Jesse James Meets Chopper
February 7, 2008
The new Andrew Dominic film “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is great. I was tempted to put it in my best Oz films of 07 list on Idea Fix… due to the director’s origins, but thought I’d review it separately.
Some critics had their heads up their ass and dismissed this movie in Australia. But I thought it was tres excellente. The direction, mood and sweep of the movie reminded me of Terrence Malick’s Days Of Heaven or Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate . Indeed, these films and filmmakers I’d wager are a large influence on Dominic for this project. But with most Holywood films being a complete sell out in content, direction and style in these dark days of International cinema, I admire Dominic’s balls to make a difficult 70’s art house Western.
Dominic gets a great performance out of Pitt, who is maturing nicely as an actor in his mid forties. The film is stolen though by Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, a brooding loser who basks in Jesse’s celebrity and follows him around. Indeed the film can be read as a musing on celebrity stalkers and people who get their identities from pop culture figures. But the real meaning of the film…yes, in these contentless days this film actually has a meaning…is the sad tragedy of what happens to someone after they loose the illusion of their idol. The last act of James is superb and very powerful as we see Ford making the most of his 15 minutes of fame then slowly fading into obscurity and the abyss. The prelude to this about Jesse James is only a build up to thie brilliant conclusion. The story of a sorry loser, who is assassinated himself, is both strangely moving, profound and touching.
Dominic proves himself a major talent after this and Chopper. Look out for cameo’s by Nick Cave, Michael Parks, Ted Levine and a superb James Carville playing a tough US Governor. Carville as you should know was Clinton’s Hunter S. Thompson style adviser in his election campaigns. Cinematography is excellent by English DOP Roger Deakins.