I have to make a terrible admission. For the past couple of months I’ve been a bit ‘off’ cinema. I’ve hardly watched anything in the past month. I can’t quite put my finger on the point where I fell out with it, but it was probably August, when I was on holiday with friend and we watched a film a night, every night, catching up on the Oscar Winners THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, AMERICAN HUSTLE and TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE as well as less acclaimed pieces such as THE WORLD’S END and COMPLIANCE. All of these films failed to fire my imagination, indeed by the end of the final two I was screaming at the screen begging it to stop. Since then, I’ve hardly watched anything, I’ve fallen behind with my Film School Studies, I’ve fallen (temporarily) out of love with films.
Some of this is accounted for by personal circumstances. My children are a bit older and in need of less sleep and when the nights were shorter, they squeezed my viewing time to a maximum of 60 minutes a night. I’ve also rekindled my interest in tabletop RPGs by discovering an online community of like minded people who are happy to share nostalgic bon mots via Twitter (@admchairadvent), which is very entertaining but distracting. While watching anything, Mrs Dirk is constantly interrupting with a sharp jab to the ribs and a cry of, “put that bloody phone down.”
These factors aside, my impatience with films was probably best exemplified by the experience of watching THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. This is undoubtedly a major release of the past 5 years. Leonardo Di Caprio turns his charisma to maximum as Jordan Belfort, the penny shares trader who turned Wall Street on its head with his short-selling scam. Driven by ambition, acquisitive greed and pure excess, the film adapts his memoir as a series of comic vignettes depicting his rise, rise, rise and crash. There are some genuinely funny moments as he indulges in the most bacchanalian lifestyle imaginable, with drugs, prostitutes, ritual humiliation of women, blokey blokiness and extravagant consumption of fine consumer products. He’s constantly trying to out manoeuvre the Feds who are on to his money laundering operation made possible by his fragrant aunt of his wife (who has steely Brit cool by Joanna Lumley). There’s a great moment when he is rendered incapable by some out of date drugs but he has to drive through town to his mansion, to head off the Feds. It’s very funny and memorable.
By the end of it all, I was left with an empty feeling, as if I had watched a cartoon. Despite its length, I felt that there was no progress, the character of Belfort was the same from beginning to end.
The screenplay was written by Sopranos regular and Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter. Scorsese collaborated with Winter on some of the early episodes of Boardwalk, and in comparison, the TV series is far superior to WOLF … on many levels. Not least, the central character of Nucky Thompson, played with aplomb by Steve Buscemi, is wonderfully nuanced in his amorality with lots of twists and turns in his character development. Television has the scope to go wider and deeper into characters and situations than cinema.
Box-set binging of television series is also a factor in my temporary separation from cinema. There are so many interesting television series emerging from America at the moment, I hardly have time to waste on films. Take Ray Donovan for example, an excellent TV series, with brilliant performances from every actor involved. Liev Schreiber plays Ray, an LA fixer who does the underground dirty work for lawyers and publicists of Sports stars, Hollywood actors and the rich and famous. His father has been released from jail and looking for retribution on the priests who molested his son ‘Bunchy’ and the people framed him for a murder that he didn’t commit. John Voight as the father is brilliantly unpredictable, ruthless and funny.
I need something to get my juices flowing again. Something that can satisfy the parts that only television is able to reach. The nights are drawing in … I think it must be time to break into the Bergman.