Visitors to this page are well aware of my hatred of hollywood. i broke a 3.5 year theatre avoidance yesterday for a film i had waited for like children are currently anticipating santa. i cannot imagine a holiday gift more satisfying than the presentation of a disciplined and mature work of art in a nation saturated with insipid schlock that is categorized as "film" or even the baser category of "entertainment".
"No Country for Old Men" is an elegant, spare film. it was the masterpiece i knew it would be if the directors (the coen bros) would stay true to the material; the material being the 2005 novel by Cormac McCarthy, a writer who literally changed my life by pulling the veil from my eyes, removing my last stronghold of innocence while simultaneously arming me with a terrifying but necessary insight; instructing on temporality and the human condition with more authority than a thousand buddhas.
On the most basic level the movie is about hunters and the hunted, order and chaos, the fragility of civilization, and the nature of this world and us in it. There are four main characters: a world weary sheriff, a cowboy welder who makes a bad decision, an insanely competent killer with a memorable physical presence, and a landscape of big sky, deserts, thunderstorms, trailer parks, seedy hotels, dead mexicans and dusty jacked up trucks. The landscape is as critical to the intensity of this movie as the "overlook" was in "the shining".
There is a restraint in the direction that allows an incredibly violent story to unfold quietly and without urgency; the counterpoint to Tarrantino. That leisurely pace intensifies the anxiety and gives the film its sense of realness and authenticity.
A scene early in the movie has our cowboy hunting antelope. Missing the kill shot, he sets into the desert to finish off the wounded creature and instead finds a different wounded animal; a pitbull remarkably out of context. That odd inexplicable change is just one of the gorgeous symmetries to be revisited in another form later, like a rorschach ink blot in a mirror, punctuated with cryptic prophetic statements. It's like the book of the apocalypse only the creatures and signs and wonders are already familiar to us, just reconfigured so they appear fantastical and new.
There is a scene where the cowboy is shot and trying to escape the least of his worries by diving into the river and riding it downstream. the shooters unleash a pit bull to follow him. the cinematography of the two in the river is so beautiful i wished it to never end. it is one of the metaphors for the entire film and the world we created and inhabit. it is coming. it never stops. it never gives up. and if it is finished off, it takes on new life like snakes on medusas head. You can never lay down your sword.
Later after the movie, mr she and i dined in a lovely room and admired a skyline blinking on before a spectacular sunset of clearing rainstorms....one half of the sky dark, the other bright with a promise of clarity tomorrow. there was a sense of order all around us as we watched shoppers enter a mall, drive, park, pay, talk, laugh, showboat about in the current trendy fashions, consumed with texting or compulsively checking the weather channel on iphones, walking safely to their cars and so on. i was reminded of the first scene in the movie where a deputy assures someone on the other end of the phone that he had "it" all under control. a few frames later his boots struggle and fall limp. its anything but under control. and all it ever takes is something or someone who will not cooperate with the construct of moral law. and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
oh. and i did i mention that Tommy Lee Jones is in it? see the movie.
"No Country for Old Men"