Martin Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio: Today’s Astaire and Rogers!


The people have spoken: Shutter Island grossed $40.2 million this weekend. Olympic ice-dancing aside, the movie didn’t face much competition (no other newbies in the top ten) but, hey, the numbers are best evah for director Martin Scorsese as well as his star Leonardo DiCaprio!

With four successive pairings, Scorsese and DiCaprio are the new Astaire and Rogers — and not just because of Scorsese’s fancy camera moves. As Katherine Hepburn famously said of Fred & Ginger (although not, I think, in The Aviator): “She [sorry Leo] gives him sex [just in a manner of speaking] while he [that’d be Marty] gives her class.”

Take for example the 61-page Shutter Island press book, only half of which is devoted to the usually gaseous production credits. The rest cries out for footnotes, starting with the five-line epigram extracted from T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” (dangerous title, that): “Between the idea/And the reality/Between the motion/And the act/Falls the Shadow.”

Knowledgeable as it is, the press book passes over the three Hollywood movies that previously quoted Eliot’s poem (On the Beach, Apocalypse Now, and Southland Tales) but 16 other movies are name-checked in the first seven pages.

Inspirations for the director or inclusions in nightly screenings organized for cast and crew include Otto Preminger’s Laura, Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor, the 1919 German silent Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past, Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire, Nick Ray’s On Dangerous Ground, Karl Malden’s Time Limit (double points for obscurity!), Orson Welles’s The Trial, Robert Wise’s The Haunting, Jack Clayton’s The Innocents, Frederic Wiseman’s Titicut Follies, John Huston’s wartime docs (The Battle of San Pietro and Let There Be Light), and three Val Lewton productions (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Seventh Victim).

Lewton’s Bedlam is cited in the six-page section called “Behind Shutter Island: The Strange, True History of Mental Institutions.” The following chapter “Inside Shutter Island: The Design,” references a Roman Polanski trio — Repulsion, Cul-de-Sac, and Rosemary’s Baby — although not, obviously, his current thriller The Ghost Writer, notable for its classical construction as well as clever production design.

Also unmentioned is David Cronenberg’s 2002 Spider, a brain-twisting mental-hospital murder-mystery, set like Shutter Island in the early ’50s. To cite that great movie would have been, at the very least, a double spoiler. (“Between the conception/And the creation/Between the emotion/And the response/Falls the Shadow…” and sometimes the Shadow knows.)

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 22, 2010

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