At Cannes late last night (or early this morning? the time difference confuses me) an official announcement was made that Lars von Trier would make another "The Five Obstructions" documentary, this time with Martin Scorsese. We all heard something like this before, little more than a year ago, when it was rumored-then-denied that the two filmmakers would unite for a "Taxi Driver" redo. I responded at the time (elsewhere) with a list of other suggested -- yet unlikely -- directorial collaborations (also see Film School Rejects' excellent year-old list of 10 Films (and Directors) That Lars Von Trier Should Obstruct). I named the original "Five Obstructions" one of the best docs of the 2000s (specifically it's labeled "the best participatory/first-person doc"), so I'm definitely looking forward to a remake/sequel.
While Scorsese's name and popularity will bring more attention and attendance to "Five Obstructions Two" (my proposed title), it will actually work better if the film used for the project is more obscure, like the basis for the first experiment, Jorgen Leth's "The Perfect Man." And not just because one of the filmmaker's lesser seen shorts would be more "easily" remade. There's also the fact that Scorsese's biggest hits have been parodied, lampooned, paid tribute or otherwise referenced enough times to make an "Obstructions" doc unnecessary. Even Robert De Niro himself has sadly (over)done the famous mirror speech from "Taxi Driver" for comedy and other effect. Why would we want new takes on that or any other iconic scene? It would just come off as more spoof-y homage (or homage-y spoof).
That said, I think they should do Michael Jackson's "Bad" video. It's already been redone with kids (in "Moonwalker") and fat people (Weird Al's version), so now they should do it with poor kids from Mumbai while Scorsese and Von Trier, in fat suits, taunt them with food from behind a translucent screen. Just kidding. But that's exactly why I say no to anything that's already embedded into pop culture.
Check out what's been heard suggested around the film blog water cooler after the jump.
So let’s talk about the merits or gibbering insane heresy of using Taxi Driver in this context. Actually, rule out the idea that it is heresy, because that is ridiculous. Nothing that will be done here will change the existence of the original film — hell, you can currently even see it on screens around the country and in an amazing new blu-ray presentation. [...] This film could do a lot of things: provide a new way to look at an established classic like Taxi Driver; give Scorsese new ideas; or simply be a good piece of entertainment.
If the collaboration alone isn't exciting enough, [Screen Daily] reports that "it is believed that 'Taxi Driver' will be the film that von Trier asks Scorsese to revisit." In other news, I have already declared "The Five Obstructions 2: You Talking to Me?" the best film of 2012.
We love the idea of Scorsese going back to confront his own past as a film maker. As brilliant as "Taxi Driver" is, seeing how Scorsese might re-frame it is too intriguing to pass up.
[The "Taxi Driver" remake] seemed to dry up after the initial headline grabbing announcement, but perhaps it’s coming back in this form with Von Trier providing Scorsese with bizarre rules to remake scenes from Taxi Driver or any of his other classic films. Seeing Scorsese frantically trying to get Robert DeNiro to recreate the “you talking to me” scene while submerged underwater with Von Trier cackling in delight in the background would certainly rank amongst the most enjoyable movie geek moments in history.
Of course, earlier this year, Von Trier quickly denied rumors that he was interested in remaking Taxi Driver, so there’s some speculation this new project could involve a scene from that film. And who better to revisit Scorsese’s monologue about the effects of a .45 Magnum on a vagina than Lars Von Trier? Now that you should see.
reminds us of last year's quickly-denied rumor about von Trier remaking Taxi Driver, which could hint at a scene from that classic being revisited. Maybe do it with Larry David this time? Or with the rest of the cast of Little Fockers? I'm sure you'll think of something, Lars.
Could he have to film a remake of Kundun set in the Bronx? Maybe film a version of Taxi Driver with all of the violence cut out? Remake Mean Streets with Nicolas Cage playing every role? Or maybe, if Von Trier decided to get really cruel, could he have to remake one of his films from the past ten years without Leonardo DiCaprio? That might be a step too far, but the possibilities are making my head spin.
How's this for an obstruction: von Trier is famously afraid of airplanes, and has never been to the United States, presumably something that won't change to make this film. Scorsese, being an iconic American director, will likely be forced to remake one of his American-set films anywhere but the U.S., a small change compared to some of the other challenges von Trier might lay out but already an interesting one. Really, anything is possible, which is what makes this so exciting.
There's no word on what will actually be getting remade, but the Hollywood Reporter speculates it'll be an early Scorsese short, or — even better — a famous scene from one of his features. Okay, how about that bit in Goodfellas when Ray Liotta pistol-whips that guy who's bothering Lorraine Bracco?
What this new incarnation will focus on remains unclear, though you can probably write off Taxi Driver. (Fingers crossed, however, for Von Trier-forced It’s Not Just You, Murray!)
The Hollywood Reporter suggested that it might be one of his early shorts, like The Big Shave or What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? As someone who’s seen both, I feel confident in saying that the same obstructions applied this time around would still be pretty fascinating to see. For example: remaking The Big Shave with 12 frame shots would be an interesting exercise, while Girl would provide a real challenge. There’s also the suggestion that he would remake famous scenes from his own films, but that might not be quite as interesting.
This news got me thinking about another project Scorsese has on the back burner — he and De Niro making a Fellini-like film that looks back on the tandem’s incredible collaboration. The idea, created by screenwriter Eric Roth, goes like this: While making their next film The Irishman — an adaptation of the book I Hear You Paint Houses, which looks at the life of alleged Jimmy Hoffa murderer, Frank Sheeran and also stars Al Pacino and Joe Pesci — Scorsese would shoot a side project that meshes footage from the film with a story based on he and De Niro’s experiences in Hollywood that would be in the style of an 8 1/2 or La Dolce Vita.
It is currently unknown what aspect of Scorsese's resume he'll be tasked with remaking, but should the mad Danish director ever ask, here are some obstructions we'd like to give our friend Marty.
1 - No Rolling Stones.
2 - No moment where the likeable character says something really racist and makes us uncomfortable.
3 - No F-bombs.
4 - No killing.
5 - No Italians.
He'll fold like wet spaghetti.
You're better off watching the original "Five Obstructions" without commercials (on Netflix Instant maybe), but here's easy access to the Hulu form:
And here's a likely candidate for obstruction, Scorsese's "The Big Shave":