on Carlito’s Way

I first saw Carlito’s Way with my wife during it’s theatrical run in 1993 and excited by the wonderful preview and the promise of the re-teaming of De Palma & Pacino that had yielded the blast pulp theater thrills of Scarface, we settled in for a ride.
Although we loved it, both cried at the end, both danced to the soundtrack full of wonderful disco music (handpicked by music supervisor Jellybean Benitez I guess) and Watusi by Rey Barretto, became the jam cd for picnics by the beach that year, I didn’t realize that everytime thta flick would come on cable I’d have to stay up and watch it. Every damn hypnotic time.
I didn’t realize that France’s lauded critical mag Cahiers du Cinema had named it the best film of the 90s, or that so many people felt this may have been magnificent Brian De Palma’s best film.

But I think it’s so effective you sorta take it for granted. The suspense so good you don’t notice De Palma’s masterful tracking shots the first time, Beny Blanco from the Bronx becomes an unforgettable character in just a few short scenes, the voice-over not only works, it’s gorgeous and heartbreaking. The movie dances, ducks, shoots and swings in a somber, sad-horn chart, Fania song way. Or a song too sad for Fania? It’s the Pedro Navaja of movies no?

I love so much about the picture. From Viggo Mortensen, who I’d never seen before, and assumed was just some excellent unknown Latino actor, (although my wife tells me she heard on NPR he was of Argentinean descent) to Penelope Ann Miller, who’s performance I thought was great and brave. And sexy. This whole flick was really sexy.

On the Australian blog Senses of Cinema they break it down into ‘lil essays on the feeling of the movie that really breathe new life into how one might take in Carlito’s Way. One runination on the voice-over is lovely and appreciative, another on Dance brings up the strange – special – subtle qualities of the movie. A Revelation they call it.

Joshua Zyber writing about the Carlito’s Way HD DVD on the High Def Digest site has a must-read review, and at Reverseshot.com , Matt Zoller Seitz has a review that, while I may not share his take on the film, is a beautifully written piece that also shows how open to interpretation the film is. Setiz’s piece begins beautifully, “Everything about Carlito’s Way (1993) is improbable, starting with the fact that it’s a masterpiece”.

Cahiers du Cinema: Carlito’s Way is best film of the 90s

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