Monday, April 9, 2012

And now, something interesting someone else wrote about a work that's represented in my "Ask for Babs" mix: Scarface

'Whose world is this?...'
Why am I not surprised that the centerpiece of Tony Montana's mansion looks so much like the Universal logo?

I always wondered how Cuban American moviegoers feel about both Scarface, in which not-so-Cuban Al Pacino starred as a Cuban gangster for director Brian De Palma, and Carlito's Way, Pacino and De Palma's other Cuban gangster film for Universal (in my opinion, the latter film has aged better than Scarface, but none of the music from Patrick Doyle's Carlito's Way score is part of my "Ask for Babs" mix). My search for that kind of article ended when I stumbled into an interesting post by Tony Dayoub of Cinema Viewfinder:
I find it difficult to address two of Brian De Palma's most atypical movies, Scarface and Carlito's Way, because of how closely I, a Cuban American, identify with them...

A lot changed in 1980, with the arrival of those we called the Marielitos. My elementary school's student demographic changed overnight. The once diverse cross-section of students I was familiar with gave way to a huge new subculture of immigrant Cubans, many of them poor, and feeling dislocated. I, who grew up watching The Six Million Dollar Man and Starsky and Hutch, found it difficult to understand why some had never even owned a TV. And though I was fluent in Spanish (indeed, it was my first language), I could never hold, much less keep up a conversation with those that came in the Mariel boatlift. They simply spoke too fast, threw too many puzzling expressions out for me to ever get on the same wavelength. It was all a bit alienating.

Crime went up. Race riots became frequent in some of the poorer neighborhoods (not strictly Cuban ones, I should point out). Drugs became a vehicle for quick and easy monetary success in a society for proud immigrants that wanted to work, yet faced many obstacles in assimilating quickly into society. In retrospect, my school was one of the safer ones facing these problems because of its relative distance from these neighborhoods. But you still saw some of it. My seventh-grade friend Neal, was five years older than all his other peers, because he had been let out of juvie (where he was incarcerated for car theft) on the condition he attend school again. His legs were covered with scars, from dog bites and barbed wire from his attempts to escape detention... or so he told me. Who knew? I was a kid, fascinated by dangerous looking big talkers because of my own deficiencies when it came to defending myself. Neal knew I could help him get in good graces with this pretty young friend of mine, Judy, who everybody had a crush on. And even though I was unsuccessful in my attempts to get them together, he never forgot that I tried. His loyalty, his reputation, and his friendship, were like an invisible shield that helped protect me from getting bullied, and in fact, helped me get along with some of his friends in the Kings. So I've always had sympathy for people like Tony Montana (also Al Pacino) and Carlito Brigante...

Curiously, Pacino chews the scenery as Montana at a point in time when he hadn't yet become the butt of jokes for his over-the-top histrionics. As Montana, Pacino was not only paying tribute to the operatic interpretation of his predecessor, Paul Muni, in the original Scarface (1932), he was also capturing the flashy, loudmouthed characteristics of the stereotypical Miami Cuban: proud, independent to a fault, and full of braggadocio. Montana tries to create what he deems to be the perfect life, but his overblown sense of self causes him to impose his will and his mark on everything in it, as seen in his monogrammed mansion with the oversized painting of him overlooking a fountain that has a towering globe with the words "The World is Yours" surrounding it in neon.

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