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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – 2007 Dominik
- Known at the time as a tumultuous shoot, box office bomb, and for being treated indifferently by the critics (68 on mc) it is now, rightly, known for being a masterpiece and one of the best films of the decade
- There is a folkloric importance or substance to the film
- Both Casey Affleck and Brad Pitt are revelations in the two leads, often paralleled and compared, and formally, beautifully woven together with dueling executions (both involving Affleck’ Bob Ford)
- It’s simply Roger Deakins’ greatest work. He’s practically came out and said as much about the night scene with the train robbery. See pic above. It’s one of the most beautiful cinematic sequences and images I’ve seen
- The casting of the two leads is inspired. Pitt is a celebrity—a big celebrity- and this role/performance calls for someone of size— also, Affleck is the shorter, less handsome and less famous brother of Ben Affleck. It’s perfect.
- Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ transcendent score is every bit the equal of Greenwood’s genius in there will be blood. One of the greatest scores of all-time
- Sweepingly atmospheric exterior photography- largely in Canada I believe- Alberta
- Cleary Dominik is inspired by Malick amongst others- most notably days of heaven with all the wheat scenes, natural lighting choices and clearly the Sam Shepard casting is a nod to that
- The documentary-like voice-over (with heavy adjectives from the era) from outside the world of the film seems to have divided some critics—I’m an admirer of it.
- Blurred lens in the montages—almost like a vaseline-used on the lens to create a focus on the center image- it’s formally sound where and when it’s worked in
- Pitt is elusive and terrifying. He’s always teetering on the edge. Filled with melancholy and obsessed with death
- Affleck’s Bob says to “Jesse” “how long you been studying me”- which is ironic of course
- The cast is a talented ensemble—it feels like a who’s who now with Renner and Rockwell. Paul Schneider is great, Michael Parks and Ted Levine in a flawed sequence with Carville
- It’s hard to find a two-person character study this good
- Many critics complain of the length of the film—and it is paced—but I don’t think there’s much wasted at all and at the very least you’re treated to some of the best photography and music you’ll see or hear
- Meditation on celebrity, obsession
- Again, the train arrival sequence deserves a 10 page paper. It’s a perfect orchestration of lighting, score, editing. It’s absolutely masterful.
- Series of freeze frames with voice over in the ending
- Part of me wonders if this is the sum of magnificent parts (beautiful score, all-time work from an all-timer DP like Deakins, dueling performances worthy of such praise) or if Dominik is the force behind it all? I hope he continues to work so we can find out.
- A masterpiece