starring Benjamin Bratt, Giancarlo Esposito, Talisa Soto, Nelson Vasquez
written and directed by Leon Ichaso
by Walter Chaw The problem with disconnected narratives and the (empty) conceit of alternating film stocks of equally shoddy quality is that what is intended as evocation of the character's grimy chaotic shiftlessness can come off as cinematic smoke and mirrors. Was Miguel Piňero a poet of the devil's part or was he just a scrapper in rat's alley? The answer is a difficult one. Like most third world or disadvantaged artists, Piňero acquisitioned the art of the ruling class: Of the three poems recited in their entirety over the course of Leon Ichaso's scattershot biopic Piňero, the first of them hijacks Percy Shelley's 1819 "Ode to the West Wind" (in its shift from Shelley's "withered leaves to quicken a new birth" to Piňero's "candy wrappers in the wind") and the last of them Longfellow's "My Lost Youth." The purpose of that reinvention is, of course, to take on, like Yeats's Leda, the power of the representational tradition of that with which one would prefer to be equated. Failing that, it makes a Basquiat pop-art impression to subtly pervert familiar images--an instant credibility from an almost parasitic revisionism of which Ichaso's film seems to suggest Piňero was self-aware. Regardless of Ichaso's insistence, I still harbour doubts as to the Nuyerican poet's artistic self-knowledge and his long-term viability as a compelling literary voice.