music friday: 1982
on this day: better living through chemistry

by request: hostiles (scott cooper, 2017)

The trustworthy Wikipedia defines "Slow cinema" as "a genre of art cinema film-making that emphasizes long takes, and is often minimalist, observational, and with little or no narrative." By description alone, Slow Cinema would seem to be the exact opposite of what I like in movies. I don't like movies that are "too long" (a complaint, of course, that depends on the movie ... I don't complain about how long The Sorrow and the Pity is). I am a slave to narrative. But when I look at Best-Of lists of Slow Cinema movies, I find plenty that I like, often quite a bit. Like Kiarostami's Close-UpOnce Upon a Time in Anatolia, and Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman 23 Quay Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. So, to make an obvious point, if I like a movie, I don't care how long it is.

But if it's not as good as the aforementioned films, I usually find myself thinking about ways the movie could have been shorter, and I get impatient.

Hostiles is 134 minutes long, and there is no reason why it isn't closer to 100 minutes. I liked the movie more than Mick Lasalle did, but I can't resist quoting him, anyway:

One could say Cooper takes his time, but that would be understating the situation. Better to say that Cooper makes Liv Ullmann look like Michael Bay. Have you ever seen a movie directed by Liv Ullmann? If it’s subtitled, you can watch it on fast forward and not miss a single nuance. Cooper is even slower than that. Characters think before they talk. They think a long time. They think before they ask a cliched question — such as: How did you feel the first time you killed somebody? And then they think forever before answering: Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

Scott Cooper is after something in Hostiles ... it's not like he turned in a 90-minute movie and the studio added 45 minutes behind his back. He wants the audience to slow itself down to the pace of the film, and he succeeds. He also tosses in the occasional violent scene to wake us up. And there is an underlying existential feel that didn't do anything for me, but which seemed to impress some of the people with whom I watched the movie.

It looks beautiful, and while the actors tend to muzzle their emotions, Rory Cochrane manages to effectively express melancholy (plus, it's Rory Cochrane! In a beard!). But it's awfully long for something so submerged.

 

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