Carlito’s Way Screen 12 articles

Carlito’s Way


Carlito’s Way Poster
  • Though ranking films is rarely edifying, the film's placement at the top [of a Cahiers du cinéma poll on the '90s] might be in recognition of its ability to both capture and comment on the prevailing temperament of the 1990s. After years of material excess and rampant capitalism brought little more than an exacerbation of societal problems, the film's optimism that life is worth living despite such hardships... is a message of hope, however thin and however problematic.

  • Carlito’s Way is one of De Palma’s most dramatically engaging films, a character-driven period epic where the final half-hour is a non-stop chase through offices, a hospital, a night club, the subway, and Grand Central Station, concluding at this incendiary Ground Zero destination of death, affirming how great suspense moviemaking pulls the audience in with sympathy and fear in spite of the ineluctable outcome of which we’re already certain.

  • What seems like an offhand image here is really an excuse for De Palma to sync his hero up visually with the object of his gaze - the former girlfriend he’s watching in the window of a ballet studio. The camera alternates between gradual push-ins on each of them, slowly revealing that her hand-over-the-head ballet pose rhymes with his silly method for keeping his hair dry.

  • Carlito’s Way is complex, resilient, and uncannily moving. Its power originates not just in director De Palma’s command of technique—a given, even in his films that don’t work—but in his determination to take his hero at his word and demand that audiences do the same. It treats cliches not as storytelling shortcuts, but as metaphors for personal struggle.

  • Making a crime yarn look “truly human” and “realistic” is not the point of this film. . . . Here we have something handled with an air of fatalism. But though the story in Carlito’s Way is treated in a fatalistic sense, the moment-to-moment, frame-to-frame experience is anything but rigid and stodgy from over-determination. It sings, dances, punches, slinks, embeds. It moves like the luxurious tracking shots that punctuate the film.

  • Like Hitchcock, the filmmaker De Palma was so heavily influenced by, De Palma constructs Carlito’s Way with the viewer very much in mind. He has crafted a plot based on the principle of ephemerality, of transience, of allowing a dream to exist only to have it withdrawn. The profundity and melancholy of Carlito’s Way lies in the gesture De Palma makes that, like the cinema and life itself, Carlito by striving desperately to make his dream a reality is constantly haunted by death.

  • It's one of Pacino’s best chapters in the cinematic road movie that is his eternal death. Upside down, in slow motion, colour-drained, across Central Station, fixated on a garish, tacky Caribbean billboard. He looks into it and sees the same fantasy world which drew him to the USA from Cuba in Scarface over a decade ago. In Scarfacehe went out in a blaze of operatic death – a spectacular demise in neon, disco and velvet. In Carlito’s Way he goes out in fluorescent, strings and vinyl.

  • Carlito dreams, but the city knows better. Pacino paces his voice-over with the consummate ease of a poet capturing the everyday rhythms, silences and tensions of city life as Auden’s “great wrong place.” His words are measured, clipped and sculptured with the generic hard-boiled familiarity of classic crime fiction (Hammett/Chandler) and film noir. It is a noble, poignant doomed voice-over, almost Proustian in its elliptical temporality and subtlety.

  • Dancing pervades Carlito’s Way. . . . But more than that, this film is a dance. And it’s not just Gail’s occupation and dream, or the recurrence of a motif. Despite his protestations, Carlito is the dancer of this film. And De Palma knows this, just as he knows Pacino is the perfect dancer. There’s nothing quite so cinematic as Pacino following or leading a steadicam: his every movement through the club, to the disco of the ’70s, a part of this dance.

  • De Palma achieves immortality through the creation of Film as Art. Never really as cold and calculating as his detractors would have you believe, De Palma builds on the humanist line he introduced into his work with Blow Out, in 1981. Once again he calls on cinematic technique to serve the higher purpose of illuminating his characters and their fleeting passage through life, but here adds a translucent, tremulous note of poignancy and doomed longing that haunts his already haunted protagonist.

  • Although De Palma and Pacino are said to have clashed over Scarface, their work here produces one of the finest collaborations between a director and an actor I have ever seen. It is truly the performance of Pacino's career to date; free of the mannered exhibitionism that wins him Oscars, it is based on an intense concentration of energy within the film frame that is absolutely riveting to behold. On every level, Carlito's Way is one of the great films of the '90s.

  • If De Palma has made a duller movie than this 144-minute snoozefest (1993), I count myself fortunate to have missed it. . . . Adapted by David Koepp from two novels by Edwin Torres, this slugs its way through almost 70 years of gangster-movie cliches (I guess they're supposed to be hommages) and juiceless performances to arrive at a set-piece climax in Grand Central Station that isn't worth the wait. But many of my overseas friends consider this movie sublime, so I must be missing something.

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