Al Pacino has become a paradox in today’s Cinema. For the audience, he is just the actor of The Godfather and Scarface; for the critics, he is now only just a pale reflection of his former self, reapplying ad nauseam the “Pacino” formula in each of his recent performances, i.e. the restless/shouty character. Hence this feeling of frustration that many critics seems to experience after seeing any of his new movies. Manglehorn will not help make them change their mind...
Manglehorn, an ageing ex-con locksmith who has loved, lost and now locked up his life for good. Bitter, angry and alone he spends his days working hard and his nights drinking harder, in a vain attempt to keep the past at bay. But as ever, life finds a way and he soon discovers that it hasn’t finished with him yet…
The fact is that the actor is in the same boat than other legendary actors of the same generation like Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman: Hollywood cinema doesn’t have roles anymore for them and when they venture into other territories, they crush everything unwittingly. As a result, it is really difficult to judge their performances objectively in recent movies and I feel there is a strong argument to simply consider the privilege of still being able to witness their acting talents, especially in movies like Manglehorn.
One of the great strength of the movie is undoubtedly Al Pacino himself, who portrays, with inner brutality, this sentimentally handicapped man who seems to blame others, primarily his son, for the consequence of his own actions. Manglehorn has, over the years, built a prison in which he has confined himself in. And who better than Al Pacino to portray this bitter man for whom the audience can still feel genuine empathy for. After seeing a few minutes of the actor in the role, and after hearing his deep and gravelly voice over rocking the movie and making it in some instances a quasi sensorial experience, it is genuinely impossible to imagine Manglehorn being interpreted by someone else.
But Manglehorn is also David Gordon Green’s movie and it bears the mark of all his paradoxes. The eclectic director made a big impression with his first feature films, Indie Dramas George Washington, All the Real Girls, Undertow and Snow Angels, before lining up a trio of average comedies reusing the formulas of the moment (Pineapple Express, Your Highness, The Sitter), and returning to Indie Drama with mixed success (Prince Avalanche, Joe). There is definitely something interesting with the director in his distinctive visual style and his ability to create real characters but it really only works sparingly. And Manglehorn is no exception to the rule. It is very classic in the sense that it is very representative of recent American Indie Cinema: a famous actor playing a broken man who has wasted his life, isolated himself from everybody around him but who will be brought back by the love of others. David Gordon Green also employs real people in many scenes of the movie to create a sense of reality quite characteristic of this type of movie.
However, the director miraculously manages to season this classic template with genuine surreal flashes of poetry reinforced by an ultra-naturalistic/documentary style and a genuine sense of editing (particularly in two scenes between Manglehorn’s granddaughter and her nanny, and between Manglehorn and Dawn, beautifully interpreted by the too rare Holly Hunter (The Piano).
There is also the evident reference throughout the movie to locks and keys and the director reuses the metaphor in many ways: Mangleorn is a locksmith too whom could be applied the shoemaker proverb (whose children are the worst shod); while Manglehorn spends his life opening locks for others, he has double-locked his memories (both literally and metaphorically).This is illustrated by the character abnormal insensitivity, especially in three key sequences with friendly pimp Gary (Harmony Korine, known more for his writing credits for Larry Clark (Kids) or his directorial efforts (the recent Spring Breakers, and who will soon direct Al Pacino in the thriller The Trap), his son Jacob (Chris Messina, Argo) and banker clerc Dawn. But the real “key” moment is a seemingly trivial episode involving his cat Fanny and a key which puts in parallel how Manglehorn must deliver the secret that haunts him.
It might sound a bit corny but Manglehorn can sometimes be regarded as an adult fairy tale, a feeling reinforced by Explosion in the Sky and David Wingo’s often ethereal score.
Manglehorn is released by Curzon Artificial Eye on blu-ray on 2nd November.
The movie is presented in its original ratio of 2.35 : 1 in a 1080p transfer which transcribes accurately the qualities of the digital Arri Alexa Plus 4:3 camera Manglehorn was shot with, both during the day scenes (for instance during the “watermelon” scene or when Manglehorn is with his granddaughter) than the night scenes with Harmony Korine’s character Gary.
On the audio side, the disc offered two options 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and LPCM Stereo. Both tracks are very clear.
There are no subtitles available.
On the bonus side, the disc includes a fairly anecdotic interview with Holly Hunter and Al Pacino (5 min), during which the actors are asked about their characters, their relationship and the style of the movie. This seems to have been taken from a longer interview session and therefore it is a bit frustrating that only five minutes have been included in the disc. The only other bonus on the disc is the trailer for the movie.