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Point/Counterpoint: The Wall on DeWolfe Street

Wall was so ill-received in Germany that some audience members lashed out in violence.


Scorsese’s latest masterpiece, The Wall on DeWolfe Street, is groundbreaking in both its minimalist style and audience-centered locus of control. Rather than relying on classic Hollywood attractions like sex appeal, drugs, violence or greed, Wall takes the audience in the opposite direction. For 179 minutes, the viewer allows his gaze to explore the wall, to penetrate it, to analyze every nuance and to feel as the wall feels. What is it like to be that dark red brick among so many slightly-less-red bricks? What about the brick that’s chipped a little on the edge?

Perhaps Scorsese’s most brilliant move was to cast and advertise the film as featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, and more, yet refuse the audience the satisfaction of seeing these actors act. The viewer is left wondering “which brick is Matthew McConaughey,” “is that bulgy brick supposed to be Jonah Hill,” and “did I pay $12.50 for this.”

While the live-art component of paid actors walking down the street (with such wittily written lines like "excuse me" and "what are you doing standing in the middle of the street") may have made the project too avant-garde for an ordinary audience, their role was certainly carried out artfully. We can only expect more great things from Scorsese and a successful showing at the Oscars, especially against such weak competition as the soft porn/thrasher horror/consumerist commentary film, Phallus Buyers Club, and the story of a young man's elementary, middle, high school education in Belarus, 12 Years a Slav.


Despite the brilliant advertising campaign using footage from Berlin, China, and Jerusalem, this reviewer was left feeling more than disappointed after viewing Scorsese’s most recent flop, The Wall on Dewolfe Street. Sex, drugs, and financial greed? At a 179 minute runtime, Wall becomes more than boring as the static story and lack of character development turn a supposedly Academy Award worthy experience into a movie more disappointing that Scorsese’s 324 minute epic on dirt basements in the Boston area, Rootcellahs, or his 2002 Benches of New York.

What are these bricks doing on the wall? What motivates them? What do their interactions (or more precisely lack thereof) mean for the ordinary pedestrian going to class? Scorsese, rather than focusing on story and character development, goes instead for the cheap, flashy tricks such as planted trees every 12 feet and somewhat dirty snow along the sidewalk. 

The soundtrack by Pink Floyd was less than enough to save the audience from becoming uncomfortably numb to any turn in the story. With no emotional connection to the film, the viewing doesn’t care whether the wall is torn down or if a pigeon poops on the bulgy, Jonah Hill-looking brick (though this young ceramic piece of building material’s performance did shine through at moments; his interaction with the Leverett junior leaning on the wall was comedy gold, but not enough to save the project).

A film as sophomoric as Wall could only be fit to entertain the small Minecraft community that has already adorned Wall with a cult-symbol status.


© 2014