A select few actors have managed to maintain some semblance of control while going “over the top.”
By now the manic thrashing of Nicolas Cage and the frustrated, boiling angst of Jack Nicholson have proven to be qualities that have initiated those actors into this small club, and have provided fodder for some of the most widely shared memes and video studies on the internet. But where does Al Pacino’s acting style fall on the performative spectrum that begins with “subtlety” and ends with” scream”?
In Nelson Carvajal‘s video essay, “Pacino: Full Roar,” many of Pacino’s most eruptive moments are curated in a manner that dispenses with the actor’s penchant for subdued emotional weight (as we’ve seen in the Godfather trilogy, Serpico and Donnie Brasco, among other films) and leaves us with a sampler of the hottest dishes his theatrics have cooked and served up.
What’s most striking about how Carvajal’s editing scheme works in tandem with these displays of Pacino’s bravado is that they present a vast array of characters and contexts, yet maintain the same exact pitch from start to finish. One gets the sense that all of these scenes could even be a part of the same take, as they zig zag in and out of Pacino firing insults, lamentations and outbursts at a level of intensity as high and focused as a stare never once broken by blinking. To pin this supercut down as simply a fun way to gawk at the crazy guy chewing up the scenery would miss what it has to show about controlling chaos.
Consider: Most of the clips in the video feature Pacino in explosive mode in medium-wide or wide shots, calling attention to the ways in which the spaces he inhabits and the people that surround him are affected by his volatility. This effect on one hand allows us to revel in the juicy displays his register affords us, while on the other hand aligning our perspective with those in the room, creating the feeling that we are now dwelling in the lion’s den.
In this way, the video warrants at least two viewings: After watching Pacino swallow the scenery whole the first time around, use a follow-up viewing to study everyone else in frame who shifts and succumbs to the forces of nature Pacino introduces to their environment. A keen understanding of both of these aspects may just help you stage the “showy” sequence of your feature whose authenticity you may be struggling to find. MM