The Lost City of Z Screen 28 articles

The Lost City of Z


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  • Uneasy mixture of magpie 20th century references (that annoying slow zoom in many classical shots) and very trendy "enlightened" politics. Why is it more interesting to depict Fawcett as not really white, not like the other white men, instead of as he was: a racist Buddhist whose search for the City of Z was a search for an advanced society formed by "white Indians." The character becomes dulled by the writing, then dulled even further by Hunnam's jockish & opaque performance w/ no eccentricity.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • If I'm sitting there thinking "this is so unsatisfying, storywise, that it must really have happened," you have largely failed in your effort to wrest a compelling movie from your research and/or source material. In this particular case, you have also chosen to cast Charlie Hunnam as your lead, for some reason that I will apparently never understand, since this presumably represents the strongest possible case for him as a good actor and imho nope, sorry. (Pattinson's terrific, though.)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

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    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • At times filled with mist and awe, and at other times thrillingly heart-racing (arrows—they shoot right at you!), The Lost City of Z feels like a gem dug out from a time capsule.

  • Fawcett is desperate for money to make his discovery, but if no one will back him he will go on what he can scrounge; he will go where his many journeys tell him there is something to be found, he will assure his wife that he will succeed, he will double the stakes by taking his son, he will never give up, he will give size to his life. The film is rich with this passionate intensity, which is exactly what a man needs to put together a big film in his late forties while the clock is ticking.

  • "A man becomes obsessed with discovering a lost city"—that plot summary is correct in a cold, half-true way, but it's also all you should know, so the film can slowly creep up on you as a film about the passage of time. As ever, Gray is more interested in character, theme, and metaphor than the dirty business of plot (is that why he's underrated?), but Z is about so many things at once that it's left me stunned.

  • Fawcett’s tale of real-life daring and fixation has all the hallmarks of a type of adventure tale that feels all but by-gone, but Gray’s approach pointedly disassembles the Boy’s Own side of Fawcett’s ventures and instead transmutes them into a cinematic work that calls to mind other portraits but which Gray bends to his own purpose, placing his emphasis not in derring-do so much as personal states of seeing and understanding.

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    Film Comment: Kent Jones
    January 03, 2018 | January/February 2018 Issue (p. 47)

    James Gray's exquisitely crafted and truly visionary film from the life of early-20th-century explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is about something seemingly ephemeral and difficult to name and yet true to so many lives: the search within the physical world for a transcendent reality that is finally to be found right here and now. Gray doesn't simply dramatize this existential path: he embodies int in the form of the film itself.

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