Al Pacino was a grandee competing with himself this Labor Day weekend at the 71st launch of the Venice Film Festival. The Godfather star put in an appearance at the Italian gala to promote his two latest features, David Gordon Green's "Manglehorn," and Barry Levinson's "The Humbling," a screen adaptation of the controversial Philip Roth novel of the same title.
Manglehorn, in competition with 19 other films for the Golden Lion prize, tells the story of an anti-social locksmith who lives alone with a cat, estranged from his son and perhaps his own outlook on life; The Humbling is a fast-paced portrait of Simon Axler, a washed up actor increasingly in the throes of a suicidal depression. Pacino plays to his age (now 74) and vulnerability in each role, but in an interview with The Telegraph, Pacino downplays his affinity with Roth's creation:
"People go into depression and it's very, very sad and it can last and it's terrifying. I know that, I've had bouts with stuff that comes close to that, but not with that intensity. I feel spared, I feel lucky," he says.
Francis Ford Coppola may have made Pacino a superstar through his Michael Corleone saga, but the actor has also taken the time to engage in the off-beat, as in his documentary style film "The Panic in Needle Park," scripted by Joan Didion, as a frank look at drug culture, and the mature analysis of performing Shakespeare's most popular history, Richard the Third.
According to instructors who teach the Bard, Pacino's merits critical appreciation as a Shakespearean tour de force due to his insight regarding the acquisition of power, and how to use it through the projection of menace which engenders loyalty and fear. His fans have been eating it up ever since.