A word in edgeways
When Martin Scorsese gets into full flow, there’s no stopping him. Donald Clarke sits quietly as Marty talks religion and money, hoodlums and Hollywood, DiCaprio, De Niro and 3-D – and explains how he’s gone back to basics on
WENTY MINUTES with Martin Scorsese. It is both a daunting and a stirring prospect. Nobody else from the generation of American directors that emerged in the early 1970s — think of Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, Peter Bogdanovich and a dozen others — has retained his dignity as convincingly as has Marty. Recent films such as Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Departed may not be on a par with earlier classics such as Taxi Driver or Raging Bull, but they are good enough to ensure that Scorsese still matters.
If you still had doubts about his relevance, his latest film, the agreeably unhinged Shutter Island, should have dispelled them by clocking up a juicy $41 million on its recent opening weekend in the US. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a cop investigating a disappearance at an asylum for (cacophonous minor chord) the criminally insane, the picture looks likely to be his most financially successful to date.
So there’s plenty to talk about. This would be worrying enough if Scorsese were not known as one of the most verbose men in the movie business. Many journalists have made the mistake of mentioning a favourite film, only for Marty – a brilliant student of cinema – to eat up 45 minutes expounding his views on the director, star and key grip.
Ten minutes into our chat, I make that mistake myself. I had read that, in preparing Shutter Island, he had encouraged the cast to watch the great 1945 horror film Isle of the Dead. Produced by the legendary Val Lewton, whose B-movies for RKO were often better than the feature presentation, Isle of the Dead does, indeed, walk the same ground as Scorsese’s new film. He’s off. “I don’t see Shutter Island as a horror film,” he says. “But there was definitely something about Isle of the Dead. It’s a compromised film. But when I saw it at 11 or 12, I didn’t know it was a compromised film. All that I knew was that it created amood and atmosphere that was unbearable. When the woman comes out of the tomb, that’s when I left the theatre. Then I went in again and left at the same point. You get a real sense of the ancient world in that film.”
Running from the cinema during a ghost