The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, December 14-20

nyc-repertory-cinema-the-aviator

The Aviator (2004)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
With Scorsese’s long-gestating Silence finally coming out later this month, and Warren Beatty’s Howard Hughes-related Rules Don’t Apply having recently come and gone in theaters, Scorsese’s own Hughes biopic has surely popped back into people’s minds recently. But The Aviator is worth revisiting now in light not only of Beatty’s truly strange screwball comedy-drama, but of Scorsese’s output since then. Unlike Beatty, who depicts and plays the older Hughes as a tragicomic fool, Scorsese sees mostly tragedy in the notoriously eccentric film and aviation entrepreneur in his younger years: a man of unruly ambition who was eventually undone by his OCD-induced paranoia and womanizing ways. But it’s not so simple to say that Scorsese empathizes with Howard Hughes, any more than he empathized with Travis Bickle, Jake La Motta, or Rupert Pupkin. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that he views these icons of machismo with a kind of wary fascination. Scorsese clearly admires Hughes’ megalomaniacal ambition to some degree; it’s reflected in the film’s lavish period recreations and overall grand manner. But there are no charitable impulses to Hughes’ dreams; it’s all about satiating his own ego, a wholly selfish pursuit that, for all his momentary triumphs, ultimately leaves him alone with his demons. Tucked into the relative good manners of The Aviator is the capitalist anger that Scorsese, with Leonardo DiCaprio once again in tow, would unleash with greater black-comic force in The Wolf of Wall Street, another chronicle of an alpha male who appears to only know how to do one thing: make money. Kenji Fujishima (December 18, 3pm at the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Martin Scorsese in the 21st Century”)

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