Saturday, August 22, 2009

Getting Back on Track

Martin Scorsese's new film Shutter Island has been pushed back from October 2nd, the heart of Oscar season and frequently my favorite month at the movies, to February 19th of next year, a dumping ground for low-rent horror flicks, Norbit-style comedies, and the occasional fun action flick.

Good.

Look, like all guys who got into film in their mid-to-late teens, I love Martin Scorsese. But after The Departed (a fun, pulpy crime flick), the promises of Shutter Island (a fun, pulpy, horror-shock flick), and the announced Frank Sinatra biopic (aside from watching Scorsese's direction, that film couldn't interest me less), I've found the Martin Scorsese of late to be exactly as interesting as the Steven Spielberg of late (Indiana Jones 4, Tintin, the announced Harvey remake). Granted, Spielberg made on of the best films of his career in 2005 with Munich, and Scorsese made one of the best films of his career in 2004 with The Aviator, but unlike Spielberg's, Scorsese's last great film didn't feel nearly as vital as the best of his work.

Vitality is, by its very definition (full of life, full of spirit), often the province of younger filmmakers, and while my knee-jerk reaction is to point to Francis Ford Coppola's last two films, which, as uneven as they may be, are clearly the work of a man who needs to make these films. There's something deep within Coppola screaming to get out. Now, granted, not everyone has this in them, especially after forty years and twenty-one narrative films. Fewer still are given the financing to unleash this. But I find it difficult to believe that Scorsese, one of the most thoughtful, creative, and inspired filmmakers in American history, really has this little left to express.

Especially since his real next film is, by all accounts, Silence, an adaptation of a novel by Shusaku Endo, about the persecution two Jesuit priests face trying to bring the gospel to 17th-century Japan. Also, he's been working on this for over a decade.

This could be the project that reinvigorates Scorsese, or at least our view of him, as Shutter Island's Oscar prospects go from "distant" to "almost impossible" and the film can play as it was meant to (and as The Departed should have) - a one-off, a clever genre film from a man capable of much more.

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