God’s Own Country (2017; Dir.: Francis Lee)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday, November 10, at the Landmark Opera Plaza in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley.
Postcard-worthy slow cinema from actor-turned-auteur Lee, a bruising but underwhelming love story set amongst Yorkshire sheep farmers. With his friends all gone off to college, angry young man Johnny (Josh O’Connor) gets stuck assisting his ailing father (Ian Hart, awkwardly theatrical compared to his underacting co-stars) with their failing farm, numbing his pain through alcohol-soaked nights and brisk sexual encounters with anonymous men. That all changes when handsome, no-nonsense Romanian immigrant Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) arrives on the farm, arousing resentment from the racist townsfolk and simply arousing Johnny. After a lifetime of abuse from his father, Johnny finally experiences real tenderness with Gheorghe, but his self-destructive instincts inevitably kick in, jeopardizing their relationship. I liked the love story at the heart of God’s Own Country, but the film is just as plodding and impenetrable in its shaky-cam stoicism as Yorgos Lanthimos’ polar-opposite The Killing of a Sacred Deer was with its antiseptic precision.
This is one of the festival themes that we will be revisiting from time to time, a snapshot of one year in the life of a particular country’s cinema. For our July festival, we will be looking at three American films that were released in 1963, all of them directed by directors who maintained their creative voice through the studio system and beyond, yet were largely supplanted by the New Hollywood they helped create. Although 1963 is not viewed as a high water mark for American cinema (the Best Picture winner that year was the British production Tom Jones), it sits at an interesting nexus between old Hollywood and New Hollywood, as well as between established and revolutionary ideas of film criticism. Andrew Sarris published his “Notes on the Auteur Theory” in 1962, an American expansion on the work of the French Cahiers du Cinema crowd, a group of critics turned filmmakers who were largely responsible for rescuing the reputations of directors like Sam Fuller and Nick Ray.
All of the films are available for DVD rental on Netflix, and Shock Corridor is also streaming on Hulu Plus. Here is the full ESFS Festival #6 schedule:
MONDAY, JULY 7: FESTIVAL PREVIEW [By Daniel Barnes]
THURSDAY, JULY 10: Shock Corridor (Dir.: Sam Fuller) [Review by Daniel Barnes]
MONDAY, JULY 14: 55 Days at Peking (Dir.: Nick Ray) [Review by Mike Dub]
MONDAY, JULY 21: America, America (Dir.: Elia Kazan) [Review by Daniel Barnes]
WEDNESDAY, JULY 30: Festival Wrap-up [By Daniel and Dub]