Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Shutter Island" / Radio Drama

Shutter Island”, the latest film from Martin Scorsese, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a haunted detective investigating a mysterious disappearance at a hospital for the criminally insane in 1950s Boston. It’s clear from the off that this is one of those films where things aren’t as they seem, but the way it plays circuitously out, with Hitchcockian artificial back-projections, powerful cameos (Patricia Clarkson, Ted Levine, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earle Haley), and numerous cinematic references (“Shock Corridor” being the most obvious) is constantly gripping. Aside from DiCaprio’s convincing raggedness, the performances are all just on the right side of self-parody, Mark Ruffalo’s warm-eyed solidity proving, in retrospect, especially affecting. Some critics have suggested that the use of the Holocaust as a background element of the story is somehow misguided, but it’s done with respect, and is appropriate given the historical context, and the director’s venerable record when it comes to showing us souls in torment. Ultimately, there’s nothing new here, but since no-one manipulates the elements in the Hollywood toolbox with as much flair as Scorsese, that’s immaterial.

Re BBC Radio Drama: Am I the only person who’s often been enticed by a juicy blurb in the Radio Times, only to be ultimately disappointed by the quality of the writing? Having gained an insight into the current decision-making process at a Writers’ Guild meeting with a top producer/director, followed up by studying the latest Commissioning Guidelines, it appears that projects are increasingly being selected for production on the basis of whether “they” think a 50-word synopsis will appeal to the core audience (middle-aged Daily Telegraph readers, according to research), rather than whether the script is any good. Because the script, generally, won’t exist until well after the play has been commissioned. Which is fair enough, from the W.G.G.B. point of view, since the point of being a professional writer is to get paid for doing it, rather than writing first and hoping for the best. One simply worries, however, that the Cult Of The Synopsis, which is responsible for a myriad of poor films and television series (particularly sit-coms), will eventually kill off the radio drama as it has developed over the past eighty years. Or maybe this is just sour grapes from a multiple rejectee. And in any case, there’s always the WritersRoom.


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