Sunday, June 07, 2020

I've never seen The Wolf of Wall Street

I used to work with a guy called Joe who said he had never seen Star Wars (and, presumably, neither its sequels and prequels), which he mentioned about once a week (like me saying I have no TV), and it became a thing (almost a cliché). The thing with a thing is, it becomes consuming, and you have to keep it up. He could never see Star Wars, ever. He couldn’t see it once and say, I didn’t watch Star Wars for the first 35 years of my life, then I watched it. I mean, that’s not bad actually, not watching it for 35 years, but not as good as being able to say you’d never watched it.

It would be like being an alcoholic falling off the wagon: I didn't touch a drink for 35 years, then I did, and got raging drunk – Joe's equivalent would be binging on all nine Star Wars films one Saturday night. And, like an alcoholic, the temptation is always there – in the supermarket, the off licence. In Joe's case, Star Wars, on TV, online, in the supermarket, the charity shop. I know how Joe feels: Wolf of Wall Street is free to watch on Prime*, so it’s right there. I could watch it and not even tell anyone I’ve seen it.

It was a boast, implying he had no time for such things, that he had better taste, a kind of moral high ground — he's better than you or me; though he wasn’t, he was as mainstream as anyone else. It came across as a bit pretentious: he could almost be saying I haven’t seen Star Wars but I have seen Werckmeister Harmonies, but I doubt he'd ever watched any foreign films. I actually felt sorry for him, and there was a slight tinge of sadness in his voice, as if he was deprived, as if it was inevitable he had never seen Star Wars and never would.

I've Never Seen Star Wars is apparently also a comedy talk show on Radio 4 and a TV programme. The concept came from creator Bill Dare, who had never seen Star Wars. The format of the show is to have guests try out new experiences, such as actor Nigel Havers watching The Simpsons, getting a tattoo, eating a MacDonald's and listening to The Smith Hatful of Hollow – you know, stuff the rest of the planet does on a daily basis.

The Guardian also have a regular film column, The classic film I've never seen.... (insert classic film from Chinatown to The Shawshank Redemption).

It may not be a classic but I have never seen The Wolf of Wall Street but also, I haven't liked any Scorsese film since Goodfellas in 1990, and haven't seen a lot of them. Now, I tell people I haven't seen Wolf of Wall Street and they're like, Why Not? And I have to say I really don’t approve of hedonism or money or late-period Scorsese, and perhaps sound more pretentious than Joe. No one ever asked Joe why he'd never seen Star Wars. It was just greeted with quiet awe. Or indifference.

Most Scorsese post-Goodfellas, from Casino onwards and continuing with Cape Fear, Bringing out the Dead, Shutter Island and The Irishman, amongst others, feel like insincere Scorsese parodies of himself. It happens to us all, with age. Robert de Niro has done a similar thing with his latter acting career.

I thought I’d always love Scorsese films; it was Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The King of Comedy which got me into cinema. But unlike, say, football, where a fan will follow their team through thick and thin, I feel no such loyalty to Marty when he makes such clunkers as Hugo.

Killers of the Flower Moon, the new Scorsese flick currently in production, a crime film starring DiCaprio and De Niro (or DeCapriNiro – they should be a coffee, right?), does not, unsurprisingly, excite me at all.

*I avoided The Wolf of Wall Street one more night recently by watching Happy as Lazzaro on Amazon Prime, an extraordinary Italian film from 2019. What starts off as an Italian neo-realist film in the style of Tree of Wooden Clogs turns into a time-travelling slice of magical realism, with hints of The Village.

No comments :