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Archive for the ‘Leonardo Di Caprio’ Category

The Wolf Of Wall Street

03 Jan

The Wolf Of Wall Street – directed by Martin Scorsese. BioPic Black Comedy. 189 minutes, Color 2013.

The Story: The rise and rise and rise of a sharpie-broker to the heights of wealth and disorder, and the outcome in ultimate wealth and disorder and gullibility for all.

★★★★★

I was disappointed to read in the credits that The Wolf Of Wall Street was based on someone’s life, for it is such an imaginative movie, I expected it to be as made up on the spot as the many dodges it chronicles. It is the wittiest movie I have seen in ten years.

It starts with a 26 year old Leonardo DiCaprio being put in a trance by Matthew McConaughey, a trance in which he remains for the duration, and in that trance enacts the dance of greed and more greed (in the word “greed” the “more” is silent), until at the end we are shown the whole world to be in an obsessive trance, too.

McConaughey’s fugazi-cadenza of the fairy dust of Wall Street opens the piece with a The Gambler’s Creed. It shows that capitalism, meaning brokerage investment (meaning stock and bonds), is silly. For it is based on a cheap thrill. To which one and all must be addicted. Meaning entranced. Get Rich Quick is the silly thrill.

The film is a must. For the writing. For the mastery of execution of the director. For the performances of the McConaughey, along with Rob Reiner as Belfort’s irascible father, Margot Robbie as Belfort’s second wife, the beauteous Joanna Lumley as her aunt, and everyone involved, small part to major. Jonah Hill is the co-star, and his scenes put one in mind of the early work of Scorsese in Raging Bull, as does the acting work throughout, with its ruthless improvisations and trash talk at will.

Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor of deep shallowness as a leading man, brings his thin-sliced white bread and slather of profound character-acting talent to bear on the part of the cavalier investment broker on the make, and gets up on his hind legs, and his abilities shimmer throughout the picture and hold our interest at a fascinated distance, as he continues his compulsion to trick the customers into speculations from over-the-counter penny stocks, which no one may profit by but him. He gives us a deal of rash playing. The entire performance is flavored into reality by the fragrance of a Bronx accent.

The law bears down. This does not dissuade him from drugs, sex, and high-rolling.

But why go on? Why spill the beans, when it is such a pleasure for you to see them topple out on your own? It is because of Scorsese’s dab hand with this material that you must  attend, and for DiCaprio’s in playing it out with him.

Is it the best film Scorsese has ever made? Could be.

You tell me.

 

Django Unchained

05 Jan

Django Unchained – written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Western. A bounty hunter joins with his slave to make a killing in the bounty business and to liberate the slave’s wife. 165 minutes Color 2012.
★★★★★
If you want to watch A Quentin Tarantino movie properly you must gauge whether he pleases you with the way he pleases himself in telling his tale, for the way he tells his tale pleases Tarantino so mightily, so obviously, and with such relish, there is no way of avoiding it with pleasure at all. He is a show-off. A great show-off. You either put up with it, or you go ice-skating.

And we find wonderful performances in his pieces, here from Cristoph Waltz, as a bounty hunter disguised as an itinerant dentist, and speaking an English so elaborate no one in Texas has a clue as to what he is saying. This joke is replayed again in reverse by Bruce Dern speaking in an argot no one in his vicinity, or in the theatre audience itself, can gather at all, save Leonardo DiCaprio who understand every word immediately.

For Tarantino is a witty director indeed. And he is one who knows how to structure a scene powerfully, so the movie moves forward not so much through its story as through our expectations of another even wittier scene. These are interlaced with spectacularly shot vistas of the West. Waltz and the slave adventure assassination after assassination, buffaloing among others Don Johnson as a vicious slave-owner, and collecting bounties hither and yon.

All this works well until the last act when they come up against two formidable actors, Samuel L. Jackson as the Uncle Tom major domo of a vast cotton plantation and its owner whom he cow-tows to, bullies, and influences. Jackson’s is a stunning performance and a ruthless exposé of the Negro favoring the white tradition over the hearts, minds, and bodies, of his fellow slaves.

The owner is brought off by Leonardo DiCaprio brilliantly, with every requisite furbelow of the Southern plutocrat on display. Finally, DiCaprio is in a character lead! He is not a leading man, he does not have the technical substance to fake it or the acting instrument for it to begin with, but give him a part with some character, an accent, a costume, (The same is true of Meryl Streep), and you’ve got an actor doing what God made him for to do.

Jamie Foxx plays the slave, and our surprise is a tribute to his gifts to see what a fine actor is in him, for he starts off unrecognizable as a shackled slave, and he gains in character and stature as the story goes on and the costumes and facial hair change. Dressed in rags, his soul is in rags; dressed in cowboy rig, he grows into man of position high on a horse; dressed in turquoise knee breeches, he is a disdainful fop; dressed in work pants and an old shirt, he is a captive renegade. Then dressed in Zorro duds, he is a Hollywood star on a trick horse, ready to bust out into “Home On The Range.”

The film is richly entertaining. Until it isn’t, and that means that Tarantino plays 52-pick-up with his finale, which consists of five, count them, five hugely detailed slaughters. Sharp and imaginative as these bloodlettings are, we are drenched numb by them, and they cancel one another out, and us along with them.

We do not need the second. All we need is his being handed the gun. A blackout with gunfire. Cut to his removing the weapons from the bodies.

We do not need the third. All we need is the six men lounging in the cabin, the shadow of Django in the doorway, and his walking away with the cabin on fire behind him.

As to slaughter number four, we need less dialogue. The slaying of the sister is wonderful, but the scene needs fewer slain, two would do, the castrator and the sister – who are those other people anyhow?

The major domo must meet his comeuppance in slaughter five, which I shall not tell you about.

Anyhow, Tarantino lacks, here, the sense of narrative selection which would stop the movie from being a film he himself would want to see and let it be the film the audience would want to see. Self-indulgence is the worst crime an artist can engage in. But show offs are always showing off for themselves. It’s a problem with the type.

But still, Tarantino has given us a first class drama of retribution. The white race is totally annihilated. How gratifying. Everyone dies who should.

Did we ever think they wouldn’t?

No, but up to the last ten miles, the trail that meanders through a maze of surprises to that inevitability is stunning. Who would ever have thought to make a movie like this?

Quentin Tarantino.

Right.

 

J. Edgar

26 Nov

J. Edgar – Directed by Clint Eastwood. Biodrama. The personal and official doings of the unstoppable force of the founder of the FBI. 137 minutes Color 2011.

* * * *

The music which Eastwood composes and chooses himself is beautiful, as usual. And the sets (Bumstead’s demise has not diminished this in Eastwood’s work) are first class. The camerawork keeps things dark, for most of the story takes place in interiors, but when the period is the 1920s and earlier what we are shown does not look like those eras but like a film trying to make us believe we are in them. The story moves back and forth in time, quickly, which is not a problem, but there is only a pictorial, not a thematic connection between a racetrack now and a racetrack then, which is why some audience members have found this editing baffling. From the start, every one of Eastwood’s films has been revolutionary in subject matter. But every one has endured a narrative failing of some kind. In each film is a flaw which derails the development of the main character in relation to the material. Here the problem lies in a bifurcation which on the one hand tells the story of a man who sacrifices his personal life for his career, and on the other is the story of a man who comes to the end of his imaginative power long before he comes to the end of his willingness to leave office, and so like Quaddafi and many another, becomes paranoid, vicious, and a liar. Leonardo Di Caprio plays J. Edgar Hoover. And this poses a deeper problem. Hoover was a fascinating careerist, but there is nothing particularly interesting about J. Edgar Hoover himself; he is not an attractive person – physically, intellectually, or spiritually. He was a dogged professional whose ideas and accomplishments ran out with World War II. After that he became the usual martinet, with all the usual and very dangerous failings and bents. Di Caprio is also not a very attractive person. He is not someone who, like Edward G. Robinson, can just be himself and enchant us. That is why he is not a true leading man. He is, however, a brilliant character lead, and if you wish to see him at his best see Total Eclipse, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Celebrity, and Blood Diamond, and leave the rest alone. My hunch is that Di Caprio is essentially introverted, and great only in characters who are not introverted, but are rather characters of high volatility, and Hoover was not that. For J. Edgar he certainly has worked on a vocal pattern, but that pattern just keeps him trudging through the doxology of the role, “I intend to save America from its direst enemies!” The story tells us that J. Edgar Hoover turned out, like Quaddafi, to be an assassin, but in Hoover’s case an assassin of reputations. All meant to bolster his own. But De Caprio is too close in tenor to Hoover himself to make him interesting. His relations with his right arm Clyde Tolson were probably not sexual, for two reasons, one being that Hoover was not a particularly sexual person, he was a monk of work, and the other being that in those days it would have been far too dangerous to his reputation and to that of the FBI had that ever taken place and been found out, which it certainly would have been, for it was just the sort of evidence Hoover collected to use against others. The redoubtable Judi Dench plays his mother who knows the truth and warns him. I don’t know why she is cast; she’s very good, but Lady Hoover is what we get. I don’t believe, as in Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, that Eastwood or his screenwriter or Di Caprio understand the first thing about the pulls and refrains of homosexual attraction. Here we have a story which might, like Brokeback Mountain, have moved us. But it doesn’t. The man who is supposed to be dying before our eyes is already dead from the start.

 

Inception

10 Apr

Inception – Directed by Christopher Nolan. Techno-thriller. To change a man’s mind, a trained crew enters his dream-world to try to hypnotize him. 148 minutes Color 2010.

* * * * *

Pete Postlethwaite plays the pivotal role here, which can mean and does mean that his part may be minute but still crucial. All he needs to make is one small turn. Everything depends on that. Hubbing out from him are his son and heir whose mind is to be invaded, and on the outer rim the tycoon who is financing the invasion. The focal role is that of the son, very well acted by Cillian Murphy. Tai-Li Lee does the tycoon beautifully. Which leaves the spokes, the crew of invaders, all beautifully cast and perfectly played: Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page, the last two of which are given and reward a good deal of our attention. The one item of miscasting is Marion Cotillard as the wife of Leonardo Di Caprio. She’s a great actress, but lacks mystery, at least in this part she does. The result is that we do not really care about the fate of their marriage. I’m not sure that any actress could play the part, for the hero/husband is played by Di Caprio, who is not a leading man but a leading boy. The vexed lines between his brows, the passion and conviction and honesty and skill with which he animates and invests every single thing he does here cannot countermand the fact that he is not a grown-up. Fortunately it is not a grown-up movie, so it doesn’t matter that much. It is a wonderful piece of child’s play, superb in all particulars, and we sit on the edge of our seats to follow it. It is executed to perfection by the director and the camera people, by everyone involved, in fact. It is cinematic to the max: our suspense is sustained for the last 20 minutes by the mere drift of a van off a city bridge into the water of a river. What could be better? In this genre, nothing. Di Caprio is one of our great actors, but he is not a leading man: he is a character lead, which is a quite different category and requires exactly the rare instrument which De Caprio in fact possesses: a talent for imposture. See him in Blood Diamond, Celebrity, Total Eclipse, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to really get a sense of his gifts. But see this too. He can carry a load. But because he carries them, all the loads he carries become  — and it’s still delightful to us all when the load is, as here it is supposed to be — hollow.

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