Saturday, 14 September 2013


Hiatus over! First film for 2 1/2 weeks. (Blame the pussies.)

This oddly-titled film has been generally well received, very well in some cases. (Apparently the title, with no interrogation mark, and immaterial to the film's content, refers to director David Lowery's mishearing of a song lyric.)
Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play lovers who execute a robbery in Texas, the former burying their ill-gotten loot before there's a shoot-out with the law in which she wounds the sheriff, though he takes the rap for it and is sent to prison. He manages to escape, wanting only to reunite with her and their, by then, four year old daughter whom he's never seen. In the meantime she has struck up a sort of friendship, though not a romantic liaison. with the very lawman she wounded, the latter beng ignorant of the truth of what happened, who is hanging around waiting to see if the escaped convict tries to contact her.  Keith Carradine also appears, sage-like, emerging from the shadows every now and then. 'Shadows' is apt because for the most part this is a darkly-lit film, long sequences being nocturnal.
However, the main problem I had lay in a different direction. This is another of those films where so much of the dialogue (I'd say about 80% for me) is inaudible - "mumble mumble mumble". Not knowing what the characters are talking about is bound to mean that one loses a lot of the explanation of the situation they are in as well as missing the motivations for their behaviour. I think that what is at the root of this problem may be that cinemas have surround-sound speakers giving rise to a diffusion of the vocalisations, whereas if they'd been watched on TV or rented for computer play, the sound would be more focussed, even when heard in 2-speaker stereo. Recently there was the TV premier showing of 'The Social Network', another film where in the cinema I just couldn't make out what was being said. I watched the beginning of it on TV and this time didn't have that problem on that scale. (I concede that at my age there is bound to be some deterioration in hearing capacity, though I've yet to be affected by such in everyday situations, such as in face-to-face conversation.) 
To return to this film, for the most part its pace is unhurried. The few scenes of violence are short and snappy without undue lingerings. Comparisons have been made with Terence Malick's 'Badlands' (1973), one of the seminal films of this genre, though I don't recall it being recognised as such at that time. The comparison may stand up, but only partly. From what I could gather there's rather more 'joining up of the dots' required to be done in this new film - or was all that in the dialogue that I missed?
I didn't know the name of director David Lowery before now, though I see he's also edited the new film 'Upstream Colour' which has also had good reviews and which I've got pencilled in to see next month. Could be a name to watch. (Oops! I've just read that 'Colours' depicts the death and physical decay of animals, in this case a pig and its litter of piglets. That's a 'no-no', I'm afraid, so it's now off my intended list.) From his droopy-moustached looks in currently available photos, Lowery could have fitted with ease into a group shot of the 'Village People'. Interesting.

I've a nagging feeling that this is a better film than I'm able to give it credit for. It definitely isn't boring; in fact it's quite suspenseful at times. But with a large part of the means to fully appreciate it missing, possibly not due to the shooting of the film itself, (though it might have been), my final verdict score may be unjust. But as a cinematic experience I award it a......................6/10. 


  1. This film opened in only one theater in my neck-of-the-woods. It also came to "Movies On Demand" on tv and that is where I chose to watch it. Based on your experience, I made the right decision. No problem understanding what the actors were saying. Lowery is quite the talented director and the cinematography was breathtaking. I am certain you would have given this a higher rating if you weren't having the problem with the audio.

    Btw, Get thee to see "Blue Jasmine." In my opinion, Woody's most compelling work.

  2. It was an exasperating occasion, Paul, all the time with a feeling that there was much more to the film than I was getting. To now hear that you had no problem with the sound makes it even more frustrating in retrospect.
    I'm also surprised that you found the photography 'breathtaking'. If it was then that was something else that missed me because I found much of it being so dark that at more than one point I wasn't even sure who were the interacting characters.
    I suppose all this highlights a disadvantage in going to the cinema alone - it must be something like 25 years since I last went in company - I have no one to ask if they shared my difficulties. I often wonder if others in the audience have a similar experience to me, but are reticent to say anything about it. Or, it could be, that I should start thinking about winding down the frequency of my visits as really rewarding experiences seem to be getting ever rarer.

    But 'Blue Jasmine' is a must. I think it opens here next week or the week after. All I've heard about it has been very positive and the snippets I've seen look good. I'll see anything at all by Woody Allen. Even at his worst (and there have been a significant number of these in recent years) he has a unique power to pull me in. And now with your endorsement I can hardly wait to see it.