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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

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Take a look at the new trailer for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Could the nods to Malick be any more obvious?

Could Casey Affleck be on his way to surpassing his brother and becoming the Great Affleck?*

Could this be as good as the trailer makes it look?

I can't wait.


(I don't know that I'll ever see that guy without thinking, "That's the guy with the... um... attachment to a baseball glove in Good Will Hunting.")

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Yeah I would agree that many of the shots included in the trailer seem to be inspired by Days of Heaven. Also, there is a shot in there where Jesse James is running his hands through the wheat which is almost an exact take from Gladiator. I find it funny how the more you watch movies, the more you pick up how unoriginal so many shots are.

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Much of this film was shot about 10 minutes from my house at Fort Edmonton Park, a historical reproduction of early Edmonton. It's a great place for families to spend time -- we've had an annual pass more than once. It will be an extra reason for me to see this.

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: Could Casey Affleck be on his way to surpassing

: his brother and becoming the Great Affleck?

Um, dude, he's always been. (Not that it takes much work, given the competition.)

Dale

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The Associated Press:

At the heart of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" lies an obsessive, destructive relationship between two disparate yet oddly similar men. One eventually will kill the other.

Yet this fascinating relationship gets smothered in pointlessly long takes, repetitive scenes, grim Western landscapes and mumbled, heavily accented dialogue. The self-indulgence begins with director Andrew Dominik and infects much of the cast, who deliver meandering, unstable performances. Instead of contemplating the moral dimensions of novelist Ron Hansen's portrait of outlaw paranoia and obsession, a viewer can only think of waste -- the waste of good material and themes, a talented cast and, most crucially, the viewer's own time.

Jeffrey Wells responds to Poland.

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Karina @ Spoutblog:

Two weeks ago, The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford was the film Warner Brothers had "no idea what to do with." As of this writing, it's the most gushed-over title at the Toronto Film Festival, and word has hit the wires that star Brad Pitt has won the Best Actor prize at the Venice Film Festival. If the folks at WB still havn't figured out what to do with Andrew Dominik's masterful, Malickean tragedy of celebrity envy, they probably don't deserve to have their name on it. . . .

In other words,
Jesse James
looks like a painting and plays like an epic novel. There are immediate pleasures to be found in the cinematography and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' eerie score, and in the sexy, comic subplot touched off by a character named Dick Liddil's inability to keep his namesake in his pants. But otherwise, it's likely the most "difficult" film produced with Hollywood money and starring an A-list star since Eyes Wide Shut. It demands repeat viewings, and as such, it'll either be a massive commercial failure, or it'll touch off a new wave of American cinephilia. I guess it's clear which option I'm rooting for.

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Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' eerie score

:shock:

=D>

Exactly. After the scary/brilliant score for the Proposition, I'm ready for more.

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Wildly mixed reviews for this one so far, but I like Andrew Sarris:

But not to quibble, the extraordinary expressive performers, male and female; the haunting interior and exterior conflicts; the painstaking authenticity of the period detail; and the subtly modulated mood shifts all combine to make a modern masterpiece of an old legend. All in all, Assassination is the most compelling piece of psychological drama you are likely to see in this moviegoing year. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Affleck are well worthy of Oscars. Perhaps they can share one together.

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Armond White:

The entire film is a conceit. It signals Dominik's intention to reproduce the now-vaunted postmodern aspects of '70s moviemaking -- those great westerns by Peckinpah, Aldrich, Altman, Penn and Hill. Yet, while recalling the comically extended title of Robert Altman's great 1976
Buffalo Bill and the Indians, Or Sitting Bull's History Lesson
-- where Altman used Paul Newman's star power to analyze the beauty and terror of American showbiz and gangster legend -- Dominik stops short of true revisionism. He uses Brad Pitt's iconography without the inquiring skepticism of Altman's satire. Instead, Dominik merely swoons over Pitt/Jesse, entrapped by macho mystique.

This all might have worked had Pitt exuded more personality -- like his sexy swagger in
Fight Club
or his romantic glow in
Meet Joe Black
. Pitt's not a strong enough actor to make the enigma of a pathological killer compelling. He lacks the feral menace that Eric Bana brought to Dominik's 1999 Australian real-life killer thriller,
Chopper
. Dominik treats Jesse James as a mythic figure, idolizing criminality as an American essence and mistaking this personal enthrallment as something profound. . . .

It is the film's crystalline photography that reveals Dominik and Deakins mostly had specific 1970s landmarks in mind: They facetiously copy the arty naturalism of Terrence Malick's
Days of Heaven
and the pop-artiness of Coppola's male soap opera,
The Godfather
. But Dominik's script lacks Coppola's narrative drive. The comprehensible human tragedies that Jesse James and Robert Ford left to history are glossed over by too much surface elegance and not enough substance. While Dominik emulates the last great period of American filmmaking innovation (with its complex examination of social tradition), his movie still seems remote from what motivated those artists who set out to investigate the national legacies they inherited.

Dominik plays that Tarantino-generation game of moral detachment; he's excited by the display of violence in cultural forms from pulp movies to grindhouse movies. But that idiot-savantry -- romanticizing Jesse James and Ford's sickness -- is a way of inflating his own adolescent silliness. There's a tremendous gap in Dominik's film knowledge: He doesn't know -- or understand -- the transforming postmodernism of Walter Hill's 1980 historical myth,
The Long Riders
. When Hill's Robert Ford (Christopher Guest) aimed his gun at his idol and pronounced, "I Shot Jesse James," it also evoked American mythology (including the title of Sam Fuller's 1949 feature) to the nth degree. Dominik does little more than recreate the fake, burnish historicism of
Road to Perdition
. . . .

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Dang. I just remembered to place a hold on the library copy of the book on which this movie is based, but I'm late: I'm number 20 in the holds queue, which means the only way I'll get to the novel before the movie releases is if I buy a copy. Not gonna happen.

But Ron Hansen is an amazing writer. His Mariette in Ecstasy and Atticus are two of my favorite novels.

Has any review of this film commented on whether the tone and pace match the book? Not that I've seen, although I haven't read every review of the movie so far.

Edited by Christian

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SDG   
Has any review of this film commented on whether the tone and pace match the book? Not that I've seen, although I haven't read every review of the movie so far.

I've only read excerpts from the book, but from my reading the film is remarkably faithful to the book, with the glaring exception of some graphic, explicit obscene dialogue in the first scene, which AFAICT corresponds to nothing in the book. (A later, offscreen sexual encounter in the film is taken from the book, and is filmed very much as written.)

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SDG, you've seen it?! PM me! The screening's on a very busy week for me, and I'm trying to decide whether to rush out and see it, or wait until later.

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SDG   
SDG, you've seen it?! PM me! The screening's on a very busy week for me, and I'm trying to decide whether to rush out and see it, or wait until later.

You have a screening tonight? My wordcount-limited review is up at NCRegister.com. The unexpurgated one will be up on DF tomorrow. No time to PM, but you can call me at home if you want.

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No, my screening's on October 1. And that's during a very busy week.

SDG, you've seen it?! PM me! The screening's on a very busy week for me, and I'm trying to decide whether to rush out and see it, or wait until later.

You have a screening tonight? My wordcount-limited review is up at NCRegister.com. The unexpurgated one will be up on DF tomorrow. No time to PM, but you can call me at home if you want.

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Oh, wow, I haven't seen this comparison made elsewhere, and it hadn't occurred to me, but if anyone here remembers the long-running A&F avatar I once had, and my expressed admiration for the film in question, you'll understand why my excitement over Jesse James is building, even as I try to keep it in check.

Perhaps its closest antecedent is Walter Hill's underrated Wild Bill, another story of an outlaw who had the misfortune of being a legend before his death, thus inviting fame-seekers to strike him down. Both films derive a sick sort of tension from the inevitable, as their paranoid anti-heroes wait for an end that they seem to know is coming.

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Christian wrote:

: Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: : No, my screening's on October 1. And that's during a very busy week.

:

: That's also the date of my screening.

I still don't have a clue when there will be a screening in my own neck of the woods. Bizarrely, I have now received TWO press releases announcing that the film opens in Toronto today and in Calgary on October 5. But Vancouver? I asked, and was told they had no info yet.

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Christian wrote:

: Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: : No, my screening's on October 1. And that's during a very busy week.

:

: That's also the date of my screening.

I still don't have a clue when there will be a screening in my own neck of the woods. Bizarrely, I have now received TWO press releases announcing that the film opens in Toronto today and in Calgary on October 5. But Vancouver? I asked, and was told they had no info yet.

As I mentioned earlier (I think), the announcement a week or two ago about the Oct. 5 opening in D.C. stressed that there still wasn't a date for a broader release.

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Well yeah, but Vancouver typically gets films before Calgary does, not the other way around. Maybe they just don't want it to conflict with the film festival going on here. Then again, why aren't they SHOWING it in the festival? It's a Warner Brothers film, and Warner has been on good terms with the VIFF for years, near as I can tell.

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Barbara Nicolosi:

I think "casting James Carville" is going to replace "jumping the shark" as a new euphemism for doing a stupid thing just because you can.

That's a funny line. I thought Carville's line-reading was fine, but everyone in the audience tittered when he was introduced. Everyone. That can't be good.

The other misstep in the film had to do in almost everything in the movie after Jesse James gets killed. They were rushing around trying to do to much and ended up splashing the subtext all over the page.

Really? Those extra minutes clarify and expand upon themes of celebrity and entertainment. I thought they were stronger than the climactic sequence described in the title. Maybe I'll think differently tomorrow.

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