Neil Young’s Film Lounge – 21 Grams

Published on: March 23rd, 2004



USA 2003 : Alejando GONZALEZ INARRITU : 124 mins

Big plusses: performances (esp. Del Toro), cinematography (chilly), editing (ambitious), music (restrained, plangent guitars), sound editing. But all at service of a suspect script: overfreighted, and with one or two absurdities that jar. Melodrama: deaths, transplants, terminal illnesses, pregnancies, accidental shootings. Opacity of narrative is a problem on first viewing : not so distracting second time around, when film is much less “blender-edited” than memory suggests. Inarritu interested in gatherings, people, interactions, class. Is the story strong enough to support the experimental style and the hugely serious subject-matter? It’s one basic storyline with chops forward and back in time – does it gain or lose from the editing process? 9/11 subtext: sign outside bar: “God Bless the USA”. Indeterminate city: most nonspecific prominent US production since Fight Club (it’s apparently Memphis). Great moments: the leafblower; the birds in the sky. Definitely a step forward after Amores Perros. Nevertheless, major minusses: the pretentious title; the whole maths/metaphysics baloney (see 1973 Brit horror The Asphyx for a cheesier but no less plausible analysis of what happens at the moment of death.) Relentlessly grim and serious: an exercise in misery? Unrelenting grainy bleakness: 2 hours of grief, death, gloom, depression. Undeniably (ostentatiously?) heavy going. Occasionally feels like thuddingly overwrought monotony. But the emotions are real enough (Gainsbourg, Leo, Murphy, Del Toro, Penn Watts) … and the camera is always in just the right place. Mood-music holds it all together. If you can go along with it.

27th April, 2004
(seen 23rd January : Cineworld, Milton Keynes CinemaDays event)

first seen at San Sebastian Film Festival, 23rd September 2003 original rating 5/10

by Neil Young