Setter’s ‘Spective: When Filmmakers Lose Their Zip

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Willie Mays and Alfred Hitchcock had a lot in common.

“Huh?” you say. “Stop kidding me.”

But it’s true. Both started inauspiciously: Hitch with silent films, Mays on the baseball diamond. Neither hit their stride until a few years into their careers, and then they produced brilliantly season after season until declining in their later days.

And no, I don’t think Family Plot holds a candle to the master’s greatest works. Same with Mays’ Mets experience. You got flashes of their old selves, but they couldn’t bring back everything. Ultimately, what you retained was nostalgia.

And that’s what I’m thinking about many other talented filmmakers. They often peak like athletes, then may lose their inspiration, as a pitcher loses his fastball or a hitter loses his bat speed. This happened, I feel, to Akira Kurosawa, François Truffaut. And I think it’s happening to Martin Scorsese.

I’m concerned that this terrific American director has already given us his masterpieces–that we’ll have to be content with flicks like Shutter Island and Gangs of New York: flawed, intermittently enjoyable movies that lack the risks taken in his greatest works (Mean Streets, Raging Bull and Goodfellas are three examples). You still see that fluid camerawork in his movies, those crisp cuts, but the cohesiveness and definition that marked his earlier films aren’t there.

I’m sad about this, but I understand. I think it’s quite natural. You rarely find a director or an athlete who produces through the end of his or her career. Luis Buñuel, I think was one, as was Ted Williams. But they don’t appear often. Most humans ultimately decline.

I’m not saying Scorsese should stop making movies or that his career is over. Far from it. Frankly, I hope he crafts hit after hit after hit. But it’ll be hard for him to match the quality of his output from the 1970s to the mid-1990s.

You may tell me it isn’t fair to expect that–that he’s evolved as a filmmaker. I’ll agree. It isn’t fair.

Yet you always expect a home run from your hero, right?

Me, I always do.

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