Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Bandwagon Proposal

If we must have a cinematic bandwagon, I propose that we have it for The Assassination of Jesse James. Based on the novel by a devout, brilliant, and very-talented Catholic novelist Ron Hansen, the film is truly Catholic. That is, it has matter (profound truthful content) and form (technical and artistic mastery). It is therefore sacramental in the way that art should be.

Anyone who is walking out of Bella theaters full of wonder and delight, I'm happy for you. Be of very good cheer! You can find much more abounding joy in box set editions of Touched By an Angel and Highway to Heaven at your local Walmart. And that may not be bad for you in the long term. (I'd have to know you to make a better guess.)

But anyone who is walking out of Bella screenings disappointed and confused, because the hype didn't seem justified, then you are the kind of person for whom The Assassination of Jesse James is waiting to fill you with wonder and delight....and more gravitas, besides. Go back to the cineplex. Give movies another chance! Buy another ticket before you renounce this art form altogether!

But all anti-Wormwooding aside....

It is an interesting question. Is it possible for Jesse James and Bella to both be great in the same time and aspect? If Bella is great, then what is left for poor Jesse James?

And remember, for Christians, the answer can not be that movies are in the eye of the beholder. The only thing in the eye of the beholder is stuff with which to see or not see.

Such fun we're having this weekend!


s said...

Dear Barbara,

I respect your opinion very much. In fact, as a fellow Catholic media professional, I see you as an inspiration in my own personal life.

However, I do not think that Bella is nearly as bad as you make it out to be. Certainly, it's not brilliant and not deserving of all of the hype, because, as you point out, the movie is rather flawed, especially in its handling of story, but also in some technical ways. But, it is also better than the great bulk of films that are made with bigger budgets every year in Hollywood, if only because it does have a certain confidence in itself. It allows itself to be simple and straightforward, which doesn't always work (it's no Straight Story), but is impressive for a first-time creative crew who do not take the standard immoral Hollywood stance, or at least, suggest that there is a moral code to be dealt with.

I am not sure if you've seen the most recent cut, but I daresay that the biggest complaint that one might have about the movie, in general, is that it is slight. However, there were still plenty of people that I know went into the theatre without great expectations, and who were clearly moved. Maybe they would also be moved by Hallmark cards and Touched By an Angel, but perhaps this speaks to Hollywood's inability otherwise to actually speak to people in a meaningful way in recent years.

All of that being said, I can't wait to see The Assassination..., which I am sure I will like much better.


p.s. I was annoyed that they had the lead actress try to smoke a cigarette when she is clearly not a smoker. Oh, and the video camera footage was supposed, I assume, to be from within the eyepiece, and many cheap video cameras do have black and white displays even today.

Edward said...

Alas, I think I may have missed it playing in Pittsburgh, and now it's nowhere within a reasonable drive. I may have to wait for DVD.