Gray’s crime films display some auteur tendencies. the films generally have a similar setting, they are family crime dramas in the Coppola mould rather than simply just crime films, and all deal with the effects of violence on families. In Little Odessa and We Own The Night especially deal with this theme as families are destroyed by violence in one sense or another. In We Own The Night, violence paradoxically brings unity and destruction. The final scene of the brothers supposedly professing their love should not be taken too literally. it’s not a ‘happy’ ending at all. Their lives are pretty much ruined. I know there are certain people on here that try to pass off simplistic genre flicks as something more, but W.O.T.N really is an example of a film whose surface qualities are at war with its subtext and the effect is entirely deliberate. on the surface it’s a simple cops and robbers flick, two brothers resolve their differences to fight the bad guys that have waged war on their family. However, there are tensions beneath the surface, and it’s not as simple as it first appears. Personally i think Gray’s script was about 2 drafts away from perfection and he should have worked on it a bit longer. I adore the style of the film though. incredible style.
The Yards is his only mediocre film imo. it had neither the strong atmospheric qualities of L.O or W.O.T.N, and it just not strongly performed imo.
As for whether he is American or European, i think he mixes the best of both. The atmosphere and character based approach seems to be more ‘Euro’, but the storytelling is more ‘American’, i guess. It’s hard to say. He does have good taste though. How many American directors would have the balls to go with that ultra moody, minimalist Kijar score for W.O.T.N?
‘Two Lovers’, contrary to what Dim said earlier, is probably the only romance film i’ve liked in years. it’s like a throwback to the old tortured romantic psycho-dramas ala Last Tango In Paris etc. Nothing like what gets made today.
^Yeah, I agree with all this, especially Two Lovers being one of the few good romances in recent years. In some ways, he’s pretty easy to dismiss in the way he uses genre conventions and is quite a traditionalist when it comes to style and narrative but it’s what lies underneath the surface that makes his films compelling.
Looks like Lost City of Z is lost in development hell. I heard Pitt dropped out. Too bad. Seemed like an odd project for him – at least way outside of his comfort zone.
^^He has become more traditional over the years, but Little Odessa was more of an arty flick of its time imo. not a conventional narrative piece. His other films are more traditional though, definitely.
Two Lovers got stomped on by that meaningless “I’m Still Here” debacle. Gray should get some kind of compensation from Phoenix for that. Blue Valentine seems like an attempt to approach romance from this point of view, but I fear that it looks too much like second rate Mike Leigh.
^^agree, but Paltrow didn’t bother promoting the film either and Gray was pissed off at her apparently. The distributor also screwed up.
With proper distribution this film could have made decent money imo. not a huge hit, but it could have made at least 20 million worldwide, if not more. possibly even 30.
Oh yeah, no question in my mind . . . it did what, about $13 million internationally? Would Paltrow have been doing press for Iron Man around the time Two Lovers ended up being released?
^^according to box office mojo it made around 16.3, so i’d say it could have easily made 30+ with a decent push.
As for Paltron, i doubt it! Iron Man 2 was released 15 months after Two Lovers.
Paltrow is box office posion, no one wants to see frail chicks anymore
Gray is box office posion as well, I have yet to see them because I just imagine they are 2 hours of Wahlberg acting tough and saying dem and dose a lot
-The Yards is his only mediocre film imo.-
Have you seen the extended cut? It’s somewhat of an improvement.
“Have you seen the extended cut? It’s somewhat of an improvement”
haven’t seen it yet, no, but i know he wasn’t happy with the theatrical cut of the film, or the fact that it took so long to come out. as far as i’m aware, he blames Miramax for keeping him under lock and key for years, and that explains the long gap between Little Odessa and The Yards.
James Gray is simply amazing. Two Lovers is masterful. Sad that it never got the attention it deserved.
What’s wrong with The Yards? And more specifically, what performances did you think were weak Joks? I saw it about a month ago and was blown away by almost everything in it. The part at the end where Wahlberg goes into the dinner room to grab the hand of the maternal figure (or more specifically, the protagonists gesture of conformity) might be one of Gray’s best scenes.
^^Kurt, i haven’t seen it in a while, but i thought all the performances were average at best, for the most part, the story was too simple, and the film lacked, at least to me, a great sense of mood, which all his other films have. It seems like he blanded his style out too much for mainstream appeal after Little Odessa and then found the right balance again on ‘We Own The NIght’.
which cut did you see?
I’m not sure, but it did have Wahlberg in a suit on the subway at the end…
He’s become extremely renowned in France. Both We Own the Night and Two Lovers were on Cahiers du Cinema’s Top 10 lists for their respective release years.
Kurt & I saw the proper cut of the film. I’d say the film is worth revisiting, Joks. It’s strong points are its acting, mood, & complexity. I do agree that We Own the Night is better, but not by much. Both are major American films, and Two Lovers is like nothing else.
I hope he has an accidental “hit’” because I worry about funding. I worry about a talented film maker who doesn’t have a flashy auter-ish style (Like Anderson… or Anderson, for that matter, but not that other Anderson) A style with a little more recognizable flash might appeal to the card carrying art house folks who fill up the opening weekends of “A Serious Man” or “Black Swan”. I worry about someone who works narratively but who might not have an instinct/interest in narratives that could become very popular. I worry just because of the funding required by film.
(by Anderson I of course meant: Pamela… or Pamela, but not Pamela.)
-I hope he has an accidental “hit’” because I worry about funding.-
Actually, not sure if you’ve all seen this, but it sounds like he’s doing a work-for-hire job while he’s working on a more “personal” film . . . maybe The Grey Man will turn out to be the sort of thing that could be a “hit” of the non-accidental variety.
^Sounds interesting Matt. let’s wait and see what becomes of it.
I will add that, while it isn’t necessarily important to his films, Gray has somewhat of a reputation for being a dick. I’ve read it in a few places. Who knows, maybe the people claiming that caught him on a bad day or something, but the impression i’ve got is that he is similar to how Bogdanovich was back in the 70’s, only with less success to back him up.
ADAM: i also felt it was less memorable overall too. I can’t think of too many standout scenes, whereas his other films have a whole bunch of them. I’ll give it another look soon, but i’ve already seen it twice. Let’s hope the 3rd time is an improvement :-)
After watching them again, i came t the conclusion, that all 4 of his features so far are near-perfect masterpieces´. Even the theatrical cut of The Yards (of which I also love the ending, btw.).
So I think: give it (yet) another try! ;-)
A James Gray update. After a few lost projects, this one sounds very promising.
""Wait, what?" That was the general reaction around The Playlist water cooler when we learned that James Gray’s next film, the tentatively titled “Low Life,” was already in front of cameras in New York City. And we couldn’t be more thrilled.
The film once again finds Gray working with his usual collaborator Joaquin Phoenix (“The Yards,” “We Own The Night,” “Two Lovers”) in a bit of shift in gear for the helmer. Marking his first period outing, “Low Life” will follow the story of a woman immigrating from Poland (Marion Cotillard) whose sister falls ill while sailing to Ellis Island. She is then forced to trade sexual favours for medicine and food to keep her sister alive. Once they land, she is warned to keep quiet about what happened and though she does, she is given immigration papers that deem her a woman with bad morals. With no place to go, she falls prey to a charming sleazebag (Joaquin Phoenix), who persuades her to turn tricks in New York.
Sounds like some impressive, though tough material but there is another talent also on board. Jeremy Renner is lined up to play the sleazebag’s cousin, a magician who sweeps the young woman off her feet and gives her hopes of escaping her life, and we presume that once he’s done shooting “The Bourne Legacy” in Thailand, he’ll zip over to New York City to film his scenes.
Simply put — Gray is one of the most underrated American directors working. Marketing and trailers have never done justice to his films which move far beyond any genre trappings into something much richer and more complex. And the guy has just been nailing one incredible film after another going all the back to “Little Odessa” (if you haven’t seen it, track it down). So yeah, we’re super stoked “Low Life” is now rolling and can’t wait to see what Gray delivers next in a picture that finds him excitingly working in some new territory both narratively and thematically. [via ComingSoon] "
Great news! Looking forward to it.
Great news. Gray+Phoenix=major win, and M.C is a good addition too. no doubt being a gray film there will be a suffocating/oppressive family dynamic involved, that seems to be the constant theme in all his work so far.
James Gray’s films may have some flaws, but they’re fine efforts, and he makes films that need to be made, because he’s just about the only filmmaker who actually understands what New York City is. And I say this as a Caucasian Christian male who grew up in an “outer borough” of New York City. Scorsese comes close in Goodfellas as does Lumet in films like Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon, but Gray takes it a step further. “Respectable white men” do happen to live in Queens contrary to popular belief. Coming to American can go f**k itself.
I think Lowlife will be expanding on his ongoing articulation of NY rather beautifully, but ironically the director is no longer a New Yorker—at least not for the foreseeable future.
^ Where did he go?
Anybody happen to have acquired this?:
whats that? He couldn’t possibly have a book written about him already?!?!
It’s a French book called Conversations with James Gray. Apparently it’s so far available in a bilingual French/English limited edition only from the publisher directly.
Warning: shameless plug