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Dan Rivera González
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"Piñero" tells the story of the explosive life of a Latino icon, the poet-playwright-actor Miguel Piñero, whose urban poetry is recognized as a pre-cursor to rap and hip-hop. After doing time in hard-core Sing-Sing for petty thefts and drug dealing, Piñero's prison experiences developed into the 1974 Tony-nominated play Short Eyes. The resulting notoriety and fame was too much for the Latino bad-boy genius who retreated to the darker corners of New York City. Written by
Pinero: A biographical film for those that do not suffer from epilepsy
The work and art of Pinero inspired me not this film. The confusing, and utterly diabolical frame shifts from black and white to grain to color to just about any other amateur film technique reminded me of my experience during "The Blair Witch Project". Using nonadhesive storytelling with a jumbled voice to the camera, one watching this may not make it to the end. I did, mainly due to the captivating work of one Benjamin Bratt but I cannot give this film much more credit.
Let me state: Pinero is a genius. He work will be forever remembered. I just could not pull myself together for this film. I think over the past five years, or at least since the release of this film, the biographical film has grown to be a stronger production. Actors are willing awards for their work (i.e. Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy), and this film allowed Bratt to be better than I could have imagined, but it was the surroundings of this film that made me take a step back. To begin, the story was troubling. Pinero's life was not light, or one that will make children smile, but it did have its moments to shine. Director Leon Ichaso, I believe, understood Pinero's chaotic life, thus created a film with themes of the same chaos. The issue then becomes that it didn't translate well onto the screen. In one instance, we were captivated by Pinero's life behind bars, the next moment he is winning awards, then we are pushed back into his jail time. There was no consistency. We would have moments when we went from his accomplishments to his troubled times that happened in the past, to something in the future. This could have been a strong accomplishment to help accompany the work of Pinero, but instead what occurred was a jumbled mess of cinematic value in which our characters outside of Bratt become merely nameless shadows. Also, his poetry (due to the lacking cohesiveness) becomes less poignant. We see very little of his play "Short Eyes" and really how he drew his inspiration for this award winning work. Ichaso tried to be original with his direction, but it withdrew from Pinero, ultimately turning those casual viewers away from watching the life of a great poet.
As you watch this film, keep you eye on Bratt's honest moments. There are times that he fades in and out of Pinero, but he gives over 100% dedication to what Pinero represented. His performance is one that should have put him on a fast-track to being the next Brad Pitt, but I think what ultimately hurt his opportunity was the fuzzy direction and inconsistent camera (as discussed) of this film. He is the only character in this film. Ichaso attempts to bring the people from Pinero's life to screen, but since we jump sporadically throughout the hour and a half, we never quite know who these important assets were. The friend in the van, for example, I thought was a performer in the play. Who really was the man that he lived with? These questions could have been easily answered through dialog or perhaps an informative introduction, but instead Ichaso cut corners and just gave us names throughout the film. A possible strong opportunity again lost due to over-creativity. What really happened to Pinero and Sugar? That was a deep relationship that needed a further element she was his muse...correct? With a straight forward bio-pic I shouldn't be asking these questions. Again, Pinero was phenomenal with his words, which wasn't accentuated enough. Ichaso could have taken lessons from a small film like "Lenny" which was able to use Bruce's words and story of his life cohesively.
The greatest element, for me, of this film was the ending. The poem about spreading his ashes through the Lower East Side made me want to read more of his poetry. It was such a powerful, yet flawed scene. I needed wanted to know more about the poets that were reading his work. Nonetheless, it was breathtaking. It showed the power of his words, and just a taste of how his influences now resonate throughout the hip-hop music genre. I was disappointed with this disc, because if offers nothing to really see the real Pinero. I was hoping for a bit of a "real life" biography, but nothing of the sort happened outside of Bratt speaking about how great this man was which is not true. Pinero, as stated before, is a genius, but not a great man. His work was sometimes underscored by his addiction imagine if he wasn't influenced by drugs ... hum ... would his work be as good?
Overall, I think this could have been a great film. I have no problems with independent cinema or about biographical films, but when you push too hard on one side, you sometimes loose the central focus. This was the case with "Pinero". Ichaso focused so heavily on making a cutting edge film that a good chunk of the story got muddled through the trenches. I wanted to know about Pinero, the struggling artist, not a confusing epileptic episode that was the final product. The characters got muddled in this mess, Bratt was the shining star, but that can be the only positive reaction one could have. The ending eerily reminded me of Depp's "Blow", but that could be a whole new conversation. I saw the angle that Ichaso was going, I just don't think the final product was put together very well. It seemed rushed and completely absurd at times.
Lower East Side
Grade: ** out of *****
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