Monday, November 07, 2005

I finally saw the 1983 version of Scarface last night. And, I must say that, although I liked Brian DePalma's version, I much prefer the 1932 Howard Hawks version.

To those of you who know my preference for pre-mid 1960s aesthetics, that's not a surprise. But there were other things, besides the sets and costumes, that I felt were superior in the original version.

For one thing, Hawks simply had a better instinct for setting up shots. The DePalma version has a number of good shots, but in between them there're mostly just good-enough compositions.

But, more than any thing else, the ending of the original version was terrifically superior. And I'll tell you why I think so, so there be spoilers ahead.

For one thing, the sister lasts a little longer in the original version. She and Tony actually make up, which, coming right after he's murdered her new husband, seems to better underline the subtly incestuous vibe between the two. That it happens while they're both under fire from the police, that she's furiously helping him reload his weapons, adds to a sort of flames of hell atmosphere.

The way Tony's killed in the 1932 version also packs considerably more emotional punch. To be fair, it wouldn't quite have worked in 1983, because the original version's ending hinged more on the audience being unused to police being portrayed as fallible in drama. When Tony's gunned down by cops, it gives you a subtle feeling that, underneath, maybe no-one's really "right" in this world.

Tony being killed by his rivals in the drug trade is simply what one would expect to happen. Moreover, the final scene feels as though it would fit comfortably into Die Hard, or Predator, or another psychologically light 80s action flick. It is fun, but doesn't feel half as tragic as the 1932 version.

Pacino gives a great performance. He exudes an authoritative menace, even when he's still small time. Muni did, too, and actually I wouldn't say that one performance was better than the other. They were both very good.

Anyway, there's a kitten sleeping on my lap right now. adopted her a couple days ago and, after more that twenty four hours of deliberation, has named her Beatrix. A very sweet, well behaved kitten, too. She gets rambunctious, but has thus far not destroyed anything. She likes to crawl on top of my head while I'm watching a movie, but she's discovered that I'm a hard man to distract from a movie.

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