Michael Polish, “Northfork” (2003).

Sep 25 2010

Northfork

I could go on and on about how beautiful the Polish brothers’ Northfork looks – the way light shines through feathers, the stark gray beauty of the Montana landscape, the loneliness of weather-beaten farmhouses and the vastness of the sky swallowing them up, the visual humor of six men in black suits and hats filling up the foreground, all thanks to M. David Mullen’s gorgeous cinematography – but then I’d exhaust the good things about the film. Replete (or overstuffed) with religious symbolism, the film, set in 1955, mostly follows the mysterious Movers, assigned to persuade the last stubborn residents of Northfork to move before a new dam is opened and floodwaters consume the village. The film slips through different realities: one is from the dream-perspective of a boy abandoned by his adoptive parents, but I write that as if it’s clear which is which. Slowly both universes seep into each other: one suffused with a deadpan surrealism, the other with willful eccentricities, and both unfortunately begin to overshadow the narrative’s overall tone of mourning. Not to mention how this mood of impending loss is often shattered by egregious puns (one character actually says, “What are you talking about, Willis?”). Quite an acting cast, though: Nick Nolte, James Woods, Anthony Edwards and Daryl Hannah are here, but their formidability can’t save the film from collapsing under its own pretensions.

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