another day in berkeley
a town called panic (stéphane aubier, vincent patar, 2009)

geezer cinema: scarface (brian de palma, 1983)

Well, it's iconic, I had a DVD lying around that I haven't watched in forever, and my wife had never seen it, so I went with Scarface for this week's Geezer movie.

After it was over, my wife said, "Well, now I can say I've seen it", and with that, she went back to her knitting. (In fairness, she generally isn't much for movie post-mortems.)

Scarface is memorable, which is one reason it's highly regarded. You can praise Al Pacino's Cuban accent, or you can ridicule it, but you can't forget it once you've heard it. (For what it's worth, it wasn't as bad as I remembered.) If you long ago tired of Al's overblown acting, preferring his more interior roles, nonetheless Tony Montana demands an over-the-top performance. There's the endlessly quotable dialogue, including the 200+ times we hear some variant of "fuck".

And there are the iconic scenes. I count three: the chainsaw scene, the "say good night to the bad guy" scene, and the "say hello to my little friend" scene. The chainsaw comes about 25 minutes into the movie, and it's a real wake-up call. But the Bad Guy doesn't arrive until the movie is more than 2 hours long, and the Little Friend comes with less than 10 minutes to go in the 170-minute-long film. That's a lot of breathing space between iconic scenes, and especially in the long middle section, you find yourself doing a lot of breathing. As Kael wrote, "its dramatic arc is faulty." The early sections, detailing the rise of Tony Montana, take their time, and that's appropriate for an epic. But after Tony wipes out most of his enemies, the movie still has an hour to go. It's as if the baptism/assassination scene in The Godfather popped up in the middle of the movie instead of the end.

There's always something to see or hear in that last hour, even if it's kinda boring, and two of the iconic scenes are in the latter half. The movie was a huge influence on hip-hop (co-star Steven Bauer claims "'Scarface’ was dead and buried until hip-hop rediscovered it"), and it is currently #628 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time. A lot of people love Scarface ... Sean "Diddy" Combs is said to have seen it 63 times. But about all I can say in conclusion is, "Well, now I can say I've seen it more than once."

Comments

Tomás

Steven Bauer is the man. He was the Latino actor that I thought would have made it big. If not for his own struggles with the above, maybe....

Steven Rubio

He certainly looked like a star!

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