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Tuesday, May 11, 2021
'POETIC TOUCH' - ROGER DURLING ON 'SCARFACE'
ARE THE TWO BABYLON HITMEN ALSO ON THE BUS WITH TONY & MANNY?
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/babylonhitmen.jpg

Roger Durling, the executive director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, has taken to writing film "recommendations" as the Covid-19 pandemic began last year. A few days ago, he posted one for Brian De Palma's Scarface. "For your information," Durling states in the review about the two hitmen hired by Frank Lopez to assassinate Tony Montana, "the two assassins are shown to you earlier in the film, as they’re seated in front of Tony and Manny on the bus to Freedom Town. Nice poetic touch, since Tony himself is offered a green card to make a killing." I had never considered this before... is Durling correct? Here is Durling's review:
Dear Cinephiles,

“Okay, here’s the Story. I come from the gutter. I know that. I got no education, but that’s okay. I know the street, and I’m making all the right connections. With the right woman, there’s no stopping. I could go right to the top.”

I can’t recall a film that has grown so much in stature as “Scarface” (1983). When it first opened it was received with mixed to negative reviews. SBIFF’s beloved friend Leonard Maltin wrote that it “”wallows in excess and unpleasantness for nearly three hours, and offers no new insights except that crime doesn’t pay.” It went on to become a box office hit, and to inspire other films, and it has had a lasting impact on hip hop artists. When the film was re-released in 2003, director Brian De Palma nixed Universal Studios’ attempt to replace the original soundtrack with a rap score.

I was in cinema heaven back in 1983, fresh out of high school and seeing it at the Ziegfeld movie palace on West 54th street. At the time, I was seriously puzzled by the critics’ reaction to the work. “My father took me to the movies,” says Tony to the Feds, explaining his knowledge of the English language. “I watch the guys like Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, I learn how to speak from those guys. I like those guys.” I believe the original detractors were turned off by the fact that Tony is ruthless, unscrupulous and fearless. He doesn’t change. It’s an unrepentantly decadent and amoral world we navigate for the entire running time. There are no redeeming qualities in this thoroughly unattractive protagonist. He’s laser focused on his greed and ambition, and that’s why we root for him. It’s a bitter take on the American dream.

There is one scene that caused walkouts even before it was finished: the notorious chainsaw sequence leads you to believe that you’re seeing graphic details of dismemberment. De Palma has the camera drift past the action unto the street and then return. Things transpire out of sight, but the built up tension is there, and I can imagine it proves unbearable for some to imagine what actually happened. Throughout the film there’s a sense of inevitability in the journey of Tony. The house of cards that he’s built (in this case it’s a gaudy, opulent mansion of gilded marble stairs and questionable taste which by the way was shot in Santa Barbara at El Fueridis) will ultimately fall down. It’s gravity.

It’s vulgar, excessive, decadent entertainment. There are some extraordinary set pieces besides the aforementioned botched drug deal. The shootout at the Babylon Club and the altercations that precede it are tremendous. The location is bathed in pink neon lighting, and repetitive mirrors line up the walls recalling Orson Welles’ “Lady from Shanghai.” Two henchmen wait to pounce on a strung-out on cocaine Tony. A creepy comic with a grotesque mask – “the one and only Artemio” – dances with the crowd, and the machine guns explode. (For your information, the two assassins are shown to you earlier in the film, as they’re seated in front of Tony and Manny on the bus to Freedom Town. Nice poetic touch, since Tony himself is offered a green card to make a killing. )

The music by composer Giorgio Moroder, who has won three Academy Awards including one for scoring “Midnight Express” (1978), captures with its electronic sound Tony’s cold and unrelenting drive at 156 beats per minute. It’s one of the most memorable. The song “Push it to the Limit,” which is used to demonstrate Tony’s rise in wealth and position after he kills Frank Lopez (a fantastically sleazy Robert Loggia) and takes over as the head cocaine traffic in Miami, has been used to score dark horse characters in “South Park” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” amongst many other instances.

This is still my favorite De Palma work with his signature slow sweeping, panning and tracking shots, through precisely-choreographed long takes lasting for minutes without cutting. Study the infamous scene in the bathroom. It’s delicious. He knows how to tease. The finale that threatens to derail into kitsch is perfectly over-the-top recalling Macbeth as the forest of assassins moves in on him. In this testosterone-filled environment, the two women in Tony’s world make an indelible impression. A very young Michelle Pfeiffer – rail thin and eyes like a shark – is his trophy wife, and she’s heartless and a perfect object of desire for him. As Tony’s incestual obsession, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is heartbreaking as the innocent sister who goes to the dark side. And what can I say about Al Pacino as Tony that hasn’t already been said? It’s a master class in total commitment, the accent, the swaggart, the physicality, they are absorbing. It’s on the verge of the precipice but never becomes a caricature. It’s miles apart from his quiet work as Corleone.

Tony Montana : “You wanna f*%k with me? Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend!”

Love, Roger



Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Thursday, May 6, 2021
VOGUE PARIS - THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BATHTUBS IN CINEMA
INCLUDES TONY MONTANA'S IN 'SCARFACE'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/scarfacesocialmed.jpg

"It's hard to get more decadent and famous than the titanic-esque bathtub in Brian De Palma's cult film," says Vogue Paris' Jade Simon about the bathtub in Scarface. "The size at least matches the ego of the main character, played by Al Pacino." The article is titled "Interior inspiration: The most beautiful bathtubs in cinema," and includes seven bathtubs. Here's a couple more we'll throw in right here, just for fun:


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, May 7, 2021 8:37 AM CDT
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Friday, April 30, 2021
'A BEAUTIFULLY VULGAR MASTERPIECE'
MICK LASALLE ON 'SCARFACE', WHICH RETURNS TO NETFLIX IN MAY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/scarfacefrankphone.jpg

In his Flickering Myth review of Stefano Sollima's brand new Tom Clancy adaptation, Without Remorse, Robert Kojder states:
The film certainly embraces all the carnage and bloodshed (Michael B. Jordan gets one hell of a last stand towards the climax that brings to mind Brian De Palma’s Scarface), but it’s also not endorsing the rationale that brings him to these predicaments.

How nice of Netflix, then, to get Scarface back into its streaming library May 1st, a day after Without Remorse premieres on Prime. However, as the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle points out in his "Datebook Pick" for the weekend, Scarface makes for a great double-feature with... Scarface:
It’s rare that an original movie and its remake are both great films. But such is the case with “Scarface,” in both its 1932 and 1983 incarnations. It would be a fun double bill or, better yet, these films would best be watched on consecutive nights.

What’s good about seeing both over a short period of time is that the films inform each other. In the original, Paul Muni plays an Italian, but not a real Italian — more like a kabuki Italian. Al Pacino plays a similarly exaggerated Cuban. The violence of the 1983 version tells us how the 1932 film was perceived in its time: It was considered one of the most violent films to date. And both movies deal tangentially, but unmistakably, with what it’s like to be an immigrant in America.

I prefer Brian De Palma’s 1983 version – it’s a beautifully vulgar masterpiece – but an equal case could be made for the Howard Hawks original. Watch both and decide for yourself.


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, May 1, 2021 12:51 AM CDT
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Wednesday, March 3, 2021
BRIEF CAMERA MOVE, PART 2 - 'SCARFACE'
THE THREE-O'CLOCK PHONE CALL
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/frank55a.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Thursday, January 21, 2021
THURSDAY TWEETS - BERNIE TRENDING
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/berniememe2.jpg


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 6, 2021
SCARFACE AS ILLUSTRATED BY GARRY SAVENKOV
AND CINEMAMA PICKS 'SCRAFACE' AS 1 OF 3 TO WATCH BEFORE/AFTER/INSTEAD OF 'WONDER WOMAN 1984'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/cinemamascarface.jpg

Earlier today on Instagram, Garry Savenkov posted pictures from a Berlin gallery exhibition of a few illustrations he's done, depicting various characters from films such as Scarface, Taxi Driver, Reservoir Dogs, and City Of God, holding paint brushes at the end of an extended arm.

Meanwhile, the blogger CineMama, disappointed with Wonder Woman 1984, picks three movies to watch instead: Mike Nichols' Working Girl, Christopher Landon's Happy Death Day 2U, and Brian De Palma's Scarface. "Like many viewers impressed by Wonder Woman 1984‘s marketing campaign," CineMama begins, "the actual film disappointed me. Potential for both an ’80s working comedy (the kind with big hair and sexist bosses) and an epic tearjerker fell by the wayside and left me craving movies with a clearer vision. These three movies each include plot or style elements similar to WW84‘s, but where WW84 stumbles, these movies soar."

CineMama adds, "A side note: I enjoy the 'before/after/instead of' format because instead of focusing negative energy on just tearing a film apart or writing a 'review' that solely compares a movie to other movies, I focus on the parts that most resonate with me and build upon that by lifting up other films."

Regarding Scarface, then, CineMama writes:

In WW84, the lead villain, Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) trades his physical well-being to a “Dreamstone” for the ability to grant wishes. He announces to Wonder Woman at one point in his wish-fulfilling frenzy, “The world belongs to me!” which reminded me of the words that encourage and eventually taunt Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in Scarface: The world is yours.

A Cuban refugee working at a restaurant in Miami, Scarface‘s Tony Montana believes that he’s meant for more than his blue-collar existence and gets heavily involved in drug trafficking. He builds an empire of riches, but unsurprisingly, like a Faustian tale, he pays the bloody price for his success. The world is yours, but at what cost?

Similarly, Max Lord in WW84, born Maxwell Lorenzano, came from a poor background and wanted an immensely better life for himself and his son. Though he finds power through the Dreamstone, the abilities bequeathed to him cause massive chaos both personally and on a wider scale. Lord’s physical health deteriorates and the world descends into madness as he instructs anyone who will listen: “You can have it all; you just have to want it!”


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, January 7, 2021 12:15 AM CST
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Tuesday, September 29, 2020
PIC - DE PALMA & CORDOVA FILMING 'SCARFACE'
ON SET AT EL PARAISO
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/depalmacordova.jpg

I don't recall seeing the above picture before-- not until I saw it today in a tweet posted by Claqueta de Bitácora. It shows Brian De Palma preparing to shoot a part of the Scarface scene at El Paraiso, with Caesar Cordova looking every bit in character as the cook at the Cuban sandwich shop. Cordova passed away last month of natural causes at the age of 84.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, September 8, 2020
GUADAGNINO ON TONY MONTANA AS ARCHETYPAL FIGURE
"IT'S SOMETHING BIGGER THAN BRIAN DE PALMA, HOWARD HAWKS, AND MYSELF"
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/leftamark.jpg

Luca Guadagnino was at the Venice Film Festival this past weekend with a new documentary, Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams. In a video from Venice, posted at BadTaste.com, Guadagnino is asked about his upcoming Scarface film:
BadTaste: When you were here presenting A Bigger Splash, we talked about Suspiria. You told me about what you saw in Dario Argento's movie, and your movie actually mirrored that vision. So: what do you see in Brian De Palma's Scarface?

Luca: But why are you deciding that my reference is De Palma's movie?

BadTaste: Well, I'm curious about it.

Luca: Okay...

BadTaste: More than what you see in Hawks' movie.

Luca: Well. Brian De Palma's movie left a mark on me. So it's an important movie in my imagination. The truth is that I'm interested in the character of Tony Montana. He's a symptom of the American Dream. And I think that these movies are made for their ages. My own Scarface will arrive 40 years after the previous one. I think the important thing about these movies is not the fact that they are lush and fundamental like the Brian De Palma one. The important thing is knowing that Tony Montana is an archetypal character. We won't consider the problem of the existence of a great movie before this one. I'm talking about, for example, The King Of Kings and The Last Temptation Of Christ, if we were conceiving a movie about Jesus Christ. It's an archetypal human figure. We don't have inferiority complexes about great movies made by great filmmakers. I think that Tony Montana is an extraordinary symptom of the American Dream. I think that Tony Montana righteously took from Howard Hawks' age (and remember, when that movie opened, it was accompanied by titles that said, "The filmmakers do not endorse criminal behavior"). That movie was sensational, hugely popular, probably more than De Palma's movie, in proportion. It's almost 100 years that Tony Montana affects the imagination of the audience. And this happens in part because we are attracted by what is capable of producing evil. And in part because we want to make something bigger than ourselves. It's about the dream of fulfilling, of success. This is something way bigger than Brian De Palma's direction. It's something bigger than Brian De Palma, Howard Hawks, and myself. The important things are: A) It has to be well done, the script has to be great. And it is. B) Our Tony Montana has to be current-- I don't want to imitate anything. C) This movie has to be shocking. So: I told you about Suspiria, and I kept the promise I made to you. Then I think I will surprise you with this movie, too. Brian De Palma's movie was rated R, so I want a big R on my movie, too.


Previously:

Guadagnino expects his Scarface to be "timely"

Luca Guadagnino is the latest director for Scarface


Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 11, 2020 5:05 PM CDT
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Friday, August 28, 2020
CAESAR CORDOVA HAS DIED AT 84
HE WAS THE COOK AT EL PARAISO IN 'SCARFACE', THE BARBER IN 'CARLITO'S WAY'
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/cordovapacino.jpg

Caesar Cordova died of natural causes Wednesday in Atlantic City, according to Variety's Pat Saperstein. He was 84.

Cordova, who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York, had a long association with Al Pacino, the two having worked on stage together in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? "The play marked the Broadway debut of the little-known Pacino," notes Deadline's Greg Evans.

A little more than a decade later, the pair appeared together on film in Brian De Palma's Scarface, in which Cordova played the cook at El Paraiso, a Cuban sandwich stand directly across the street from the high-class Little Havana Restaurante. Another ten years later, Cordova appeared with Pacino once again as he played the barber in De Palma's Carlito's Way.

Cordova's first film role came at the age of 19, during time off from the U.S. Air Force. Having been stationed in Germany during the Korean War, Cordova was granted a 30-day leave of absence, during which he went back to New York and managed to get a small part in Richard Brooks' Blackboard Jungle. Cordova also had roles in Don Siegel's Crime In The Streets, Art Linson's Where The Buffalo Roam, Ivan Passer's Cutter's Way, and Bruce Malmuth's Nighthawks, among many others.


Posted by Geoff at 8:09 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 30, 2020 12:28 AM CDT
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Tuesday, July 21, 2020
'AN INSIDE-THE-PARK HOME RUN' - STONE ON 'SCARFACE'
"WHEN SCARFACE WAS IN TROUBLE" - EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT OF MEMOIR AT MOVIEMAKER - BOOK IS OUT TODAY
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/chasingthelight.jpg"I saw [Scarface] for the first time in a packed theater on Broadway with a paying audience, mostly Latino and black, which gave the film street cred, and right there I knew it was a better movie than the film crowd thought — and that it would last." So says Oliver Stone in an exclusive excerpt today at MovieMaker "adapted" from Stone's new memoir, Chasing The Light, out today. "I knew it from riding the New York subways," Stone continues in the excerpt. "I knew it from hearing people talk on the street. I knew it from the people who shouted back at the film, who’d repeat the lines and laugh on the playgrounds and in the parks. These people knew it in their gut. The War on Drugs was bullshit from beginning to end, a fraud sending them to prison in massive numbers. These people knew that Tony Montana had a code of honor of his own, and as fucked up as he was, he was true to his nature till that end. He was a free man. I heard from his family years later that Pablo Escobar, the emerging king of cocaine at that time down in Colombia, adored it and screened it many times. And within a couple of years, the white folks who knew the drug world came to appreciate it. Michael Mann plunged right in with the TV series Miami Vice (1984). He saw the power of it, acknowledged it to me, and cashed in more than we ever did. By the time I made Wall Street in 1987, the young white guys down there were quoting it back to me at viewing parties.

"The film would live on strangely in my life, an inside-the-park home run, an entrée to a certain wild, transgressive sector of our society. For years, people would congratulate me and quote me lines from it. Gangsters and their ilk would buy me drinks, champagne, in such faraway places as Egypt, Russia, Cambodia. I could’ve made a great deal of money by accepting a sequel, but my 'gangster' thoughts were ready to explode into the new milieu of Wall Street.

"Scarface was not The Godfather. It lacked the family and the sense of a tragic arc. But it was a juicy, crude opera of a drug dealer’s life set across a slimeball American materialism flowering in South Florida, the madness of a dream that always wants “more … more … and even more.” Greed was indeed good. The ’80s had arrived."

The above is only the last part of the excerpt-- read the full excerpt at MovieMaker. Here's the MovieMaker intro:

Before Scarface launched a boatload of T-shirts, posters, memes, and dubious imitations of Al Pacino’s cocainized Tony Montana, the film, written by Oliver Stone, was just a movie in trouble.

In this excerpt from his new memoir Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador, and The Movie Game, Oliver Stone recalls how he found himself caught between Pacino, Scarface director Brian De Palma, and Scarface producer Marty Bregman after a rough-cut screening of the movie that would soon become beloved as a classic of ’80s excess. Everything would work out, of course—in just a few years, Oliver Stone won the Academy Award for Best Director for Platoon, which also won Best Picture. Pacino and Bregman continued their long professional collaboration with Sea of Love and another De Palma film, Carlito’s Way.

De Palma’s next film after Scarface was Body Double, another very ’80s, freakishly watchable film that wasn’t an immediate success but has earned a ravenous cult following. And soon after he made another Al Capone-indebted gangster epic (one that got more initial respect than Scarface), The Untouchables. Stone eventually reunited with Pacino, this time as a director, in the adrenalized but surprisingly affectionate Any Given Sunday, another Miami-set tale of machismo, greed, and desperation.


Previously:

Oliver Stone memoir excerpt at EW.com - "De Palma, it seemed to me, was more interested in the 'big picture'"


Posted by Geoff at 7:22 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 22, 2020 8:01 AM CDT
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