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March 11, 2010


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The Chevalier

I'm not looking to get this going again.

But it occurred to me after the debate a few weeks back that another recent (relatively) paranoid thriller that used fake backgrounds to establish a disjoined reality was Eyes Wide Shut. However...

When people saw the blue light through the windows and the fake facades they thought: WTF?

When people saw Shutter Island the reaction was: He's doing a Hitchcock homage.

I think it calls attention to how different directors operate and what we expect from them as well.

Tom Russell

Loved your Scorsese impression.


Chevalier, many of us GOT what Kubrick was doing back in 1999. If you'd remember correctly, reviews were mixed but the supporters were very vocal, Just like with Shutter Island.

Glenn Kenny

What Lazarus said. Hell, I was on record as loving "Eyes Wide Shut" right off, borrowing Pete Townshend's phrase (his description of "In The Court of the Crimson King") and deeming it "an uncanny masterpiece" in my Premiere review. So, as far as aesthetic consistency is concerned I suppose, like Travis Bickle's, my conscience is clean.

"Eyes" has many distinguished admirers, including Kent Jones. Such is our devotion to the film that we're not at all bothered that it is also beloved of that wretched tool Lee Seigel!


Are some people not "getting" the ending of SHUTTER ISLAND? And if so, I assume what they're not getting is DiCaprio's last couple of lines, and Ruffalo's reaction to them, yes? But I don't understand what there is to debate. It seemed pretty crystal clear to me, and I don't say that to brag, because basically I'm pretty much a moron.

I'm speaking on the issue of SHUTTER ISLAND's ending in broad terms, as I won't be able to listen to the podcast until later.

Michael Adams

"neither of us makes one snide remark to the other."

Sir, you are no fun.

Irving Thalberg

My problem with the whole "he's doing a Hitchcock homage" line of thinking w/r/t those background plates on the boat is that they don't look or feel anything like the aesthetic of 1940s or 50s rear projection plates; what they do look and feel like is clumsy green screen work. Being purposefully obvious with your machinations is one thing but the choice falls to pieces for me when it's not coming across as evocative of those old potboilers so much as evocative of a present-day CBS show with a limited travel budget.

(And for whatever it's worth, the surrealist plates in EWS--at least during Tom Cruise's nighttime sidewalk travels--were old-timey rear projection.)

John Keefer

I don't know if Val Lewton's influence isn't felt here. If not just from the location being reminiscent of Bedlam, with the quote clearly displayed when entering the facility (though that quote would be common to mental institutions as a reminder of a dark past) but also Lewton's assertion that in order for a horror film to work you would need to be able to remove the horror element and if you still have a story worth telling then you have yourself a good horror movie, or at least the promise of one. Here Scorsese does one better and directly removes the fantastical impossibility of the locked door mystery right in front of us and has the character come to a realization that these macabre fantasies were masking a harsher truth. As well Lewton's concentration on loneliness, something Scorsese has dealt with before, and the idea of melancholy and the person that isn't there, dealt with pointedly in the great Icons of Grief


I actually thought the opening background plates worked well enough - they didn't look like Hitchcock, exactly, but like some kind of contemporary riff on rear-projection. I think part of the issue is their prominence in those first few scenes, which is a bit jarring.

As I've recently re-viewed EWS, I feel the need to chime in on what a strange, beautiful, and beguiling picture it is. Everything else aside, it's one of the most visually inventive movies Kubrick every made - the rear projection (on the street, in the car) and the vaguely artificial New York streetscape, those haunting, glowing interiors lit almost exclusively with practicals. Amazing.

I also had the thought that it sort of qualifies as one of the best Christmas movies ever - like, why don't they play this on TV around Christmastime? (Unless they do - I haven't had TV in years.)

The Chevalier

You guys aren't getting me. I'm not talking about the quality of EWS, or whether people "got" the movie in 1999.

I'm talking about that first reaction when it cut from a grainy handheld establishing shot on CPW to the interior, and there was this bizarre blue light coming through the window and fake facades. It was a WTF? moment. I'm juxtaposing that with Shutter Island's first fake background where it signaled a movie reference.

My point is that with Kubrick we expected originality -- he was expected to give us something we'd never seen before. But with Scorsese what people are interested in are his references and knowledge of film history.

Glenn Kenny

"You guys aren't getting me."

Man. You're starting to sound like Dean Stockwell's character in "Psych-Out."


Listen to GK's interview with the University of Alabama's movie talk radio show. SHUTTER ISLAND is discussed: http://filmnerds.com/movieMarch6Kenny.mp3

Tony Dayoub

"...there was this bizarre blue light coming through the window and fake facades."

That "bizarre blue light" is evident in many movies. Off the top of my head, the most memorable one is Bertolucci's THE CONFORMIST (1970) which has a virtually identical lighting scheme in the dance studio scene where Trintignant and Sanda first get it on.

"It was a WTF? moment."

For you, maybe. Why would you ascribe such feelings to anyone else? Beyond any momentary adjustments between what EWS was being marketed as (an erotic thriller a la BASIC INSTINCT, which anyone who knows Kubrick knew wouldn't be the case) and what it actually turned out to be (some of the more limited reviewers never made the adjustment), I'm not sure there were any of the WTF moments you seem to be using as a foundation for another weak SHUTTER ISLAND/Scorsese argument, Chevalier.

Tony Dayoub

And I'm not even a great admirer of SHUTTER ISLAND.


"My point is that with Kubrick we expected originality -- he was expected to give us something we'd never seen before. But with Scorsese what people are interested in are his references and knowledge of film history."

And again your presumption of what WE like or what WE are interested comes to the fore. I see Scorsese's films not for some grab bag of old movie nods, but because the man tells interesting stories (often off-kilter takes on familiar genres) and because he shoots them in a very energetic fashion, with complex and creative compositions and camera movements. And he tends to get very colorful performances out of his actors. Isn't that enough without accusing people of wanting to see him connect the auteur dots with every film?

I would argue that Kubrick's style is much more consistent from film to film in terms of what the viewer is expecting to see than Scorsese's. The odd way he shoots rooms where the walls, floor, and ceiling share equal space, or the character with the lowered head crazily glaring up at the camera, etc.

Count me alongside Tony as someone who didn't go "WTF?" at the beginning of Eyes Wide Shut. I did see it three times in the theatre, though, because it's a brilliant film.

Michael Worrall

Now The Chevalier resorts to the royal "we" to buttress his argument.

One of the reasons I am interested in Scorsese films is in the way Scorsese is always reworking and reinventing narrative filmmaking. Scorsese's film references I hardly find to be, what Noel Carroll termed, "empty illusionism"


The Chevalier

You guys are swinging at the wind.

You're full of it if you're not admitting that there's mad parsing of Shutter Island for its influences. It was even marketed based on Scorsese's use of references. And yes, people expected Kubrick to keep reinventing the wheel -- the main crux of Ebert's negative review of FMJ is that he expected more from Kubrick.

The blue light wasn't a WTF? moment, Laz? I saw it 5 times in the theater including a preview. It got audience murmurs each time. Because we established a real outside, then we cut to an interior, supposedly established by the previous shot, and there was a blue light coming through the window that wasn't outside. You're full of it.

And the blue light is completely different than The Conformist. The blue window/exterior light often seen in that film is because Storaro used uncorrected sunlight, which goes blue against tungsten.

Tony Dayoub

"...Storaro used uncorrected sunlight, which goes blue against tungsten."

Exactly, and I don't recall that being any different in EWS (I'm thinking of the lighting scheme in the "pot giggles" scene, which is a virtual clone of the one in CONFORMIST). Unless you-of-the-eidetic-memory are thinking of another scene, Steak-man.

Michael Worrall

Yes Chevrolet,

We are all full of it, perhaps even delusional. You may want to find more like minded company who will only serve to validated your already flawless analytical and critical abilities, instead of slumming it with us people who chose to remain in the cave and look at our shadows.

The Chevalier

The lighting scheme in EWS is entirely different than The Conformist because the blue light/fake facades are only seen at night. Obviously, there's no sunlight to appear uncorrected at night. It's just an artificial blue.

MW - Since you continue to go ad hominem and call me Chevrolet, I'll now call you Ernest P. Worrall.

Michael Worrall

Hey Vern!

Most of your posts contain ad hominems --from your very first one on Shutter Island, in fact-- no not to mention assertions, so I am only returning the favor. (I just find that you have the most ridiculous screen name. A self-appointed nobleman at that.)

See you at the Ford, Hawks, and Ray retrospective,


The Chevalier

Ernest -

My screen name is a movie reference.


Michael Worrall

From "Barry Lyndon", I believe. Watched a bit of that while flipping back from ERNEST GOES TO JAIL during the commercials.


"It was even marketed based on Scorsese's use of references."

I loved that poster for SHUTTER ISLAND that showed DiCaprio holding the match, with the tagline: "Is this from a Val Lewton movie, or an Ingmar Bergman movie? Feb. 19, 2010".

Also: "blue against tungsten"

New band name. Lower-case letters and everything. The Continental, you can play bass.

The Chevalier

It's always amusing to see how a simple observation intended to objectively compare two directors can snowball into snideness.


I think the problem is that you couch that observation in the assumption that everybody sees Scorsese and Kubrick the exact same way as you.

Michael Worrall

Vern wrote: "It's always amusing to see how a simple observation intended to objectively compare two directors can snowball into snideness."

That's pretty rich, considering the source.

The Chevalier


Reread my initial post. It's pretty respectful.

-Chevy Malibu



He's here all week, folks.

And I'm sure we can go back to your original set of Shutter Island posts and find a whole lot a snide coming from your corner.

The Chevalier


If you go back to the original SI thread you'll also find comments where other posters pointed out that I was making my case in a fair and thoughtful manner.

-Chevy Malibu

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