Friday, July 9, 2010

Black & White Friday: Shutter Island

Perhaps an obvious choice, but even though I didn't like the movie I still thought there would be enough within it to sustain a Black & White Friday entry. I was surprised by how modern the film felt and, perhaps, I might have liked it more if it had surrendered to the classicism of it all (not that I would expect Martin Scorsese to go there, but this tale was begging for a big ol' noir-tinged camp telling, don't you think?) I just could not buy Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo as characters from the 1950s and with so many modern filmmaking flourished from Scorsese mixed with the obvious gothicism of it all and Shutter Island felt confused and really quite boring.

Interesting, I found the art direction of Shutter Island quite bothersome. The exterior scenes were great, but the interior ones were just too over the top in 1950s insane asylum decor. And yet when the colour is gone I feel that the interior scenes looked better. Strange, that. Whoever scouted this location, however, deserves a special cheque from Marty.

I quite liked Ben Kingsley here. Not in any particular "wow, his acting is superb" kind of way, but I thought he totally fit into the vibe of the movie. I can see him slotting right into the same role had this movie been made in 1954 (er, if he'd been alive and all that jazz of course) with his propensity to overact and be a bit larger than life. It's just a shame that Martin didn't really frame him in any particularly interesting ways.

The skies of this movie always looked so manufactured (and not in a matte kinda way like they would've been in the past), just so much CGI! gah! In black and white they look excellent, though.

See what I mean? Lovely shot by any means.

This is what I was talking about before. In the movie, this scene is just quite putrid and unappealing, but in black and white it feels so much more classical and less like I'm gonna get tetanus.

The women of Shutter Island. Scorsese can work miracles with actresses so it is always a shame when he doesn't just knuckle down and make a movie with a female lead role. He went there with The Age of Innocence and it's one of Marty's very best and just thinking of the performances from the likes of Sandra Bernhard, Lorraine Bracco, Cate Blanchett, Sharon Stone and the women of After Hours makes me shudder in delight. My favourite of the women in Shutter Island was Patricia Clarkson (and I love the shot I captured of her, actually looking quite old fashioned) because she was just so "on" and focused. Her role is thankless, really, but she does good stuff with it. Same goes for underrated actress Robin Bartlett (at the top). Emily Mortimer is good in her prison cell scene, too, although I admit I was very wrong about predicting her Oscar win.

And that leaves Michelle Williams, the weakest of the four. She doesn't really get much to do, does she? Despite having the most screen time of them all she basically just has to stand around and look a little bit sick, a little big ethereal and a little bit like there's not much going on upstairs. I chose this shot, however, because it reminded me of a similar moment in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive which, let's face it, Scorsese was clearly inspired by in some respects.

I really liked this scene. It had compelling actors actually doing good acting, advancing the story (and not just needless plodding like so much of the rest of the movie) and it was one of the very few moments that fully embraced the concept of this kinda noir, kinda camp, kinda artificial world (notice how it actually does look like an old kinda movie that it's halfheartedly trying to be).

This moment very much looks like a shot from an old movie, I reckon. Perhaps that's because we can't see the faces of any of the very modern actors? Perhaps.


Mickche said...

Yes, i was a little unimpressed.
It is interesing as a topic whether a film translates to colour well rather than black and white.
i say this because about a month ago, i watched the 12 Angry Men remake from the mid90s which is in colour and with a shaky cam, and there was absolutely no power or intriugingness to the story. But the original 12 Angry Men which having seen 4 times in the past 6 months, i still get effected by it and there is that incredible tension and claustraphoic atomspohere created by the black and white and of course the smart camera shots add to that.

Vertigo said...

Hi Glenn. I like the cinematography in Shutter Island, but I agree with you, there was too much fake looking sky. But I think there was a few more shot that would look great in B&W.

PS. I'm just preparing for my new blog about best shots in movies and you should do Batman Returns in B&W, there's so much AMAZING shots!

Runs Like A Gay said...

I often wondered why Ben Kingsley works for me in this whereas mostly he's irritating. You hit the nail on the head when you say he acts just a bit too much for modern movies, it's like the whole method revolution which made on-screen performances so much quieter completely passed him by.

Whereas here, because everything is big, he fits perfectly.

Thansk for clearly that up, I can go back to not looking forward to his future performances now.