Oh, how I love to shoot pool.
Scorsese, Newman, Cruise–a trifecta for me. After a revisit of both films this past fortnight, I am pleased to share my opinions with you. Rack ’em up!
The Hustler is a modern classic. It is twice the better film than The Color of Money, and it has nothing to do with Scorsese. The acting and the script makesThe Hustler better. I would bow to Scorsese for creative directorial shots, however. The Hustler is art while The Color of Money is a good film. Personally, Paul Newman’s Oscar win for The Color of Money was a gift because he lost in 1961 as best actor in The Hustler. In 1961, West Side Story won everything. I adore West Side Story, so I can’t complain too much, but I do contend that to rectify the situation, when The Color of Money came around, they gave Paul his just desserts. After all, Paul Newman was nominated four times for best actor and never won. Here was Hollywood’s chance for a fast shot. Fast Eddie wins in the end–a pseudo “lifetime achievement award”. Be my guest and disagree.
George C. Scott played the stake horse, the pimp, the devil, who backed neophyte Fast Eddie Fulson (Newman). He was fantastic! Piper Laurie played her character, Sarah, to perfection. What a tragic character. Rarely had an alcoholic, female character presented on the screen from the early 60s evoke greater compassion and authenticity (I can only think of 1962, Days of Wine and Roses, Lee Remick). Jackie Gleason, who was an outstanding pool player, portrayed fastidious Minnesota Fats flawlessly. Willie Marsconi, the great pool player, not only coached Paul Newman how to shoot pool, he appeared in the film. You can see the white-haired master as the setter in the film. When they filmed the great trick shots, it was Marsconi who shot them. Paul Newman spent four months learning how to shoot pool. When Fats and Eddie played the “session” for over 24 hours, it was cineagraphic suspense, bar none.
The Color of Money(1986) filmed by Martin Scorsese was at its best when you looked at the cinematography. For instance, in the opening of the film, Scorsese narrated while explaining the rules of 9 ball. Close ups focused on cigarette smoke filtering up. Watch for the perspective of the balls falling into the pocket. Nice close-ups, nice fore/background overlaying. The pleasure of the film was anticipating Scorsese’s next shot.
Fast Eddie, twenty-five years later teaches the new maverick, Tom Cruise, how to hustle. Tom does what Tom does best: he brings raw energy to his character. Vince plays obnoxious to perfection. Fast Eddie calls him a “flake” meaning, Vince is so cocky, anyone would throw money down on the table to see him get beat. This makes Vincent valuable to Fast Eddie. Fast Eddie becomes the George C. Scott character, Bert. The love interest for Vince is Carmen, portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Hard-edged and smart, I thought she was the weak link in the film. Can’t say the middle of the film engaged me when the drama of the love-triangle played out. It was when Paul Newman and Tom Cruise were left to fill the screen with their energy that the film shined. In The Hustler, the beginning sequence was suspenseful. You have to wait until the last third of the film in The Color of Money to have your breath suspended. A cool cameo comes from a Philadelphia hustler, Amos, portrayed convincingly by Forest Whitaker.
Both films are worth watching. Both are satisfying. Start with The Hustler for good old-fashioned suspense and drama.
Do you remember Piper Laurie as the mother in Brian De Palma’s, Carrie? AAAAGGGG.
I’m off to shoot pool.