A/V Room









Northfork - Preview

Preview by: Jack Foley

ACCORDING to the London Film Festival website, ‘once upon a time in the West, a pair of American independent cinema’s most prodigiously creative and idiosyncratic brothers set out to make a magical realist fairy tale’.

The film that resulted is Northfork, which they set under the wide, wide skies of mid-50s Montana, where the fictional Great Plains town of Northfork is about to be ‘dammed’ - flooded for a new hydroelectric project.

The problem is, only a few lingering residents remain, and a government Evacuation Committee – six funereally attired men, led by James Woods – are charged with cajoling, bribing, bullying or otherwise persuading them to move to higher, drier ground.

Among the reluctant home-owners are an amorous young couple, a religious man who has built his own Ark, and an ailing boy who believes he is the lost member of a group of wandering Angels.

In this beautiful – and beautifully eccentric – film, notions of identity, transition and loss (consistent with the Polish brothers earlier films, Twin Falls Idaho and Jackpot) are shaped into what the LFF describe as ‘a dream-like generic hybrid, where ‘real’ Montana is as artificial as anything the child’s fevered imagination can conjure up’.

The casting is inspired, with the ever-excellent Woods being united with the likes of Nick Nolte, Daryl Hannah and

The film has already opened in America to largely positive reviews and will be screened at the London Film Festival on October 30 and November 1.

The latter screening will be followed by a special presentation, entitled ‘A road less travelled - The creative development journey to Northfork’, which takes place at the National Film Theatre.

Part of an exciting new generation of US film-makers, Mark and Michael Polish’s third feature has established them as a film-making team with an idiosyncratically beautiful visual style and an attraction to subjects rarely seen in American films (from co-joined twins, to a karaoke singer on a journey of discovery).

Their latest is being hailed by the LFF as ‘a majestic fairy tale about angels and the flooding of a Montana town, the final instalment of a loose trilogy exploring the American Heartlands’.

The film’s director, Michael Polish and co-writer/actor, Mark Polish, will talk about the film after its premiere, in what promises to be one of the more sought-after events for members of the public.

US reaction

Leading the accolades for this one is Variety, which was positively gushing in its praise, writing that ‘like the best work of David Lynch, Northfork is that rare movie that draws you in more (rather than alienating you) at precisely those moments when you least understand it’.

The Chicago Sun-Times wrote that ‘the movie is visionary and elegiac, more a fable than a story, and frame by frame, it looks like a portfolio of spaces so wide, so open, that men must wonder if they have a role beneath such indifferent skies’.

While the Denver Post opined that ‘it is impossible to describe all the rich layers of Northfork, clearly an exhausting labor of love for the Polish brothers who wrote, produced, directed and star in the mystical movie’.

Better yet, was the New York Post, which referred to it, simply, as a ‘remarkable love letter to the disappearance of the American frontier’.

However, there were negative notices, with Entertainment Weekly finding that ‘it has that vintage Polish pace, their signature arch pomposity and rhythmless weirdness, only this time the brothers had to go and make a cosmic allegory of American dreams’.

The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, concluded that it is ‘weighed down, if not sunk, by an anchor of ponderousness’, while the Washington Post lamented that it’s ‘just too lost in its own presumed self-enchantment’.

The San Francisco Chronicle simply stated that it was ‘numbing and inert’.

However, a better gauge of whether this could be the movie for you comes from the National Post, which wrote that ‘the Polish brothers have clearly not let realism get in the way of a great story. Surrealism is their watchword, or magic realism if you will, and enjoyment of the tale depends on surrendering to its powers’.

While the Houston Chronicle concludes this round-up by stating that it is ‘a story so tender, so achingly sweet, you'll forgive the rest of the film its amorphousness’.

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