A Malick-infused reverie of two lovers on the wrong side of the law in the Texas Hill Country in the 70s, David’s Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” features top-notch performances. Casey Affleck (always an impressive actor–the neglected, underrated “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is a must-see ), no longer looking like anyone’s baby brother, plays Bob Muldoon, and Rooney Mara, his wife, Ruth Guthrie. Ben Foster co-stars as a local sheriff.
But it’s Bradford Young’s spectacular cinematography (which won the U.S. Dramatic Cinematography Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival) that elevates the film, giving it its unique look. Unlike the big sky, relentless light and glare that characterize most Texas movies, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” lives in a world of shadow. It’s hard to light for and shoot darkness but Young proves to be a master, retaining the essential details, reveling in beauty, evoking Rembrandt (in a much different time and place).
In the wonderful “Mother of George,” directed by Andrew Dosunmu (and opening on September 13), Young’s work is equally breathtaking and entirely different–light, airy, employing extreme shallow depth of field to dazzling effect.
I am often asked about my favorite photographers and my list always includes cinematographers–Robby Müller (lucky me learning from him on the set of “Paris, Texas”), Robert Richardson (gimme those glowing spectral highlights), Christopher Doyle (wild, moody beauty) and now having seen three of his films (Dee Rees’ “Pariah” in addition to the two mentioned in this post), I’m adding Bradford Young.
Lowery’s title, to me, is cryptic and tongue-twisty and I wouldn’t find it smoother if it were more grammatically correct (“Aren’t Those Bodies Saints”) but it inspired my pun after seeing it and “Mother of George” this June at BAMcinemaFest–“Ain’t That DP Great.”
“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” will open on Friday, August 16 at the IFC Center in New York. As part of the Center’s ongoing series, Movie Night, David Lowery has chosen Steven Spielberg’s “The Sugarland Express” which will screen on Wednesday, August 14 at 8:00 pm with Lowery in person for a post-film discussion. Rooftop Films will present a special outdoor screening of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” at the Queens County Farm Museum on Thursday, August 15 at 9:00 pm, followed by a Q&A with Lowery and an after-party.