Review: ‘Two Gates of Sleep’

Visually ecstatic but dramatically nonexistent, "Two Gates of Sleep" announces the arrival of a new American indie talent in Alistair Banks Griffin.

Visually ecstatic but dramatically nonexistent, “Two Gates of Sleep” announces the arrival of a new American indie talent in Alistair Banks Griffin, but one who would fare better if he had an actual script to shoot. This luscious widescreen meditation on nature, death and Southern discomfort follows two brothers escorting their mother’s body through rivers and woods toward parts unknown. The same could be said of the film, which starts off promisingly but peters out as the story, told practically sans dialogue, heads nowhere consistent. Pic should wake up fests and boutique distribs after its Cannes Fortnight bow.

An opening showing the bros (Brady Corbet, David Call) loading up their rifles foretells a “Shotgun Stories 2.” But things move in the direction of ultraminimalist Terrence Malick when their mother (Karen Young) inexplicably dies, and they somehow decide to carry her body downstream. That’s about it. Technically speaking, the film is a marvel, with Jody Lee Lipes’ richly composed imagery capturing every nook and cranny of the backwoods setting. Corbet and Call convey emotional depth despite the absence of content, which is sorely missed.

Two Gates of Sleep

Production

A Borderline Films, Andrew F. Renzi production. (International sales: Recreation, Marina del Rey, Calif.) Produced by Josh Mond, Renzi. Executive producers, Sean Durkin, Antonio Campos. Directed, written by Alistair Banks Griffin.

Crew

Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Jody Lee Lipes; editors, Griffin, Brady Corbet; music, Saunder Jurriaans, Daniel Bensi; production designer, Kris Moran; costume designer, Lina Hennessy. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 18, 2010. Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Brady Corbet, David Call, Karen Young.

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