Archive for November 21st, 2013

jesse 8

By Dean Treadway

The passage of time, and of eras, overwhelms the first frames as cinematographer Roger Deakins aims his camera into the ether, catching time-lapsed storm clouds speeding through the Missouri skies, with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ tick-tocky score sounding like mournful timepieces ringing out the end of one hour, and the beginning of another. We first see Brad Pitt’s Jesse James as a pensive, well-loved 34-year-old family man fervently contemplating his humanity and his concomitant mortality. The eloquent narration–some of the best ever written for a film–begins by illustrating Jesse’s foibles, normalcies, lies, physical flaws, and almost superhuman charisma. Actor/filmmaker Hugh Ross is the unseen narrator, who speaks in third-person as if he were dissecting this tale’s movements with scientific fervor; his serious, folksy voice is perhaps the most important in the movie, because it’s the authoritative voice of human history–the same history that will ensnare and mangle the lives of our two title characters. Writer/director Andrew Dominik, working from Ron Hansen’s novel, laboriously crafts the language of this narration, making it feel like it was cribbed from an 1882 St. Louis newspaper. Even the film’s title–The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford–reads like a bold headline over a story one might’ve consumed the day following Ford’s notorious bullet. This use of antiquated speech, inspired by Hansen’s work, is one of many tricks that Dominik deftly employs as a time-travel devise in this masterful period piece. Often, experiencing this picture’s sights and sounds feels like being hypnotized and transported directly into the heel of the 19th Century. (more…)

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