Sunday, November 18, 2007

A picture (a review).

For you, a picture:
There’s a man, walking under the unwavering glare of the Sun in the Sky. His feet scuff quietly in the shallow yet always swirling dust, kicking up tiny clouds around his feet that mean nothing to anyone but him. If you could hear him, his breath would be hot and labored, coming out in staccato bursts that do nothing in the desert expanse. The man, he’s alone. The man, he’s cold.

Under the unwavering eye of the Sun in the Sky, he’s freezing.

His heat is leaving him, erupting in a steady series of gobs that force their way out despite the pressure of his fingers, the pressure that steadily wanes as the heat, the heat of him, the heat of him draws dark patterns on the dryness of the dirt. He hasn’t got long. Not long before his legs go slack, bringing him crashing down with a tiny, but thunderous echo; not long before the legs eventually stiffen, his glassy eyes fading to black with nothing beautiful before them other than the swirling dust pecking at his face.

It’s cold. But it isn’t strange.
It’s the world.


No Country for Old Men is cold. That much is certain.
And certainly, it’s not without precedent. Them there splentacular Coen Bros. have provided us with a multitude of offerings over the course of their filming years, films that have been funny and sad and violent and verbose and lengthy and quiet and dismal and sordid and random and obtuse. And yes: they’ve given us a wealth of things that were cold. Warm blood dripping itself icy on hardwood floors; cold sweat running down foreheads as a man dragged a corpse from the light; feelings that shatter like glass as a man with a gun in his hand dismisses emotion in order to do what must be done; something moving within us, as we see a daemon force his way down a the halls of a building consumed by angry fire; and of course, dismal landscape of blistering white, enveloping everything with truly, truly oppressive nature. Truth be told, when looking towards this New Country for Viewing Wo/Men, there are many similarities to be found.

There they are, in the quiet, and in the loud. In the spaces wide and cramped. In the worlds those Brothers have built under the Sun in the Sky.

But this…

This is different.
Even though it isn’t.
Because it is.

The differences come, and we don’t feel the same. We feel shamed and frightened and invigorated and tense and alive. We feel different. Because of the cold.

It affects us, as we sit there in the dark. Away from the light of the Sun in the Sky.
We sit down, and we watch. There they are, a small pack of people revealing themselves in full through the course of their methodology. And they do, you see. Lives and pasts, unfurling before a transfixed audience without exactly being explicitly stated, instead only being expressed by the manner in which they do things, and the way that they seem to bend down and touch the world with their fingers, as if they were looking to feel a pulse. It’s strange to me, thinking about that. Because we never seem to learn for sure. But we learn that they try to feel.

They feel cold and alone on our warm, lonely planet.
They don’t feel lonely.

They are alone.
We know this, as they discover this. We can see it in their faces: The horrifying smile of the monstrous Anton Chigurh, knowing enough to accept the ways of Chaos and the altering paths of Choice. The stoic features of Llewellyn Moss, locked in acceptance of a possibility, while still holding a silent hope -- a belief -- that there is a chance of weary absolution on the face of the Earth.

And there is the face of the Sheriff, looking as if he wants to cough the bitter taste of the world from the corners of his mouth. That’s it. That’s what he wants. He wants a sense of knowing, something for him to comprehend, something for him to believe in. A man terrified by the choices made by the Sun in the Sky. A more pleasant way of saying that there is nothing but the heat and expanse. Choices made by nothing but Chaos.
No, not lonely.


When I sat in my seat of this film for the first time, watching the credits roll in their quiet way, I heard a man speak these words from behind my head:

You gotta be a genius to figure this one out.”

Such words are ones that I will never really understand. Because while this film is never easy, it is certainly never difficult. It knows what it wants, and it knows what it wants to say. Sketching marks of cold across the screen with the same deliberate methods of its characters, letting us know all that we need to know. All that we need.
Not what we want. What we need.

When it was over and done with, I looked down at my hands and saw that they were trembling. Something so slight that it wouldn’t be noticed by anyone other my own self.

And yet, I was unafraid.
This film has been called nihilistic, it’s been called brutal; it’s been called numerous things, some right, some misguided. But while the world presented here is caustic, violent, and random it is never depressing. Not to me. Because this is the world that I believe in, a state of being a person beneath the Nothing in the Nil. I trembled because of immersion. I trembled because of wonder. I trembled because those Coens reached into my caffeine soaked heart and traced cold through me, with nothing more than the brutal lives of men. I trembled because I was affected, by things that I might not even be able to say.

Here I am, cold and alone on our warm, lonely planet.
Am I sailing to Byzantium? No.

But I’m nothing short of amazed.

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