(US/UK - 2017)
Written and directed by James Gray. Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Franco Nero, Ian McDiarmid, Edward Ashley, Clive Francis, Pedro Coello, Matthew Sunderland, Johann Myers, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Murray Melvin. (PG-13, 141 mins)
Though he's been at it for nearly 25 years to significant critical acclaim, James Gray is a filmmaker perpetually in search of his big break. The first half of his career was plagued by long stretches of inactivity--his 1994 debut LITTLE ODESSA was followed by Harvey Weinstein shelving THE YARDS for two years before relegating it to a limited release in 2000 and several years passed before he returned with WE OWN THE NIGHT in 2007--while the second half was stalled by Joaquin Phoenix's Andy Kaufman-esque faux-meltdown while hitting the talk shows to plug 2009's TWO LOVERS, and 2014's THE IMMIGRANT was all but personally sabotaged by Harvey Weinstein, who acquired the kind of movie that cleans up during awards season and buried it in a blatant display of score-settling after clashing with Gray on THE YARDS. Gray could be forgiven if he was starting to feel that the entire movie industry was conspiring against him, but he's built a passionate cult of admirers among cineastes with his consistently excellent work over the years. Arguably the best American filmmaker working today that nobody knows about, Gray is an artist who was simply born too late. Influenced by the icons of past generations, from Sidney Lumet to Francis Ford Coppola to Martin Scorsese, Gray would've flourished in the 1970s. His early, gritty films have the distinctly vivid NYC feel that Lumet mastered, and THE IMMIGRANT--Gray's best film thus far--recalled the early 20th century immigrant experience in NYC as effectively as the young Vito Corleone scenes in THE GODFATHER PART II or the whole of Joan Micklin Silver's HESTER STREET.
MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON--a throwback epic even way back then--which examined the rivalry between Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke's attempts--together and separate--to find the source of the Nile.