An Evening With Lt. Col. Frank Slade

The past three days have been cold, foggy and rainy in this part of Portugal. Winter seems to be rather reluctant to depart just yet, clinging to us with a vengeance. The cats outside are miserable, the plants love it, but the beautiful fields that were covered with what I thought were already the first signs of spring, are all wet and soggy. So the fireplace is back on duty, and it is time to revive some old favourites, both musical and visual.

“There is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthetic for that.”
– Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, Scent of a Woman

Scent of a Woman Movie Poster
published by Pop Culture Graphics

Scent of a Woman was released in 1992 produced by City Light Films and distributed by Universal Pictures, staring Al Pacino and a very young Chris O’Donnell. I have always been a Pacino fan, fascinated by the depth he brings into his characters, regardless of whether he plays the hero or villain. When I first watched the movie back in 1993, Pacino’s portrayal of the bitter Lt. Col. Frank Spade captivated me, and his tango scene with Donna, played by Gabrielle Anwar was elegant as it was poignant, perfectly executed and directed. It was therefore, absolutely no surprise that Scent of a Woman swept the Oscars that year with Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Director, and best Screen Adaptation.

I was 26 when I first watched the movie, and back then I focused more on the issues that the young Charlie Simms faced (O’Donnell’s character) about integrity, loyalty, peer pressure, risking his future and living up to the standards of a old and well-respected institution. I loved Frank Spade for the tragic hero that he was, but his bitterness seemed too distant and intangible for my taste back then.

Ironically, exactly 30 years later, I found the movie again and was inexplicably drawn to it. This time, I focused entirely on Al Pacino, the nuances of his acting, the depravity of Frank Slade’s soul and the bitterness of having lost something so valuable – eyesight. It moved me to tears and I wished I could have been sitting in that Ferrari next to him, driving through the back roads of New York City. Edgy, gritty, powerful, and yet so gentle and emotional in a way that only Al Pacino can deliver. To think that Jack Nicholson was offered the role initially and he turned it down! I can’t imagine him playing the blind Lt. Col. Slade at all.

“The day we stop lookin’, Charlie, is the day we die.”
– Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, Scent of a Woman

We often get stuck in a rut for whatever reason, but as Frank Slade put it, “If you’re tangled up, just tango on.” Life experiences make all the difference in our outlook and perspective of the world. The years have passed and I learned to take the good with the bad, somewhere along the way, finally understood what pain and bitterness means. Then you reach a certain age and reminisce, yes, regretting a few of our choices with the benefit if hindsight, but never the lessons learned.

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