Monday, 7 January 2008

Jesse James is an impressive film

“The film you are about to see is a very long film. And in its length it acquires, I think, a sort of lyricism.”

This isn’t what I want to hear before I watch a film. But despite the initial scepticism engendered by QFT’s extremely nervous expert and his rambling introduction, I expect The Murder of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to require some beating for the title of best film I see in 2008. And we’ve reached what ……. January the 7th?

The film is a subtle retelling of one of the American west’s most enduring tales. Andrew Dominik’s movie portrays a waning James and deals with the ambivalence of hero worship as well as the complex relationship between assassins and their victims. The besotted assassin Robert Ford’s admiration is tempered with jealousy and he hopes to acquire, in his murder of the Brad Pitt character, some of his fame and notoriety. His infatuation with James is inextricably linked with parallel feelings of hatred and resentment. For his part James is simultaneously drawn to Ford and repelled by him.

Ironically I did not think that the film was too long. It was easy paced and did not rely on a surfeit of shooting or action to unfold its story. Pitt plays Jesse James in impressive fashion, portraying the charisma and compelling charm of the outlaw, but also illuminating the dark and destructive elements of his character. James is seen one moment doting on his daughter and the next is administering a brutal beating to a young boy.

Casey Affleck’s Ford is also subtly drawn. The journey from wide eyed fan to assassin is entirely convincing. The tragic consequences of Ford’s own celebrity form a prescient end to the film which can be read as a parable about fame for modern times.

I know Kloot thought the film rambled on too much and I know others have shared this view, but I do not agree. I found the movie to be visually arresting and thought-provoking.


Anonymous said...

Saw this last night, based on your recommendation. Good film with excellent performances, Affleck in particular. Not in the same league as "The Lives of Others" though or possibly "This is England" for title of best film seen in 2008.

Cherry said...

Keep up the good work.