James Gray has directed a total of five films over the past two decades, and while a movie every four years isn’t too shabby it’s also not quite a workmanlike pace either. He takes his time on personal projects like The Yards or divisive, subversive ones like We Own the Night. He’s an American filmmaker we don’t talk about often enough, but 2014 may change all that seeing as he’s attached in varying capacity to two different films. April will see the release of his latest directorial effort, The Immigrant, and a month earlier a film he co-wrote, Blood Ties, will hit theaters.
Both films premiered at the Cannes film festival last year, a festival that’s always welcomed Gray’s work, and our Shaun Munro was mixed on Blood Ties, calling its 144 minute runtime “wholly excessive – even counter-productive – to telling this story. Furthermore, though Blood Ties will be no doubt be marketed on the strength of its brief bursts of action, it is in retrospect difficult to see the film having much commercial appeal outside of getting butts in seats by way of trailer-based manipulation.” Shaun’s prediction has been proven correct, since the newly released trailer does lean heavily on its occasional bursts of action.
Take a look at the possibly misleading trailer for Blood Ties below.
It’s difficult to fathom that spending 144 minutes with all that talent (onscreen and off) would make for a chore, but it’s an understandable assessment as Gray’s films never have the fastest pace. They’re usually light on plot, but heavy on character and mood. It’s something he’s often been criticized for, and Gray hasn’t been afraid to return the favor with his opinion on those critics. The Immigrant — despite starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner — was not given a 2013 awards push by The Weinstein Company, but when you consider what films they released last year and what they chose not to release (Snowpiercer), that doesn’t mean much.
It’s funny the Weinsteins are distributing The Immigrant because after his experience with The Yards Harvey Weinstein went out of his way to ensure Gray never made another film. It wouldn’t be surprising if the film was buried due to yet another dispute between the two men. If there is any bad blood between Weinstein and Gray, expect the filmmaker to share the details with the press in the future.
If you’ve ever heard his commentaries or read Conversations with James Gray — which all aspiring directors, writers, and actors should purchase — you know he’s a refreshingly honest filmmaker. If you’re unfamiliar with his body of work, start with The Yards, and then listen to his audio commentary with Steven Soderbergh for it. It’s a must-listen, impromptu film-school class, and it only cost 5 dollars to hear.
We’ll have to wait for April to see Gray’s latest directorial effort, but until then we’ll get another taste of his work on the screen again with Blood Ties. Guillaume Canet‘s crime picture has no shortage of potential with that cast and Gray’s involvement, so let’s hope it lives up to its promise.
Blood Ties opens in limited release and VOD on March 21st, 2014.