Tuesday, 19 May 2015

REVIEW - SLOW WEST (JOHN MACLEAN)


The slowness in Slow West is nowhere to be found. This short, though not snappy, western is relatively unconcerned with pace, more so with rhythm. I commend writer / director John MacLean - he shows an interest in developing a new, personal style of filmmaking, and even as it is bluntly influenced by any number of genre titles that have come before it, this style has a genuinely idiosyncratic feel to it. Whether or not it is a satisfactory style is another matter... alas, between the vivid visuals and the caustic humour, Slow West's cartoonish quality is employed to fill in gaps in the narrative, holes in the conceit, but lacks the viability to do so convincingly. The film possesses the personality of a comic book - a fairly good one, in fact - but can't reconcile this with the western elements that are intrinsic to its existence, since this personality is put on, unnatural, a little affected. What value it adds is considerable, though, as one might agree when Slow West dips into and out of some expertly-handled comedic scenes, or the blood-splattered final sequence. MacLean has a fittingly lean sensibility, and his distaste for clutter and bluster gives the humour a bit of zing, and the action a welcome clarity. To be sure, it's as posy as they come, and as naive too, in believing that it can conceal its affectations, but the Celtic flippancy that MacLean and co-lead Michael Fassbender bring provides a tart tonic to Slow West's occasional loftiness. Robbie Ryan's cinematography is striking - it has artistic value, if not thematic value, which is true of much of this highly appealing, highly imperfect debut from a highly promising filmmaker.