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Northfork (PG)



Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Michael Polish and co-writer Mark Polish; 'Bare Knuckle Filmmaking – The Construction of Northfork' featurette; '24 Frame News' segment on the film; Interview with the Polish brothers; Theatrical trailer; Photo gallery; Previews of other Metrodome releases.

FOLLOWING Twin Falls, Idaho and Jackpot, Northfork is the third in a trilogy of films, by the Polish brothers, about the American heartland.

In this case, the story revolves around the small American mid-west town of Northfork, which is about to be flooded as part of a scheme to create a gigantic reservoir.

The Government has tried everything to get the last few remaining inhabitants of the community to leave willingly before the sluice gates are opened and the town is lost forever.

But there are still some who refuse to go: one of the them has transformed himself into a latter day Noah, by building an Ark and taking two wives as his crew members.

Another man has nailed his feet to the floor of his house and is defending his property with a shot gun.

And then there's the ailing child, Irwin, who has been abandoned by his foster parents, to the care of the local priest, because they believe he is too weak to survive the journey out of the valley.

It is the job of the Evacuation Committee to persuade these stragglers that it is in their best interests to move on.

Over the course of the film we follow the attempts of these six functionaries, but principally the father and son team of Walter (James Woods) and Willis (Mark Polish), to do their jobs.

Although it is imbued with a semi-documentary feel, and is shot in black and white, this is a film brimming with creativity and colourful characters.

The Polish brothers draw on the Americans' legendary love for their land, and the myths of the mid-West, to create a rich magical-realist landscape, where everyday folks are offered the wings of angels as inducement to leave, and where the sickly Irwin finds the love and companionship he is looking for in a strange family of other-worldly eccentrics.

As counterpoint to the bizarre lives of the local community, the writers emphasise the stark, uniform existences lived by the members of the Evacuation Committee. But even here the commonplace is transformed into the comic by detailing the blandness of their lives so acutely that even the simple task of ordering lunch becomes a surreal, bureaucratic ritual.

Small in budget but big in heart, this is a fine film.

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