the art of illustration

imageScorsese’s latest, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, has an intensity and a fluency that is dazzling and kept me hooked for the full three hours. Here is the eye of the storm of corruption with a rudderless Captain Ahab (the film is full of lovely literary and cinematic references, all of which add nuanced meaning) in the shape of the central male screen actor of our age, Leonardo DiCaprio. Bombastic, brash, attractive, pathetic…. endless. I thought often of Orson Welles marching similarly across the screen in CITIZEN KANE. This film is about shame,  about loss … greed .. the film is a torrent. I loved it.

The other film I’ve seen this week, AMERICAN HUSTLE, like THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, also uses the back catalogue of popular music to make some sublimely apposite musical interventions that really back up the story and add meaning. Even heard a bit of Plastic Bertrand, Ca plane pour moi, somewhere in the Scorsese – haven’t heard that for a while – worked a treat. AMERICAN HUSTLE is altogether cheesier, but I felt that underneath the hairdos was a film where the protagonist is desperately trying to hold his devilish plan together while all anybody really wants from him is love. This time my mind went wandering to Ben Gazzara in John Cassavetes’ 1976 masterpiece, THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE. Christian Bale’s performance stands up to Gazzara’s for me.

These films are big and loud: they are like gargantuan illustrated pop-up picture books. When I got off the bus to come home, I looked up into the deep blue dusk as three swans flew across the sky in formation.  Not one frame in either of the films I describe was as beautiful as this.

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