Al Pacino and Kitty Winn in The Panic in Needle Park (dir. Jerry Schatzberg, 1971).
A chronicle of the days and nights of a young couple in New York's Sherman Square area, nicknamed "Needle Park" because of its drug scene, in the early seventies. Al Pacino and Kitty Winn are flawless (Winn won the Golden Palm at Cannes for her performance) as Bobby and Helen, whose heroin addictions slowly squeeze their lives into a narrow crawlspace of constant withdrawals, hustling, and betrayal. The naturalistic, docu-style mise en scene is so convincing that it's suffocating. The location shooting and grimy interiors are as much the focus of our attention as the people in the foreground. Put another way, both characters and setting feel so real (some of the supporting cast were in fact actual junkies) that the artifice of foreground and background seems to drop away. The film's only serious misstep is to spend too much time on the character of Hotch, a young narcotics detective: the perspective he represents, of the concerned establishment idealist with his melancholy awareness of how badly these poor kids are messing up their lives and how little can be done to help them, is unnecessary, as the rest of the film conveys this perfectly well on its own.
Labels: Jerry Schatzberg