Saturday, May 20, 2006
Forget (lest we use other words from Carlito's lexicon...) The Da Vinci Code - re-discover 1993's Carlito's Way instead - and its recent PREQUEL too
Specialty cable channels have been debunking it - at least - these past few weeks, with special documentaries making it very clear that all of the outrageous claims made in Dan Brown's book and central to the movie's plot are completely fabricated and absolute utter lies. The Priory of Sion is a 1956 invention, weaved by another fake (Pierre Plantard) - Leonardo Da Vinci was never a member. DNA testing has proven, without a shadow of a doubt, that there is no trace of a genetic link between "Jesus' people" and the Merovingian royalty... (The DNA expert, ironically, used the expression "it would take a miracle" to bridge that sort of gap and find a genetic link there!)
I could go on...
But I won't (not here anyway).
Instead, I will encourage people to ignore the Da Vinci Crap and look towards unpraised gems of the cinematic past - and today, I call to your attention one particular gem, from 1993 (that year, again...) and I point out to you that a PREQUEL was made and released straight to video in 2005...
Because this film did need -and was so very worthy of- some kind of continuation... any kind. (Yes, it is - it is one of those movies where you wish you could rewrite the ending - where you wish something could be done for the main character so he could that elusive paradise - Paraiso - he so often refers to all throughout the flick... Ah, well - atypical unhappy endings reflect reality in many, many ways...)
So, don't head to the over-priced theaters; head to the video clubs instead!
Again, as before, this post serves as a preview of an IMDB review by yours truly - and while you check it out, check out also some of the lines from the movie - such dialogue is rarely as acceptable as when it is exchanged between quality actors in a quality film based upon a quality book too! AND directed by a quality director as well - second only, in my book, to the great Scorsese! Ron Howard can only DREAM of being up there with these guys... Audrey Tautou may be perkier but she has not the substance of a Penelope Ann Miller. And Tom Hanks, my man - he's still no Pacino in his prime. I dare even suggest that Benny Blanco is a better villain than that awful albino in the Code crapfest! See now; if you follow my advice, you will win out on every level! A better film - with none of the crap attached to it! Those are extras no moviegoer or film buff should be looking for... ever.
What an underrated yet truly great film! The Brian De Palma-Martin Bregman-Al Pacino association sparks obvious comparisons to 1983's Scarface, their first collaboration - however 1993's CARLITO'S WAY is
the richer film in so many important ways. It has so much subtext, emotion, delves far deeper into the mind and even the soul of its main character with the result that Carlito Brigante becomes someone you root for and care about - which was not necessarily true about Tony Montana, despite his gory end in "Scarface"...
The name "Brigante" makes one who speaks French immediately think of "brigand" - a bandit from the gutter right there. The irony here is that it is the name of the reformed criminal and very much worthy human being that we wind up 100% behind in his hopeless quest for a brand new life... a future... and el paraiso.
The romantic scenes were an oasis of bliss amidst the grisly world and
tangled web that was weaving itself around Carlito as the movie
unfolded (thanks to Carlito's crooked counselor but also, quite
ironically too, thanks to Carlito's own willingness to reform and "be
good"...) Verily, the romance with Gail (what a luminous -what else-
performance by Penelope Ann Miller) is what humanizes this film.
Whereas Scarface was soulless almost, cold and all about the
underworld, this film has a soul and this romance is it. She is the angel who can lead the way to the dream of El Paraiso for Carlito - the sharpest contrast there could be; he dresses in black and she is blonde, with a porcelain complexion and ethereal almost! The problem is that she is not the only ethereal presence in the film, and the other one is a ghastly one that haunts him and will never go away until it destroys him. That ghost finds an eerie embodiment in "Benny Blanco" (another -of many reasons- to hate John Leguizamo; this role right here!) and Carlito will pay the price for sparing someone that could come back to haunt and hurt him... This unfortunate bit is my lone gripe against this masterpiece; but a happy ending would have cheapened this ode to the human frailty, probably...
For, indeed, Carlito's Way has a message - and that message is that, no
matter what we do, we cannot escape what we are - "our way"- and we are
destined to follow the course of that until the end. No matter what our
The supporting cast is phenomenal here, Penelope Ann Miller and Sean
Penn especially. Special mentions go to Luis Guzman and even one Viggo
Mortensen, who is far from his Aragorn form here - which only proves
that he has some range... He is no Pacino, but then again few are... or
ever will be.
Think of it: Al Pacino has played it all; here, he is the fallen one
seeking redemption. And achieving it, though not in the happy ending
formulaic way. This same splendid thespian has played the same type of
role before - and none were quite alike! Each role has his unique feel
and proper substance. Pacino even played the fallen angel who will
never seek redemption and he was MORE than believable in that role as
well! Truly, he is one of the GREAT ONES. And Penelope Ann Miller holds
her own opposite this great thespian. Unlike what many have said, she
was NOT miscast here. AT ALL. She hits every note she has to hit, in a
truly luminous performance. I would say that she has the same
attributes too; every role she undertakes, she gives it a new twist,
even if only through some small, almost imperceptible nuances and nothing else, making it all, in the end, new and fresh. One has only to compare all of her previous roles - Gail is unique. And beautiful - not just to Carlito either. That old Joe Cocker song never found a better subject to "give it life" than this character right here.
This film does leave us with a sad ending though - a lyrical one but
one we were hoping not to see. Gail's fears and words come true in the
end - and it is bitter irony to realize that we could have had the
"happy ending" here only if Carlito had kept his "way" like it used to
be - ruthless all the while through.