Just saw Dog Day Afternoon . wow. I had no idea… it was amazing. How did Pacino become […]

Just saw Dog Day Afternoon . wow. I had no idea… it was amazing.

How did Pacino become such a caricture of himself? This early work is so impressive.


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    That’s one of my favorite movies, too. I remember seeing it at the theater. I was working for a friend the summer after my freshman year of college. I loved the line, “What country do you want to go to, Sal?” “Wyoming.”

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    I’ve noticed it is very hard for artists not to become caricatures of themselves after they turn 45. I think something changes in the brain, maybe too many cells die off?

    Another theory I’ve in my head about this revolves around the old idea that empiricists acheive their best work after they turn 35, whereas conceptualists acheive their best work before they turn 35. Actually, I’m sorry, I should correct myself, the phrase I see most often is “most important work” not “best.”

    From what I’ve seen (I am open to being proven wrong about this) empiricist age more gracefully than conceptualists. This is true in both the arts and sciences – thus Picasso is accussed of painting the same painting a thousand times, whereas Doris Lessing causes a minor scandal in the publishing industry by suddenly going from writing award winning serious fiction to doing science fiction instead. At the time critics didn’t know how to interpret the move from serious fiction to science fiction, but Doris Lessing was just experimenting and trying new things. She was about 50 when did this, and had already written the Golden Notebook.

    Some artists are hard to pin down. Marguerite Yourcenor won the Nobel Prize for two novels – The Abyss, and Hadrian’s Memoirs. She started writing both novels when she was a teenager, she finished the second one in her late 40s, the first one when she was in her 60s. She did many other splendid books, but how do you categorize these efforts that basically took up her whole life?

    Hemingway had brilliant success at a young age, then became a caricature of himself after he turned 45. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his bestselling novel when he was 23, his critical career peaked when he was 29 and published The Great Gatsby. After that his career stagnated – it would be 9 years before he came out with another novel and that was the flawed Tender Is The Night.

    Heisenberg and Einstein were both giants during their 20s. They did signifigant work their whole lives, but nothing compared to their early work. One could argue that Einstein later became a bit of a parody of himself.

    Meanwhile Salk and Sir Alexander Flemming, both working in fields that reward the empirical approach, did their most famous work later in life.

    There is a theory that argues the human brain loses the ability to form theories of the most abstract sort after the age of 35 (this only applies to those theories that can’t be proven wrong or right with experiments). Historians of science often point to Newton as being a singular exception – he was 38 when, under the influence of Richard Hooke, he changed his mind about the Sun, and decided it had an attractive force instead of a repelling force. 3 years later he named that force “gravity.”

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    …and Raymond Chandler started writing when he was 45, after having been an oil company executive.

    Nice comment! Exactly what I needed on this oh-so-soul-sucking-day…thanks.


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    There’s an amazing installation on view at the Guggenheim in New York right now called “The Third Memory” that blurs the lines between documentary, film criticism and “art.”

    The artist tracked down an older, sadder, wiser John Woytowicz (the robber depicted in “DDA”) to re-enact the robbery from multiple perspectives, in a two-channel presentation. Woytowicz criticizes Pacino’s performance, describes the aftermath at JFK, and provokes a good deal of thought about individual memory and communal memory. In some ways, it’s a “Rashomon” for us.

    And, yes, anyone who only knows Al from chewing the scenery in, e.g. “The Devil’s Advocate”, should go back and have a look at DDA and “The Godfather.” You’ll want to weep.

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    Also, Pacino’s amazing acting during the last minute of The Godfather, Part II–sitting wordlessly in a chair, staring into nothing–completely eliminates any thematic need for the regrettable (but beautifully production-designed) Part III.

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    Dog Day Afternoon is a classic, excellent film. I haven’t seen all of Pacino’s work, but it’s definitely the best Pacino I’ve seen. There are a couple of scenes in that movie that just stick with you, like Pacino shouting “Attica! Attica!”

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