Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Cuidado con las promesas que le haces a un buen amigo....

I am infatuated with The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut written by Guillermo Arriaga. Three Burials won Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival.

Arriaga expresses a writer's delight in twisting a tale. And this one is, by turns, morbidly funny at moments, as well as whimsically sad. Tommy Lee Jones delivers one of his most compassionate performances ever, noble in stature like Gary Cooper in High Noon or Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Barry Pepper, who has always given me the creeps, continues to do so in this movie, though his character arc allows him a delightful comic range. Dwight Yokum, whose character is admittedly one-dimensional, nonetheless exudes such presence on-screen; he's a natural.

Jonathan Rosenbaum reviews Three Burials for the Chicago Reader by way of comparing it to Michael Haneke's Cache. Both deal with the abusive treatment of immigrants. He highlights some key scenes in the film so his review is not for spoiler-wary:

More locally, Mick LaSalle suspects the film has an elusive charm that might elude everybody and finds it "dreadfully slow." LaSalle thinks he speaks for too many people, IMHO, and has issues with corpse-violation humor, but his review is an effective counterpoint to Rosenbaum's. One man's masterpiece is another man's mess.

Dave Hudson weighs in at the Greencine Daily with pointers to Rosenbaum's review, as well as Susan Gerhard's for the Bay Guardian:

Scott Tobias' reviews Three Burials for the A.V. Club. Scott Foundas does so for the L.A. Weekly. And, finally, Roger Ebert for, well, Roger Ebert....

I really like what Ebert, who gives the film four stars, says: "In an era when hundreds of lives are casually destroyed in action movies, here is an entire film in which one life is honored, and one death is avenged." Pepper's final line in the film, the film's final line period, is resonant with redemption.

IndieWIRE / Reverse Shot has a triptych review.

David Lowery explores the "substantiating connective tissue" between book and film adaptation at his Drifting film blogsite.

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