6 February 2011 | murtaza_mma
A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Pacino gives a heart-wrenching performance as the modern-day Macbeth
Brian De Palma's Scarface depicts cinema at its most macabre, and not for a second does Stone's cut-throat screenplay go awry in its unforgiving attempt to limn the naked reality associated with drug mafia and the kingpins who govern it. Brian De Palma's unquenchable thirst to mimic the gore reality on the celluloid didn't go well with the MPAA, which rated even the highly censored third cut of the movie as 'X'. Brian De Palma and the producer Martin Bergman arranged a hearing with the MPAA and roped in a panel of experts including some narcotics officers, who testified the movie's verisimilitude to the conditions prevalent in the drug underworld. Their testimonies greatly convinced the members of the rating board, who eventually condescended to give an 'R' rating to the aforesaid third cut of the movie. Brian De Palma used the pervasive kerfuffle as a subterfuge to release the unedited original version of the movie instead of the curtailed one and kept this fact surreptitious for months until the movie was released on videocassettes.
A remake of a 1932 classic of the same name, Scarface portrays the life of a young, tempestuous Cuban émigré named Tony Montana, highlighting his sanguinary journey from being a thug to becoming a kingpin of drug mafia. Montana's story is one of rise and fall, trust and deceit, love and hatred, greed and lust, but most importantly: life and death. He is a hapless victim of the vicissitudes of his time; a product of his tainted conscience and naked ambition. As the modern-day Macbeth, Montana is the quintessential anti-hero of American cinema: he adores his friends and folks, and is unforgiving to his foes.
Brian De Palma took yet another calculated risk by choosing Al Pacino, who was then going through a lean patch in his career, to play Montana's part. Pacino took few months off to prepare himself for the role and to perfect his Cuban accent. Chagrin driven, Pacino uses all his talent and guile to give Montana an ineffable charm and an element of frenzy, which not only brings Montana to life, but also makes the portrayal, singularly remarkable. Pacino's breathtaking performance, which is arguably his best, manages to hold the viewer in a transfixion right from the inception to the finale. In fact, it's clear from the very first scene itself (the first scene in which Pacino is interrogated by the police for being a Cuban emigrant) that Pacino is on an inexorable mission to outperform not only his contemporaries, but also himself. He punctiliously takes care of the nuances and the subtleties in mannerisms needed for an exorbitant portrayal such as Montana's. As Tony Montana, Pacino not only substantiates his acting prowess and answers his critics once and for all, but also establishes Montana as a cult figure in American cinema. The entire cast has given a thorough performance with a special mention of Michelle Pfeiffer and Steven Bauer. Pfeiffer is absolutely ravishing in her intense portrayal of the quintessential, uber-sexy mobster's moll. The chemistry between Pfeiffer and Pacino is scintillating and at times, awe-inspiring.
The movie is a highlight reel of some of the most graphic and grotesque sequences ever caricatured in cinema. The scene in which Tony Montana asseverates his innocence and loyalty to the drug kingpin Frank Lopez elevates cinema to a new zenith, while the Macbeth like climax gives the movie an operatic feel that is seldom associated with cinema.
Scarface marked the upsurge of a new force in cinema: the triumvirate of De Palma, Stone and Pacino. Almost three decades have passed since Scarface, but Al Pacino, Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone still enjoy a global iconic status as they continue to enthrall the audiences worldwide with their idiosyncratic cinematic styles.
PS. Scarface has become a prototype in modern cinema and is one heck of a cinematic experience, but is not meant for the faint-hearted, or the sycophantic adherents of conservative cinema. 9/10