Joe Giambrone | Political Film Blog
With Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese stomps on Consumerist Christmas like Godzilla on crack. This is the boldest, most audacious piece in recent memory, a film whose release date holds even deeper meaning than most American audiences could possibly process. They were assaulted, intentionally, on levels far deeper than their supposed virgin eyes. The naughty sex and drugs and runtime are the shallow criticisms currently making the mainstream rounds. Yawn.
Wolf is not about sex and drugs. The film is about money, power, greed, the legitimacy of this market-based wealth accumulation system. The sex and drugs are simply window dressing to a far deeper sickness, one that claws right out from the screen like a 3D Craptacular and strangles the audience where they live: their own greedy little insatiable egos. Because Jordan Belfort did it, he already topped them all. They could never compete. It’s been done.
Wolf has meaning across the society, the way we organize ourselves here as buyers and sellers, each competing to one up the next. Scorsese has finally matured to the point where he can tell it like it is, the American experience, the actual American Way, the American Dream, the myths, the reality, the psychology we’ve all been sold. This is a far bigger story than the tale of one super con man with a drug problem: we’re all complicit.
I’m of the opinion today that Wolf of Wall Street is indeed Scorsese’s best film, the full 2 hour and 59 minute cut.
People will likely respond with Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. Of the three, Taxi Driver is the only film to reconsider.
Goodfellas is one of the most overrated of all Scorsese’s efforts. From the first trailer I saw it was plainly obvious: this is no Godfather. Scorsese’s artifice, his penchant for voiceovers and intrusive directorial voice left me distanced and unconvinced on any level. Better gangster films are not difficult to locate. Sorry, film geek boys; you can stop pitching this as some greatest film. It ain’t.
Conversely, with Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese’s style meshes gloriously with this over the top exploration of excess and debauchery. DiCaprio’s voiceovers provide a witness, a sounding board, a then-and-now take on the events that heightens the black comedy and makes for a hilarious counterpoint to the events unfolding on screen. With Wolf, the intrusive and jarring cuts, freeze frames and confessions all serve to bring the story to life.
Raging Bull was another effort that left me cold. Jake LaMotta was a sad sack, uncharismatic, a chore to watch. The film felt like penance rather than magic. Interesting photography couldn’t save this drudgery, in my opinion.
That leaves Taxi Driver (or perhaps you’re rooting for Casino? Hugo? Mean Streets?) Up against Taxi Driver we have an interesting dilemma. The two productions couldn’t be more different, the budgets, the visual aesthetics, the tone.
But that was 40 years ago. The world has moved on, and cinema has moved on. I don’t know if one could reasonably compare the two films. Is that even a rational thing to do?
That leaves Wolf, this week’s surprise affront to decency and American blinders. Scorsese just came off a 3D kids’ movie, Hugo, to turn in probably the single most thought provoking film of the year. We can’t help but see our place in Jordan Belfort’s world, because we’re not even at the servant’s quarters level. Everything he does, he does to profit himself in the manner proscribed from on high: greed is good. Greed is everything. Our entire civilization is predicated on greed now. The lurch to self-interested depravity as our religion, the cornerstone of our world, hoarding wealth for ourselves and our own, well, it needs to be acknowledged. It needs an offensive matinee showing. It needs shocked, flabbergasted little old ladies squirming in their seats out in Bumblefuck.