One review and six previews of this weekend's upcoming flicks.
"I often describe the movie as an old folk song." Coming from a mainstreamer like J.J. Abrams, this insight might sound like a line, but from the mustachioed mouth of David Lowery, the young, focused filmmaker behind the languorous new romance Ain't Them Bodies Saints, it explains a lot. Saints, which stars current studio hotshot Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, begins in a hail of bullets, as two lovers, Bob and Ruth, hole up in a rickety farmhouse, pinned by police. Though such brief moments of action and violence pop and sizzle over the film's 105 minute running time, most of it is spent riding currents loneliness and longing as the two pine for their reunion after Affleck escapes from jail.
Over the phone, Lowery told me how Saints, his first big-budget feature, started to crystallize. "Casey Affleck sent me an email and said that he really wanted to take this journey with me." Once his top two choices for the male leads in the film, Casey and Ben Foster (Rampart, X-Men) were signed on, everything fell into place in short order. "I think it was just that perfect storm that allowed it to happen," he said. Abetted not a little by the musical lilt of Affleck's Boston-by-way-of-Walken accent, he's crafted a film that holds true to his musical intention. "I love listening to him talk," he says of Affleck. There's a certain intangible aspect to Affleck's portrayal of Bob, a unlikely mix of distance and presence, that he's carried with him his whole career–Lowery first saw it in Gerry, a film he loves; it took me until Gone Baby Gone to pin it down.
Lowery, primarily an editor with only one other full-length credit to his name, has lent his skills to marquis indie names like Amy Seimitz ("The Killing") and is more than a little responsible for the elliptical, infinite feel of Upstream Color, Shane Carruth's contested follow up to cult hit Primer. In Color, and in other rough gems like Andrew Brotzman Nor'easter (available via amazon's instant watch), you can see the style that informs Saints crystalize--a lyrical wash with little concern for narrative time but much emotional resonance.
Cormac McCarthy, who Lowery's cites as his favorite author, is never more than cut away from Saints' skin. With its emphasis on the naked mundialities of American rural living and Texas Gothic bent, it might be the best Cormac McCarthy book never adapted (with deference to PT Anderson's still breathtaking There Will Be Blood). "He's had a tremendous impact on me," Lowery says of the "All The Pretty Horses" author. "If I came to a point where I felt like I was going down a path particularly well-trodden, I'd go somewhere else." True to his promise, Saints takes us somewhere we've never been before, if only in flashes. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Sundance Kabuki.
Cutie and the Boxer –This cute but far-from-contrived doc inspects the tumultuous relationship between charismatic Japanese action painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko, an artist in her own right. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Opera Plaza Cinemas.
The World's End –The latest lark from the Shaun of the Dead team finds Pegg and Frost on an epic pub crawl injected with a healthy dose of action, Sci-Fi buddy gags and Happy Mondays tunes. See our interview here. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. AMC Van Ness, others.
You're Next–The SFIFF-screened horror romp from director Adam Wingard (V/H/S) starts a bit wobbly, but blooms into an innovative indie slasher once heads start rolling. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. AMC Van Ness, others.
An Estranged Paradise–Contemporary Chinese master Yang Fudong gets a retro this and next month at PFA. It kicks off Thursday with Jim Jarmusch-referencing An Estranged Paradise, notable not only for its quality but for its amazing scenes of mid-90s China. Director to attend. PFA, Berkeley. Thursday 9/22 Only.
Psychadelicatessen–Oddball presents an assemblage of their favorite psyched out tidbits including censored film clips, surreal auto antics and a devilish trip to the dentist. Oddball Film + Video, Thursday 9/22 only.
Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie–Catch an early screening of the upcoming Magnolia pictures doc about the relentless, riveting progenitor of the modern gonzo talkshow. Director and others to attend. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael. Monday 9/26 only.