It's Cold Up There

The Aviator

Martin Scorsese’s first film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door?, proclaimed what he wanted—no, what he had—to do with his magnificent talent: make poetry out of male obsession. And Scorsese, like Dostoyevsky, knows how to get inside the skulls of his half-mad heroes. Viewed objectively, Jake La Motta the Raging Bull was a testosterone-charged idiot shattering his family and wrecking his career, but Scorsese made us see things Jake’s way, made us understand his resentments and his peculiar honor, though our stomachs churned to do so.

But is there such a thing as a Dostoyevskian movie blockbuster? We were bound to find out when Scorsese, with the production of Gangs of New York, launched himself as a mega-director like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. Now when Spielberg restaged D-Day, he put a profoundly sane hero played by Mr. Nice Guy himself, Tom Hanks, to be our surrogate in the center of the slaughter, just as James Cameron, filming the Titanic disaster, created old-fashioned sweethearts for us to identify with. But suppose Scorsese had made Saving Private Ryan or Titanic? Would we want to land on Omaha Beach led by Raskolnikov or scramble into a lifeboat with Ivan Karamazov? Scorsese’s ability to stage action sequences and engulf the eye with spectacle has never been questioned, but what Scorsesean hero could hold the center of a Hollywood...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.