Western Screen 15 articles

Western

2015

Western Poster
  • There is much to be fascinated by, but the diffuse footage isn’t sculpted into a synthetic whole... This new method of organization is a reorientation, but to my mind comes out regrettably shapeless.

  • Mr. Heineman [, with Cartel Land,] mostly avoids policy and politics, while the Ross brothers dart around both as they settle their sights on the former mayor of Eagle Pass and a cattleman, each a helpless witness to the end of a world they long knew.

  • The Rosses work in the same vérité style of their Tchoupitoulas, a more audio-visually intoxicating immersion in New Orleans. In Western, they don’t tell a story so much as show it... Western does what a good documentary should. It engages your sense of wonder, closes the gap between the foreign and the familiar.

  • After the film's early optimism and speculative midsection, Western struggles to manage all the rich dramatic irony of its final half hour, perched uneasily between plot and stasis. Once the narrative of the drug war fully insinuates itself into the rhythms of life in Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, the Rosses seem unsure of how to reclaim their own story, but for most of Western, they exhibit a remarkable faculty for integrating the news into their portrait of two towns and two men on the edge.

  • The only film to genuinely disappoint was Bill and Turner Ross’ years-on-the-cutting-table Western, an ethno-documentary filmed on both sides of the Texas/Mexico border that, while still a pleasure by virtue of being recognizably a Ross Bros. picture, is the first of their features where the poetics feel hollowed out, even perfunctory.

  • Stylistically, [the Ross brothers] seem to be informed equally by the cinema verite world of the Maysles brothers, the loving ethnography of Les Blank, and the ecstatic landscapes of Terrence Malick — a mix of influences that makes “Western” fascinating to watch even when it (occasionally) seems too enamored of its own poetic longueurs.

  • The last movie I saw was Bill and Turner Ross’s Western, a film I’d seen many cuts of during the editing process, but which stunned me on the big screen in its final version... Like their previous films (45365, 2009, and Tchoupitoulas, 2012), Western is an intense, detail-rich study of a place, but this time there’s a floating, unique tension between narrative and atmosphere that creates a distinctive experience.

  • Cartel violence south of the border has begun gnawing at the fabric of border town Eagle Pass, clotting the beef trade and testing the town’s Tex-Mex solidarity—which the Rosses paint both vividly and with commendable nuance. Western is not a piece of investigative journalism; what’s intrepid is the Rosses’ unapologetic sense of American saudade, forever braking to indulge a sun-drunk Lone Star state of mind.

  • The Ross’s intimate technique creates a mosaic of offhand impressions, details for which they have a marvelous eye.

  • Shot in a hypnotic blend of sun-baked hues and nocturnal fluorescents, Western slowly expands from topical interest to something far more intriguing and ineffable... For a True/False where the thin line between life and death was on the mind as much as the one separating fiction from non-, Western was the one film to fully transcend the constraints of all such designations, looking toward the horizon of a cinema without borders.

  • The Rosses are less interested in currency than in the stubborn persistence of legend, land, metaphor, and iconic imagery, and the soul-restoring transcendence of human persistence.

  • A potent antidote to the representations we have grown used to of U.S. xenophobic animosity toward the turmoil south of the border, Western depicts the intense concern that the citizens of Eagle Pass have for the conditions of labour on the other side of the Rio Grande.

  • Western, which won a special prize at Sundance for “vérité filmmaking” (a term which doesn’t really do justice to the sly bonhomie of its setup), easily weighs in as the best of the Rosses’ three features—and it only grows more poignant in retrospect.

  • Cartel Land is a nail-biter—the documentary equivalent of a movie like Zero Dark Thirty, throwing viewers into the middle of gunfights and citizens’ arrests—while Western is quieter and dreamier. For a long time, the threat of violence in the Ross brothers’ film is just background chatter, heard on the radio and TV while the movie goes about the business of recording the leisurely pace of rural living.

  • The Rosses are never hectoring or condescending, and for all the politically loaded content the film contains, its tone is one of empathy. Stylistically, the directors and their collaborators have a knack for incidental beauty, maximizing the aesthetic potential of the Panasonic DVX's SD video. WESTERN is an accumulative and insightful portrait of contemporary life that couldn't achieve the same effect in any other medium; you come out of it wishing more films could say the same.

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