Shutter Island: Scorsese’s Ode To His Idols

March 10, 2010 by  
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SCORSESE“Ladies and gentlemen,” bellows the announcer, “the greatest living American director – Martin Scorsese…”

For a man that gave the world Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas, this seems fair praise. At 67 his movies are still stunning audiences. His latest – Shutter Island – has just taken £26m at US box offices, a personal best.

Dressed in sharp suit, light blue shirt and thick-rimmed specs he sits down in a grand ballroom at the Dorchester Hotel with a giggle.

So how does he feel about the introduction he’s just been given?

“I didn’t say it! All I can do is try and do the best work I can. I need to work, I like to work – though I complain about it, I do like it – and I just need to make the best film I can.”

“Once you’re in the thick of battle you just try and get through it and try to make something of it. I can say ‘yes, I directed that film’ years from now, and be happy with that film.”

Like few others, he has a lot of films to be happy about and they have inspired a legion of film-makers. In his latest, gothic noir thriller Shutter Island, Scorsese’s own idols are channelled and he’s not ashamed to admit it.

Sam Fuller’s 1963 classic Shock Corridor is an obvious influence. It too is set in a mental hospital and the seemingly sane protagonist’s mind is called into question.

Scorsese, his big black eyebrows raised with childlike excitement, says: “Shock Corridor can only be conjured as a mantra. It is a classic work of art.

“And yes there’s always that shadow of Shock Corridor hovering round the picture. But I never specifically screened because it’s in us. It’s in me anyway.”

Other films though, were screened. Plenty of them.

Scorsese lists <em>Vertigo</em> as his all-time favourite…” width=”300″ height=”178″ /><p class=Scorsese lists Vertigo as his all-time favourite...

The cast and crew were shown a catalogue of movies from the 40s and 50s, including Vertigo (“it’s a film I’m obsessed with”), Laura (“the body language of Dana Andrews, shoulders down, never looking anyone in the eye”), Out Of The Past (“the trap, the puzzle, the mystery, the beauty”), Let There Be Light, The Trial and Steel Helmet.

Scorsese says: “I’ll show them my references, many different types of pictures that have a similar feel. There might be just one shot in each I want to show them.”

He is the original film geek. Proud owner of the 35mm print of his favourite film Vertigo (“it’s just beginning to go thinner but you can still screen it”), Scorsese has with Shutter Island created an ode to his cinematic heroes.

His current protégé, Leonardo DiCaprio, also pounced on the chance to be part of a film like the ones he marvelled at as a kid.

The 35-year-old, sitting alongside a man he calls his “guide and mentor”, said: “This is a throw back to what moved me in cinema at an early age. These were the types of characters that moved me emotionally and that’s kind of inexplicable.

“I’m driven to someday be able to, in my mind, emulate or try to get close to the great masterworks of great performers that I’ve seen in cinema from years past.”

The plot-heavy narrative and claustrophobic setting makes Shutter Island a departure from Scorsese’s usual style. Audiences may be confused or disappointed by their favourite director.

But this is a film in the style of his own favourites, one he has always wanted to make. Hitchcock, Fuller, Welles and Preminger had their effect on Scorcese and this is his tribute.

As he puts it: “The tone of the picture and atmosphere was in my head and in my blood. I don’t know how else to tell the story.”

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