Impasse is above all a Pacino festival

Impasse is above all a Pacino festival

Ten years after Scarface, Al Pacino and Brian De Palma re-examined gangster mythology from a disenchanted and melodious angle. It was without counting Sean Penn and his hairpieces which make L’Impasse rock on the boulevard of the big anything.

This Sunday, Arte is programming a special evening Al Pacino by first offering The Impasse, of Brian DePalma, then a documentary about the actor titled Al Pacino The Bronx and the Fury, which is already visible on the channel’s website. Last November, we had just devoted an article to the film, at the time of its release on blu-ray 4K. We share it here to wait until 9 p.m.

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The world ended up belonging to him, but it came to naught. Before becoming one of the most influential films of the 80s, scarface was initially a semi-flop and a gigantic critical release (Racist! Degenerate! Vulgar!) at the time of its release. Obviously Hong Kong cinema, hip-hop culture and games like GTA ended up changing its destiny and establishing it as a pure classic, but phew, what did it hold? At the mere insistence of the counterculture. The trajectory of The Impasse is much less entertaining. However, even public semi-flop, same critical torpedoing (Boring! Soft! Academic!), and even rehabilitation shortly after the release (in 2000, The Notebooks of the Cinema vote it the greatest film of the 90s, and why not, well). And since ? Well, not much. The film belongs to those who love cinema, which still makes the world, but nothing quite comparable with its predecessor in terms of posterity. This time, the counter-culture did not save the film, and we understand that. Released when we were celebrating ten years of Scarface, Dead End brings together the same team again (Oliver Stone is replaced by Koepp in the script) to once again tell the urban epic of a Latino gangster, but this time, on a romantic and melancholy side. A project initiated by its star, who had just received the first Oscar of his career, and for which Brian De Palma, who was coming out of the two worst flabs of his life, was to put himself at the service of Pacino.

PACINO FESTIVAL. In fact, L’Impasse is above all a Pacino festival, which gives a lot of its person (sensational in the dance scenes, even better in the action scenes) to produce a Tony Montana now fueled by lemon Perrier and moving in Metro. The star puts a lot of his Shakespearean obsessions and a lot of his natural show in the role of Carlito Brigante, an aging margoulin who dreams of sunshine but is systematically overtaken by the asphalt. The look may not have aged as well as that of scarface (the gold-plated sunglasses spoil a few close-ups), but the way the penitent goes from one nightclub to another, with a mixture of phlegm and belly fear, is unheard of. The performance and the inspiration seem to herald the handful of very big roles that will follow (Heat, Donnie Brasco, Revelations and Sunday Hell, all the same), before the year 2000 sounded the hour of early retirement. The Impasse it is therefore the moment that Pacino chooses to reflect aloud on his career, to dialogue with his roles of yesteryear, and to initiate the last act of his career. Above all, he doesn’t want to do it again scarface, he wants to show us that he is even better than when he was scarface. No doubt about it, the owner of the place is him.

The tenant, he has never shone with his discretion, yet this film is probably one of the least rowdy of his entire career. The total lack of cynicism, sarcasm or distancing shown here by Brian De Palma is staggering – even more so from a filmmaker who was fresh out of The Spirit of Cain and Bonfire of vanities. The Impasse bathed in an absolutely unique sentimentalism inside his filmo. This is what gives it its full value, especially since it does not amount to either a disguise or a renunciation. It’s just an opportunity seized on the fly by the filmmaker: what if we filmed a gangster very much in love with his girlfriend? The blue flower vignettes are delightful (perched on a roof, he observes her rehearsing her dance steps in slow motion), the flights of Joe Cocker are overwhelming (“You are so beautiful” propped up twice to welcome your sobs) and all the face-offs between Pacino and the missing, Penelope Ann Miller, leave the throat as tight as the end of Blow Out. That is to say if it is beautiful.

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DISENGAGED SUMMIT. In that case, why wouldn’t there be, on one side, the unleashed classic, scarface, and on the other, the disenchanted summit, The Impasse ? Why this gap between the two that time has never tried to bridge? Maybe because Sean Penn, quite simply. Not intimidated by the sobriety of the headliner, he tries here a number of yuppie Tony Montana, with semi-baldness, red curls and straw in the pif. When he confronts a completely fearless Pacino, the film switches to another dimension that is both meta (Al and his ginger clone!), vaguely entertaining (swimming pools, coke, mobsters, Z!), but still overwhelming. It is the release part of a work that seemed to aspire only to classicism and elegance. No redemption possible either for Carlito Brigante, or for the duo of eternal Pacino/De Palma mutts. That’s the moral of the story: our old demons always catch up with us, even on the station platform. And in the end, they stick three bullets in the sideboard.

But who could rehabilitate Cruising (The Hunt), the cursed film denied by Al Pacino?

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