Thursday, March 4, 2010

An Open Letter to Martin Scorsese

Dear Marty,

Really, dude, this is getting embarrassing.

You used to make character-driven films like Taxi Driver (1976), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Bringing Out the Dead (1999)--all three, incidentally, written by Paul Schrader--but now it seems you just want to make big-budget blockbusters.

Of your last four films--all of them, incidentally, costing in excess of one hundred million dollars, and starring Leonardo DiCapprio--the best is undoubtedly The Aviator (2004), an exuberantly overambitious biopic of Howard Hughes (himself something of an overachiever) that was funny, stylish, and fascinating for all of its three hours.

However, the other three are more impersonal. Gangs of New York (2002) is a threadbare revenge drama with an Oliver Stone-like fixation of good and bad father-figures. I know that you'd dreamed of making this film for a quarter-century, but I have little idea as to why.

Even worse was The Departed (2006), a bloated remake of a forgettable Hong Kong policier, Infernal Affairs (2002), which is an hour longer than the original, is full of violence where Infernal Affairs relied on suspense, brings out the worst tendencies in Jack Nicholson, and is again about young men torn between good and bad father-figures. It's undistinguished even on the level of a frankly commercial genre film.

Your new film Shutter Island (2010) begins promisingly. It's based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, whose work also inspired Ben Affleck's Gone Baby Gone (2007), one of the most powerful and thought-provoking films of recent years, although it opens more like a Val Lewton B-picture with two U.S. marshals (DiCapprio and Mark Ruffalo) traveling by ferry to a mental hospital on a secluded island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the disappearance of a patient. (That said, at 140 minutes, it's twice as long as a Lewton film.) I was intrigued by the mystery, and in terms of pure craftsmanship, the film is flawlessly made. But Marty... Marty, Marty, Marty. That twist is just so lame.

I know, you didn't write it. But is this really the kind of film you want to be making? We already have an M. Night Shyamalan. My advice is to do another small film, like After Hours (1985). Make a movie just for the love film, whether or not it has commercial appeal. And if DiCapprio loves working with you so much, let him take a pay cut.

Your friend,

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