Cloud 8+1/Shutter Island

Hey remember me?

I used to blog around these parts back in the olden days, but I have been distracted for the last few weeks in the nicest possible way. There has been some sort of ascension process, way away past Cloud 8.

I was hoping to encounter my pal Chaserjay up here, but his path lies elsewhere at the moment. You should read all about it on his amazing blog:

“So I met a girl” is a phrase I don’t often use. I have been mostly single for quite a long time now, and was pretty much reconciled to the fact that I hold little these days that is of interest to womankind. Firstly I look a bit funny, not helped by the fact that I am currently growing my hair out and it has been stuck at Village Idiot length for a few months now. I look like a sober Wurzel.

Secondly I am not a very good communicator, tending towards the prolix and being over-fond of a sub-clause. This can be fun in its place but is of limited use if the message that requires passing on is a brief, simple and sincere one. “You are on fire,” for example. Or, “I love you.”

So my technique, if I may so describe it, on the rare occasions that I have realised that I’ve been attracted to a woman has been to close my eyes, jam my fingers in my ears and pretend it isn’t happening. Anything, anything other than embark on my wooing process, which tends to be the sort of disaster that is visible from space.

I always start out in my head as a worldly, urbane cross between Cary Grant and David Niven but become, within one millisecond, a Norman Wisdom tribute act: one bucket on my head, one jammed on my foot, clutching a mop and shouting “Mr. Grimsdale! Mr. Grimsdale!” Let me tell you fellas, the chicks do not dig that.

But then along came Jen who doesn’t seem to mind. Do you know her?

Face like one of the seraphim. Mind like a machete. Hair an insane series of spiral extrusions from her skull which might not, I think, be describable using Euclidean geometry. It’s not often you find a girl to whom the adjectives sinistrorsal and dextrorsal may equally be applied, but Jen’s one. Also she is a ballet-fighting, kung fu dancing, sugar flinging ninja. And she likes Neil Young and Bob Dylan and coffee.

If you went back in time to the late 80s and asked Grant Morrison to design a Doom Patrol character specifically for me he couldn’t do a better job. She’s amazing is Jen, but she wouldn’t want me to tell you that. It’s a secret.



In other news Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island turns out to be brilliant.

I’ve probably lost any critical perspective where Scorsese is concerned. It strikes me that he’d be unable to turn his phone camera on for a few seconds without inadvertently adhering to and then subverting conventional cinematic grammar whilst establishing a superficial narrative that also works at a complex allegorical level.

Shutter Island is my favourite sort of Scorsese endeavour in that it shamelessly welds art house sensibility to a lowbrow meat and potatoes story without the result looking like a botched job. It’s like making a ballet out of a Mickey Spillane novel or something. Potboiler this may be, but it looks like Akira Kurosawa had a hand in directing it so beautifully is it built.

The previous Scorsese movie it most resembles is his 1992 remake of Cape Fear and that is no bad thing, but whereas Cape Fear had a kind of absolutist morality to it Shutter Island is a bit more ambiguous.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays a U.S. Marshall travelling to an island-bound prison for the criminally insane to investigate the apparent disappearance of an inmate. And there ends any plot description you’re getting from me because, whilst the structure of the story is secondary to the convoluted, mephitic atmosphere, it is nevertheless quite important. My enjoyment of The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects was slightly spoilt not by having someone reveal the twists so much as knowing that there was a twist in the film at all, and the same was the case here.

There isn’t really a revelatory final moment a la Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects but there are some deft reverses, and the less you know about the story going in the better. I haven’t helped at all here, have I?

Leonardo DiCaprio, under Scorsese’s tutelage in Gangs Of New York, The Aviator and The Departed, has become one of his generation’s most subtle, complex and beguiling actors and the support he gets here from Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley is right out of the top drawer.

In the absence of a Bernard Hermann score or the Scorsese juke box of contemporary hits (which wouldn’t really have been appropriate here) the soundtrack duties fall to Robbie Robertson who pulls together a sensational collage of absolutely apt music from modern composers like Ligeti, Cage and Brian Eno.

The peerless Thelma Schoonmaker is on hand to edit it and the result is awe-inspiring. The influences and homages are many, but the most explicit one is Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Scorsese’s knowledge of film is so wide and so deep though that almost everything in Shutter Island is readable as a tribute of some sort to the emotionally over-wrought noirs of the forties and fifties.

At one point in the film a character asks for a glass of water, drinks it dry and places the empty glass back on the table. In the next shot the glass appears to be half full.

Aha, I thought. That is either a subtle signifier of a delusional observer in the film, or it is a tribute to some specific continuity error in a film I haven’t seen.

It didn’t even occur to me that it might just have been a simple continuity error until I was driving home a few hours later. That is how much faith I have in the deliberate nature of everything Scorsese puts up on the screen.

I can’t wait to watch it again.

5 comments on “Cloud 8+1/Shutter Island

  1. Hey Feexby,
    I remember you, it’s good to have you back. I hope you stay up in those clouds for ages and ages and sorry I missed you whilst I was flying high, it’s great up there, it really really was, but hey…… I’ll be back. Lovely photo of Jen too.
    Ta much for the pingback, ‘amazing blog’ indeed, well, shut my mouth!

    Shutter Island- I am with you all the way there, absolutely.
    In speaking to those who have seen it, the feedback I get is it’s a good film, but no emotional involvement, but I think they are missing the point. I pondered on the ending for some time after it and remain in a ponder. I would need to see it a second time as well. Those that were not emotionally involved also seem to have concluded – SPOILER ALERT- that Teddy Daniels was indeed a patient and his parting shot was that he realised the magnitude of his reality, but chose to pursue the illusion so that he would have the tragic memories removed by having a lobotomy. Not me, I saw the conclusion as Teddy Daniels not accepting that he was mad and his final statement to Chuck Aule – Which would be worse, to live as a monster or to die as a good man? – as a revelation to the audience that he is not convinced that he is delusional, but I suppose it is a matter of debate whether I am seeing the glass half full and others are seeing it empty……

  2. And all this from someone who describes himself as not a good communicator! Happy days are here again now he is back. Jen is beautiful and life is good. It was lovely to read this blog this morning and I must see the film both Johns admire. It must be great.

  3. Feeby,

    Did you not get the super-injunction from my lawyers, preventing you revealing there is a twist in the film and preventing you revealing I was preventing you? Drat and double drat. I still plan to see it.

    We watched Roman Holiday the other night. Best bit: Gregory Peck trying to get out of a very small Italian car. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard.

    Definitely one for wooing the ladies, ahem!


  4. Knowing Rosebud is a sled might have taken a bit of Citizen Kane away from me, but I’ll get to that on Wednesday in another place.

    First congrats, second I’ll probably be watching Shutter Island on DVD as I’ll only be going to see one movie in the next few weeks and it’s name is Kick Arse (according to the BBC breakfast anchor, who got a shocked look from his colleague)

  5. Okay that’s the first time I’ve had to look up the meaning of words in one of your blogs. Good work. I really really really want to see Shutter Island but I point blank refuse to go to Vue ever again. I recinded my boycott of their sorry excuse for a cinema to see Avatar (I know… WHY?!) and I point blank refuse to return to the scene of that particular crime. Ditto for Kick Ass which I will have to wait patiently to catch at the good cinema.

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