Now in theatres: Two Lovers (James Gray, 2008)

by Ryland Walker Knight


[Many blogs feature review roundups, or use a Friday post to highlight a current release, so this feature is always already redundant. However, we trust, as we push forward, we'll make our way to set ourselves apart from the likes of David Hudson and Aaron Hillis and any other number of committed blogger-critics out in this internetland. Thus, our first installment, an appropriately late entry hitting the web not Thursday or Friday but on Valentine's Day (another genius marketing ploy), as the film is, ostensibly, about "love" or some such nonsense. Also, I haven't seen the film yet.]


Although available on demand since January 16th, James Gray's Two Lovers opened theatrically on Friday in New York City and Los Angeles. Lucky for this little film, Jaoquin Phoenix has a little act going where he says he's quit acting in favor of a career in hip-hop music. Thursday night, he appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. It was an instant classic appearance, and had nothing to do with this film, and its noteriety will only help the little PR machine that could behind this modest feature—a film that, from an outsider's eye, looks lovely but (terrifically) out of synch with the current landscape of American Film. For one, it's clearly a straight-forward melodrama. This is apparent in the trailer (see below), despite a few marketing ploys to amp up the Manhattan scenes, and, as Hoberman derides the picture, is consistent with Gray's previous films. Those prior efforts, however, were not romance yarns; rather, all three (just three! in 13 years!) are crime-related tailspins. I did not care for 2007's We Own The Night that much, but it is nothing if not consistent and it definitely had its supporters, like, say, my blogging buddy Zach Campbell (who drops notebook knowledge at Elusive Lucidity) and Dan Callahan at Slant Magazine. And, yes, Callhan has written a fine essay in favor of this new film, again at Slant. His was the first review I read, and it spurred me on to read a number of others, which I hope you do look at as well. I've listed them below in the order I read them in, not in some hierarchy of importance. All of that, coupled with the elegant looking trailer, makes me definitely hope I can see this film sooner rather than later and, if I find the time, revisit his earlier efforts. If there's any benefit to Gray's short-list filmography it's that one may easily digest it in a week. In any case, we hope you enjoy these links, and maybe this film. If you have any thoughts, please do share them.

— Both Glenn Kenny and Karina Longworth saw the film at Cannes and reworked what they wrote then for our reading now. Both are well worth a look.

Daniel Kasman caught the picture at Cannes as well and has reposted his review at The Auteurs' Notebook alongside a new notice from David Phelps.

— I've already linked to Hoberman's review above but here's another since I like him so much.

A. O. Scott in the New York Times is his ever-astute and literary self and for Michael Tully at (the handsomely redesigned) /HAMMER TO NAIL, the film proves consistent with what we (okay, I) have come to know of his taste (which is generally excellent, btw).

— Some from some Reverse Shot boys: Andrew Chan, Michael Joshua Rowin, and Elbert Ventura.

— Finally, an "old hat" guy whose new blog career continues to aid the internet's rep as a valuable and interesting forum for criticism (that takes a fun spin on a print "mindset" at that), Salon's Andrew O'Hehir.

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