Originally published on 11/11/22 on Letterboxd
You are not nothing.
In which Gray is possessed by the ghost of von Sternberg. Where it is less sustained as an exercise in metamorphosis of form than Gray's earlier oeuvre, it compensates in equal terms by lending the weight of aeons of generational tragedy to every one of the movements comprising this collection of heartrendingly trivial gestures- a major work played in the minor key. The literary quality characterising Gray's work is apparent here as a historical "epic" drawing from Steinbeck, but the imposition (and then ruthless refutation of) of Dostoyevsky's solipsism as a defence against the cruelty of the world is employed here in its final moments, where the bastardisation of innocence is encapsulated in Phoenix's grand denigration of his very selfhood, covered in soot and scars as if to render himself crucified for his sins. Here, the warm glow encasing the rest of the film's images is superseded by shadow (not unlike The Yards' extensive usage of chiaroscuro), before Cotillard's forgiving of his sins, an act I can only describe as metaphysical in the enormity of its potency, seems to reshape the very fabric of reality itself- from the unflinchingly pragmatic social reality confronting her to the reality of one's corporeal embodiment in the world- the sea is boundless and just outside your window, and it will always be there.