Moviedrome Mondays: Scarface (1983) (Mark Cousins intro)

When Moviedrome began it’s eighth season during the summer of 1997, Edinburgh-based Irish film writer-turned-later documentarian on the subject Mark Cousins became the new presenter. For my UK readers, he is perhaps best known for his celebrated 2011 documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey. Sure, Cousins may not measure up to Cox, but then again, who can? Nevertheless, I personally feel that he is just as interesting in his own way. As with Cox, I agree with Cousins as much as I disagree with him.

I have posted a youtube video link below to Moviedrome presenter Mark Cousins intro to director Brian De Palma’s 1983 celebrated cult gangster epic Scarface. Readers can also read Cousins intro here. The episode’s original airdate was June 8, 1997 (read here). If anything else, De Palma’s 1983 update of Howard Hawks 1932 classic is one that I admire more than I adore. Make no mistake, De Palma’s version is a very good film, but I would not call it quintessential De Palma (i.e. Dressed to Kill and Blow Out serve as just two of many perfect examples). I do agree with all of the high points that Cousins places on the film of course. In form and content, it is flawless (especially Al Pacino’s iconic Tony Montana), but in the end, it feels more like a studio assignment for De Palma than anything else, despite directing the hell out of it. Personally, I think Michael Cimino would have been a more worthy candidate for this job regarding the film’s central theme of excess and given his reputation at the time – his labor of love Heaven’s Gate (a misunderstood masterpiece) reportedly bought him comparisons to Austrian-American filmmaker Erich von Stroheim. In other words, both men were cinematic masters of excess. Unlike von Stroheim and Cimino, De Palma does not really strike me as that – yes, his filmmaking style is operatic, but in the end, you could never label him as a true man of excess. Anyway, as a remake, De Palma’s Scarface is close to greatness, but no cigar. If any of you readers are interested, here is a link to my favorite Brian De Palma films (read here).

P.S. though Cousins correctly labels John A. Alonzo as the cinematographer for this film, Chinatown and Internal Affairs, he incorrectly credits him for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which was photographed by the late great Vilmos Zsigmond.

Here is a youtube video link to Mark Cousins Moviedrome intro to Scarface

Here is a youtube video link to the film’s original theatrical trailer