sexta-feira, 16 de agosto de 2013

Leos Carax sobre Paradise Alley, em seu primeiro texto para os Cahiers du Cinéma:

What will follow are a few phrases about a good film that was poorly released, and which was not even discussed.

1946: Three brothers, the Carbonis, New Yor...k city wops, adult orphans, who share the same miserable housing in one of the poorest areas of the city: Hell's Kitchen. Cosmo (S.Stallone) is a hustler, always on the lookout for money that would allow him to leave the neighborhood and become famous; Victor (V for Victory) delivers ice-blocks, his build is just as impressive as his unalterable good spirit - and we'll see at the end that he isn't stupid; Lenny is the oldest, who was crippled in the war, tormented, he knows life (and death: he's an undertaker). It's story is just about this... Cosmo tries to convince Victor to become a professional wrestler in a private boxing ring, the Paradise Alley (of the film's original title). With the money that they would win from the fights, the three brothers could finally move out of this poor neighborhood. Victor would do anything to help his brothers, but Lenny doesn't like the idea: every night, it would mean that his younger brother risks being disfigured for life. Yet he finally accepts and even becomes Victor's manager - renaming him "Kid Salami". Every fight is a victory for the Carbonis, and the money accumulates. But Cosmo and Lenny, go from being brothers to becoming enemies: they both love the same woman and, most importantly, they are in disagreement in regards to the career of their protégé. It's now Lenny who is pushing Victor to fight, more and more, and for more money and stronger opponents, all the while Cosmo would prefer to stop it all before their brother becomes a wreck. For the first time, Victor takes responsibility: he says that he is finished with the ring but agrees to one last fight. Against the frightening Frankie the Thumper (who is in the Stitch Mahon gang, enemies of the Carbonis) for nine-thousand dollars, which is all of the money that they have raised. The fight is terrible, but Victor emerges victorious and the Carboni brothers are reunited.

The press-book indicates that the first version of the script written by Stallone in 1970 was a lot darker. Despite its constant sense of humor and its derision, despite its optimistic ending, the realized film resembles a long nightmare. The neighborhood and nighttime scenes, the lighting, its fixed shots (there is practically no camera movements) and violence (too frequent), all participate to a mise-en-scène that is codified like a nightmare. On this point, the image (a success) is clear; from rooftop to rooftop, Cosmo and a member of the Mahon gang are racing; the scene is filmed at night, slowed-down, and edited into fixed shots; each alleyway that they jump over (shot from the position of the street), offers a reverse-shot, a trou d'air that tempts the runner; their faces are deformed by the exercise. And all the shots of the film share a similar style, an effort to push towards extremes, but slowed down, empty and struggling. We ask ourselves more and more, employing more and more strength - to the point of laughable exaggeration - but the fixed shots keeps us on location. The characters struggle to reach the end of each scene and Stallone's camera never helps them, on the contrary. Lenny must make it through the dance hall with his cane in hand to recover the woman that he lost; Cosmo cannot get home without being harassed (slowly) by some thugs (which we never really see and that he gets rid of by blindly hitting them: the entire neighborhood is a vast nightmare); Victor is forced to arm wrestle the strongest opponents, he has to carry a huge block of ice up an endless staircase, without counting all of the fights that he goes through (from scene to scene, his face is always getting worse). In Stallone's cinema, each scene is either won or lost.

Paradise Alley is an orphan's nightmare (see again Laughton’s extraordinary The Night of the Hunter if you want to grasp what's an orphan film: the spectator’s identification can’t be more profound than with the character of the orphan, the child alone in the dark). The parents are dead and the kids are grown up, aged: the "You look old tonight, brother" which is said twice, is the harshest thing said in the film. The characters just repeat themselves, like in a bad dream: we are all bad boys and our parents would not be proud. Stallone adds: but at least we stay together. After his victory and right before the closing credits, Victor embraces his brothers, exclaiming, "I like it better when we are brothers." This optimistic ending takes a lot of nerve. Cosmo, Lenny, Victor, each one has their turn to be the "brain". This union is their raison d'être. Just like the enfants du placard - half-orphans - they share family and childhood secrets: (Lenny knows how to make Victor invincible, by whispering a few words in his ear).

The only way to stay brothers, is to bet on winning together. Not to fight a war but, for example, to have a wrestling match. And it is the scene of the final match, where Victor and Frankie the Thumper fight intensely, each one for their family. Each of the two bodies take many hits, some of them right in the face. The catch of the whole situation, just like it's with cinema, is that it's rigged and we know it. Stallone takes his pleasure - a pleasure that is first, childish - to film this trick for what it is. His film is a great film; it's cinema. And if people did not go to see it, they have lost a good opportunity to love the cinema.

(Cahiers du Cinéma, setembro de 1979)

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