The Cult of Scarface

I was standing at the station waiting for the Metro this morning when I noticed something in the newsagents windows that, whilst it doesn’t bother me per se, certainly leaves me more than a little confused.

I am of course talking about The Cult of Scarface.

Now before I begin I should explain that as a film I’ve got nothing against Scarface, hell I think it’s probably De Palma’s best film (although The Untouchables may edge it out by virtue of the fact that it’s just so damn classy) and is certainly one of the bravest films of The Eighties. However, this bravery is down to the fact that it is a film that is centred around a completely repulsive little man with no redeeming qualities, who has issues regarding his sister, treats his wife like shit from start to finish and lets face it, you’d run a mile if he came anywhere near you. It’s a masterful performance from Pacino, but it’s never been what I’d deem an “Easy Watch”. The excessive violence is both cartoonish and brutal at the same time, but never falls into the action template of more mainstream cinema, nor the torture-porn sub-culture of recent horror outings. Taken separately no element of the film should work but somehow together they do, but that’s more film geek appeal than anything.

Now as far as I can tell The Cult of Scarface seems to have grown out of a million and one hip-hop videos where various fellows try to ape the style (which I will return to) of Scarface as a way of showing themselves to be part of a criminal fraternity. A lot of these embrace the irony of the situation, but somewhere along the line this message seems to have been lost to Joe-Public who now sees it as an ideal to live up to.

So, you want to follow in the steps of a petty, uneducated criminal with a taste for tasteless clothing and a sexual attraction to his sister?

Can someone please explain this to me?

Now, I can (vaguely) understand the fake-criminality aspect of it – Goldie Lookin Chain after all successfully made a career out of appearing to be local scallies – but the wish to mimic the style? C’mon – the man drove a Porsche 944 for God’s sake; you can’t get any more tasteless. Likewise (American Gigolo aside with it’s gorgeous Armani suits) the early Eighties weren’t exactly a time for classic film and TV looks that have affected fashion, sure Miami Vice had a vague cultural blip but lets face it, you wouldn’t wear day-glo socks today? So where does the appeal lie?

I don’t think it’s a counter-cultural thing either, it’s too prevalent to be. I just don’t understand it. The only other film that seems to share a similar cult is The Godfather (the prevalence of posters etc.) but you never get people trying to mimic Marlon Brando.

Anyway, one more thing I don’t understand – The Cult of Scarface.

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