Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Recommended? Yes?

Usually it's it's easy to recommend something or not, even with qualifications. But I'm now stuck with a movie I have no idea what to with. That movie is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

The rather cumbersome title sort of gives it away, but you won't want to watch this movie for the actions that happen. You won't even want to watch it for the characters, who are pretty opaque and it's often kind of confusing what's going on. In fact, we can go ahead and rule out the dialogue which wanders far too frequently from the poetic to the pretentiously absurd.

But the cinematography is incredibly gorgeous. Light, time, and color all infuse the frame with a certain nostalgic glow more effective at mood crafting than any film since Northfork (a film I highly recommend). The music is a hypnotic, austere minimalist score (cowritten by Nick Cave, which I didn't know until the credits), and augments without distracting that feeling of emptiness and beauty.

But is pure aesthetics enough to recommend a movie (especially one at over two and a half hours)? The things we recommend just on aesthetics often are small- a painting, a poem, a miniature piece by Webern. This requires time, but I think it's time amply rewarded if you pay attention. It's a haunting film, one that left me thinking about its beauty and its flaws. The last fifteen minutes or so, a post-assassination look at Robert Ford's future is certainly the strongest part of the film and ends up refracting the empty landscapes and bleak winter light into a his life.

Everything you read about this film is probably true, good and bad. But for anyone who has thought that something beautiful was over all too quickly, here's your wish.


  • I felt the same way about this movie. I feel like it could work equally well if it was a video installation, projected on a wall somewhere and just continuously playing around the clock.

    By Blogger PMG, At March 13, 2008 at 3:45 PM  

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