Where’s My Cheesecake?

Carlito’s Way

Torres, Edwin  (directed by Brian de Palma)

1975, Futura  (1993, Universal Pictures)

ISBN 0708817068

Oh man, I love this movie.  I’ve seen it loads of times now, but I could never get sick of it.  There is almost nothing bad about it.  It’s got violence, boobs, disco, drugs… and a story line.  A tragic storyline, no less.  Like I said, nothing bad about it.  It’s one of those movies that I watch any chance I get, but it wasn’t until I rewatched it recently that I felt compelled to read the book that originated the whole thing.  It was actually a happy coincidence (the kind of coincidence which is sadly lacking from Carlito Brigante’s life) that I managed to pick it up at a local book fair for only a few dollars.

Carlito’s Way is not a taxing read.  I have the Futura edition which stands at 147 pages, which is not a big read at all.  The language is… almost quaint, which sounds mental for a true-crime style book, but it’s full of seventies gangsterisms and street talk like “You right, man, you right!” and “Right on!”  Heh.  Right on, man.  That’s not so prevalent in the movie, which is a good thing, but it may have been because the movie was made almost twenty years after the book came out – so, like I say, there’s disco, but not the ‘jive turkey’ back chat to go with it.  It’s almost stream of consiousness style, which can make it quite interesting to follow sometimes, but I love the intermingling of Spanish (the fact that there’s a glossary at the back which doesn’t skimp on the swear words also helps).

Seriously, I find it hard to believe that there are people in this world who haven’t yet seen Carlito’s Way, but if any of those people are reading this and think that they might like to, please go watch it before you read this, ’cause after the jump, there are spoilers.

Well, you know what?  The stories are so different, they may as well not be even the same thing.  You know how with some movies they say ‘based on a book by…’?  This ‘based on’ is pretty damn loose; I wouldn’t say it was based very stable-y, that’s for sure.  It’s sort of teetering on the edge.

It’s got some pretty heavy hitters in the acting department in it too – Pacino, as already mentioned (bit of a downer, his accent goes a little askew sometimes, at least to my ears… and I kick myself while I’m saying this, but his pretty eyes make up for it), Sean Penn as the schemey David Kleinfeld, and John Leguizamo and Viggo Mortensen too (Leguizamo as the up-and-comer Benny Blano, and Mortensen as the puleing, wheelchair bound rat Lalin).  All the acting is pretty awesome, but really, it’s the story that carries you away.  Edwin Torres was one of the screen writers on this project, and I have to say that even though the story is quite, quite different from the original novella, the character of Carlito at least rings true in almost every respect except for aspirations.  Like the movie, the story is narrated from a first person perspective, which calls into question Carlito’s reading of certain events.  He’s not without his paranoia, which I guess is a side effect of the type of… industry?… he’s in.

Ahh, and the hopelessness of the last run for the train!  Oh man, it never fails to have me shedding a tear when she’s screaming out “Charlie! Charlie!” and he’s going “It’s okay, it’s okay”.  Wail!  Tragic, I’m telling you.  There is a bit of that in the book, but both Gail and Kleinfeld are… well, bit parts really.  Their roles have certainly been amped up for the movie.  I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but in the book there seems to be less of a feeling that Carlito wants to get away from the lifestyle – he just wants to be the best hood he can be, you know?  But in the movie, it’s almost like Gail (who calls him Charlie, like Carlito is so hard to pronounce… come ooooon) is his saviour, his blonde Angel from Heaven, whereas all the others are just out to drag him down into the drugdealer/hustler lifestyle again.  If you were so inclined, it wouldn’t be that hard to do a reading purely on the race angle on the movie.  Suffice to say, the ending is very different in the book.

This is an even bout, cublings.  I have to say, I doubt my impartiality as a judge in this stoush, given my long association with the Image version.  But the Word certainly has it’s charms, and while I can’t say that I’d recommend it, if you loved the movie as much as I do, then you kind of owe it to yourself to try it on for size.


Posted on February 2, 2012, in Posts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m embarrassed to admit that I never even suspected Carlito’s Way has a printed version as well. Yeah, the movie was pretty good; not sure if I’m gonna check out the book. You don’t seem to recommend it — Bob

    • I couldn’t really make up my mind about it, to be honest. It was kind of funny, and kind of gritty, but man, all of those seventies gangster colloquialisms really almost ruined it for me a few times. The movie should have been enough for me, but I got greedy, I guess.

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