Fantastic Fest got started a day early this year with a surprise screening of Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The screening was hosted by Dominik and Casey Affleck, who stars in the film alongside Brad Pitt, Sam Rockwell and Sam Shepard, among others.
The Assassination is awfully lengthy and slow, but ultimately worth the time spent. For a western, it’s not incredibly exciting or gritty–I might even describe it as “dreamlike” or melancholy–but its glacial pace is completely necessary to telling the story, I think.
Rather than make James out to be a hero, as most James-based westerns do, the film instead focuses on his friends and family–particularly the man who would eventually shoot him in the back, Robert Ford. And being semi-poor southern folk from the 1800s, the characters aren’t particularly wordy–so most of the story is told through body language, movement and tone.
There are some great performances in there… you just have to be willing to wait for them. I personally like Casey Affleck a lot, and I hope his turn in Gone Baby Gone is as good as his performance here. Brad Pitt and Sam Rockwell are also great, and I was excited to see a short appearance by Nick Cave (who wrote the music for the film along with his longtime Bad Seeds cohort Warren Ellis).
So it was a fun night overall–and this is only the first surprise of the festival. There’ll be four more big time secret screenings, and if any of my hunches are right, we’re in for a completely amazing festival.
I’m really digging the new Band of Horses track “Is There a Ghost”. It’s a bit short, and a bit repetitive.. but man is does this band sound great. Everything All the Time was easily in my top 5 records last year–it’s a record I just can’t seem to overplay. And I’m hoping Cease to Begin will be just as good.
[Band of Horses on Myspace]
On Thursday night, I had a chance to attend a special screening of Charles Ferguson’s Iraq war documentary No End In Sight, hosted by congressional candidate Dan Grant (who is an incredibly nice guy, BTW. Go Dan!).
No End In Sight is different than most anti-war docs, in that the interviewees are mostly folks who were involved in planning, executing, or cleaning up after the initial invasion–most of whom tried to bring some level of sanity to the proceedings, but were either ignored or expelled by the administration.
There is very little new info here–the film simply describes a series of well-known events as they happened in 2003. But somehow, seeing the events set out so clearly, and with such a steady eye, is both startling and maddening.
It’s a deeply depressing film for a lot of reasons, but the most horrific part is the realization that a very small group of people (I was going to say “cabal”, but that implies that they knew what they were doing in some regard) are in charge of such a massively important undertaking. What’s also shocking is that these people have so very little experience making these kinds of decisions, and that they have almost no short-term accountability for their actions.
I’m not sure what kind of release this film has right now, but I recommend going to see it if you can. I know for sure it’ll be at the Alamo South Lamar until the end of this week.