Sunday, October 07, 2007


It almost grieves me to refer to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford as a "movie". Norbit is a "movie". The Fast and the Furious is a "movie". The Assassination of Jesse James is an opus of modern cinema. If it is not art, then art is poorer for it.

Brad Pitt is mesmerizing as Jesse James and Casey Affleck brings stunning pathos to the historically maligned Robert Ford. In the first act we see James, approaching the end of his career and life, portrayed in stark normalcy - a common and crass man. In the second act, James grows increasingly melancholy, as though finally confronting his own mythology. He has accepted that he is both man and myth, but is unsure where his personal identity falls along the spectrum. In the third act we see Ford, no longer a conniving traitor, but living a parallel to the final years of James - detached and listless, unable to discern how much of his own humanity was sacrificed in the process of becoming a legend.

The cinematography is precise and appropriate to the moment. At times it is bold and vivid, at other times the imagery is murky and blurred. The score, composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, is haunting and seemless. There is no grand percussion or grandiose orchestral refrains - just understated piano medleys that compliment the cinematic perfection without once dreaming of overpowering it.

See this film. See in the theatre. If it is not showing in your town, get in your car and drive to the nearest town where it is showing.