In pre-World War II Sicily, just as the fascists come to power, two men fall in love with the same woman. The changes in their country's politics ultimately take all three on a journey across the ocean to New York.
While a world war rages, Philippe, a draft-dodger from Quebec, takes refuge in the American West, surviving by competing in Charlie Chaplin impersonation contests. As Philippe makes his ... See full summary »
Political and sexual repression in Hungary, just after the revolution of 1956. In 1958, the body of Eva Szalanczky, a political journalist, is discovered near the border. Her friend Livia ... See full summary »
Joshua Tree, 1951 is the provocative and mesmerizing experimental portrait of an icon. Framed in a series of dreamlike, sometimes hallucinatory vignettes, the film draws on striking textures (velvety black-and-white 35mm, grainy bursts of color), highly stylized form, and the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud to question not only the established narrative of James Dean's life but also the process of star-making itself.Written by
For James Dean fans -- who only made three feature films in his lifetime (East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant) -- this will lamentably NOT be the biopic many would be hoping for. The title actually gives this away by calling itself a "portrait" of Dean by highlighting a brief portion of his life in Joshua Tree, California in 1951. Dean didn't make "it big" in film until 1955 (the year of his death) and his two consecutive Oscar nominations were posthumous in 56 and 57. This small film highlights a small phase of Dean's life as he struggles with acting and his drive to become famous.
In the film, Dean is taking an acting class to learn the ropes and establish his footing in southern California while he lives with a nice classmate who apparently has some deeper feelings for him -- the film is based upon the writing of this roommate. Much has been said about Dean living a bisexual lifestyle and this film "goes there" -- some won't want to see how much skin is on display here (there isn't even that much but it might upset some is all) -- although the film never really goes into any of the particulars with any of Dean's relationships so the audience never knows if Dean felt anything for anybody else or if all of his moves were calculated and methodical ... hoping something would come from this fling or that encounter.
The film feels rather pretentious at times (it is about James Dean!) but its stylish elements save it from being loathsome and detestable while the acting feels amateurish yet adequate. The landscape and views of Joshua Tree are breathtakingly beautiful and these simple moments in the film are gorgeously shot. There are parts of this that are not great but just when a moment is becoming almost unbearable the film offers up something commendable that makes one take notice.
There is a lot of promise here (like its subject matter) and it is disappointing that the film couldn't be more (again ... like its subject matter). This is probably a hard film to find and track-down and it won't be for everybody; but those fans of Dean's work probably won't mind seeing this small tribute to the star trying to make it in 1951 while not catching any breaks. It isn't much and is rather lite.
Joshua Tree, 1951 is more "art" than anything else ... it is a what if (as most of it is merely alleged; but what isn't?). James himself is a what if ... if only. There was something there with Dean ... and there is something here too. It just comes up short and never lives up to its potential. Again ... truly fitting and the disappointment one feels as the credits role is the exact disappointment that should be felt for this life that was cut short.
If this were the filmmaker's intent, I'd say "genius"; but I'm not certain of that. As is, though, ... it is quite good.
6 of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this