(Makers of men, Creators of leaders.
Be careful what kind of leaders you're producing here)
Colonel Slade addressing the school meeting
After years of proving his worth, the “Academy” decided to acknowledge the glorious
and steadfast performance of actor and great impersonator Al Pacino.
He finally, in 1992, got the Oscar. Hoo Wah!
But Al Pacino has been, at any given time in his acting career, deserving of the
highest regard. His cinematic presence has been God-fathered by the likes of
Marlon Brando and he "Shylocked" his way in the “Heat” of the race to the top
with hardly any "Scarface"!
In this flick Pacino is the blind retired officer Frank Slade receiving help from
a young student who needed to earn some money. As if not quite inundated by
his experience with suicidal Slade who was struggling with his personal calamity
and his excesses, the student Charlie (Chris O'Donnell) gets involved as a witness
in a prank that aimed at humiliating the school headmaster but refuses to identify
the wrong-doers in return for a bribe that any one short of integrity would have
accepted. This solid moral stance from the young man ignites the officer’s angry
recesses into a volcanic contempt of corruption and lack of integrity which he
spills in front of the the very institution (preparatory school) that, according to
him, is supposed to instill in its students the virtues of true leadership.
The episode of the speech at school stands as one of the two most singular instances
of superb acting by Al Pacino.
The other episode is the tango scene for which
(Carlos Gardel) wrote the song (Por Una Cabeza)
that is probably more intoxicating than the scent of a woman!
The keywords one is able to derive from the ex-officer’s
grand speech are ironically at variance with the spirit in
which they were delivered. There is a fleeting air of
vulgarity in a speech outlining the qualities of leaders
and reiterating the meaning of courage, integrity and choice, "the stuff leaders should be made of"!
There is a will to obscenity not so much in his words than in the tone of his voice. And of course he uses the F word in a school setting which is probably one of his ways of expressing contempt.
Then there is this rage inside him and the unsettling
look in his unseeing eyes! Really overwhelming acting.
Yet, the storyline of the movie is such a commonplace piece of storytelling (actually it narrowly escapes the rhetoric of morality) but the novelist (Giovanni Arpino) and subsequently the screen writer (Bo Goldman) cleverly enlivened it by investing on the intensity of the life experience of this army officer who was thrown into retirement by an accident in which he lost his eyesight.
The bitterness of this experience punctuated with rage his deeply motivated and highly memorable speech in defence of his young
“sitter” who refuses to “snitch” on the perpetrators of theschool incident.
I rate this movie at 8.5 out of 10 for besides Al Pacino's unforgetable performance as a blind man, the young actor Chris O'Donnell renders his part in a satisfactory way.
Of note also is the performance of James Rebhorn and Gabreille
Anwar in her short but beautiful appearance with the tango project.
Worthy of mention is the fact that this movie is a remake
although as a melodrama! The same Italian novel was previously made into a comedy (1974) which starred the no-less impressive Italian actor Vittorio Gassman.
I have expressed my concern hereabout film remakes as a probable indicator of a
decline in the quest for new original movie projects. That being said, I do not rule out marketing influence as a driving force.
Special thanks to Fatih Mirghani, Tokyo.
Scent Of A Woman (157 min, color)
Cast: Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell, James Rebhorn, Gabrielle Anwar.
Director: Martin Brest
Screenplay: Bo Goldman
Music Score: Thomas Newman.
Earnings: 170 million.
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