Ain’t Them Bodies Saints Screen 19 articles

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints


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  • Writer-director David Lowery strains for poetry at every turn, and only the strain registers. The mannered dialogue sounds like the work of an undergrad creative writing major who's just discovered southern gothic literature, and the lugubrious, "dreamlike" pacing feels like a smoke screen for a lack of narrative incident.

  • Padded with shots of sunsets and country roads, the movie relies heavily on a woozy, lyrical style that increasingly plays like an affectation. Mara is a forceful screen presence who seems out of place in the '70s setting, while Affleck's character is little more than a moving target. Lowery, who served as an editor on this year's "Upstream Color," has a good eye, but his Malick-lite approach isn't a great fit. This plot calls for the energy of peak Sam Peckinpah.

  • Lowery proves no slouch at setting the mood—everything here seems to fit the surroundings, right down to the perfectly proud lilt of Mara’s drawl—but the writ-large passions on display don’t take to the thick atmosphere so much as dry out in it. That’s not to say, though, that this ballad of the pretty-ugly past is entirely unwelcome—especially in a summer when so many of the blue-ribbon indies focus narrowly on native-to-the-city folk struggling against the current.

  • Unlike the overwrought Arthur Penn game-changer [Bonnie and Clyde] or Altman’s Depression pastorale [Thieves Like Us] or Nick Ray’s anticipatory “They Live By Night” or even Terrence Malick’s career one-off “Badlands,” “Saints” is essentially timeless and devoid of social context. Malick, but not unfortunately “Badlands,” would seem to be Lowery’s determining influence.

  • Perhaps if all 3 principals weren’t so frequently given to portentous monologues or epistolary voiceover interludes the tragic depths of their romance would feel vital, rather than telegraphed. Rarely do the actors seem like they’ve been given the space to navigate their characters, though the desperate manner in which Affleck and Mara cling to each other as they’re dragged out of the house near the beginning of the film intimates the frayed emotions and richness of feeling that might have been.

  • Probably the most visually arresting movie in the festival alongside Upstream Color, ATBS drips with terminally imitative Terrence Malick-isms... But where Carruth's film [Upstream Color] feels vibrantly alive with meaning, Lowery's too often seems embalmed with stylization, including the decision to have the (very fine) actors deliver nearly all their lines in breathy half-whispers.

  • Director David Lowery, with the aide of Bradford Young's sublime cinematography, goes to great lengths to stylistically evoke the emotionally complex nature of the characters' forlornness, but the film's highly calculated beauty suffocates rather than elevates the story's emotional underpinnings. There's a sense of the couple's romantic yearning that pervades throughout, and yet the film doesn't entirely satisfy as a mood piece...

  • Everything is somehow both rushed and oblique, and you sense that, with writer-director Lowery, you’re in the presence of someone who just doesn’t like to tell stories in the usual way. That, unfortunately, can be a good or a bad thing, and as Ain’t Them Bodies Saints moves along, its elliptical approach to drama goes from keeping us on our toes to dulling everything down.

  • An accomplished editor as well, Lowery cut together Shane Carruth's Upstream Color, giving it a sense of forward momentum and impending fate that helped transcend its bedazzling narrative. The same filmmaking sensibility can be found here in the slow crawl of a Texas town moving away from the mythos of the Wild West and toward something sublime.

  • There’s real craft at work here, the kind that makes the film’s poetic ruralism elevate the proceedings and lends a palpable sense of foreboding as fate nudges everyone into place for the final act. Saints shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it does, beautifully and satisfyingly.

  • While it may not have a whole lot of plot, or even depth, Lowery’s film—set in Seventies rural Texas—is so richly textured and visually exquisite that it hardly matters.

  • Lowery and [cinematographer Bradford] Young combine efforts to craft a moody impressionist tone; expository or transition scenes, as well as major dramatic turns, are elided; a sophisticated elliptic strategy mostly presents the small moments that come after or before action or melodrama.

  • Saints is melodic valentine to a golden age of American filmmaking, a tender whisper between two lovers whose enduring commitment to each other fuels an intense and destructive romance that feels ripped from the pages of some great lost novel.

  • Mara and Foster are magnetic screen presences, whereas Affleck’s Bob is a bit verbose and overwrought, every word heavy with the weight of his intransigent belief in love. Lowery seems as interested in upholding genre conventions as in up-ending them—Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is part outlaw Western, part noir crime thriller, and most of all traditional melodrama. In this sense the film fulfills its epic intentions and proves worthy of its grand Texas landscapes...

  • Buoyed by the rustic drone of Daniel Hart’s score—itself highly redolent of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s recent work—Saints drifts along like a raft on a river until its final movement, more violent and visceral than anything in Malick’s canon. It’s an unfailingly beautiful movie that finally stakes out a territory of its own, with quietly intense performances and a sure hand on the tiller...

  • Visually ravishing, tonally commanding and built around magnetic performances by Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as Bonnie-and-Clyde doomed lovers, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is a tragic but not despairing tale of fatal romance set in the Texas hill country in the mid-1970s. It marks the arrival of an immense talent who will be new to most moviegoers – although Lowery is a well-known figure in the indie-film world – and it’s surely one of the best American films of the year.

  • “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is also a work of graceful modernity, with aesthetic complexity delivered in a ballad-like flow... The movie has the awesome historical feel of a classic Western (the name Patrick Wheeler is even borrowed from Howard Hawks’s “Rio Bravo”) but its deep vulnerability is closer in tone to that of another Texan melodrama, Vincente Minnelli’s “Home from the Hill.”

  • ...The movie that Lowery constructs with the sensibilities of a musician and poet... wants them together, even if that may result in liebestod. It’s this tension that makes “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” such a rich experience; it’s a rare movie that contains the space for pure poetics... but made with acute love of its characters, their emotional realities made physical by the hard, beautiful world around them. A great writer-director is born.

  • Shot by rising-star indie DP Bradford Young (Pariah) with a pastoral glow, cut with impressive clarity among the various plot strands by Craig McKay and Jane Rizzo, and scored by Daniel Hart with an atmospheric juxtaposition of drone and handclaps that provides a nervous undercurrent, Ain't Them Bodies Saints has the feel of a modern-day Western, with some of the same pleasure in seeing familiar situations play out with subtle variations and renewed conviction...

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