peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2021 11 25 ThePowerOfTheDog

The Power of the Dog

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At the last session of this opening day at the venerable Warrina Cineplex in Townsville, 18.45 start (but got there 18.25 for the shorts, no ads). 12.00 AUD (cash only!) and resolutely old school, like The Ritz, in a good way. Six theatres, and theatre 6 was relatively small — the front row seat was a little close but had all the leg room. The projector is digital.

I asked the bloke selling tickets if he'd seen it and he owned to not being a fan of Jane Campion. When pressed he likened her to Orson Welles: it's been all downhill since her first feature, to which I heartily agreed. The draw for me was mostly the cinema itself, perhaps the cast, the lack of other options. As it turned out I was the only one at this screening.

It's a western that drifts along in 1925 Montana. Much is made of horsey blokes and real men. Benedict Cumberbatch is the alpha while distant beta brother Jesse Plemons has all the luck in partnering up with (real life squeeze) Kirsten Dunst. She drags cold-blooded med-school sprog Kodi Smit-McPhee in her wake. There's some decent cinematography amongst many clunky or ill-paced and misconceived scenes, including several which tease a gay cowboys theme which is not delivered on. I didn't understand what it was between Dunst and Governor Keith Carradine that seemed to cut deeper than social stratification. Thomasin McKenzie from Last Night in Soho, having a moment, plays a balletic domestic. For just a sec she could've had a moment here, when she goes to feed the boy's rabbit.

Overall I didn't get the point. There was some perfection of motherly love (made clumsily explicit). There was also a piano. There was Kirsten Dunst, who was pretty good, but she's always good. Cumberbatch does OK but the scene where his precious bodily cattle hides are given to the Indians made me think he wished he was Christian Bale.

Dana Stevens: best thing Campion or Cumberbatch has done? I think not. Peter Bradshaw. Later, Manohla Dargis: Smit-McPhee updates Psycho.