Scarface – An Introduction

Better late than never, here is a transcript of Daryn Shepherd’s introduction to Scarface from the 21st May focusing on the music choices of Brian DePalma’s Scarface. 

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Hello I’m Daryn, DJ at Quad’s OST night, and welcome to this special cinema screening of Scarface as part of Quad’s Epic strand where we show certifiably epic films on our largest screen.  Usually these films take place on a Sunday afternoon but for obvious reasons this is not going to be screening on a Sunday afternoon. This screening also fits in with a mini season of Brian DePalma films; as we all await the DePalma documentary directed by Jake Paltrow (brother of Gwenyth) and Noah Baumbach (writer of the Life Aquatic and director of The Squid and the Whale and Frances Ha) which was screened to rave reviews at the New York film festival last year. Having already screened De Palma’s  Body Double and The Untouchables earlier in the year, we’re following up Scarface with the seldom seen Phantom of The Paradise next Friday night, and Dressed to Kill next month. We’ve got vintage posters of each out in the foyer and if you get the chance to please try and make it next Friday as the Phantom of the Paradise is a truly forgotten gem with the best camp soundtrack this side of the Rocky Horror Picture show. And predictably I’m going to talk a little bit about Scarface’s soundtrack and it’s main man Giorgio Moroder before we get nose deep into this mountain of cinematic cocaine.

 

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Cast your mind back to 2002, MTV Cribs is on all the time if you have Sky and everyone’s keen to show off their Scarface DVD and poster. The film’s obvious ties and influence on the ever evolving American rap and hip hop genres are obvious (the rapper Scarface sampling the theme from scarface on The Geto Boys’ 1991 album We Can’t Be Stopped, and then going on to call his 1993 album The World Is Yours after the films’ zeppelin scene) but what gets forgotten I think is how cheesy, overblown and indulgent some of the songs and music on the soundtrack is. Scarface is a skewed take on the American dream and the film’s soundtrack is an approximation of what was popular at the time, Miami, Florida hardly being known as a place at the epicentre of any new emerging musical styles. SoundtrackNo, what Moroder and the filmmakers nails with this soundtrack is the sort of populist anthemic but ultimately empty modern pop music popular at the time. The disco trend on it’s last legs limps its way down to America’s south-east. If you’ve seen the film before, and I’m guessing most of you already have, really pay attention to the soundtrack this time. It almost exists as a parody of populist music but also adding to the legitimacy of the excesses on screen. De Palma’s greatest trait as a director is knowing the exact point when to throw believability out of the window in the aid of pure cinema and it’s the way that music and score are arranged and utilised in the narrative that present the closest ties to his earlier work (colourful, over the top,  wacky, satirical.) I always personally never really liked Scarface when I was first getting into films, but after viewing De Palma’s other films over the last few years I grew to find things to love in it and having seen stuff like The Phantom of The Paradise, The Fury and Obsession over the past year I am really look forward to watching it in terms of the filmmakers evolution, still keeping his own obsessions on screen as the budgets grew and grew.

 

Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface (1)

Although anything DePalma touches is at least partially drenched in irony with its tongue in its cheek, much has been made of the violence in the film and indeed much was at the film’s premiere in December 1983. Reportedly Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse 5 walked out during the chainsaw scene (more of that irony) saying “It’s too gory for me.” Al Pacino himself hadn’t had a “hit” since Dog Day Afternoon in 1975 so perhaps the excess and ruthless abandon in the character of Tony Montana and the film itself, isn’t too far away from the real thing. The iconic Cher, showing some of the current “twitter icon” phase of her evolution was heard to remark “I really liked it.It was a great example of how the American dream can go to s—.” I think there’s something about seeing something so cartoonishly over the top that makes people just let loose, but that may just be Cher. And I will let the final words of the night go to Joan Collins who said of the film, before she had even seen it “I hear there are 183 ‘f—s’ in the movie,” sighed Collins, “which is more than most people get in a lifetime.”

Thanks! Enjoy!

 

 

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