The Lumber Room

"Consign them to dust and damp by way of preserving them"

Scent of a Woman

with 11 comments

I just saw Scent of a Woman. What a bizarre movie.

  • Yeah yeah Al Pacino is a great actor and all.
  • I’m sick of Thomas Newman. I’ve seen American Beauty and Road to Perdition, and I don’t want your stupid piano notes when I’m expecting silence or low music. A music score is bad when it draws attention to itself. (To be fair, he made this before he made those two and The Shawshank Redemption.)
  • I don’t understand the perverse American culture where it’s dishonourable to tell the truth.
  • Or where it’s expected to be rude to family.
  • I thought “the guy playing George is trying too hard to ACT”, and sure enough, after watching the movie I find out it’s Philip S Hoffman, actor extraordinaire.

Sigh…

I did enjoy the movie though.

Update: I also saw Cinderella Man, and Thomas Newman wasn’t annoying at all. (Why does the Irish music in the credits have his feel to it? :-)) I remember Shawshank Redemption sounded great too. So he’s got better?

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Written by S

Thu, 2007-12-27 at 02:41:48 +05:30

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11 Responses

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  1. “Or where it’s expected to be rude to family”

    I saw the movie a while back, but where does this figure? If you’re talking about Pacino’s family, they are not shown in a favourable light… and he *did* seem to be a difficult person to live with.

    “where it’s dishonourable to tell the truth”

    I may be wrong, but I don’t believe this is specific to American culture… isn’t it always considered bad form to “tell on” a colleague? The movie probably makes a big deal out of it… I don’t know.

    Preyas

    Thu, 2007-12-27 at 17:05:17 +05:30

  2. I wasn’t talking about the movie :)
    [Christmas time is just past, you can imagine...]

    shreevatsa

    Fri, 2007-12-28 at 14:41:19 +05:30

  3. I had seen the movie sometime back. I saw it again a week back. Of course, only because of Al Pacino. But, yes, it was disconcerting that I did so because I thought the movie was rather stupid in its substance for more or less the reasons you have mentioned!

    Jayanth T N

    Sat, 2007-12-29 at 09:51:17 +05:30

  4. Great, then you explain what I meant :)

    shreevatsa

    Sun, 2007-12-30 at 00:25:23 +05:30

  5. I’ve seen the movie a number of times. One of a kind. Thoroughly moving, and amazing display of ‘true’ human emotions.
    Am afraid, people above, referring to “making a big deal out of ‘telling on’ a friend”, have no clue about what ‘integrity’ actually means.
    I have read the reviews online, and most guys tend to believe that, it is rather stupid, and ‘larger than life’.
    But what i strongly believe is that, entertainment, goes hand in hand with the ‘larger than life’ perception.

    Well, I get a vibe that, perhaps seeing Al Pacino, is a subtle, emotionally gripping movie, is quite unacceptable to the virile society.

    Meera

    meera-sagar

    Mon, 2011-01-17 at 02:50:54 +05:30

    • Heh, to each her own, I guess. :P

      It’s been a while since I saw it (about 3 years, looking at the date on this post), but I think it’s a pretty bad film, at least as far as substance goes. Let’s see…

      The movie pivots around a (alleged) moral dilemma: should the kid comply with the authorities and reveal the identity of the vandals, or not? The movie is presented as if not revealing the vandals’ identity is the moral choice, and whether you like the movie seems dependent on whether you accept this strange version of morality.

      To me, in that context, the moral choice is clear: You have witnessed a criminal act; it is your duty to help the authorities bring the criminals to justice. To remain silent is to let personal affiliation (friend/classmate) decide your idea of right and wrong, and this is clearly immoral. The movie tries its best to insinuate that being honest is somehow wrong: e.g., with the headmaster’s offer of a reward for it. But clearly, the moral thing to do would be to tell him the names, and refuse a reward for just doing one’s duty. (In fact, he ought to have reported the incident anyway, without even being asked.) It’s never made clear why the guy refuses to tell the names (except possibly a hint that the vandals are bullies and he’s afraid of them, which would hardly be an instance of integrity). The movie tries its best to make the viewer get behind the guy’s choices (e.g. the unfair inquiry where the student is being put on trial for refusing to do something he’s not legally required to do, only morally), but IMHO, it fails. One may hope (despite the thrust of the movie) that the guy would pick the moral choice and go against peer pressure/incorrect notions of morality/whatever, but he doesn’t do so, and even faces no consequences for his immoral decision, with the help of a grandstanding friend who has the cheek to prattle on about integrity, without ever justifying why his choice has anything to do with integrity.

      I realise this film is a remake of an Italian film based on an Italian book and stars an Italian actor, and Italy is, after all, the land of a notorious culture of silence—Omerta—wherein disregard for the rule of law is enshrined as a sign of manliness. (Really, read the article to see all the nonsense that this code of “honour” involves.) The film may make sense within a culture that holds such stupidities dear (and I may have even appreciated it if I had watched the Italian version set in Italy), but it’s hardly sensible from an objective perspective.

      [It's not just this one aspect; the film is full of such "everything bad is good" attempts to glorify criminal behaviour: in one sequence, the blind guy, for his personal enjoyment, speeds a car through the streets, endangering the public, and the viewer is supposed to appreciate this act. And so on. It's also clearly a "coming of age" film, with the insinuation (expressly stated in various reviews) that the boy learns how to be a man, from a "real man". If an annoying destructive ass is held up as a role model of a "real man"… well, it all fits with the American cult of individualism and its Wild West ethos — in which concern for the environment and the broader consequences of one's actions have no place — but such attitudes are hardly universal.]

      S

      Mon, 2011-01-17 at 10:41:25 +05:30

      • Well,
        I haven’t really got the time to remark on your comment. But since my life has slowed down just a bit, I made up my mind to revert with a comment.

        Well, I am not sure if you’ve noticed it, but the question about integrity here is the ‘bribe’ that is offered to this kid by this headmaster Trask.
        It is this ‘bribe’ that prevents Charlie from ‘telling’.

        Yes, at first, he doesn’t seem comfortable to report the so called ‘crime’.

        I saw the Italian version of this movie too. Yes, it is amazing and much superior to the American version.
        But, that is not on the grounds a movie should be judged.

        It is based on an Italian book. It ‘Profumo di donna’ didn’t turn out that well as it did, then shame on Italy as a whole.

        Slade never appeals to be a ‘role model’ of sorts. All he does is help Charlie make his decision. He doesn’t compel him to agree with him. Slade is shown to be a weak man(his ill fate) with a strong skin. With all his insecurities with in him, and all his agonies towards life, he is still a good man inside.

        I’m afraid, I am attempting the impossible here, trying to put my case forward to the ‘real man’..

        meera-sagar

        Sun, 2011-11-06 at 13:49:13 +05:30

        • If an act is morally right, being offered a bribe for it doesn’t suddenly make it immoral. That’s just stupid. The moral thing is to do it anyway, and refuse the bribe. I said all this already. As far as the question of morality goes, the bribe in the film is just irrelevant, something added to mislead viewers with no sense of morality of their own — or those whose twisted morality already includes omerta / antipathy to the law / “the man”.

          It’s unclear what it means to be “good” when all of one’s actions show terrible disregard for humanity (or whether that is even relevant), but to me there’s no question that the movie does glorify the awful example of Al Pacino’s character and various destructive activities like the Ferrari-driving incident, which is my main issue with it.

          (BTW, the recently mushrooming use of “revert” to mean “reply” is annoying. It’s not part of standard English or in any dictionary. I wish it would stop. :P)

          S

          Sun, 2011-11-06 at 18:29:20 +05:30

          • Well, the whole ‘act’ of bribing itself alloys the very ‘moral act’ to do the right thing.
            It is really sad that you cannot see beyond your interpretation, perhaps because of the think glasses of manhood that you seem to wear due to your disability to go beyond yourself.

            And by the way, i ain’t writing a book here, that I have to use formal language such as ‘reply’ etc.
            And even if I am, ya ain’t naut ma publisha that I have to pleaz ya an’ naut annoy ya….

            Adios

            meera-sagar

            Wed, 2011-11-09 at 00:22:07 +05:30

      • I just saw this question: http://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/19256/is-it-okay-to-report-classmates-cheating-on-exams and was reminded of this post.

        It is interesting how some people are convinced that reporting crimes to the authorities is absolutely the right thing to do, and others that it is a horrific thing.

        S

        Tue, 2014-04-15 at 23:57:15 +05:30

    • BTW, I just saw Profumo di donna, the Italian film on which Scent of a Woman was based. And it’s a much better film, without the annoying subplot about fear-of-bullies being passed off as “integrity”. Perhaps one should not be surprised that the American film has more omerta than the Italian!

      S

      Sat, 2011-05-07 at 16:27:29 +05:30


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