The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Yet more links to Peter Bradshaw reviews. As is typical, the Christian layering is what leapt out at me most. Jesse James as the American celebrity-Christ. A living counter-cultural myth with the forces of order breathing down his neck. A fraud -- he didn't restrict himself to killing Unionists and he didn't give to the poor. But when did that ever matter? Playing the charismatic but deadly warlord is enough to ensnare the imagination. And people like him don't retire. Suicide, as Charley Ford so ironically tells him, is a coward's way out. So how do you go? How do you kill a god? You have a coward do it for you.

The cheap reenactments, and the religion they perpetuate, are a fake of a fake. Except it always becomes real, if enough people believe it. Charley's act becomes more and more lifelike, but he doesn't have the skill to engineer a glorious end. Bob is assassinated, but he never had a glorious life, ending up as a saloon owner and married to a stripper. And he realises this, and repents, before the end. Maybe his last words were a confession..?

I'm being pretty elliptical (even for me!), but that's kinda the effect the film has on you. It's all long takes, long dialogues, long silences. Oblique but tense. Bradshaw has a problem with the voice-over, but he likes his cinema extreme. I found I needed that comforting familiarity. Otherwise, I don't know if I could have taken the endless chilly exteriors and tormented, crumbling psyches...

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