There may be hope for 2008 after all

January 14, 2008

Clapperboard I started the year with scant hope that many or indeed any of my “Eight for 2008” would come to pass. Well, numbers 4 and 8 materialised in short order, and now my hopes for no. 5 have been kindled by the fact that “The Assassination of Jesse James by the blah blah blah” managed only one nomination at the Golden Globes (Casey Affleck for best Supporting Coward Actor) and didn’t win that.

golden globes

The Jesse James film did get me thinking about whether there might be a good example of a slower-paced film that did manage to hold the viewer’s attention. There must be many, but I came upon one shortly after New Year. Someone had recorded “Girl with a Pearl Earring“, the Scarlett Johansson film, on our Sky box, and I watched it with my wife. It has quite a lot in common with The Assassination of Jes… TAoJJbtCRF: great cinematography (in this case inspired by the works of Vermeer), little action, sparse dialogue. Focus on the visuals and on nuances of relationships, more hinted at than spoken. And yet, both my wife and I remained engaged with the film throughout, and very much enjoyed it.

The difference between GwaPE and TAoJJbtCRF is that the former has a clear narrative with sufficient momentum to sustain it. The story is always unfolding, in a rational and persistent way. There were a few moments when the pace sagged a little, maybe too many shots lingering a tad overlong on Johansson’s physiog, but these were the exception. I’m not suggesting that GwaPE is in all ways an exemplary film. I’m merely citing it as a counter-example to TAoJJbtCRF, as evidence that a Director can make a film which is primarily visual and short on action, but still regulate the pace to stop it flagging and tell a coherent story worthy of the filmgoer’s full attention.

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