“Laerte-se”: the life narrative of a male-female transgender cartoonist in Brazil

Laerte-se”, directed by Lygia Barbosa and Eliane Brum, is a biography and self-focused life narrative of transgender Brazilian cartoonist Laerte Coutinho.

Laerte, now 65, didn’t start crossdressing until 2009 and announced herself as a woman soon thereafter.  The film has a lot of childhood 8mm reels of the boy Laerte who looks rather cis.  His family seemed somewhat understanding.  But Laerte says that as a man she was more reticent about homosexuality than gender change.

The film shows a lot of her cartoon work and paintings, and tries to convey her life narrative by metaphor in the cartoons.  She says that conservatism is capable of progressive ideas but moves to slowly.  Her cartoon activities were in support of the Left in Brazil, including some demonstrations in Sao Paolo. She has also covered professional soccer and likes to follow sports teams.  While the film gets into political polarization sometimes, it never takes up something as dangerous as, say, the (radical Muslim) cartoon controversy in Europe (Jyllands-Posten and Hebdo).

But the personal side of her transgender experience becomes quite telling. As the film opens, she is hesitant to start the interview process with the filmmaker, as there is an exchange of emails about the utility of time.  She says that sometimes transgender women who have completed the surgery believe they are “better” or more entitled that those who have not.

About 20 minutes into the film she talks about removing male body hair, and says doing so revealed a new person underneath.  This observation seems more relevant because she is Caucasian (European Portuguese descent) than it would be if she were any other race.  There is a shower leg shaving scene that reminds me of a bathtub scene in Sydney Pollack’s 1982 comedy “Tootsie” (Columbia) where Dustin Hoffman plays an unemployed actor who depilates and cross dresses to get work.  Actually there is a similar in “Magic Mike” (2012, directed Stever Soderbergh (Lionsgate) where Channing Tatum’s character winds up explaining to his girl friend why he “shaves his legs for work”. And don’t forget what happens to Troy McClain when he “took one for the team” on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice”. In fact, Serbian author Bazhe, who escaped the violence after an eldercare situation, explains his forays into cross-dressing in his 2003 book “Damages”.  In fact, modifying one’s body to join the group used to be the point of hazing ceremonies, like the “Tribunals” at William and Mary in my lost semester in 1961, where “they” shaved the (freshman) boys’ legs.  I played hookey on that one.

She gets into some ruminations about “the body” as I have.  But I tended not to pay enough attention to my own appearance until I was old enough, 29, to come out a second time. (“My Second Coming” in my DADT-1 book). I was already going bald.   I didn’t have the experience of other gay men of being “desired” for a CIS body.  Ironically, I went bald in the legs in middle age.  No I didn’t smoke or have diabetes.  It all seems like a moral reflection.

Laerte has two cats, one of whom becomes a constant character in the film, demanding attention a lot.

The film (100 minutes) ends with a rather shocking nude scene of Laerte and one other woman not completely done with transition.

Sao Paolo long shot picture (Wiki).

Picture: “Lady Valor” Kristin Beck at gathering in Arlington VA December 2016.

Name:  “Laerte-se
Director, writer:  Lygia Barbosa, Eliane Brum
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1  (in Portuguese with subtitles)
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play
Length: 100
Rating:  NA (“R”)
Companies:  Netflix (first from Brazil)
Link:  Metacritic

(Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at 1:30 PM EDT)

“Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower”: A teen takes on Beijing’s erosion of Hong Kong’s separate democracy

Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower”, a documentary by Joe Piscatella, gives us a detailed history of the Hong Kong “umbrella protests” in 2014, as Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” promise (made by China in 1997 when it took over from Britain) began to unravel as Xi Jingping began to consolidate power in Beijing. The film is also a docudrama about one slender and very determined teenager, Joshua Wong, to take on the system. There are a lot of moral lessons to ponder.

In 2011, at the age of 14. Josh organized a movement called Scholarism, in resistance to Beijing’s insistence on national educational standards based on the Communist Party, as implemented by Cy Leung. Josh posed the basic libertarian moral system was to why young adults could not grow up to be themselves, rather than meet specific pseudo-competitive standards set up by a Communist government needing order and conformity (to add to meaning). In time, China actually backed down a in the standards.

But in 2014 a new resistance, growing out of Scholarism and amplified by Benny Tai, over China’s restrictions on the ability of Hong Kong to elect its own people. Joshua says that Benny didn’t first understand that protest movements need to grow and take reaction to be effective, rather than just be a vehicle or intellectual public argumentation. The “Occupy Central” movement grew and set up protest sites all over Hong Kong, sometimes using umbrellas (“rain shields” as linguist Paul calls them).  Police became energetic and then backed off, hoping the protests would run out of steam.  But when businesses complained they were losing sales, the police reiterated. Josh was arrested (in a scene actually shot in real time) and went on a five day hunger strike. Eventually the strike broke and China maintained control. But Josh recovered and, with his friends, began to run for office in a system where Beijing picks most of the potential candidates.

The film mentions the abduction of at least five booksellers in Hong Kong, thought to sell books critical of Beijing. Ai Weiwei (the subject of at least two documentaries) is mentioned. The film also shows a retrospect of Tianamen Square in Beijing in 1989.

The optics of the film are quite striking, with drone shots of the occupy camps and of the protestors among the skyscrapers with sparklers and then umbrellas.

Edward Snowden had stayed in Hong Kong about one year before these protests.

Panorama of Hong Kong (Wiki).

Name: Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower
Director, writer:  Joe Piscatella
Released: 2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play
Length:  78
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Netflix
Link:  Official (needs paid subscription)

(Posted: Saturday, May 27, 2017 at 11:30 PM EDT)

“I.T.”: stereotyped B-movie show how the values in the information technology world have changed since I worked in it

I.T.”, by John Moore, is indeed a formulaic B-movie about computer hacking, but it manages to make a few important points about how the world of “information technology” and the people who work in it, has changed since I made a living at it from 1970-2001.

The film boasts Irish James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan as executive producer, and Brosnan plays tech magnate Mike Regan, who behaves more like Donald Trump than a silicon valley executive, because he is aging. Regan has formed an aviation company that will provide an air-taxi service like Uber and wants to take it public. He’s hired a personal I.T. consultant Ed Porter (young Australian actor James Frecheville) to handle the GUI in his office. But Ed takes an interest in Mike’s 17 year old daughter (Stefanie Scott) and starts showing up in situations where he’s not invited. Mike gets irritated and fires Ed, who then takes revenge by hacking Mike’s smart home and company, even interfering with his SEC filing.

Until the late 1980s or so, “IT” was dominated by mainframe computing with a lot of batch cycles and character driven online terminals. Things started to migrate toward minis and PC’s partly because of the military at first, and most of us remember the changes as the Internet was unleashed in the 1990s. The I.T. world made some resurgence before Y2K and then tended to fragment into a “W2” contractor-driven market was demand and supply for older expertise dwindled. This actually hurt when this kind of maturity was needed to build a technically reliable health care system that we call Obamacare. Had a better job been done in putting it together, it might not have become a flashpoint in the 2016 elections. In fact, in the distant past, the polite term for “I.T.” used to be “management information systems”, along with the stodgy “systems development life cycle”.

When you meet Frecheviile’s character, you want to see him play a good person instead of a villain. Why not cast him as an entrepreneur inventing a new security company doing away with ransomware once and for all. Physically, at about 26, he is quite “cute”. But it appears, by comparison on Google images, that he must have waxed his chest for this film (like Steve Carell, the “man-o-lantern” in “The 40 year Old Virgin” (2006)). .

I do remember seeing Brosnan in “Die Another Day” in 2002, some time after 9/11, a film that depicted North Korea as supply terrorists. (Then there is “Red Dawn II”, and North Korea’s nuclear threat today.) Brosnan was real hairy then.

This new film was shot largely in Ireland. There are sets made up to present the Kennedy Center with a backdrop of the Capitol and Washington Monument, that obviously look fake.

Name:  “I.T.”
Director, writer:  John Moore
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant
Length:  98
Rating:  R
Companies:  Voltage
Link:  official  don’t confuse with a 2017 horror film “It” which I haven’t seen yet, or with the Stephen King novel and TV movie.

(Posted: Friday, May 26, 2017 at 6:30 PM EDT)

ABC airs remake of “Dirty Dancing” as a musical

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 ABC aired a 3-hour (including commercials) remake by Lionsgate of the 1987 low-budget hit “Dirty Dancing”, originally directed by Emile Ardolino and released by Vestron and Artisan (which Lionsgate bought), the new version by Wayne Blair.  The remake was probably facilitated legally by Lionsgate’s ownership of some of the original materials.

The original low-budget film had been a surprise hit. The new version is set up as a musical, of sorts, with all the popular songs  (like “The Time of My Life”) played, providing some of the lilt of 80s disco music.

The plot is actually rather intricate.  The film is set in 1963 at a resort, the Sheldrake, in the Catskills (the new film was shot largely in North Carolina and Virginia, especially near Blacksburg). “Baby” (Abigail Breslin), son of a doctor (Bruce Greenwood) visits the resort and gradually falls in love with the working class dance instructor Johnny Castle (Cold Prattes).  There are tensions between Johnny and some of the other Ivy League young men at the resort (this is pre-assassination, pre-Vietnam Kennedy era). There are some racial tensions with an African American dancer. And there are a couple of long subplots involving Baby’s borrowing money from her dad for a friend Penny (Nicole Scherzinger) to have an abortion when Colt’s rival Robbie (Shane Harper) knocks Penny up; the abortion is botched (as often happened in those days, when “the abortionist” would be portrayed as a common criminal on the TV show “The D.A.’s Man”).  Later Colt gets falsely accused of petty theft.

The “dirty dancing” style is perhaps more curious in gay discos, where gradual unmasking happens. In the movie, Colt is usually attired with a completely open shirt, with only a little chest hair, rather derivative of  John Travolta in “Staying Alive” (1985).

Author Ryan Field has a gay novel from Riverdale Publishing based on the title.

Patrock Swayze had played Colt in the 1987 film.  Swayze would die after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer, a much more resilient survival than for most.   Jack Andraka’s book “Breakthrough” describes had a teen discovered a possible early detection test for pancreatic cancer.

I recall visiting a similar resort in the Adirondacks, at Lake Placid, as a child on a summer trip with my parents, where dinner was announced with a gong.

Name: “Dirty Dancing”
Director, writer:  Wayne Blair
Released:  2017, remake of 1987
Format:  1.85:1  TV
When and how viewed:  ABC Network 2017/5/24
Length:  150 approx
Rating:  PG-13 probably
Companies:  Lionsgate, ABC Studios
Link:  ABC

(Posted: Friday, May 25, 2017 at 3:15 PM EDT)

“Two Lovers and a Bear”: in northern Canada, a polar bear plays guardian angel to troubled lovers fleeing their pasts

Two Lovers and a Bear“, by Kim Nguyen, is a bizarre little film that pits desperation and the will to live against a harsh environment, and argues for befriending wild animals to boot.  The film touches the fringes of sci-fi and erotic mystery without going very far.

Roman, played by the charismatic and boyish Dane DeHaan, drives trucks and run errands in Iqaluit (actually, Apex) in Nanavut, formerly part of Northwest Territories, above Hudson Bay, Canada, well above the Arctic Circle. He has an off-on relationship with a more bookish girl friend Lucy (Tatania Maslany) who wants go to Montreal or Toronto to college and study pre-med. Both he and Lucy have issues with abusive pasts.   He also has the unusual talent of befriending wild animals, especially a particular polar bear, with whom he carries on conversations (voice of Gordeon Pinsent).  (It occurred to me that Reid Ewing could have played this role, given his history with dogs on social media.)   The film shows a few impressive shots of the polar bear alone, and gives us a moment to ponder whether climate change will endanger is magnificent and free animal, well up the scale in intelligence.

Roman resents her leaving and even kicks her out when she wants to make up, but then they do make up and go on a journey south together on a snowmobile, oblivious to a coming spring blizzard.  The bear has three conversations with Roman in the movie, and is obviously concerned for Roman’s life. The bear knows he can survive but humans can’t (again, ironic, given the climate change issue).  Dangers mount, as Roman falls into an crevasse but Lucy gets him out.  They then have an interesting sequence inside an abandoned military facility that they stumble into, but this doesn’t give them enough wisdom to avoid tragedy.  But the Bear seems to have the key to their entry into heaven.

The early scenes in the film make indoor life in the village look more prosperous than we expect.  There is a party scene in a home early in the movie.  Everything, including Internet, seems to work.

I’ve had a couple of encounters with wild animals.  In Maine in 1974 on a trail on Mt. Katahdin, I saw a black bear in the distance, but he didn’t pay attention to me.  A few years ago on the Appalachian Trail near Stoney Man in Virginia, I saw a mother bear with her cub. She saw me but did not act concerned. She calmly crossed the trail with her cub and ran down the mountain.  On the day of Hurricane Sandy (in the DC area, a long way from the area of major damage), a crow twice chased me back into my garage, as if to warn me of the storm.

There have been a couple of films from Russia about the far north with similar moodiness, such as “The Return” (2003) and “How I Ended This Summer” (2010) and “Leviathan” (2015).

Wikipedia picture, Iqaluit.

Wikipedia picture, Apex.

Name: “Two Lovers and a Polar Bear”
Director, writer: Kim Nguyen
Released: 2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix, Instant play, 2017/5/23
Length: 98
Rating: R
Companies:  2oth Century Fox (rather than Searchlight, unusual for Fox), Entertainment One, Netflix
Link:  official FB

(Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 7 PM EDT)

“Alien: Covenant”: A synthetic man makes his (adopted) home planet a deadly honeypot for a colony space ship

Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” is said to be a prequel of the well-known “Alien” franchise but also a sequel to “Prometheus” (2013), which had shown the panspermia of man and then set up the series of space journeys that could set mankind in mortal danger.  The story for this movie is by Jack Paglan and Michael Green.  Titan books sells a “novelization” of the movie.

I was still living in Manhattan at the end of 1978 when I saw the movie posters for the upcoming first “Alien” movie. There was a picture of an egg and a laser flare beaming down on bodies, and I thought some wording like “a warning”.  I wondered then if the movie was about some kind of mass abduction (given my contacts then with Dan Fry and “Understanding”).  Indeed, a movie about what happens to those who are “raptured” (an inverse of “The Leftovers”) could be an interesting premise. That would not be the case.  I remember standing in line at the Medallion Theater in Dallas Memorial Day 1979 to buy a ticket, and seeing a young man who had been severely burned in line.  That’s one of the few time I remember seeing that.  And I remember the visual captivation of the first movie:  the cave with the devices combining man with machine, the egg cases, and then, back on the ship, the exploding bodies, and later the hidden robot.  Ripley, Sjjuourney Weaver, believer.  For the third film, they gave out clippers for private parts.

The new film starts with a shot of an eye, and then we’re on some mountain spa on another planet, as David (Michael Fassbender) learns he is an immortal android artifice created by his dad, who has learned how to connect consciousness to AI.  Then we’re on a colonization ship, the Covenant, with 2000 colonists and some embryos looking for a specific Earth 2 at the other side of the galaxy. The ship (where Fassbender plays another droid, Walter) passes through a “neutrino flare” and gets damaged.  When the ship is getting fixed, it gets a bizarre transmission indicating another earth-like paradise planet is much closer. The crew takes the bait, not suspecting it is a honeypot.

The surface is a damp, fjord country of southern New Zealand (“Aotearoa”).  When the crew makes its initial exploration, it quickly notices the silence, no birds or animals.  Soon the astronauts are getting infected by dust that can enter an ear lobe, and the bodies start to explode.  Some of the crew is led to the ruins of a former city, ruled by David.

It seems that ten years before, the survivors of “Prometheus” had been there, and David, after arriving with them, had thrown a hissy fit and destroyed the entire civilization, after breeding a virus that destroyed all other animal life except this one shape-shifting monster mutant.  (Did that virus come from the Prometheus planet?)

The flashback makes the ancient city look quite interesting.  There were two organic sabres or “ships” that commanded an open circle in the center of the City.  The rest of it looked like a typical place in the Middle East, despite the damp climate.

Davis, as a character, presents a dilemma.  If you’re immortal you don’t need to have children. But wouldn’t you care about the future if you knew you would be around forever, like a god?

There’s an interesting sequence where David learns to play a flute, to articulate the soaring music theme that had played in “Prometheus” (by Mark Stretenfeld). David also has a fixation with Wagner, the “Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla” and the movie (before credits) ends with the close of “Das Rheingold”.  The closing credits feature a Wagnerian symphonic poem by Jed Kurzel.

Wikipedia New Zealand scenery.

Wikipedia chart of extra-solar planets.

Name:  “Alien: Covenant
Director, writer:  Ridley Scott
Released: 2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/5/22, large auditorium, evening, small audience
Length:  122
Rating:  R
Companies:  20th Century Fox, TSG, ScottFree
Link:  official

(Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 3:30 PM EDT)

“Disintegration” is what happens to fallen angels when on terra

Disintegration” (2007), by  Roger MacLeod and James Wright, is a bizarre little horror film about the angels in the Bible, the Nephilim who allegedly tried to corrupt the world before Noah (2014), as in the Book of Enoch, according to the prologue.

Justin Ridgeway makes the graduate student protagonist (Charles Wilcox III) appealing enough at first.  He is supposed to be a “professional student” gradually disowned from his Georgia family for not carrying his weight in the world.  Sounds familiar?

The plot indeed seems manufactured.  Both grandpa and dad have conveniently died, apparently by suicide, when cutting him off. Charles even tried to shoot himself and wound up with nothing more than tinnitus in his right ear.  The DVD seems low volume is places, as if to simulate the deafness.

There is a religion professor Dr, Nelson (James Wright) who expects Charles to track down the truth about the Nephilim, which is that they’re back, and Charles is “one of them”.  And the Scholars Foundation seems determined both to protect the Nephilim and carry out their mission.

I think that the idea that an “angel” or an ET could walk among us and know even know that he is alien (like Sean Walker, Jason Ritter’s hero character in “The Event’) is fascinating (Clark Kent gets told he is an alien in the first episode of  “Smallville” by adoptive dad.)  Such a character needs to remain a good person, not go down the path of James Holmes.

The Nephilim can be female, and can be black. There is plenty of casting diversity in this one.

The bare-bones Netflix DVD from York has no individual scenes.  And the picture is reduced in size for no apparent reason.

(Posted: Sunday, May 21, 2017 at 11 PM EDT)

“Hurry Sundown”, Otto Preminger’s 1967 melodrama, examined race relations and even draft dodging

Having been reminded of this film by yesterday’s movie with an accidentally similar title, I did rent Otto Preminger’s 1967 melodrama “Hurry Sundown” on Amazon today.

There is something about these older big expansive films in historical settings (the biggest of all is “Giant” in 1954 by George Stevens, which I saw in Dallas in the 1980s at the Inwood) that I miss today.

The film was released in February 1967 when I as starting my third semester of graduate school at the University of Kansas.  I sometimes made it to the Varsity or Granada in downtown Lawrence (Mike Nichols’s and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” in black and white) but I don’t remember seeing this one.

The specific issue that got my attention is that a lead character, Henry Warren (Michael Caine, looking out of his usual character) is described as a draft dodger, as he tries to swing a land deal in post World War II Georgia (the film is said to have been shot near Baton Rouge, LA). His rival is a cousin Rad McDowell (John Phillip Law) who has returned unharmed from WWII combat in Europe.  The script (the movie runs 2-1/2 hours) doesn’t tell us exactly how he got out of the draft (like CO, or a fake medical excuse).  There is an early conversation in a car where Rad says that how one experiences European capital cities (like Paris) depends on one’s point of view.  Later Rad tells his own kids that cousin Henry has no conscience.

Henry has a story marriage with Julie (Jane Fonda), who is more protective of her autistic son. Henry blames the mother’s side of the family for his “defective” kid.  But it was common in earlier generations to look at autism or mental disabilities through a moral lens.

Rad has his sons (who figure in the climax) and wife played by Faye Dunaway. Burgess Meredith plays the bigoted judge, and George Kennedy the corrupt sheriff.

People in this generation indeed had different moral postulates, especially about race.  Rad wants to partner with a black sharecropper family  (Reve and Rose Scott, played by Robert Hooks and Beah Richards) to develop his land and refuses to sell.  Rad would have learned better racial attitudes being in the Army. True, Truman would integrate the military in 1948 (as in the HBO film), but there had been proposals when the war began, in 1941.  All of this is prelude to the debate over “don’t ask don’t tell” to erupt a half century later.  Times do change, and so do moral postulates.

The film foreshadows its tragic conclusion by showing blasting on the land to clear irrigation ditches.

Name: “Hurry Sundown”
Director, writer:  Otto Preminger
Released:  1967/2
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon Instant 3.99
Length:  144
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Paramount
Link:  Ebert

(Posted: Friday, May 19, 2017 at 8:45 PM EDT)

“Sundown”: the kind of spring-break comedy I get emails about (asking me if I want to write another one)

Sundown” (directed Fernando Lebrija) is another stereotyped teen spring break comedy, the kind that I get emails about asking if I a screenplay to submit in this genre. It offers the novelty of a setting in the Mexican coastal resort of Puerto Vallarta, for rich people.

Logan (a handsome Devon Werkheiser) and his best friend Blake (Sean Marquette) will be the tag team. Blake seems like a younger Seth Rogen, as if the producers wanted another comedy that would see if they could anger North Korea into another hack (which apparently just happened).

Logan’s dad (John Michael Higgins), having raised him in some LA Valley suburb, often pesters Logan during Logan’s home disco mixing sessions, as Logan seems to aspire to be a disco electronics music composer. That’s not bad. Dad wants Logan to take care of the house while parents go away, and gives him grandfather’s metal Rolex watch, worth thousands.

One cardinal rule, it seems to me, is that you don’t give a teen boy a metal band wrist watch before he gets through puberty, should his wrists become hairy and the watch grabby. In these days of DuoSkin maybe that won’t matter.

Logan and Blake sneak out by airliner (no electronics ban yet) to Puerto Vallarta for heterosexual circuit parties. That’s not before they get some weed from Eugene (Reid Ewing, who gets more of a part in the closing credits). Once there, the taxi driver (quite reckless on a two-lane road) almost takes the watch for barter. Logan gets involved with a call girl Gaby (Camilla Belle), and wakes up from the drugs to find the watch gone. I know the feeling. That’s not until a scene where she vomits into his mouth trying to kiss him.

The rest of the comedy is about getting the watch back, sort of (the viewer’s hook for the screenwriter), and dealing with the Mexican mafia, which is hardly of MS-13 caliber, but it does play to the hustling mentality of the poor when dealing with guest rich white people. Logan will wind up rescuing Gaby from a pimp (remember “Hustle and Flow”: indeed, it’s hard our here for a pimp). Then Logan has to return and make up with his dad.

The film has been criticized for the casting of Gaby, as if an affront to Mexico. The film seems especially deadpan given the current political debates over immigration and asylum.

Logan and Blake endure a lot, including some drag paintball makeup on their bodies, maybe simulating the DuoSkin.

In the film’s “middle”, there is a rather offensive cock fight, which Logan has to get himself out of.  It seems rather cruel to animals. But a backstory chapter in my novel draft “Tribunal and Rapture” (later morphed into “Angel’s Brother”) depicts a cock fight in Florida in giving the background of one of the characters (a “retired” FBI agent). It was good for me to be reminded of that scene.

Somehow this film reminds me of the little 2001 comedy “The Mexican” with Brad Pitt about a cursed gun. It has no connection to “Hurry Sundown” (1967), a film, which because of reference to the draft, I probably need to see.

Wikipedia picture of Puerto Vallarta beach (not as pretty as San Sebastian, Spain, for my money.)

Name:  “Sundown”
Director, writer:  Fernando Lebrija
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon Instant $3.99 (also on Netflix Instant)
Length:  104
Rating:  R
Companies:  Lionsgate, Pantelion, Netflix
Link:  Indiewire

(Posted: Friday, May 19, at 12:30 AM EDT)

“Carlito’s Way” seems like a stereotyped Mafia movie in today’s world; great shoot-out scene at end

Carlito’s Way” (1993) is a big-budget gangster movie from Brian de Palma.  But it’s not quite as engaging as the “Godfather” epics of the 1970s or maybe either some of de Palma’s earlier films (like “Dressed to Kill” (1980) or some comparable films by Scorsese (“Scarface”).  It’s long and bloated at 144 minutes.

The film is based on novels by former judge Edwin Torres, who says he wrote out his novels in longhand.  (So did J. K. Rowling when she began writing as a welfare mom.) The first screenplay was supposedly a “turkey”. The final adaptation is by David Koeep.

Carlito Brigante is played by a younger and mustachioed Al Pacino.  From Puerto Rico, he’d like to have the suave whiteness and social acceptability of a Geraldo Rivera or maybe (in today’s world) Josh Garcia.  His rather evil lawyer Dave Kleinfeld, a younger Sean Penn (who shaved back his hairline for the part) gets him out of prison on a technicality before a doubting judge in an opening scene, and Carlito promises to go straight (not literally). Fat chance.

Gradually his associates and girlfriends and Kleinfeld drag him back into the Mafia, with many scenes in the bay around Rikers Island.  Kleinfeld is a cokehead, with one scene where be nearly vomits in the bay, as if to invoke Roman Polanski.

Other characters in line are Benny (John Leguizamo) and Gail (Penelope Ann Miller).

When the revengeful elements of the plot send Kleinfeld to the hospital, Carliot pays him a sympathy visit and gives him a lesson in self-defense.  It doesn’t do any good.  (Torres says that Kleinfeld, murdered by a police imposter in the hospital, survives in the novels.)

The film has a famous shootout in Grand Central station (rather like the bank shootout in the 1996 film “Heat”, also with Pacino)  One problem is that I think that the Amtrak train south leaves from Penn Station, which I have been in enough times.

The metaphor at the end, for slipping into Paradise (based on entering a billboard) is a nice rendering of how the afterlife might start.

The movie starts in black-and-white with the final shooting, and returns in color.  There is an alternative universe ending where Carlito wore a bullet proof vest.

The script has lots of topical references, like to “Walk on the Wild Side” and in being “Watergated” (maybe now that’s “Russiagated”).

The Mahler-esque score was composed by Patrick Doyle.

Name:  “Carlito’s Way”
Director, writer:  Brian de Palma
Released:  1993
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD, 34 min “making of” included
Length:  144
Rating:  R
Companies:  Universal
Link:  Blu-Ray

(Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT)