June 3, 2009
Commentary: James Gray
I finally caught up with James Gray's The Yards and We Own The Night, after being so enchanted by Two Lovers a few months ago. Perhaps I came at them predisposed, but I loved these movies. Particularly The Yards. Listening to the director's commentary track on that one, I found that Gray quite capably explains exactly what it is that makes his films so good, which when played against the film creates an almost comforting redundancy: he's telling us exactly what he's doing, which reinforces the thrill of knowing that someone is, in fact, doing it, and that it's not some happy accident.
Here's a chunk I found particularly appealing, given my own deference to archetype:
You are always in a struggle to avoid cliche; however, it's very relevant to embrace archetype. Some people go to movies for different reasons. It doesn't mean the reason is worse or the reason is better - but people go to movies for different reasons and some people go to see films for the thrill of the whodunnit. So the dramatic tension for them is the unfolding of events; they don't know what will happen next, and the whole joy of the experience is the unpredictability of the story. I must say that this is not important to me, which is something that is probably obvious to viewers of the film. It's not important to me, necessarily, that the film is predictable or unpredictable. In fact, I almost prefer the film to be inevitable, that the unfolding of events in the film proves itself to be something you could have predicted would happen. And in fact, I think that this view of cinema is born out of an entire history of storytelling, because it enables you to get out of the way of the surprise. So what do I mean? If you look at a story like Macbeth, for example, the witches more or less tell you at the beginning what will happen, so that the pleasure of the experience becomes not what will happen, but why it has happened. I think if the joy of the experience is what will happen, it becomes a picture or piece of art with a limited shelf life. That is to say, you watch it once and you find out what the answer is, and then you can't watch it anymore. It becomes an irrelevancy. If the question of the film, or the question of the work of art, is why it's happened, then it never ceases to be interesting, one hopes, it never ceases to be about the lives of the people in it. And that, for me, is a higher calling for any creative work.
As for We Own The Night - well, I went into it knowing only that it made Frank Ross so mad he threw his remote control at the TV. Either he's missing something or I am, but by the time the urban setting had devolved into a primal war zone right out of Apocalypse Now, I'd long since been happily sold.
Posted by David Lowery at June 3, 2009 1:08 AM
"We Own the Night" is a terrible, terrible film....but the car chase in it-the ones that's shot entirely inside the car-is BRILLIANT. One of the best car chases EVER I think. Too bad it's embedded in such a crappy flick.
Posted by: don r. lewis at June 6, 2009 2:07 PM
Why is it so terrible? I just don't understand the ire!
Posted by: David Lowery at June 7, 2009 3:53 PM