Monday, October 8, 2012

@NOFS Review: "Dead Man's Burden"

Cross posted from MoviePass:

For most of New Orleans, Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" will be THE western film event of the year. While I don't doubt that it will be an event, to call it a western is way too simple. I think it's obvious that Tarantino's works - especially since "Kill Bill" - have been beyond traditional notions of genre, and fit more under the term remix. I will most certainly be in line for that movie, but what flick should local (or any) western fans catch? What would I pick as a must see?

I would not only recommend "Dead Man's Burden" - which will be playing at this years New Orleans Film Festival - as a great western, but also as one of the best films of 2012. I'm not sure where it would be ranked exactly, but I would bet it'd be in my top 5.

The story is about a young married couple. The wife has just buried her father, and is ready to sell the land she lives on to an opportunistic mining company rep. Just before finishing business, her long thought dead brother shows up, wanting to catch up on time lost. Secrets are unearthed, justice is had and bonds dissolve. A real American tragedy unfolds.

There were two scenes in this movie that represent for me why this was extraordinary. In the first example, the mining company rep appears as the only person in the shot. No score, just the man. Suddenly, the brother moves from into the shot, and the score kicks in. I paused this moment and recorded the timecode - 00:49:50. While this bit might seem too silly (and maybe lame) as an example of a movie's great attributes, I assure you it is THAT GOOD, and just ONE OF MANY similar shots/edits. It's wonderful how a modern first time feature filmmaker has a knowledge and execution mastery of such filmmaking techniques. Too often will I see independent films that are just the screenplay on camera. Use ALL THE TOOLS at your disposal, and you will amaze!

The second example shows the level of tension. In the scene, the wife, husband and mining company rep are about to enjoy a drink and make their deal official. Before a drink could be enjoyed, the brother comes into the room, and drops a bullet into the reps drink. While he doesn't say it, we know - and the characters know - that he dug it out of his father's corpse(!). The mood is thick here. This is western storytelling at it's most hardcore. Emotions run as high as the heat in New Mexico...

"Django Unchained" comes out just before the year ends, but "Dead Man's Burden" is already making the festival rounds. The jury is still out on Tarantino's latest, but Director Jared Moshe's first is an expertly crafted cut of cinema. It is what I would pick as a must see.

5/5 *'s

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