Tuesday, June 18, 2013

First Look at Scorsese’s New Film

By Steve Evans

Check out this trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street, opening stateside on Nov. 15 in time for Oscar season.

Director Martin Scorsese reaches deep into his Goodfellas bag o' tricks (read: riffing on the French New Wave) to cut loose with this extremely busy-looking bio-pic on the criminal life of Jordan Belfort. The story is based on Belfort’s time running a pump & dump scheme on Wall Street during the 1990s to inflate securities values artificially, then sell them quickly before the investments collapsed. For this, he became a multi-millionaire in his 20s, developed a Quaalude addiction and eventually served 22 months in a federal prison. His defunct brokerage, Stratton Oakmont, was an inspiration for Boiler Room (2000).

This new trailer reminds us of nothing in the Scorsese oeuvre so much as Goodfellas – right down to the flash cutting and a few scenes that appear to have been lifted directly from that 1990 classic.

As depicted in The Wolf of Wall Street, Belfort and his cohorts aren’t demonstrably different from the gangsters of other Scorsese films -- they just wore better suits and carried fountain pens instead of .45-caliber pistols. The posturing is still the same.

The worlds of Goodfellas and Wolf of Wall Street are both consumed by money, women, booze and Italian sportscars. Perhaps that’s Scorsese's point. The persuasive tools of the trade are murder on the one hand, and slick manipulation on the other.

With Wolf, Leonardo DiCaprio marks his fifth starring role in a Scorsese picture, following the under-appreciated Shutter Island (2010). The inscrutably popular Jonah Hill in a supporting role looks to be the same sort of casting gimmick that landed him a spot in Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012). Hill draws a certain demographic to the theater and that's good for box office. But from the looks of the trailer, Matthew McConaughey might steal the show with his jittery, eccentric performance. It mirrors the flash-bam-pow of Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing. She’s been nominated six times for the Academy Award for cutting Scorsese’s films, and won three: Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed (1980, 2004 and 2006). That she didn’t win for Goodfellas is as shocking a crime as Scorsese losing the Best Director Oscar that same year to Kevin Costner (does anyone still watch Dances with Wolves?)

Scorsese specializes in a curious cocktail of Catholic-fueled guilt and hyper-kinetic violence, which flows through a majority of his films. Hard to say if Wolf can deliver on either front, though the trailer shows he still has style to spare.

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2013 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.

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