on, “It’s important to do films that are about the darker side of human nature. As long as you don’t try to sugarcoat who they are, and you don’t try to tack on some false sense of sympathy that you think the audience can identify with. If you’re authentic about the way you portray them, the audiences are going to go on that journey with you no matter what.”

You bought the rights for his story in 2008. Why did it take so long to bring it to the screen?

It was percolating in the air, I wanted to do it right afterwards, immediately, and we were going to. It’s a very modern movie. But such incredibly complex films are almost impossible to finance nowadays, no matter who you have. Because this just doesn’t fit the template of the category of OK dramas and other films are below this budget — and everything else above this budget has to have this explosion, this robot, and whatever, and all that other stuff and otherwise we’re not doing it. 

You’re quite wealthy yourself. Do you use this money just for yourself?

I think it’s very important to give back, too. Everyone’s responsibility, who is in a position of power and wealth, should be to do something for your community or the world. I don’t judge people who are in positions of power or have wealth, as long as they’re responsible with it, and there are a lot of incredibly responsible people out there. But I think that there’s too many reckless ones.