We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

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We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

Postby A » Fri Jan 04, 2008 5:38 pm

What, no thread on James Gray's latest? After seven years, Gray has finally returned to filmmaking and his old themes we could already witness in his fine first two efforts from 1994 and 2000. I believe enough of us have seen this new film to warrant a new thread and discussion at this point, and some of us (I'm particularly thinking about arsaib) are familiar with all of his three feature films.

We Own the Night has reminded me that I should rewatch Gray's other two films, as it is already a contender for my Best of 2008 lists next year. I saw it in a Slovenian theater where an incompetent projectionist wasn't able to show the film in it's proper aspect ratio (i assumed 1.66 wasn't it), and what's worse, the frame kept shaking throughout the excellent two hours. That probably means I should revisit it without the heads cut off. Distribution in Germany starts in February, though I doubt they will release any subtitled copies.

When I witnessed the central car chase in the film, probably one of the most shocking and gripping moments I saw in theaters in 2007 (if it hadn't already been January 2008 ) , I had to realize the film has moments of greatness that only few films accomplish. Nevertheless it still does feel a bit short and rushed at other times, and Gray isn't completely able to shake of some psychological trappings and narrative conventions. Still, this is what I would call extremely inspired craftmanship. The film seems to wallow in the doom that is on display every moment since the initial conversation at the beginning in the church. Somewhat of an Anti-Woo Heroic Bloodshed director, Gray seems constantly to suggest that it is the own family which ultimately brings you down. The stomach turning ending which hides its cynical worldview under a calm surface is the final punch in the face that makes you realize what you have been watching all of the time: a Horror film.

I'm almost tempted to say Gray borrowed the weak parts of his film from Ridley Scott (along with the annoying musical pieces, though they sometimes work in a different way in both films). And both do share a huge tendency for plot-holes... Nevertheless, Gray's film worked like a huge cleansing at the end, while you knew that you had seen an entertaining piece of popular culture at the self-congratulatory final of American Gangster.
A
 


Re: We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Jan 12, 2008 9:09 am

Set to Blondie's "Heart of Glass," the opening scene featuring the glistening body of Mendes writhing erotically on the couch while being subjected to Pheonix's intense gaze was one of the cinematic moments of the year for me. Heck, I almost wish it had come later on in the film, but its placement was important since it enabled Gray to set various thematic dynamics in motion. However, that remarkable and harrowing car chase was what Gray still had in store for us, A. That scene was sound-edited to the rhythm of the windshield wipers which only ratcheted up the tension in such pouring downfall. Short yet heart-stopping. "Great individual moments" was part of my brief remark about the film and you seem to have come to the same conclusion. There were a few gaps in the narrative -- the police procedural elements didn't appear to be in sync at all times (I remember thinking while watching the film that how great it would've been if someone like Michael Mann was in a position to tap Gray on the shoulders to say, "no, this isn't correct, even in the Big Bad NY of the 80s"). The film drew strong responses at its premiere at Cannes: the French, who have a tendency to get a hard-on everytime a film reminds them of American cinema of the '30s and '40s, generally loved it, while N. American critics were less than enthusiastic, and the same held true once the film received its commercial release. Tracy, however, did stick his neck out again, and I commend him for that. It appears now that the film has picked up a few strong admirers in the lead-up to the year-end lists.
arsaib4
 

Re: We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

Postby A » Sun Jan 13, 2008 3:21 pm

No, no, no,

I missed the opening scene you so vividly describe, because I was hungry and wanted to eat a toast before the film. When i came in, Joaquin was sitting in the church, and the conversation with his family had seemingly just begun. In the end I thought i hadn't missed anything important, but now I believe I did miss the most important moment in the film.

Anyway, it was clear to me that he adored his girlfriend, and the emotions came through very well throughout the film imo. I completely agree with you, that he would have needed somebody like Mann. The biggest gaps or "head-scratchers" for me definitely came throughout the police proceedings, but there were also some family scenes, and even the final discussion with Phoenix and Mendes, that could and sometimes should have been longer.

Now I think I'll probably go and watch the film in German cinemas when it gets released. I have to see this first scene on the big screen. Hope the German synchro won't mess up the film too much.
A
 

Re: We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Jan 14, 2008 2:03 am

Well, you missed about the first 10 minutes, son. (How many toasts did you have? ) After that aborted erotic encounter (following the credits which delineated the origins of the title), Phoenix walks downstairs to the disco palace and mingles with the crowd. He is then seen at the residence of his boss, where they discuss future business ventures. And before they entered the police party, the duo shared a brief conversation in the car outside, which emphasized Phoenix's disregard for his family. (Academy screeners rule!)

Looks like We Own the Night will see the light of day in Germany on February 21. By the way, have you read the Andrew Tracy piece?
arsaib4
 

Re: We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

Postby A » Tue Jan 22, 2008 3:50 am

I'll watch it on the big screen when it comes out. And this time, I'll even face the synchro.
Haven't read the piece by Tracy. Where can I find it?
A
 

Re: We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Jan 22, 2008 5:43 am

Here.
arsaib4
 

Re: We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Jan 27, 2008 7:37 am

Looks like we won't have to wait another seven years for the next James Gray film. Two Lovers, starring, who else, Joaquin Phoenix, is scheduled for later this year.
arsaib4
 

Re: We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Feb 12, 2008 6:23 am




Now out on DVD (Sony). Extras include a commentary track by James Gray (which I can't wait to listen to), along with a trio of background featurettes.
arsaib4
 

Re: We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

Postby wpqx » Sun Aug 03, 2008 4:06 pm

Saw the film today and I might agree it had great moments but something about the film just seemed run of the mill to me. Nothing I particularly disliked but just seemed like I had seen this type of film before.
wpqx
 

Re: We Own the Night (James Gray / 2007)

Postby A » Sun Oct 26, 2008 11:54 pm

Really? I must say, I had a unique impression, and it still tops my Top Ten for 2008. I desperately want to see it again before the year is over, cause it seems to grow more and more in retrospect.
What other films did it remind you of, wpqx?
A
 

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