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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sal was on the line-up for the final day of the Carmel Art & Film
Festival and with director James Franco doing a Q&A before the
screening they were pretty much guaranteed a full house. And by
speaking before the film, telling his intentions and motivation for
making this film, he locked the audience in.
On stage he said that his intention was to show the last day of Sal Mineo's life...without narration or explanation. This wasn't an essay, as he said.
Sal Mineo had seen his star rise with two Academy Award nominations before he was 20. And then it burst. He kept trying, but he quickly became stereo-typed and the public turned away. He kept moving forward and believed in his talent and that's what this film is truly about... exemplified by his confidence, as he was one of the first actors to be open with the public about his sexuality even when that honesty was a career killer in every field.
And that was one of the intriguing things about this bio-pic. Growing up in that era, when the news of his death was reported, I absolutely remember the implication. It was reported that he died in an alley behind his apartment and robbery wasn't suspected as a motivation.
Even as a kid I knew what THAT meant. And I believed it to this day. Until I saw this film
In the Q@A James Franco spoke of how the film was "slow" on purpose.
What I think he meant, is that he wanted to contrast against the eternal question, "What would you do if you knew this was the last day of your life?" If you're healthy you'll never know. You'll wake up, brush your teeth, call your friends, have yet another moment where your mom completely pisses you off and you'll go to work.
And no where in there, in your "last meal" or your last phone call, will you know that that's the end.
James Franco was right in his description of his film. It IS slow. And at first it might drive you crazy (how interesting is YOUR life when you wake up, scratch your ass, make the coffee then brush our teeth?) But it is the mundane aspects of all of our daily lives that leads up to the power of this film.
Val Lauren is remarkable in this film. He plays the passion and arrogance of Sal Mineo, an actor who believed in himself but was on the wain, in perfect, perfect notes. Which means, as an audience member I was thinking "get over your damn self" for a lot of the movie.
BUT...through Val's performance and James' direction you actually DO get through those feelings to a place where every time Sal parks his car (in the "alley" that implied gay sex in the news reports of his death, but was in reality, the parking spaces for his apartment building), you have a feeling of dread.
And a defining sequence of Sal rehearsing the play he was about to open at the Westwood Playhouse, P.S. Your Cat is Dead, shows, at least through Val performing Sal performing the burglar, that it's clear that Sal had the goods as an actor even though he lost it all. But not because of his talent.
I know Sal is just a movie. And I KNOW not everyone will like it.
James Franco created a portrait of an artist about to rise again. A man who felt his life turning back to the direction he felt he was fundamentally meant to express.
And then he drove home and parked his car. And met his destiny.
And now the review. I started off tired. Move it along, I thought. And I kept thinking that for the first half of the movie.
And then I surrendered and thought, "What a sweet guy." And then I thought, "What a talented guy." And then I thought, "DON'T park your car in that alley!!!"
The movie has stayed with me. I'll ALWAYS remember this when I re-watch Sal Mineo's films. Whether you like him or not, this film makes you a partner to a fellow human being's last day on earth.
And with the final shots, I mean that literally.
And here's the whole point of the spoiler alert:
So stop reading, by the way....all the above is referenced before the credits so there were NO spoilers needed for anything I said above.
The final shots of the movie, the actual news footage of Sal's death with actual footage of Sal dead on the pavement followed by a beautiful, beautiful close-up of the real Sal Mineo as he was interviewed about how it felt to play his death scene in Rebel Without a Cause...
...Man. Whether you like this film or not, I guarantee you will feel like you know Sal Mineo as a brother whenever you watch the real actor at the height of his career in Rebel Without a Cause.
As a fan of Sal Mineo and James Franco I was looking forward to this
film. With a short running time I began to worry as the 30 minute mark
was approaching and I was not getting into it.
This movie has parts similar to "The Brown Bunny" that terrible movie consisting of filming a driver wandering aimlessly and then ending with a surprisingly graphic unrelated sex scene. Only "Sal" omitted the surprise since of course the movie tells you at the very beginning how he dies. If you like Terrence Malick movies (I don't) with a dose of "Investigative Reports" you may enjoy it. If you are a fan of Sal Mineo you won't. The kind-of epilogue regarding the arrest of the killer seemed like an afterthought.
Franco said his intent was to capture the mundane typical activities of someone on the last day of their life without them knowing it is their last day. That doesn't make for an interesting movie. I suppose if the character was fictional and the death at the end was a shocking out-of-nowhere surprise it could be entertaining, like a "Twilight Zone" episode. But Sal Mineo was a real person and we know already that he was murdered in a pointless random act.
The tediousness of the opening workout scene (as appealing as a shirtless Val Lauren is), the smoking scenes, and the severely close-up conversation scenes, just dragged on and on. Even the play rehearsal scene was tedious and didn't tell us anything. I wanted to know who were the important people in Sal's life? Who were his friends? Did he have a relationship?
Maybe he really was a has-been actor desperately trying to convince friends to fill the seats of his off-off-off-Broadway play. But I was hoping for more. The copy-paste of real Sal's "Rebel" Oscar-nominated performance upped the contrast of what this movie could have been.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sal is the depiction of the final 24 hours of 1950's teen idol Sal
Mineo.It features Val Lauren in the title role and it was directed by
Sal Mineo is a talented actor that appeals to teen-agers during the 50's.He was an Academy Award nominee and was known for his roles such as Exodus and two of the three James Dean films,Rebel Without Cause and Giant.Later in his career,he has become open about his homosexuality and tried to find his identity both as an actor and a director.He found positive reviews as bisexual burglar in his stage performance in a play entitled," P.S. Your Cat Is Dead".But one day after returning home from a rehearsal,he was stabbed to death.
Lauren did a great job in his portrayal of Mineo.Too bad that we are left basically to only the last 24 hours of his life rather than a portrayal of his life and legacy in Hollywood.Too bad that Sal should have been treated better rather than just featuring his last day on earth where nothing is essentially told except his death in the finale.Overall,a better story could have been told.
This film tells the story of the last day of the Hollywood actor, Sal
Mineo, whose life was tragically cut short.
Despite the potentially engaging subject matter, "Sal" is not a very interesting film to watch, unfortunately. I can hardly believe it can be so boring. The film starts off with a four minute scene of him working out in a gym. Then Sal on the phone for minutes, and you can only hear one end of the conversation. Then more phone calls. It's probably the most uninteresting day in real life, let alone in cinema. And where's James Franco? I didn't see him at all, and I did skim through the film again and I couldn't find him.
This film is a waste of time. Avoid!
I love James Franco & know how talented he is as an actor & now in art
as well. I heard he had begun directing so when I saw his movie "SAL"
up for viewing I dug right in; not knowing much about Sal Mineo I
thought this could be fascinating. Boy was I wrong...and I mean BIG
time wrong. This movie looks like something a pack of High-School film
club wannabes attempted to make over their Summer break. No make that
over their Christmas break.
The movies cinematography, if you can call a single light and one very shaky hand-held camera being filmed by some drunk pulled off the street entertainment, was actually boring and just totally substandard. The incessant & tedious closeups of the actors face, nose or eyes while doing some of the most mundane activities like the minutes long scenes of him smoking or driving were simply awful. No art form, no intrigue, no nothing. Any hope for cleverness remained nonexistent.
Music & sound were other factors that were flimsily handled as if they really didn't matter because all the closeups of the actors nose meant so much more. The overall flabbiness and lack of tension made this 90 minutes particularly painful. The inconsistent tenor of the sound throughout was choppy and uneven while sounding especially tinny, as if hastily grabbed from some stack of tunes noted from long ago. Were those scratches I heard?
Now the acting was particularly amateurish, calling upon memories of plays attempted when we were all of 14, cocky & convinced of our immense talents. I search for descriptives to somehow get across just how terrible this film is and I come up frustrated and empty...kind of like the movie itself. This is no experimental art film folks, it is simply a rotten flick for which you will kick yourself for spending the time and money. MISS IT!
The trouble with close-ups of two men eating lunch and discussing Sal Mineo's upcoming film is that we don't get much more than two men shoveling food in their mouths. I don't know why director Franco was so locked in to the close-up. Or why we get so much footage of Sal Mineo driving through LA in his Chevy Malibu. Without any dialog or view out the window, this is downright boring. The accompanying torch song (Pink Flamingos?) on the sound track was so loud I had to cover my ears. As for period authenticity, someone should have checked the script: in 1976 people did not use the expression, "You're good to go." - not even the nurse as the health clinic.
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