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Martin Scorsese. Still the Master.
I liked The Wolf of Wall Street. Not everyone else did. Going by their comments, they thought it was crude, long, and a little vile. They also thought it celebrated a man who is, despite his self-preferred title of salesman, a con artist and a crook. A thief. The film's critics are right on most accounts: it is crude, vile, and long, and it's not for everyone. This is the case with all of Scorsese's work – especially his other under-appreciated but epic effort like Gangs of New York or Shutter Island.
But the film doesn't celebrate Jordan Belfort. It tells his story because it is a story. You don't need to like him... Hell, you probably shouldn't.
"Why bother telling a story of somebody who's not... someone who's unremarkable?" Scorsese asks, in the clip above, originally published on Dec. 19, 2013. "Someone who didn't do anything inspiring.
"Was that Michelangelo, Walt Whitman, or Roosevelt, on the one hand? Lincoln? On the other hand, Rasputin or a Mao or Stalin. On top of that, someone who led a life that wasn't exemplary... pretty ignoble in a way."
Scorsese has never flinched from telling an uncomfortable tale. He relishes in it, actually. In the clip above, he nails his own motivation. And maybe, if other directors could look into their own darkness and other peoples' darkness the way this great Italian-American director with the bottle glasses does, they'd have a statue.
(And no, Razzies don't count.)
"That's something that I've always been attracted to, or interesting to me," he said of the criminals or bad guys listed above. "Someone like Jordan (Belfort) or Jake LaMotta (Raging Bull) or Tommy, Joe Pesci's character in Goodfellas.
"People say, Well that type of person, that sort. I guess what that means is, they try and distance themselves from them. It's someone else, it's not me. But, in actuality, I feel it's not someone else. It's you and me, and maybe if we had been born under different circumstances, maybe we would have wound up making the same mistakes and choices."
Take notes, film students. The master is handing over his recipe.
Too many films coward away form telling a real story, opting to become a soap opera that mentions sex, drugs, or crime without every depicting it in an honest fashion. And the only way to tell it in an honest fashion is to let the worst characters drive the script.
Taxi Driver and Raging Bull – Scorsese's earliest Oscar heavyweights and, maybe, his best films to this day – are tremendously uncomfortable. They show child prostitution, domestic violence, enough blood to fill a boot, and a protagonist who wants to publicly assassinate a politician.
But just imagine where American film would be right now without Martin Scorsese.
VIDEO: Margot Robbie on The Wolf of Wall Street
VIDEO: Jonah Hill on The Wolf of Wall Street