The Just Best | by Mayuto Correa

Nov/09

16

Robert DeNiro: Best Actor

Robert De Niro is a super actor. Writing about a super actor is hard because every word comes out as a repetition and the intended enface or punch line seems empty. I will rely on some facts of De Niro’s brilliant career which started in 1965, with “Three Rooms in Manhattan” in an uncredited role as a client at the diner, written and directed by French laureate film maker, Marcel Carné. It seems that very little is known about De Niro’s participation in the film and Mr. Carné’s death in October of 1996 leaves us without the chance to know his impression of that young and promising genius he hired to just seat at his diner. Knowing De Niro’s dept we can imagine how much he extended the range of that small part, through his precise dose of emotion injected in the character, making it real and unforgettable. He is a kind of actor you can go into a theater counting on. Even if the film sucks, you have De Niro to grab your attention with his absorbing dynamic, which leaves no time to blink the eye.

That is what he did, so far, in every film he made – small or big – he is, always, big. Obviously, he was noticed by everyone, during his fist silent role. In 1968, Brian De Palma hired him for a costarring role in the Comedy “Greetings”. On his second film!? Sorry for my patronizing comment, but in 1968, when the film was made, Director Brian De Palma had already 8 films under his belt and he must have know he was casting a super actor when he gave De Niro a starring role in a Comedy.

De Palma is a master Director and my conclusion is that he casted the new comer, De Niro, for that Comedy’s starring role, because he was a brilliant actor, from the beginning. His naturalness embraces any role with an intriguing perfection that makes one to wonder where that comes from. That was seen by the film community and it was reflected by the string of starring roles he, immediately, got from Directors such as De Palma (The Wedding Party, 1969); John C. Broderick (Sam’s Song, 1969); Roger Corman (Bloody Mama, 1970); De Palma (Hi Mom! 1970); Noel Black (Jennifer on My Mind, 1971); Ivan Passer (Born to Win, 1971) and it never stopped.    

The end of 1960s was an enlightening time for the American people because its subconscious was saturated with more events than what one generation could bear. They needed to unfold and reach out, urgently enough, to catch up with time lost in three wars and pick up the pieces of a golden culture of
dreams that had been, suddenly, dismantled by realistic patriotic heroism: Hollywood. De Niro is a phenomenon of that time and his message, as an actor, writer, producer, director and citizen of the world is clear on why and how good should be done and evil should be avoided.

In Taxi Driver he spelled out terrorism lexicon in the exact way it was done later. The terror inside Travis Bickle was real. It was compressed and ready to explode throughout the film, in a way never seen before, only later – by real terrorists. That film became a master piece by De Niro’s performance. I am not denying any merit from the book, cast or directorial works, what I am saying is that Taxi Driver was a film totally dependent on the central character being driven by a specific rational pattern, combining explosive intensity with subdued and meticulous rage, which is the same as if we combine two other great actors, Humphrey Bogart with Peter Lorre. There are many great actors, but De Niro is several great actors combined in one. No other actor could do justice to that role.

He is the kind of actor impossible to be categorized – from a Comedy to a choking drama; from a romantic epic to a sharp political satire he is totally unpredictable and fascinating. His performance in A Bronx Tale defines the genius he is. That is a film brilliantly written and acted by Chazz Palminteri. Besides directing the film, De Niro plays de role of a buss Driver (Lorenzo Anello). He’s the father of a young boy growing up in the Italian section of the Bronx, New York. The starring role is divided between Palminteri (Sonny LoSpecchio), Francis Capra (younger Cologero ‘C’ Anello) and Lillo Brancato (older Cologero ‘C’ Anello). They play their roles magnificently, in such a way that the Academy Award’s judges had to have hard time to decide not to give the three actors nomination and the respective Oscars.

De Niro played his simple role, simply, as a real buss driver. He didn’t try to make it big or unique. His Lorenzo Anello’s simple role in life was brought to the screen with a dynamic I have seen only in Montgomery Cliff. The film was so strong and so real and had no small part, because the only one was enlarged but contained by De Niro’s dynamic. His Directorial work was superb too. He made everyone look great, in a film which is on my list as one of the best films I have ever seen. America is the home of many master actors. That pantheon is the most exuberant body of talent on Earth, through time. Robert De Niro is the best actor of his life time.
MAYUTO CORREA

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