The Lost City of Z Screen 92 of 22 reviews

The Lost City of Z

2016

The Lost City of Z Poster
  • Like Gray’s other movies, Lost City feels classical in its storytelling and cinematic grammar, making it unlike most other films being made today. At the same time, the film advances modern views about women and imperialism that one doesn’t find in, say, the historical epics of David Lean, whom Gray cited as an influence when he presented Lost City (from his personal 35-millimeter print) at the Music Box last Sunday night.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever been more impressed by Gray’s film sense... though I must confess that it is also the movie of his that has moved me the least... I haven’t shaken what reservations I have about The Lost City of Z, but watching it a second time... I was hit with a strong conviction that _this is a movie_. That is to say, it’s a thing of sculpted light and shadow which shows pure pleasure in the sleight of an associative cut which turns a rivulet of whiskey into a moving train.

  • Hunnam's performance is charming and lived in, easily the best work he's ever done, and scene for scene, this is a splendid film. It's beautiful to look at but never ostentatiously pretty, and wise about how to use actual historical events as metaphors for basic desires (to succeed, to redeem oneself). The film never forgets that that these were real people whose words and deeds had consequences that should not be swept under the carpet for the sake of a happy ending.

  • On the one hand [the Amazon] offered Gray an opportunity to mix the John Ford of The Quiet Man, glimpsed in Fawcett’s life back in the UK, and the John Ford of Arrowsmith and The Hurricane, beset by tropical fevers and storms, in thrall to nature’s vicious whims. Whatever brought him there, Gray takes it to the jungle just as expertly as he does Brighton Beach or the Q train. Like Fawcett he finds new meaning, new languages, new sounds and spirits.

  • Until now, Gray has tended to work on a somewhat modest scale, often with art films that play with genre. Here, he effortlessly expands his reach as he moves across time and continents and in the process turns the past into a singular life. There’s much to love in this film, but what lingers are those lapidary details that often go missing in stories about great men, as if they had built the world alone and no child had ever raced down a road waving goodbye as a father disappeared into history.

  • The movie is neither Indiana Jones escapism nor a Malick-like reverie about nature, but something in between, a more grounded and troubled vision of human aspirations and imperfections. Gray may be working from an amalgam of literary, filmic, and historical influences, but in following Fawcett off the path, he stakes out his own distinctly bewitching territory.

  • It’s as if the movie itself were taking flight before our eyes. As a cinematic moment, it’s a sly, persuasive reference to Federico Fellini’s I Vitelloni. More immediately, it’s an evocation of all that’s at stake in Gray’s own film. What Fawcett seeks in the jungle is something grander than glory but also less perceptible. He’s looking for the sublime, and he’s willing to risk unmooring himself from the permanent fixtures of his life, such as his family, to get there.

  • Gray’s images have an untimely, exalted quietness, as if he were filming with violins and woodwinds and didn’t admit of electric instruments, though his subtler textures compete in the same arena and catch some of the same emotional jolt. In “Lost City,” glances... fill instants with vast swaths of time. They reverberate with an extraordinarily inward intimacy, in which action doesn’t seem to imply thought so much as it seems to accumulate around it.

  • The great accomplishment of The Lost City of Z is how its narrative pace slows, almost imperceptibly, as it glides smoothly from history-rooted concreteness and toward a more abstracted way of telling the story. By the end, it’s as if we’ve passed into myth without noticing or really understanding how it happened. Under Gray’s direction, the actors (particularly Hunnam) deliver their lines with deliberation and enunciation, almost as if they’re being pulled off the pages of a book in real time.

  • It is a beautiful film with many small wonders and mysteries of its own for the viewer to discover... The sweep and Tolstoy-esque detail of the scenes of social life in mid-1900s Ireland and England, which bring to mind Michael Cimino’s attempts to re-sculpt the New Hollywood auteur cult in the image of 19th century fiction in films like The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate. In the character of Fawcett, it finds both the poetry and the pathology of exploration.

  • James Gray’s resplendent, symphonic Lost City of Z, adapted from David Grann’s 2009 nonfiction book, is the kind of grand adventure epic few people know how to make anymore.. Pictures with the grand sweep and dreamy energy of The Lost City of Z don’t come along every year—they barely come along at all. This is itself a message in a bottle, a missive from a lost city of movies.

  • I've been trained for this." Those words — or some variation — come up several times throughout James Gray's The Lost City of Z, and they serve as one key to this strange, sprawling, majestic film... In opting to tell a more linear story about the life of Fawcett, Gray has replaced all that with something else, something very much his own: a look at how society trains us to know our place in it, and how a confrontation with the unknown can completely upend our understanding of the world.

  • Despite having exchanged the New York settings of his previous films for wildly divergent scenery, Gray’s neo-classical aesthetic remains stubbornly intact, and the visual splendour of his rendering of the world’s largest rainforest is heightened by the viscid cinematography of Darius Khondji.

  • ++

    Film Comment: Michael Koresky
    March 03, 2017 | March/April 2017 Issue (p. 32)

    Though the circumstances of Fawcett's 1925 disappearance while on a final expedition remain a mystery, Gray's film so gracefully depicts his exploration as one of the mind that his speculative ending feels wholly earned—an unexpected expression of spiritual elation, and a reminder that there's really only one journey we're all on, and it has just one possible conclusion.

  • Gray’s unique aesthetic—very sober and methodical beneath all the elliptical visual lushness—allows us to see how Fawcett’s perspective shifts, minutely though intensely, over a lifetime. And also to examine how his evolving wisdom affects his colleagues and family, not always for the better. The character of Nina is most fascinating in this regard, a stay-at-home wife (in the broad stroke) with a deep self-awareness of her station in life that comes off as intriguingly nebulous.

  • Gray takes chances with the structure of this picture, discretely moving back and forth in time and not bothering with forward momentum or even any particularly “dramatic” scenes, for Gray does not have the instincts of a dramatist but rather the skillset of a musician or a painter working with film... It feels like a clear artistic advance for Gray, who proves himself here as one of our finest and most distinctive living filmmakers.

  • Its great masterstroke is Gray and Hunnam's profound comprehension of Fawcett's drive to find Z as a form of self-erasure... By film's end, which sees Fawcett and Jack caught in a purgatory-like expanse of jungle barely lit by tribal fires, one feels Gray's pressure to rewrite The Immigrant's prismatic final shot. And he does, by evoking the manner in which annihilation and exaltation walked hand in hand throughout Fawcett's life as a haunting but euphoric lifeblood that can never ebb away.

  • Gray and cinematographer Darius Khondji shoot the jungle not with the rawness of those films but rather with alluring sublimity, characterized by the amber hues they developed in The Immigrant. As Fawcett moves closer to his goal, his motivations transform, and while the mysteries of what await him in Z hold a power that Gray finds as fascinating as Fawcett does, ambiguities of its cost emerge in equal measure with its potential triumph.

  • Gray is admirably committed to classical storytelling... As he put it, he was genetically designed to be an accountant in a Polish shtetl in winter, not somebody yelling “Action!” in a humid South American jungle during crocodile season. I wish some of his verve had been present in his film. Going into the jungle to find truth and beauty is harder than doing it at an uptown film festival, but in both cases you’ve got to capture that elusive joie de vivre and bring it back alive.

  • Solemn and grave, it unfolds methodically, listening and observing rather than seeking propulsion or even revelation. If it’s finally a less startling and original feat than “The Immigrant,” that may be partly because it’s tied to historical reality, and one that’s not native for Gray. His script from Grann’s book is straightforward and effective, but without real distinction or any notable confidence in its British idioms.

  • Whereas The Immigrant's fragmented slivers of the Lower East Side circa 1920 managed to suggest a vastness just beyond the main character's glimpse, Lost City's elisions of context are too conspicuous. The onscreen abundance is less than you'd get in a normal historical epic, lending a certain preciousness to the images.

  • In contrast to the score, Hunnam doggedly sticks to one note for his underwhelming performance. Robert Pattinson may be in a supporting role and almost entirely covered in beard, but he is considerably more interesting to watch. You ultimately find yourself wishing that his character, rather than the dashing but dull Fawcett, was the focus of the film.

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