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On Video -- Al Pacino is the old man in the Sea of Love

By Ernest Hemingway

It was the coldest of winter days, the type of day that forces you to remember that outside it is not the dangerous summer, but winter with all its perils and merits. I felt very tired and I knew the night would come soon and I tried to think of other things. I thought of the big pictures, to me they were the gran pelicula, and I knew that I could rent Sea of Love across the street at the local video store.

Sea of Love is the story of a divorced New York homicide detective. In the city streets, where anyone could sense the sweet blood smell, they called him Frank Keller (Al Pacino) because that was his name and all his life the early sun has hurt his eyes. Frank is an old man, thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck, assigned to a serial killing case in which the victim's record player is always playing the old fifties hit Sea of Love. Keller and his partner, Sherman Touhey (John Goodman) soon realize that all of the victims had placed rhyming personal ads in the periodico.

The two men place their own rhyming personal ad, inviting women to a moveable feast, in hopes of landing the killer. They set up meetings at a restaurant with those who answer the personal in order to collect fingerprints of various suspects. They meet many women, and are able to print all but one, Helen Cruger (Ellen Barkin).

By accident, as if accidents were possible, Helen and Frank become lovers. She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly and such women that love, dipping and fiercely, with their small sad voices are made too delicately for the city. Somehow they find passion. Like an angry sea they made love, recalling all the heat of summer and the torrents of spring. At her apartment, Keller notices a copy of Sea of Love and realizes she may be the killer, the matador.

Director Harold Becker understands the hunt. He knows the torment and loneliness Frank must go through to continue his investigation of the murders. Becker presents this man's situation as an excruciating, winner-take-nothing dilemma. Becker's directing brings an element of humanity to the film that is matched only by Arsenio Hall's careful portrayal of the barber, who brings to the role the perfect combination of rhetorical irony and meticulous, light-hearted didacticism.

Like all true detectives, Keller and Touhey are fascinated with that which they must hunt and that which they must kill. "Serial Killer," Keller says, "I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends." The men have a job to do, and everyday they must go out into the city and do the job. "Qu va," Touhey says. "It is what a man must do."

Pacino's face is covered with deep-creased scars from handling heavy cases. But none of these scars are fresh. They are as old as erosions in a fishless desert. We understand his fate, his confusion, and how he is comfortable but suffering, although he does not admit the suffering at all. The intricacies of his character are played out with brilliance. "If the others heard me talking out loud they would think that I am crazy." he says aloud. "But since I am not crazy, I do not care."

In the end, Frank comes face to face with the killer, emerging victorious in a battle that is both epic and not epic. "I killed him in self-defense," Pacino says aloud. "And I killed him well." I do not understand these things, Frank thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live in the city and kill our true brothers.

Ernest Hemingway is a pseudonym for Glen Weinstein `92 and Hank Sawtelle `93 .