Art of Film
Martin Scorsese was born in 1942 to devout Catholic parents who were both part-time actors. He was raised in the Little Italy neighborhood of New York, which would later serve as the inspiration for many of his films. As an asthmatic child with few friends, he found solace in his frequent trips to the movie theater, where he first began to develop his passion for cinema. He initially entertained the idea of entering the priesthood, but ultimately decided to pursue filmmaking after he was awarded a $500 scholarship to attend NYU for a ten-minute short film he made in high school. He went on to receive a B.A. in English from NYU’s University College of Arts and Sciences and an M.F.A. in film from NYU’s School of the Arts.
Scorsese’s style of filmmaking has been heralded as one of the most influential of all time. Among his influences are French New Wave cinema and also Italian neorealism, which along with his Italian Catholic upbringing, has served as the basis of many motifs and themes within his films. His work tends to integrate the themes of Italian American identity, the Catholic concepts of guilt and redemption, modern crime, and often deals with a protagonist who is a violent outsider living on the fringe of society. He is also known for the distinctive trademarks in his filmmaking style, which often features excessive violence and profanity, long tracking shots, and voice-over narration.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a black-comedy film based on the exploits and memoir of Jordan Belfort, a corrupt New York stockbroker who commits fraud on Wall Street in the 1990s. At face value, the film seems like an unapologetic bacchanalia of drugs, sex, profanity, and excess. However, the underlying themes of addiction, greed, and the decay of the American dream work to serve as something of a heady warning tale against indulgence and corruption.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives a memorable performance as the brazen Jordan Belfort, the protagonist who starts out as an ambitious stockbroker and is eventually ends up being convicted of securities fraud. In one of the most comedic performances of his career, DiCaprio brings not only unrelenting energy, but also a sense of levity to the role that serves to makes the Belfort character much more sympathetic than he deserves to be. With the character, DiCaprio manages to make the psychotic con-man sympathetic throughout—both when Belfort is at his figurative and literal high, and even still after he has stumbled from grace. Jonah Hill gives a farcical turn as Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s obnoxious and opportunistic right-hand man. While Hill is certainly coming into his own as a dramatic actor, this portrayal does not seem to depart too significantly from his past comedic roles; most notably, the egotistic Azoff is strikingly reminiscent of the fictionalized version Hill played of himself in last year’s This is the End. Newcomer Margot Robbie is also noteworthy as Belfort’s ex-model trophy wife, Naomi...