The Favorites is a series briefly exploring films I love, to find out what makes them - and me - tick. Scarface (1983/USA/dir. Brian De Palma) appeared at #38 on my original list.
What it is • The only film on this list to remake another film on this list, Scarface updates the story of a ruthless Italian gangster in Prohibition Chicago for the 1980s, transforming Tony Camonte into the Cuban Mariel boatlift refugee Tony Montana and shifting locations to sun-struck, coke-fueled Miami. De Palma steps in for Howard Hawks, while Oliver Stone's screenplay adapts Ben Hecht's original. As might be expected based on that personnel switch, the violent, profanity-laden three-hour update trades economy for excess. In other ways, however, the films share a kindred spirit beyond their largely identical plot points and narrative arcs. Both embrace blunt dialogue and characterizations as quietly clever as they are superficially crude. Both center on larger-than-life performances from studious, serious actors embracing vulgarity and vitality as two sides of the same coin. Both embed their lowbrow pleasures in a sophisticated, imaginative visual style, rich with creative camera movements. The 1983 Scarface also has some distinctive qualities the earlier film lacks: a gorgeous, splashy color palette and an immediately evocative Giorgio Morodor electronic score. The film is gloriously trashy, but also wonderfully-executed and, most importantly, honest in its comprehension of Tony's ferocious desires and the world that flatters and frustrates him. That blimp may proclaim "The World is Yours!" but it will eventually reveal itself to be the Hindenburg.
Why I like it •