“There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”― Oscar Levant
Al Pacino’s latest film “The Humbling” which is set to release in the UK in 2015, begins with this quotation by Oscar Levant. This week, I was lucky enough to get a free ticket to see a prerelease screening of the film, followed by a Q&A session with the director Barry Levinson (director of also Rain Man and Good Morning, Vietnam) and wait for it… Al Pacino himself.
Before the film began, the audience were shown a montage of Al Pacino’s expansive work, from Tony Kushner’s Angels of America, where Pacino portrayed Roy Cohn, to Walter in The Merchant of Venice, reminding us not only of the length of his career, but the sheer variety and talent of it.
And then, the film began.
Whilst The Humbling ran for four years, Levinson and Pacino later announced that it was shot in 20 days and cost only $2 million dollars. Watching this beautiful, humanitarian film is a
Most of the shooting of the house takes place in and around Levinson’s home in Connecticut, portrayed as the house of Simon Axler, a washed up actor, who is past his prime. As Pacino commented later, Axler’s behaviour almost “mocks his own downfall” and throughout the film, the audience watch as he “tries to work up the appetite to convince himself he’s finished”. The movie sums up perfectly in my eyes, the question that everyone at one point asks themselves in their own profession… when do you stop? Or, perhaps more specifically, when is it time to stop?
One of those most striking scenes, both in terms of Pacino’s performance and of the cinematography, is when Simon Axler looks in the mirror reciting his lines, yet his reflection almost scorns him for his inability to memorise as well as he once used to. The panning between the mirrored Axler and the real Axler is so frequent the line between who is real and what is merely reflection becomes distorted and almost irrelevant. However as Barry Levinson pointed out in the interview, the movie is not about trying to separate what is real and what is merely Simon Axler’s imagination; Pacino’s co-actor in this film is the actor Greta Gerwig, who plays Simon Axler’s young love interest within the film. Their companionship works brilliantly despite the large age difference due to both’s reluctance to acknowledge reality.
My friend had enough guts at the end of the Q&A to ask Al Pacino what role out of all the roles he’s played, he identified with the most, to which he paused, shrugged and replied, “the last one- it’s the one I remember the most”.
What a legend.