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The Aviator

Undeniably it's a good film.

The main character is interesting, his public twin obsession with films and airplanes (not your usual mix of hobbies) serving as an expression for his private OCD.

The production design is gorgeous. I can see why the film swept the technical awards at the Oscars.

The script is intriguing in structure and execution. (John Logan's best work, along with his contribution on The Last Samurai and light years ahead of the cliche ridden pap of Nemesis and, to a lesser extent, his work on Gladiator.)

The cast extremely high powered - imagine talent the calibre of John C Reilly, Alan Alda and Ian Holm in what are essentially extended cameos.

It's a long film, but it doesn't feel like one.

It's a good film undeniably.

And yet...

The way the film was shot - in a very stylised, 50s (?) colour scheme and texture (becoming more naturalistic I noticed as the film progresses). Appropriate? Perhaps, but ultimately distancing.

The way some scenes, such as Hughes' OCD escalation and breakdown, proclaimed "Look! This isn't just drama, this is art".

The way Leonardo DiCaprio played at being Howard Hughes, never quite escaping his DiCaprioness, never quite convincing enough in the critical scenes where he is in torment. Admittedly, they're tough scenes to play.

The way the supremely talented Cate Blanchett played at being Hepburn - though, granted, it's difficult to render natural someone so distinctive. (I guess there's a karmic justice that she should win an Oscar for a part she wasn't at her best at after losing it for a part in which she was clearly the best performer of the year.)

All these things made the film a bit too artificial to be completely engrossing.

Though it occurs to me now that this is the case with most of Scorsese's movies. Even The Age of Innocence (my favourite of his films) had some very formal, elaborate set pieces that showed off the craft more so than the story. The difference being, in that movie the tale wasn't as ambitious, the main actors served their characters better and the directorial flourishes didn't get in the way of the drama; none of which can be fully said for The Aviator.

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Comments (2)

Interesting thoughts. I've always thought Goodfellas was Scorcese's best, but I agree that oftentimes the craft overtakes the rest of the film in much of his work. Oftentimes it's simply too distant for a real impact. I often wonder what The Aviator would have been if Michael Mann had directed it.

"Though it occurs to me now that this is the case with most of Scorsese's movies. Even The Age of Innocence (my favourite of his films) had some very formal, elaborate set pieces that showed off the craft more so than the story."


Well, interesting comments but I do not agree that the elaborate set pieces in AGE OF INNOCENCE or THE AVIATOR showed off the story, not so much the craft. AGE was about table manners and etiquette of a time long forgotten - it made sense and it was cohesive and part of the Edith Wharton book on which it is based. AVIATOR is about a man who made a big spectacle of himself, and nothing more. In that sense, the auspicious and capricious nature of a rich man who would and could do anything is the whole point.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 10, 2005 10:04 PM.

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