Martin Scorsese is 71 years old and yet in The Wolf of Wall Street he has made a film with the energy, bravado, outrage and boldness of a young man. Together with Thelma Schoonmaker, his 73 year old editor, he has made a film whose inventiveness and propulsive qualities puts to shame directors a third his age. Watching this astonishing film it's hard for me to reconcile the fact that Scorsese himself thinks he's almost done.
Speaking at the Marrrakesh Film Festival, Scorsese claims he has only a few more movies in him.
“I have the desire to make many films, but as of now, I’m 71 and there’s only a couple more left if I get to make them,” he said. “I miss the time when I had the desire to experiment and try different kinds of films, I miss that time, but that’s done, it’s over.”
That's a bummer of a statement. Here's what I wonder: does that speak to Scorsese as a 71 year old man or to Hollywood as a business that barely supports true artists? I ask because Scorsese went on to say Leonardo DiCaprio is the reason he's been able to make the movies he's made, both spiritually and financially:
[W]e found that he regenerated my enthusiasm for making films. Mainly because, as you get older, it gets physically difficult and also the business especially – the financial issues. You’re responsible for a lot of money, if you get it. It’s all pressure, but can you do it? His enthusiasm and excitement really kept me going, for another five pictures now.
He may have also starred in some movies that Scorsese didn't quite like. While modern filmmakers go on apology tours explaining why their next film will be better than the last, Scorsese is more oblique, offering only this:
[O]ver the past few years now I’ve been trapped in a couple of films. Where because I agreed at first, I found that the circumstances—whether they were financial, executive situations at studios or physical difficulties—I tried to get out, but I couldn’t, and I had to make the movie. And then it was a matter of making something really special. I really have to find a way to stay really in there and stay interested and find something special. That happened a couple of times in the last 10 years.
If I had to hazard a guess I'd say he's talking about The Departed and Shutter Island. If The Departed is one of the films he's talking about there's something doubly cruel about it being the picture for which he finally won Best Director at the Oscars. I like both those movies, but I would say Shutter Island is definitely minor Scorsese. The Departed, though... if that's old man Scorsese making the best of a bad situation, holy shit.
71 isn't as old as it was when Scorsese was young. Maybe he's underestimating himself - maybe there's still another decade of Scorsese films for us. Even that would be far too short.