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Sunday, March 9, 2014

"The Wolf of Wall Street", the Cult of Money

The Wolf of Wall Street

Funnily enough, it has had to be Martin Scorsese, not a thoughtful documentary director or an artie/indie filmmaker far from the industry the one to show what an aberration current capitalism is. And Scorsese has done it in a flamboyant, orgiastic and sardonic way. He has filmed “Goodfellas 2” in a bigger, bolder and stronger way, replacing the “traditional” mob for 90s Wall Street’s mafia. Arguably some of the most despicable human beings on Earth.

The Wolf of Wall Street is quintessential Scorsese. Although is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, who rocketed from an ambitious college graduated dreaming big with Wall Street to a megalomaniac, obnoxiously wealthy stockbroker living an out of control high life, involving himself into a neverending spiral of crime, corruption and vileness, this juggernaut tour de force that goes on for three relentless hours without never losing its punch and path couldn’t be filmed by anyone else.

This is a beast of a film. The tale is outrageous but you’ll probably laugh. Characters are so near of becoming a caricature with their gross behaviour, filthy language and over the top attitude, you are sort of expecting the movie will fall, and become a silly, incongruous parody. But it works, oh my, how it works. It’s a crude, raw and deformed mirror Scorsese forces to look at (the speeches at the office are so puzzling and frightening). He had done that before but the difference here is that while the majority of his villains acquire some sort of glamour, the characters on this movie are simply repulsive, repugnant people. It’s a monster’s parade.

Praise the actors for jumping aboard this bonfire of human values, specially Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort and Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff, his right-hand man, playing the Joe Pesci’s role without throwing a punch. And we shouldn’t forget Margot Robbie as Naomi Lapaglia, Jordan's second wife. As gorgeous as complex and ambitious role, very far from the usual mannequin. Actors unleashing their talents in performances without a net.

But let’s conclude with Scorsese. I’m still shocked by his unparalleled narrative pulse, which imo makes “The Wolf of Wall Street” a director’s masterclass. I think of films that wanted to be “bigger-than-life” at the same time that aimed to be “state-of-the-art” works, like Brian de Palma’s laughable “Scarface”, Oliver Stone’s boring “Any Given Sunday” or the seriously empty “American Hustle” (review coming soon) to name just a few. But here the farce, the obscenity, the vulgarity and the sardonic humour all serve a purpose: to show how awfully wrong our societies are without delivering an indigestible, too depressive drama to assimilate. As a Spaniard, I just have to take a look to our suit & ties criminals, our corrupted, vile politicians and the cast of bankers and corporate leaders they serve. Are they glamorous, professionals to learn a lesson from, enterpreneurs (the ubiquitous stupid word)? No, the vast majority of them are people without any scrupulous. The mafia of the last 3 decades wears expensive suits and deals with “the market”. The American dream (and the Spanish, and the Russian, etc, etc) is a depraved one… Capitalism is greed and addiction. Is the cult of money. Nobody escapes it’s attraction, and choosing the right side (oh these jaw-dropping scenes on the subway and the tennis court) is never easy, and poorly rewarded. But it’s our choice, still. Our responsibility.

SCORE: 8/10

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