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Five Options/Five Obstructions

Last week news emerged from the Cannes Film Festival that American filmmaker Martin Scorsese and Danish enfant terrible Lars Von Trier were to collaborate on the second stage of the latter filmmakers Five Obstructions project. For those unfamiliar with the concept of the Five Obstructions, basically the activity sees a veteran filmmaker (in this case Mr. Scorsese) faced with the challenge to remake a work five times, each time under duress of a specific challenge, or obstruction. Said obstruction is dictated or designed by von Trier.

So, with that in mind, and with both filmmakers high on the Hope Lies agenda (Scorsese is a common sight on the site, and Von Trier’s The Element Of Crime long held the top spot on our list of greatest films ever made in the early days of the site), attention turns to the film the Martin Scorsese’s Five Obstructions may revolve around.

1. Taxi Driver

The smart money is on Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese’s 1978 masterpiece and perhaps the filmmakers most famous work. But lets not be too hasty in our predictions, for there are a number of reasons that one might want to think away from Taxi Driver. First up, Robert De Niro is chairing the jury in Cannes at the moment. Were he to be starring in this project, a project which itself is very much a Cannes affair (initial rumblings of the collaboration were heard at last year’s festival), then surely there would have been no better time to make the big announcement? The chances of Scorsese tackling the story of Travis Bickle without De Niro are pretty slim, given the iconic nature of the performance and the friendship between the two men, so if Taxi Driver were to be the film in focus then why not go the whole nine yards and announce it at Cannes? Besides, didn’t Scorsese and DeNiro already rework Taxi Driver once before with The King Of Comedy?

2. The Big Shave

The original Five Obstructions, which featured Danish filmmaker Jørgen Leth, saw that particular filmmaker remake his own short film The Perfect Human, so what better film for Scorsese to counter that with than with his own most notable early short? A short film would clearly suit the format much better than a feature film (a six minute flick is obviously much easier to remake five times than a 90 minute one), and, especially at this stage of his career, what better way is there for Scorsese to reappraise his work than by revisiting The Big Shave?

3. The Edge Of The World / Peeping Tom

No its not “A Martin Scorsese Picture”, and yes conceptually the very essence of the Five Obstructions project would take a bit of a battering were Scorsese to remake someone else’s work, but such is the influence of the cinema itself on the films of Martin Scorsese that the concept of him reworking a film previously brought to life by another filmmaker doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea. However, the very bases of both The Edge Of The World and Peeping Tom are heavily reliant upon their locations, and the fear might be that neither film should be removed from the world’s in which they already ground in. As an aside, Scorsese admires these films with the utmost respect, would he really consider himself worthy of taking an authoritative role on such a project?

4. Who’s That Knocking At My Door? 

Scorsese already reworked much of his debut feature in to Mean Streets, with the style of the pair very much setting the tone for the filmmakers entire career,  Thematically Who’s That Knocking At My Door? could be interestingly transferred  to any number of situations; Indeed, Scorsese himself has recycled the very same themes over the course of his entire career.

5. After Hours

Something of a fan favourite and comparatively relatively easy to adapt without woe (in terms of the vocal assemblege no doubt ready to attack the project should something as divinely sacred as Taxi Driver be announced as the film at the centre of the project), After Hours might just be the ideal candidate for revisitation. The core idea, of one man trapped on one never-ending night of ill-circumstance is easily broken up in to manageable chunks of adaptation fodder, and the work bears enough of the hallmarks of its director to remain illegible through any form of tinkering.

In Summary

For what its worth our money is on The Big Shave. While we’d certainly appreciate the opportunity to see a higher profile work ala Taxi Driver placed under the scrutiny of the Greatest American Filmmaker Of All Time™  logic prevails, and a work of lesser stature will surely be the one in focus. We’re happy to be proven wrong though. Or right, because the thought of Martin Scorsese and Lars von Trier taking on The Big Shave in itself excites immeasurably. 

[It might be worth noting that Taxi Driver is currently mid-way through the annual celebrations of its 35th Anniversary, so there is every chance that any announcement on the involvement of that film with the project is being held back until the right moment. Several companies are holding special events to mark the anniversary over the next few months (Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second is involved with one groups rather exciting plans), so something concrete will no doubt emerge soon....

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One thought on “Five Options/Five Obstructions

  1. Pingback: Five Options/Five Obstructions (via ) | The Calculable

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