KEITH UHLICH ON DE PALMA FILM
Time Out New York's The Frame-Up blog has been running a series this week called "NYC Antiheroes," in which Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle represents "ground zero," according to blog host Joshua Rothkopf, who states that Martin Scorsese's film is "about a man who fails at being a New Yorker." In today's entry, Keith Uhlich interprets the New York of Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way as a "metaphorical prison" that uses everything and everyone from Carlito's past as barriers to the freedom he can ultimately only dream of. Here is how Uhlich eloquently puts it:
Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) has a dollar and a dream. He just needs a little more ($75,000 to be exact) so he can leave his criminal past behind, retire to the tropics, and buy into a car rental dealership. Destiny has other plans for him, but we know this from the start: The first image is Carlito getting shot down in Grand Central Station. The film that follows is his dying-moments reminiscence. A Proustian whirlwind begins in a courtroom, where Carlito is released from jail on a technicality, only to enter another, more metaphorical prison: a city greatly changed from the way he left it. It’s easy to relate to the desire to escape New York, its towering edifices and worlds-within-worlds, as oppressive as they are awe-inspiring. Carlito’s instincts still serve him well in this environment, but they’re now more a force of habit than a true moral code. He’s ready to move on, in body and spirit, even if his aim to please his friends (Sean Penn as sleazy lawyer David Kleinfeld) and lovers (Penelope Ann Miller as whispery-voiced dancer Gail) prevents him from saying so. It’s obvious that there is no exit for him. Befitting director Brian De Palma, Carlito’s death rattle is at once a sublime joke and a cutting indictment of dreamy, age-addled nostalgia, while Pacino’s performance (one of his wizened best) complements De Palma’s acid tongue with quiet dignity.