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Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners
Posted March 01, 2012 to photo album "Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners"
Mike Mills poignant portrait of a father and son relationship inspired us to look back at how films from Chaplin to Beginners have handled this paternal subject.
A Bronx Tale (1993)
In 1989, Robert De Niro caught actor Chazz Palminteri’s one-man show A Bronx Tale at the 91st Street Playhouse in New York City. The play, culled from Palminteri’s recollections of the people he grew up with in his Italian-American neighborhood, had become a very popular theatrical experience. The material and characters were so rich and vibrant that De Niro quickly decided this would be the story he would tell for his first foray into film directing. Palminteri was thrilled with De Niro’s interest, but had two conditions: one, he would write the screenplay and, two, he would star in it. In Palminteri’s screenplay, A Bronx Tale becomes a tale of two fathers for the young Calogero (Francis Capra). On the one hand, there is his real dad, Lorenzo Anello (De Niro), who is a law-abiding bus driver and, on the other hand, the local mob chief, Sonny (Palminteri), who takes a shine to Calogero after he lies to the police for him. Having been directed by some of world’s greatest directors, De Niro looked to the Italian neorealists, at least in his casting. He explains, “A year before we stared shooting, I said I wanted to find real people. I did not want to be using an actor, or some precocious young kid who has done too many commercials, I wanted people who were genuine, as genuine as I could get.” As such, the film maintains a rawness that reminded many of the work of De Niro’s most obvious movie mentor, Martin Scorsese. But, in many ways, De Niro’s directorial style pushes his cinematic father aside. Rather than playing the gangster (his usual Scorsese part), De Niro plays the quiet citizen. And his story, rather than a down-and-dirty mafia thriller, focuses on character-driven drama. As New York Magazine critic David Denby wrote, “De Niro may not be a demon, like his friend Scorsese, but he has humor and warmth of character.”