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The Five Obstructions (Redux)

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on: May 13, 2011, 08:13:16 AM
Holy Fuck: Martin Scorsese & Lars Von Trier Teaming To Remake ‘The Five Obstructions’
via The Playlist

As anyone who’s seen any of his work before, Lars Von Trier is something of a trickster (there’s an amazing story from the “Dogville” shoot about the director filling Paul Bettany‘s hotel room with wall-to-wall pornography, and then showing Nicole Kidman before she met the British actor, that pretty much crowns him as king of the pranksters), so you’ll forgive us if we don’t believe any little rumor that circulates about the Danish director. Particularly when it was one as seemingly outlandish as a collaboration between him and Martin Scorsese.

The rumor flew thick and fast in February 2010 about the possibility. Firstly, the idea that the Dogme legend was considering a remake of Scorsese’s classic “Taxi Driver.” Then, there was the idea that Von Trier had actually challenged the legendary American director to remake the film himself, with a number of conditions, in the style of the excellent Von Trier documentary “The Five Obstructions.” But finally, Zentropa, his company, denied that any of the reports were correct, and we forgot all about it, chalking it up to over-excitement in some quarters somewhere.

Except that, as it turns out, there was a grain of truth to the rumor, as the giant news has broken from Cannes, via The Hollywood Reporter, that the two great directors will indeed be teaming up for a remake of “The Five Obstructions.” The 2003 original involved Von Trier challenging his mentor, filmmaker Jørgen Leth, to remake his 1967 picture “The Perfect Human,” a favorite of the younger director, five times, with different conditions, or ‘obstructions’ each time—in Cuba, with no shot lasting more than 12 frames, in ‘the worst place in the world,’ but without showing that place, in any way he chooses (as a punishment), as a cartoon and, in something of a twist, a version already made by Von Trier himself, but with narration from Leth.

At present, there’s no news as to which of Scorsese’s films will be subject to the Von Trier treatment: it’s entirely possible that was some truth to the “Taxi Driver” rumors, although THR speculate that it may be one of Scorsese’s early shorts, “The Big Shave” or “What’s A Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This?” that gets picked. Either way, it’s a hugely exciting prospect—the first “Five Obstructions” is fascinating, and should be a required text in most film schools, and the idea of Von Trier teaming with a true giant of cinema, particularly one as personable as Marty.

The film is a co-production between Scorsese’s Sikelia shingle and Von Trier’s Zentropa. Unfortunately, it seems like it’s a little way off for the moment: as we revealed back in February, Scorsese’s next picture will be the long-in-the-works Jesuit priest drama “Silence,” and THR confirm that that’s set to shoot at the start of 2012, with Daniel Day-Lewis still attached, with “The Five Obstructions” coming some time after that wraps. So, we unfortunately won’t see the Von Trier collaboration until 2013 at the very earliest. Anyone got a time machine handy?


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Reply #1 on: May 13, 2011, 12:24:24 PM
This is going to be oh so sweet.
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Mr. Merrill Lehrl

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Reply #2 on: May 13, 2011, 01:37:26 PM
Love it.  Hope it happens.
“If I had to hold up the most heavily fortified bank in America,” Bolaño says, “I’d take a gang of poets. The attempt would probably end in disaster, but it would be beautiful.”

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Reply #3 on: May 13, 2011, 03:56:20 PM
Down the road, fine. No more obstruction to Silence.


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Reply #4 on: May 17, 2011, 06:54:14 AM
heh.. did GT just make a joke? that must be like the second time that's ever happened.  :yabbse-thumbup:

i hope this happens NOW.. it might wake him out of his $lumber to force him to be inventive.

the only thing that sucks is, well.. scorsese's early short films! i know for the template to be repeated the big shave is the obvious front runner since it has a manageable length and like jorgen leth's the perfect human lends itself to variations as it's not talky, it's a visual thing. and it goes without saying that What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this is really dumb, and so is It's not just you murray, on top of being long and talky. but it's just not that good a film.

i think Von trier is hyperbolizing if he is going to praise it like he did with The Perfect Human.. which because no one had ever heard of it we all just took his word that it meant something to him as a young filmmaker or whatever.. but we could clearly see this jorgen leth guy is no scorsese, his masterpiece is Taxi Driver! Raging Bull! Casino! can you imagine PTA having to remake the dirk diggler story or cigarettes and coffee? or kubrick being challeged to remake Day of the Fight or even Fear and Desire.. there's a reason he renounced his early features, they were just embarrassing and of no value except for his own technical development.

so scorsese is not kubrick, i know, he's never really been vocal about hating his early work, maybe if he did that'd be a bigger challenge and right up von trier's alley of inflicting torture on people. the point is i think von trier went down his list of directors whose early short films weren't entirely CRAP and leth and scorsese was the best he could find. that's the crucial part of the gimmick that needs to work, you need SOMETHING to start with.

i hope for one of his variations he just remakes Bottle Rocket. :shock:
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Reply #5 on: May 18, 2011, 05:43:54 PM
That's a valid and well-considered perspective on the project, but would you really want Scorsese to revisit his films that are already masterpieces?  The project will work if there was a potential other-way to make the film he remakes, or if the film could have benefited from a different process.  Why touch Taxi Driver when it's great as it is?  Why have the contemporary Scorsese whom you don't like revisit the films of the older (er, younger) Scorsese you do like?

This is all speculation anyway (maybe he won't even be remaking one of his own films?  that'd be interesting), but I'd like to see the wiser and more experienced Scorsese attempt to expand the vision and meaning of his less impressive earlier films, and to do this with Von Trier's imposed limitations.  It might say something about creative processes and alternate perspectives, whereas the masterpiece scenario would likely simply illustrate why the original choices were the right choices to make.  The possibility of a better filmmaker remaking an older, less successful film is more interesting than a filmmaker remaking material he's already executed successfully.
“If I had to hold up the most heavily fortified bank in America,” Bolaño says, “I’d take a gang of poets. The attempt would probably end in disaster, but it would be beautiful.”