The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

This is the place to talk about films from around the world.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Postby R6dw6C » Mon Nov 05, 2007 4:23 am

I don't know if a review is expected to open such a thread. But I was puzzled (though IMDb says that it only opened limited in the US) that there is no thread for Andrew Dominik's incredible Film in existence yet (although arsaib noted it as one of his favourites from the TIFF, if I recall it right).

What I expected:
A nice, patiently told western, loaded with mild pathos, some Kitsch, overall a film definitely worth to be seen.

What I got:
I would call myself a passioned enemy of Hollywood - at least, the Hollywood of the last 15 years. I'm most shocked and amazed;-) that my probable favourite in 2007 is a child, born by the "dream factory" (though not a usual Mainstream flick at all, sure). It was patiently told (aspiration over aspiration), but it was much more than nice.

Blown out as I still am - I just returned from the cinema - and limited in my english skills, It will be quite hard to quote something adaequate (my head is almost aching of Ideas for a german review but I don't dare to write one:-( but I'll try:

Even in the beginning of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" it is immediately clear that Bob Ford (probably one of Casey Affleck's best performances) is a guy who thinks that he brought the wearing of emotional masquerades to perfection - which isn't the case. Jesse James (Brad Pitt, for his performance, the same is true as for Affleck's), his adored hero since childhood days doesn't precisely turn out to be an "Illusion" (At least, not at this point of the film). As soon as both of them meat each other, they start to battle themselves: Who wears the less transparent mask? Jesse feels some kind of pitiful sympathy for Robert and asks him to stay with him and his family for a few days - as a servant.

The following chapter of the film concentrates on the most important people who build up the bridge between Jesse and Bob. When they finally meet up again, the "introduction" (if you want so) is over. What follows is a film about SUCH a mass of things: Personal evolution (both of Bob and Jesse), Repression of self doubt (is such a word in existence?), Loneliness in a community, being a follower but also superior yet, about feeling guilty (and the many different faces of this feeling), about the disposition of self-contempt, distress about dependence and so much more. And though this suggests an explosion, the film stays quite, calm and patient at every minute, every cut and every image.
Maybe, all of this sounds silly or facile, but I can't express myself much better in english, sorry.

The film was worked out great - the acting (I was surprised a lot about the two leading actors, especially Brad Pitt - though I had to watch it german dubbed again - Warner is quite reliable on delivering crappy dubbings), the camerawork (maybe a bit too conventional sometimes but still startling and very deliberate), the music (I am not a fan of Nick Cave but I always liked his music and a lot of it has made its way into the Soundtrack, he also appears by himself as a singer in the end), the editing (there are some breathtaking assemblies during the dialogue and riding scenes), the sound, just almost everything.
The only thing that weakens the film a little bit is the epilogue. I don't think that it was necessary to tell Bob's further development after the murder of Jesse so, well I don't know how to call it, inartificial. But the final sequence was done so great, so meaningful (even in different directions) that the only thing left to say (for me, at least): Bravo. Hollywood, what have you done? You probably delivered me my favourite of 2007, I never even thought of that possibility.

Rated 25 out 25 / 10 out of 10.

Any suggestions, comments? Anybody here who shares my enthusiasm (or not)?

Re: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Postby hengcs » Mon Nov 05, 2007 4:34 am

I am still waiting for it to be screened in Singapore

Re: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 2:47 am

I'm very glad that you started this thread, R6dw6C; there's absolutely nothing wrong with your post/review. And, yes, I was fortunate enough to see this amazing film at TIFF, where it had its N. American premiere (thanks for mentioning that). I'll respond to you shortly. I was considering writing a reveiw myself but now I can easily postpone it for the time being.

Re: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Postby R6dw6C » Sat Nov 10, 2007 3:12 pm

Thank you very much! :) reviews but most of them were pretty disappointing, closing with such strange and/or silly lines like "Bringing a dead genre to the grave one more time" (...) or "Far too long" (...), so I hope for some more contributions here. I tried to persuade A a few times to watch it but he is extremely afraid of the german dubbing, so... I will try to watch it one more time next week with Matalo Matango as it is doing incredibly bad at the german box office and will probably disappear from the theaters very soon.

Were anybody from the crew present at the TIFF? I looked for interviews with Brad Pitt and especially Andrew Dominik on the web but I didn't find a lot. And I will buy Dominik's first feature film "Chopper" very soon, that's for sure.

@ hengcs:

I'm hoping with you!

Re: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Postby A » Wed Dec 19, 2007 6:11 am

R6dw6C persuaded me and Matalo Matango to watch it in the theater. Unfortunately the version we were able to see was poorly dubbed, and the cinemascope was cropped to fit a widescreen theater.

I can't argue a lot of the positive things that have already been written about the film. Right now, I'll justr say that the German dubbing didn't help my enjoyment of the film, but it will probably end up as No.2 on my second best of list for 2007 (my recommendations list, with films that aren't quite personal favorites), in front of such gems as Import/Export, Ilklimler, Last Days, and Away From Her.

But Casey Affleck has imho clearly given the best performance I was able to see this year (and as I already said, i even saw it dubbed).

I'm looking forward to seeing the film again at a local cinema in it's original language version in January. Matalo Matango has somehow persuaded the people to show the film without subtitles (!). I think I will probably be very grateful for this. What I've heard from the American trailer sounded magnificent, and I still get goosebumps every time I watch it.

Here's a link .

Re: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Dec 20, 2007 4:35 am

I regret that I missed your question, R6dw6C. The public screening of this film I caught was attended by both Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck. I wasn't able to stay for the Q&A session, though. Andrew Dominik and a couple of the producers were also in Toronto for the premiere. You can watch the press conference here.

And, yes, don't miss Chopper. I most recently thought of it while pondering Eastern Promises. Eric Bana's performance is quite remarkable.

I find it hard to believe, A, that such a progressive film culture still considers dubbing a viable option.

Re: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Postby A » Thu Dec 20, 2007 3:26 pm

I find it hard to believe myself, but one can hardly deny the facts of life. You should hear the opinions of some of my film professors on this subject. They mostly don't seem to have a real problem with it (and sometimes even seem not to care at all). We watch dubbed films in classes at university!!

In a way, you are lucky that the US isn't interested in foreign films enough to pay any money for synchronisation.

Re: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Postby R6dw6C » Thu Dec 20, 2007 8:16 pm

@ arsaib:

Progressive? Depends on personal preferences, I guess.

Well, you should know that A is extremely harsh regarding dubbings, arsaib! It's true, today dubbings are to be avoided under any circumstances and mostly horrible to listen to, also here (as some people say that German dubbings are the best in the world [?!]). But from the late 50ies to the early 80ies, German dubbings were mostly very good and often fantastic! And no matter how good it is, A always complain about it (the latest exception was Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" which he even loved in its German version). Actually, he's almost totally right but if a dub is good enough to make you forget it's a dub, then it can certainly be accepted. And in the decades I mentioned, the best and most charismatic German Actors did dubbing jobs, so it could be considered as an own "art department" then.
I'm used to it and it would be a pity if I were not - Otherwise I would miss 65% of all theatrical releases - the idea of missing films like "Zodiac", "The Assassination...", "Death Proof" or "3:10 to Yuma" (which I saw a few days ago) on 35mm and the big screen and waiting for the DVDs instead, just because of the dubbings...! It's a hot subject and my apologies are maybe a bit disproportional but it would also be inadequate to judge dubbing that much in general. Maybe it's not totally comprehensible to you american guys because dubbing never really was any good in english speaking areas (imo). Btw, I thought the dubbing of "The Assassination..." was okay, at least, the voices of Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell and Brad Pitt were surprisingly well done. (I did hide a link to the German trailer on top of the thread).
But it's unacceptable to show dubbed films to students, that's for sure. But it's also a matter of fact that the main reason why foreign films are still inherent and important part of commercial German Distribution acts , IS the lack of "Subtitle-Fear" due to dubbings! At least, Hollywood films and Arthouse-films sound the same here. Both a fortune and a disadavantage, certainly.

Let's talk about something else. I'm most jealous, arsaib! Too bad that you've missed the Q&A, I (probably) would've stayed under any circumstances...Do you know if Pitt and Affleck enjoyed working with each other? The depiction of such a complex relationship probably recquires a certain respect. It's a fortune that they didn't cast Shia LaBeouf as originally intended...
I already watched the press conference you linked to - it's really sad that there aren't more informations about the film on the web. It would've been interesting to learn a bit more about Dominik and what kind of person he is (and if he has a new project in advance ) but now, that's just in the hands of Warner who hopefully deliver a Special Edition-DVD loaded with extras. All those great directors... they remain as mysterious icons of cinema.

I'm looking forward to the first viewing of this film in the original version.

Re: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Dec 22, 2007 6:04 am

That's an interesting point, A; definitely something to consider. Recently, Disney spent quite a bit of time and money with the previous two Miyazaki features. Still didn't pay off the way it should have.

A well dubbed film may make you forget, R6dw6C, however I think dubbing not only takes away from the performances but consequently the overall tone of the film also. Having said that, I guess it's better of have the films available than not.

From what I've read, Pitt and Affleck shared a positive working relationship. In fact, Pitt has praised his co-star's performance on numerous occasions, even going so far to state that Affleck truly deserved the acting prize at Venice.

I'm not sure if you've already read this one or not, but here's an interview with Dominik.

Re: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Postby justindeimen » Wed Jan 23, 2008 2:59 pm


The dissipations of facades and masquerades come to the fore in the ponderously titled "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". Jesse James (Brad Pitt) tempers his blood reign over railroads and dusty towns with his guise as charming businessman Thomas Howard, substituting his inherent savagery for normalcy, gunslinging for churchgoing and gang for family. But that life will always be too much to ask from the restless James. A lifetime of cruelty and lawlessness leaves him the desire for martyrdom, one lasting act of infamy. Robert Ford (a pitch perfect Casey Affleck), the sycophantic young upstart to James' gang and driven by his idolatry of his waning hero in James, seeks celebrity in the same way he incites it by introducing himself as a man "destined for great things". The eventual evanescence of this romanticised illusion leads to the nascent of pride and envy. The sudden act of psychosis (arguably by both parties) that leads to the film's key marquee placement triggers the celebrity Ford craves which at once dispels the myth of both men while nonetheless immortalising them.

At a wizened 34 years of age, the fatigued James settles into iconic deification. An outlaw outweighed by the tides of legend and the tales of courage magnified by an audience enraptured by true stories of crime. Notoriety and celebrity bleed into each other. The idea carries a purview of our contemporary cultural import of fame and its cults of personalities. Writer-director Andrew Dominik is careful not to devolve its own overtextualised, and highly subjective mythos into filmic pablum. The attention to detail in the characters is frequently enriched with elements of fatalism until the ruptured fabrics of their environment are revealed through the pas de deux that transpires between James and Ford.

Dominik invokes the most prominent of all betrayals. Ford emerges as a cravenly Judas, slaying the one he professes undying love for. As the borderlines between passion and envy merge and fade into each other, it becomes clear that its plaintive pitch of veneration reaches into a reservoir of psychology gripping the two men from the moment James succumbs to his resurgent vanity. Arched by its metaphysical approach to its cinematography, it resonates the loaded relationship shared between them. The vast Midwestern fields during the 1880s provide the stage as dissonance is contemplated as an inevitable response to treachery.

Literally one long epilogue, Dominik bookends this sorrowful story of endings and beginnings with a credo of blood ties. And at an overextended 160 minutes, the film bears witness to more than just its eponymous killers. Insights abound in its narrative sprawl, from Robert's brother Charley (Sam Rockwell) to Jesse's own kin, Frank (Sam Shepard). Steeped in its own conceptual enigma, Dominik ruminates, very slowly and sombrely on strained dynamics and popular culture. Seeping pathos into a visually extravagant canvas, Dominik tells a brutally honest tale on the price of iconography and opportunely creates an antidote for the balefully emblematic and misbegotten "American Gangster".


Return to Film Talk

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 3 guests