Preview by: Jack Foley
ACCORDING to the London Film Festival website, once upon
a time in the West, a pair of American independent cinemas
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
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 childs 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
Part of an exciting new generation of US film-makers, Mark and
Michael Polishs 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 films 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.
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 its 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.