Most movies are the merging of technology and short stories, novels, or sagas. Manglehorn is technology merged with a poem. After its SXSW screening, director David Gordon Green (Eastbound and Down, Camp X-Ray), explained that it’s also an homage to its star, Al Pacino (The Godfather, Stand Up Guys). Green said that he and co-writer Paul Logan wove references to Pacino’s other films into Manglehorn.
Pacino stars as a A. J. Manglehorn, a locksmith who has lost the love of his life because of something he has done and lives in self-imposed isolation. Manglehorn has constructed a cocoon of memories and fantasies, keeping his son, a former protégé, and the hope of new love at arm’s length.
At a Q&A after the screening of the film at SXSW, director Green shared how he recruited Pacino in an unusual way.
Besides producing features, Green also does commercials. He was hired by a large organization to talk Pacino into being the advertising face for their upcoming campaign. After a couple of hours of discussion, Pacino declined the advertising gig.
While he was talking to Pacino, Green, who was already a Pacino fan-boy, had an idea for a film. After the meeting, as they were saying goodbye, Green asked Pacino if he could send him a script idea. A year later, after working on the script with fellow filmmaker Paul Logan, he sent Pacino the script and Pacino almost instantly accepted it.
So what makes Manglehorn a poem?
It is about love and about a man without it. It shows love, and successful and unsuccessful attempts to manifest it, in various forms; between men and women, fathers and sons, and friends. Pacino appears in almost every scene. But, even in one of the few scenes in which Pacino does not appear, the theme is love. That scene, which sparked a “why did you make us watch that” question from the audience, was a graphic surgery on Manglehorn’s cat.
The cat had swallowed a key and it needed to be surgically removed. Green recorded a different type of surgery, but it was real cutting by a real vet. Green explained that the activities of the veterinary surgeon were also an act of love. We go to great lengths to save our animal friends. We love animals, and, we can’t be sure, but it seems they love us.
Manglehorn’s potential new love, Dawn, a friendly cashier at the bank is charmingly played by Holly Hunter (Oh, Brother, Where art Thou and Saving Grace). She is a kind person, and sees through the defenses that Manglehorn keeps up to keep people away. She reaches out to him, but, like others close to him, she is not invulnerable to his intentional or unintentional ungraciousness. The film keeps us guessing as to whether Manglehorn’s love poem will be a celebration or a tragedy.
More films show at SXSW than any one person can see. What attracted me to the screening of Manglehorn was something very personal. I, too, lost the love of my life, just last year. My most constant companion since then has been my cat. This cinematic poem gave me hope. A poem, or a film that can do that, is worth experiencing.
Manglehorn is scheduled for release in June.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B000NTPDSW,B00FOHHMWI,B003FSTG1I,B000NQPZCO,B001EC2IYY]