Creeps like a muddy river

Two Gates of Sleep

on April 27, 2011 by Richard Mowe

This brooding drama about two mysterious brothers in the Deep South features Brady Corbet (best known for his role as a violent preppie in the stateside version of Funny Games). Its director and writer, the British-born but New York-based artist Alistair Banks Griffin, shows some talent in his first outing, yet fails to marshal his material. It's relatively short but seems much, much longer, which is always a bad sign. Numbers may also seem bigger than they really are.

Two backwoods brothers (Brady Corbet and David Call) honor the last wishes of their mother (Karen Young) by dragging her coffin through forests and along a river for her final journey. The metaphysical trek through the Mississippi swamps may look visually stark and arresting, but substance is lacking.

The slim story is recounted almost exclusively in visuals. It's a full 20 minutes into the film before a word of dialogue is exchanged. There are lots of lingering close-ups and scenes extended beyond their worth. The journey takes several days and some of it fees like real time.

The premise and setting could have provided a fertile arena for inspiration but Griffin, possibly trying for shades of Terrence Malick or even another minimalist filmmaker like Carlos Reygadas, seems unsure of his ultimate direction and tests our patience beyond endurance.

It does look impressive on the widescreen (Jody Lee Lipes was the cinematographer) and Corbet and Call do their best with what are flimsily written characters. They are not conversational characters, which is just as well, since they're provided minimal dialogue. We're not given much about their inner lives or thoughtssuch aspects are obscured by the omnipresent vegetation which is a metaphor for death and decay.

Originally presented in the Directors' Fortnight section of last year's Cannes Film Festival, the film has earned some kudos on the festival circuit (Deauville, London) but audiences will have difficulty sympathizing with the protagonists and their plight.

Notwithstanding all these reservations Griffin clearly is a budding filmmaker to watchthink a youthful Gus Van Sant. Let's not give him, however, ideas above his status just yet. The title apparently is an allusion to Homer's "Odyssey," which is just the kind of pretentious comparison that Griffin could do well to drop.

Distributor: Factory 25
Cast: Brady Corbet, David Call, Karen Young
Director/Screenwriter: Alistair Banks Griffin
Producers: Andrew F Renzi and Josh Mond
Genre: Drama
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 78 min.
Release date: April 1 NY


Tags: Brady Corbet, David Call, Karen Young, Alistair Banks Griffin, Andrew F Renzi, Josh Mond

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