Film Review – “A Ghost Story” By David Lowery

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There are plenty of things, Mr Kubrick, that simply cannot be born a-screen. It is no good to say, as you have, that if something can be thought or written it can be filmed; that each medium might contrive to the same version of ideals, like tense green shoots worrying one another upward. There is no fraternity between the arts, and certainly no communication that is un-forced. On the globe of the brain, they are continents separated by water. Empires of custom, language, memory, myth, faith, speed, sexuality and geometry so profoundly different from the next that any effort to exhume ancient likenesses is a pursuit as ill-conceived and ill-fated as translating poetry.

As God sits stolid as a full-stop in the foyer of consciousness, the danger of Kubrick’s design is that the answer, or at least its semblance, will come too soon, and that it may satisfy. Yet I am not worried. Kubrick throws his gravitas around constantly, like a perpetual motion machine; it’s how he gets from place to place. The epigram is transparent and masculine. He seeks simply to reassure himself that cinema is potent; that it may thrust blindly into as many corners as literature, music and painting have in the 20th century; that it can be as monosyllabic and concrete and singularly unenjoyable as anyone else. (See: Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite)

What cannot be cynicised is the general spirit of adventure, of wandering the racy streets at night, that is pregnant in Kubrick’s words and deeds – and it impregnates Lowery somewhat. The true body of ‘A Ghost Story’, away from the pained soliloquies and the movie stars, is remarkably ambitious and very difficult. There is perhaps a common set of states that affect the globe-head and prove that they are of one atmosphere, a day and night of the senses that one might call the prosaic and the poetic modes. Each discipline may be taken up in one of the two hands; the distinction does not belong solely to the written word. There is prosaic painting as there is poetic, and prosaic film-making as there is poetic. “A Ghost Story” is a poem – a coy bijou, but nevertheless a poem.

There are segments of the film that fly off into the Kubrick horizon – the arrival of the cowboys, for example. And I admire its experiments with real time; the pie sequence functions as a ruler through space, in a film of bent lines. But Lowery’s is a two-bit continuum; he has the idea, but packages it small and sweet, all signified by a kitsch drapery figurehead. Its feyity belies its scope.

Owen Neve

Drama, Fantasy, Romance | USA, 2016 | 12A | 11th August 2017 (UK) | Picturehouse Entertainment | Dir.David Lowery | Casey, Affleck, Rooney Mara,