Monday, May 27, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance: The Place Beyond the Pines (US 2012).

The Place Beyond the Pines / The Place Beyond the Pines.
    US © 2012 Kimmel Distribution LLC. EX: Jim Tauber, Matt Berenson. P: Jamie Patricof, Lynette Howell, Alex Orlovsky, Sidney Kimmel.
    D: Derek Cianfrance. SC: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder – from a story by Derek Cianfrance and Ben Coccio. DP: Sean Bobbitt. PD: Inbal Weinberg. Cost: Erin Benach. VFX: Method Studios. M: Mike Patton. M excerpts include compositions by Arvo Pärt. ED: Jim Helton.
    C: Ryan Gosling (Luke), Bradley Cooper (Avery), Eva Mendes (Romina), Ray Liotta (Deluca), Rose Byrne (Jennifer), Mahershala Ali (Kofi), Dane DeHaan (Jason), Emory Cohen (AJ), Ben Mendelsohn (Robin).
    Loc: Schenectady.
    140 min.
    Released by Scanbox Finland Oy with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Scandinavian Text Service. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 9, 27 May 2013

Technical specs from the IMDb: – Color – Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 – Camera: Arricam LT, Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, Arricam ST, Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, Arriflex 235, Cooke S4 Lenses – Laboratory: Company 3, New York (NY), USA (digital intermediate) – Negative Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision2 50D 5201, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219) – Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Techniscope (source format) – Printed Film Format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema.

"A place beyond the pines" is the English translation of the Iroquois word Schenectady.

Official synopsis: "An epic crime drama exploring the unbreakable bond between fathers to sons, The Place Beyond the Pines follows four men – two generations – as they fight to overcome a legacy of blood."

"A mysterious and mythical motorcycle racer, Luke, (Ryan Gosling) drives out of a traveling carnival “globe of death” and whizzes through the backstreets of Schenectady, New York — desperately trying to connect with a former lover, Romina, (Eva Mendes) who recently and secretly gave birth to the stunt rider’s son. In an attempt to provide for his new family, Luke quits the carnival life and commits a series of bank robberies aided by his superior riding ability. The stakes rise as Luke is put on a collision course with an ambitious police officer, Avery Cross, (Bradley Cooper) looking to quickly move up the ranks in a police department riddled with corruption. The sweeping drama unfolds over fifteen years as the sins of the past haunt the present days lives of two high school boys
wrestling with the legacy they’ve inherited. The only refuge is found in the place beyond the pines."

AA: In the pressbook Derek Cianfrance tells that he admires Psycho for switching the protagonist in the middle. He also tells that since seeing Abel Gance's Napoléon at film school he has been obsessed with the idea of a triptych film. Stan Brakhage and Phil Solomon were among Cianfrance's teachers. Cianfrance also tells about his own fatherhood and reading Jack London and discovering his "ideas of legacy and the calling back of ancestors".

I have not seen Derek Cianfrance's previous film Blue Valentine which went straight to dvd in Finland. Now I'll make a note to see it.

The Place Beyond the Pines belongs to the current novelistic trend in American cinema. It's a story of two generations: it starts as the fathers' story and ends as the sons' story. It's a story of social classes: the illuminating moment is that of the class justice when the sons face trial for felony drug possession.

More precisely, the movie starts as Luke's story. The turning-point in his "ride of death" is when he realizes he has a baby, Jason, by his last-year fling Romina. Desperate to break out from his vicious circle he becomes a bank robber. When his luck turns he is caught by a cop and dies. The second act (at 45 minutes) is the cop's story. Avery Cross has committed a grave error by shooting Luke first, and his life is changed by his guilt and his determination to make it up. He becomes successful in a dangerous fight against police corruption and in the conclusion he is being nominated Attorney General. The third act (at 90 minutes) starts "15 years later": the drama is about the encounter of the sons, Jason and AJ.

The film is well cast and the performances by Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen are great.

The biggest surprise is provided by Eva Mendes in her heartbreaking role as Romina, the mother of Jason. I have always liked Eva Mendes and thought she would deserve to get better roles. Now she is getting them. Romina is a brave and difficult role, especially memorable in this tale of fathers and sons.

While I like this film very much I am not convinced by its ancestry theme in which Derek Cianfrance tells he was influenced by Jack London. The theme even brings to mind the hereditary obsessions of Émile Zola. But one does not have to believe in such stuff in order to appreciate the movie. It is entirely possible to interpret the "curse" as social.

The visual concept is effective. The basic concept is based on realism bordering on the documentary. There are also impressionistic moments such as the handheld footage of Luke's ride in the forest. The shots of the dying Luke are based on subjective camera. There is effective subjective camera footage also of Jason and AJ's getting high on drugs at AJ's party.

Shot on 35 mm photochemical film, The Place Beyond the Pines has gone through the digital intermediate process, and otherwise it looks fine, but the challenge of the nature footage (important as can be guessed by the title of the movie) has not been resolved very well. I kept thinking why the nature footage fails to impress. Also in traditional film nature can look soft, but here nature looks simultaneously soft and sharp in a slightly disorientating way.

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