• [The Daily] Pacino’s Way

    By David Hudson


    From today through March 30, the Quad Cinema in New York is presenting Pacino’s Way, a decades-spanning retrospective that will build up to screenings of two films Pacino’s directed, Wilde Salomé (2011) and Salomé (2013).

    “From 1971 to 1976,” writes Greg Cwik for Slant, “Pacino had a run of performances that boggles the mind—in Jerry Schatzberg’s A Panic in Needle Park, the two Godfather films, and Sidney Lumet’s Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. Each performance has become enshrined in the American cinema canon. . . . In the ‘80s, Pacino did more controversial fair, notably as a cop infiltrating New York’s gay leather scene in William Friedkin's salacious and invidious Cruising, and as the bombastic, cocaine-huffing megalomaniac Tony Montana, a sort of Michael Corleone type without the discipline, in Brian De Palma’s Scarface. . . . In the ‘90s, Pacio began to craft his own caricature, though he didn’t succumb to it.”

    “Here’s what Pacino wants you to take away from the retrospective, especially if you think he’s often the same in every role onscreen—if you always say, ‘Oh, that’s Al,’” writes Vulture’s David Edelstein mid-interview:

    “It’s an overview of an acting artist from the Village, really,” he says, and suggests looking at his four gangsters, Michael Corleone, Tony Montana in Scarface, Carlito from Carlito’s Way, and Lefty Ruggiero in Donnie Brasco. They couldn’t be more different. Pacino’s Montana is huge and burns like a filament, a purposely two-dimensional character in a film that the director, Brian De Palma, called a “Brechtian opera”—and Pacino loves how Tony became a cultural icon, however cataclysmic the trajectory. Carlito, on the other hand, is a man who gets out of prison and wants to put his life in order—the opposite of Montana, who manufactures chaos. Lefty is a Mafia middleman, a second-rater striving to rise in the ranks but brought down by a surrogate son who turns out to be an undercover FBI agent.
    Sometimes, Pacino says, he goes overboard, sometimes underboard. “But as Lee Strasberg used to say, ‘Don’t do what you can do. Do what you can’t do. That’s how you learn.’”

    For Danielle Burgos at Screen Slate, “the peak, the absolute zenith, of Shouty Al is his scene-devouring performance” in Taylor Hackford’s The Devil's Advocate (1997). “Penned by V. C. Andrews’s posthumous ghostwriter and infused with the same brand of unblinking, deliriously high-gothic lunacy, The Devil’s Advocate distills the spirit of a thousand lawyer jokes into pure, potent popcorn fare.”

    Writing for Forward, Seth Rogovoy asks, “Is Al Pacino one of the great Jewish actors of our time? Hear me out.”

    Update: The Village Voice’s Bilge Ebiri talks with Pacino “about some of these movies, his beginnings in experimental theater—and also about whether he sometimes takes things too far.”

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1 comment

  • By markb
    March 15, 2018
    10:54 AM

    One of my favorite "quiet Al' roles is in Schatzberg's offbeat buddy pic "Scarecrow." Pacino lets Hackman be the boisterous one, while he internalizes his character's despair until the ending, which packs extra power because it finally releases everything Pacino's character has been keeping inside. An overlooked gem.