Saturday, May 07, 2005

Ridley Scott’s latest opus is on at Shenoys. That reminds me of the films I’ve watched over the last few months but didn’t find time to mention here.

The best of the lot has to be Martin Scorsese’s bio of Howard Hughes: The Aviator. Obsession, creativity, genius, madness, money and power are the big themes in this big film. The master director delivers a polished work. Scorsese is one the American filmmakers who takes pride in the grand filmmaking tradition of Hollywood, making no secret of his fascination for the glory days of Hollywood – the grand starry days of MGM and the other mega studios. Though his early oeuvre which established him as the most talented of the new generation of filmmakers in the seventies was marked by a rawness in radical contrast to the genteelness purveyed by the traditional Hollywood studios, Scorsese has now become an establishment figure in American cinema. In some ways, it appears that the rebel of yesteryears has come to be the fatherfigure of today. Thus, The Aviator exudes the characteristic qualities of a Hollywood product. Only, the master has shown how the system can still be used to produce films that has all the sparkle and magic of its earlier classic products – how an artist of integrity can produce a work of art not just in spite of the millions of dollars pumped in, but, does one dare say it, because of it.

This paradox enriches the experience of the film itself in that it is reflected in the narrative of how one man – whose motivations are fascinatingly complex – throws away money like garbage in order to realize his dreams, one of which is, again paradoxically, to make more money. Leonardo DiCaprio etches a surprisingly powerful portrait of the driven, eccentric Hughes. However, the standout performance among many splendid ones is that of Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn – effortless and charming, an inspired performance. It was also a pleasure watching old pro Alan Alda; and Kate Beckinsale is glowingly beautiful, all dolled-up and made-up old Hollywood style, as Ava Gardner.