Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Scorsese: The Ladies’ Man?

This entry is a miscellaneous piece of sorts in commemoration of the Scorsese blog-a-thon. Bow down to the genius, or at least contribute with an entry (or head over to LAMB and check out the other entries tomorrow).
While looking at The Age of Innocence recently I wondered why Marty is called a man’s director. It’s a little bit of a paradox if you come to think of it. In the same way that George Cukor is called a women’s director even though he’s done films highlighting his men and women Marty is given the male monogram even though he works as effectively with his men as with his women. Sure, his films are a bit more testosterone driven, but like Streisand said – there’s always a woman. Of course he directed Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore to directly combat the misconceptions. The film earned Ellen Burstyn an Oscar. He hasn’t done such a female centred flick since, but the women are always necessary in his pieces. When I think of Scorsese as a pimp (I use the word loosely, of course) I always come to The Aviator. Of course, I’m just smitten with that because of the Old Hollywood allusions (and Cate/Kate the Great). Still, Howard is literally swimming a pool of women, even if he doesn’t know it himself. Yes, Cate/Kate does seem to take the forefront but from Jean to Kate to Jane to Ava it really about the women. I just pretend that the third quarter is nonexistent, of course…
But, I’ll jump ahead to the next ScorCaprio piece – The Departed. If any Scorsese film stinks of men, it’s this. Vera Farmiga is the only female who isn’t playing a whore or …a kept woman. Yet, she comes out of it looking mighty good, with an underwritten role. Her role is more than a little thankless, but she makes it all work – including that somewhat stodgy Boston accent, which I forgive her for. I’m not sure if it’s Vera’s tenacity, or Scorsese’s brilliance, but Vera’s Madolyn comes out looking better than she did after reading Monahan’s script. If we jump all the way back Good Fellas I suppose we could say the same about Lorraine Bracco, although she isn’t really the only woman on set. Her performance sneaks up on me, a little, though. I’m never expecting her to make any impact, and then she does. I don’t love the performance, but it’s still credible – and I can’t ever hate a Lorraine performance. It’s the same way with Barbara Hershey. I always think I don’t like The Last Temptation of Christ, and I every time I see it I realise I like it quite much actually. I blame it on The Natural, but I’m always apt to think Barbara Hershey is a villain. Am I the only one who thinks she’s an unlikely Mary Magdalene? I mean, she gives a courageous effort – and is quite good – but I always like to think how brilliant it would have if Marty had “discovered” Michelle for the role, before Countess Olenska. She would have been brilliant.
Speaking of The Age of Innocence, I’m always apt to call it my favourite Pfeiffer performance, even though it’s not really her film. Marty really likes his women looking good, though. Liza Minnelli is rarely as lovely as she is in New York, New York and though I’ve never been too fond of Michelle Williams, as a beauty or an actress, within her few minutes in Shutter Island I became a believer. Didn’t you wish that they’d scrapped Lehane’s whole pseudo-psychology shtick and focused on a straight drama with Leo and her? It’s as if Marty’s screwing with us, a little. I honestly become invested in the reality of that relationship, even if Michelle’s Dolores is the most wicked of Scorsese’s women. He has a thing for virtuous women, doesn’t he? Not in the usual sense, but from Madolyn, to Jenny, to Francine to Kate to Vickie how many images of the broken man being consoled by his devoted woman do we have? Sure, the hypothesis goes askew sometimes, but the similarities are interesting. But maybe that’s just him screwing with us again.
I can’t account for why Casino and Cape Fear, and both incidentally earned its women Oscar nominations. But I can’t account for how Juliette Lewis (admittedly good) gets nominated for every award body and Jessica Lange goes completely shafted. I’m probably one of the few that enjoyed Sharon Stone in Casino, I wasn’t gunning for her to win but it’s a nomination well deserved. Of course, Jodie Foster’s Iris doesn’t fit anywhere into the whole classification of Scorsese’s women…and I still can’t pick a favourite…I’d be stepping on someone’s toes whomever I choose…but just to go arbitrary Kate for speaking…the Countess for looks. 


elgringo said...

Lorraine Bracco's performance is one of my favorite things about Goodfellas. And Goodfellas is one of my favorite Scorsese movies. The scene where Ray Liotta wakes up with a gun shoved in his face...amazing.


Simon said...

Vera Farmiga was so underrated in The Dapahted (as is it's proper spelling).

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

elgringo i wonder why liotta has turned into a has been. the man got off to a valiant start - the nothing.

simon yes it is the depahted.