Venice Home |  The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Venice Home | The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford


Andrew Dominik comes to turn on the electricity Venice Festival as well as “Blonde,” his adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel inspired by the life of Marilyn Monroe. It has been many years since the director started non-script work. One of his last works in this genre started in 2007, with Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck. “The Assassination of Jesse James and the Coward Robert Ford” is a neo-western that also competed in Venice, where it won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor (Pitt). Outside of the festival circuit, the film received other top honors, including Oscar nominations for Best Motion Picture (Roger Deakins) and Best Supporting Actor (Affleck).

“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is a wonderful title, but it can also be interpreted as misleading. Contrary to what one might think, Andrew Dominik’s film is far from being a dry dramatization of historical fact, or a sensational gesture that prioritizes a bloody spectacle. The film is neither one nor the other, serving more as a study of male identity, perhaps a general reflection on the western genre and its mythology. Of course, in order to understand these things, it is important to consider how Dominik sets up the title scene.

©Warner Bros.

The main action of the film begins in 1881, more than half a year before the death of Jesse James. The idea of ​​a distant and ancient West, full of adventure and undiscovered lands, was fading and with it the cowboy as a living legend also died. In this regard, Dominik’s film borrows some of its tone from John Ford’s best films, such as “The Dominators” from 1949. Instead of enjoying this transitional period in Technicolor mourning and autumn colors, “The Murder by Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford” is colder and more open to sentimentality.

In other words, the borders were already as they were in 1881 and the winds of change came to change the concept of power in the region. Not only a political and economic force, but a powerful image in American culture. In the name of a world called civilization, lawless lands were tamed, a process in which Dominik is subjected to a kind of postmortem. The western world seen in this film is already a corpse ready to rot once the ice of winter leaves the heat of summer. But the same division does not erase the story. If possible, by cutting a scalpel over a lifeless body, the mythological innards are freed. In fiction, the original truth is discovered.

One of the most interesting aspects of this effortful diversion, between criticism and respect, is the use of voice-over narration. We are always aware of action as History and as myth, past truth transformed into a story that is passed on orally. the narrator is not a character and not divine, being something close to an avatar for Dominik, which thus creates a block for the viewer’s investment. For this self-aware myth to work, some detachment must exist and the appeal of linguistic antiquity is the perfect method to achieve the intended result.

We always know that filmmakers do not intend to create a docudrama, but lies on celluloid – there is an umbilical cord that connects the west with a film about Marilyn Monroe. It is not only the narratives manifested in dream voices that give us this idea. The entire soundtrack, composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, alternates between the fantasy of historians and the modern style, an interpretation of the past that always emphasizes its parallels. Roger Deakins’ stunning cinematography is a miracle that has no words, enhancing the story of this icon and his killer in the colors of dirty snow and theatrical lighting.

The murder of Jesse James criticized
©Warner Bros.

An entire book could be written on how Deakins and Dominik evoke the idea of ​​mythology, from the use of optical manipulation to the sound of vintage cameras looking at the characters. On top of this craft, this story of ancient power has something biblical, something universal – a boy wants to know his hero, he wants to be his hero, and he kills his hero. This act is sanctioned by human rights, but the waves of narration distort his soul. Thus the hero Jesse James is modified until he emerges as a complex figure, played by Brad Pitt with distance, and dislike. Robert Ford, on the other hand, is a terrifying figure, portrayed by Casey Affleck in the performance of his life. That said, all the actors are brilliant. In fact, there is no faltering element in this movie theater, resulting in a work that is polished and shiny, like a celluloid diamond.

“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is available at HBO Max. You can also rent movies from other services like Apple iTunes, Google Play, Youtube, and Rakuten TV.

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