“Out of the Furnace”: *****

Posted by RDN under On movies on 7 March 2014

Yes, I am sure Out of the Furnace is that good. I think most of the comment from its creators is very interesting, and reassuring in the sense that what they aspire to seems to be what one warms to and feels to have been delivered. The one big reservation one might have is also overcome…

And the reservation is…..? Well, this is American Miserablism, no doubt. It is a genre which has two besetting problems. For the right-winger, of course, there is the feeling that it may all be so much soft-liberal tosh from a sort of cosmic Obama campaign. And then there is the problem that AM so often produces an American Redemption, which will usually take the form of a working class hero, a small town, a horse, a boat, or some sort of carpentry.

OotF avoids that only at the potential risk of being noir to the extent of there being only suffering. But, no: its last frame insists on a nuanced, if still pained, outcome to this revenge quest.

So much has been said about why this movie is good that I feel mostly like adding one smaller strand of thought.

It is that in spite of lovely writing and lovely acting, the real distinction of this film is that it very painterly. The actors have faces and general appearances which a Thomas Eakins could have done. They have the Kodak effect which Caravaggio would have liked. The assemblage could make the most wonderful comic. I mean that it is in a way a series of vignettes. It could be presented as a series of stills, and those stills could have captions and speech bubbles. I suppose this is like saying that almost every sequence is very beautiful. Oh dear, it is like saying each is iconographic. The stills -effect has to do with the director’s declared intention to slow us down. One of the effects is to invite us in, so that each moment we see seems quite expansive. It is open for inspection, and rewards it.

I very much like the way the only real villain in the piece is a man whose way of life is primordial and antique. This isn’t a film about the villainy of capitalism, etc. Against a life which is God knows hard enough, the only monster is a mountain man. And another thing: Braddock may be presented as recession-hit, but it has nice play grounds, and good teachers and policemen, and respectable housing. I thought that was a nice touch.

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