SCORSESE’S EXPERIENCE COMES FROM CINEMA – FULLER’S WAS FIRSTHAND Hitlist THE BEST FILM & DVD RELEASES*
✽✽ Father of My Children Engrossing French drama about a film producer’s attempts to outwit his debtors. Based on a true story. See review, page 46. GFT, Glasgow and Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 5 Mar. ✽✽ Green Zone Why did we invade Iraq? Because we were lied to. Commendable thriller from Bourne combo Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon. See review, page 45. General release from Fri 12 Mar. ✽✽ Shutter Island See feature, left and review, page 44 General release from Fri 12 Mar. ✽✽ Exit Through the Gift Shop Banksy’s film debut. See review, page 44. General release from Fri 5 Mar. ✽✽ Crazy Heart The life and loves of a travelling country and western singer-songwriter. General release from Fri 19 Feb. ✽✽ Micmacs Kill the arms dealers comedy. GFT, Glasgow, until Thu 18 Mar; Filmhouse, Edinburgh, until Thu 1 Apr. ✽✽ The Limits of Control Jim Jarmusch’s latest feature film. Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Sun 14–Wed 17 Mar. ✽✽ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Digital re-release of the much-loved 1953 comedy musical. See Also Released, page 46. Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 5-Sun 14 Mar. GFT, Glasgow, Sun 14–Tue 16 Mar. ✽✽ Letter from an Unknown Woman New 35mm print of Max Orphuls’ great 1948 romantic tragedy. See Also Released, page 46. Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 12–Thu 18 Mar. ✽✽ I Think We’re Alone Now Car crash documentary about fans of 1980s popstrel Tiffany. See review, page 56. Out Mon 8 Mar (Spirit/Kaleidoscope). 4–18 Mar 2010 THE LIST 43
Madness and the man With Shutter Island Martin Scorsese channels the spirit of Sam Fuller. Alistair Harkness asks him if he likes walking with ghosts
‘S am Fuller and Shock Corridor can only be conjured as a mantra!’ barks Martin Scorsese, pointing his finger purposefully at yours truly. ‘Shock Corridor is a classic work of art! It’s unique; it comes from the unique experience of being Sam Fuller.’ The diminutive demigod of modern American moviemaking is setting The List straight on the late, great pulp auteur’s influence on his new film Shutter Island. Why? Because I’ve tentatively suggested that this psychological horror freak-out is a homage to Fuller’s lurid 1963 cult favourite.
Admittedly, it’s an obvious comparison to make, especially since Shutter Island finds Scorsese regular Leonardo DiCaprio playing a WWII veteran turned frazzled detective investigating the mysterious disappearance of a patient. The plot and Scorsese’s vividly over-the-top visuals can’t help but echo Shock Corridor’s pugnacious, primitive, tabloid-style tale about a self-serving journalist going nuts in the nuthouse. Nor can the wilfully blunt political subtexts, that use the isolated halls of an asylum as a metaphor for the insanity of America in both movies. ‘Yes, there’s always that aspect of Shock Corridor hovering around the picture,’ concedes Scorsese, ‘but never specifically. I didn’t even screen it.’ Reeling off a list of films he did watch in preparation – Otto Preminger’s 1944 detective film Laura; Jacques Tourneur’s noir classic Out of the Past (1947) – it becomes clear that Scorsese’s attempt to downplay comparisons with Fuller may well be out of respect for the life he led.
By the time Fuller, a first generation Polish-Jewish
immigrant, got round to establishing himself as one of America’s most iconoclastic filmmakers, he’d already acquired more worldly experience than most people could ever hope to attain in several lifetimes. A journalist in his teens, a crime reporter in his 20s, a combat soldier in his 30s, he was on Omaha beach in 1944 and was present at the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Falkenau, experiences he later ploughed into his hard-edge genre films The Steel Helmet (1951) and his butchered masterwork, The Big Red One (1980). Traces of these films are certainly present in the backstory of DiCaprio’s character, who is haunted by the horrific scenes he witnessed as one of the first American soldiers through the gates of Dachau. But that’s also the fundamental difference implicit in Scorsese’s reluctance to be likened to Fuller. He knows that while his experience of life came mostly through movies (‘I had asthma, I couldn’t go anywhere,’ he chuckles while going off on a tangent to explain his love of Westerns), Fuller’s was firsthand.
Still, that doesn’t negate their shared passion for the moving image. Fuller once likened movies to a battlefield – ‘Love, hate, action, death – in one word, emotion!’ – and Scorsese insists it was the emotion inherent in Shutter Island that first hooked him. As for Shock Corridor, ‘It’s in me,’ he says wistfully. ‘So in a way I could conjure support just by saying the name “Shock Corridor” as I was going to shoot.’
Shutter Island is on general release from Fri 12 Mar. See review, page 44.