Review by John Larkin
A BRONX TALE 4K edition is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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I was born in The Bronx at Albert Einstein Hospital on December 5th, 1987 at 3:07 a.m. My parents lived in Mount Vernon, NY but they wanted me born in The Bronx because Einstein Hospital had a very reputable Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit.
Growing up, I first heard mention of the film A BRONX TALE when my Dad recounted to my sisters and me the story of when he first met and interviewed Dr. Howard Garson, who would end up being our family's pediatrician. (Who knew you could go around interviewing pediatricians to see who you liked the best). During the interview my Dad asked Dr. Garson a total non-sequitur: "Dr.... What's your favorite movie?". Dr. Garson replied without hesitation, "A Bronx Tale", and then explained how he had grown up in the exact place and period shown in the film and that the filmmakers captured it with impeccable accuracy. Dr. Garson passed away in 2014. For close to two decades he treated me and my sisters with the utmost professionalism and care and we are forever grateful to have been his patients.
Despite my not growing up in The Bronx, nor during the turbulent era the film took place, I've always felt a strong personal connection to the film, through first and secondhand connections. One of my favorite Italian restaurants in White Plains, NY is Chazz Palminteri's Italian Restaurant. Palminteri owns two locations that I know of and The White Plains location served me the best veal parmesan I've ever had and has an exceptional wait and kitchen staff. I can't recommend the restaurant highly enough.
While I was a student at The School of Visual Arts, I attended the annual student academy awards ceremony, "The Dusty Awards", for the graduating class of 2007. Chazz Palminteri was there as one of the guest speakers. The main theme of his speech was that no one knows everything when you're making a film and that when writing or directing you should always be receptive to your collaborator's ideas. He summed this concept up with one saying he kept repeating: "No one's that smart." It's a mantra I've never forgotten. I had the opportunity to meet him afterwards and tell him I enjoyed his work and his speech.
Now, putting aside my rubbing elbows with Chazz and the excellent veal parm, back to film, which, at its core, is about a father and son and the challenge a working-class father, Lorenzo (Robert DeNiro) faces trying to avoid his son from being seduced by the lure of the gangster street life he witnesses through Sonny (Chazz Palminteri).
Chazz Palminteri wrote the semi-autobiographical play, A BRONX TALE after being fired from his job as a bouncer and hitting rock-bottom in Los Angeles in his early days of being a working actor. The play changed his career forever and attracted the attention of DeNiro who ended up making the project his directorial film debut. DeNiro made it his mission to hold off the financiers that demanded he play the Sonny role, so he could play the father role and Palminteri could play Sonny, as Palminteri did in the play version. The result is one of DeNiro's finest performances, - more against type, understated and not as dominant as the characters he usually plays. There is a scene where he tells his young son, Calogero, who's in the midst of being seduced by Sonny's gangster lifestyle, that it takes more courage to be a working class bus driver every day than to be a local tough guy. It has always moved me deeply. Not that I was ever swayed to the gangster lifestyle growing up, but it makes me think of my father, John Larkin Sr., who worked an honest living as a social studies teacher and coach at Mount Vernon High School for nearly 38 years and had to face courageously, his share of many challenging days.
The son of DeNiro's character, Calogero, called "C" for short, is played with an authentic realism by two different actors - Francis Capra at age nine and Lillo Brancato for the teenage scenes (and the majority of the film). Once C is in High School he begins to fall for a young black girl from the other side of town and the film diverges into a forbidden love story - a kind of 1960's ROMEO & JULIET.
After 35 years A BRONX TALE is as effective and captivating as ever with strong themes of family, community, coming-of-age and love. I was thrilled to finally get my hands on this new 4K release and happy to report that the transfer is beautiful. The film has never looked better with rich colors, deep contrast, and an appropriate level of film grain to maintain its original look.
I had forgotten how much the film relied on the "Jukebox" type soundtrack, playing classic doo-wop and rock songs throughout the entirety of the film. DeNiro was clearly influenced by Scorsese's use of music in GOODFELLAS (1990), but the use of it here is equally appropriate for the style of the film. The songs blast through clearer than I've ever heard them. My favorite scene where music is a standout, involves The Beatles "Come Together", which must have cost a fortune. The strength of the song's bass thumps took my sound system, and me, by surprise with how crisp and full bodied it came through.
As far as extras on the disc, there are two great, brand new full-length interviews with Robert DeNiro and Chazz Palminteri who recount the process of making the film and how they feel about it 30 years later.
Now is the perfect time to revisit, or discover for the first time, this classic film, given a much deserved stellar 4K presentation and release. Purchase a copy on Amazon.com directly from our site by clicking the link at the top of the page.