×

Dust

Seven years after sharing the Venice Golden Lion for his debut feature, "Before the Rain," Macedonian auteur Milcho Manchevski is back with "Dust," his highly problematic sophomore effort. Essentially a Euro Western, spectacularly lensed in Macedonia, film borrows freely and unwisely from superior predecessors in the genre, while struggling to explore interesting themes involving the personal legacy we hand down to our descendants.

With:
Elijah - Joseph Fiennes Luke - David Wenham Edge - Adrian Lester Lilith - Anne Brochet Neda - Nikolina Kujaca Angela - Rosemary Murphy

Seven years after sharing the Venice Golden Lion for his debut feature, “Before the Rain,” Macedonian auteur Milcho Manchevski is back with “Dust,” his highly problematic sophomore effort. Essentially a Euro Western, spectacularly lensed in Macedonia, film borrows freely and unwisely from superior predecessors in the genre, while struggling to explore interesting themes involving the personal legacy we hand down to our descendants. Pic’s main problem in positioning itself commercially is that it straddles the genres: It’s too arty to cut it as a violent action pic and too gore-spattered to appeal to the arthouse crowd. Negative critical reaction also is likely.

Opening scenes unfold in present-day New York in the apartment of the aged Angela (Rosemary Murphy), who surprises a burglar, Edge (Adrian Lester). Angela gets the drop on the intruder and, at gunpoint, insists on telling him the story, not of her life, but of the lives of her father and uncle. This awkward premise isn’t made more believable by the fact that bad boy Edge instantly warms to the old gal’s storytelling, to the extent that when she’s taken ill he rushes her to the hospital, staying by her bedside until the story is finished.

A hundred years earlier, in the Old West, Luke (David Wenham), “the fastest gun west of the Pecos” as Angela describes him, without a hint of irony, takes his virginal kid brother, Elijah (Joseph Fiennes), to a brothel where both are smitten with comely hooker Lilith (Anne Brochet). In short order, Elijah and Lilith are married, and the embittered Luke (“Nobody laughed at Luke twice,” we’re told) high-tails it for fresh pastures.

Luke winds up in Macedonia, where freedom fighters battle against the Turkish troops occupying the country and 200 bandit gangs create bloody havoc across the spectacular landscape.

Brushing aside the language barrier, Luke soon is a gang member and dallying with local girl Neda (Nikolina Kujaca). However, retribution, in the form of his own brother, is on the horizon.

Though Manchevski claims to have been influenced by spaghetti Westerns, the clear influences on “Dust” are two very different 1969 oaters, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Wild Bunch.” From the former comes the scenes of the two men who leave America for a new and dangerous country, from the latter numerous scenes of blood-spattered carnage — substitute Turks for Mexicans and the similarities are all too clear. However, Manchevski fails to tap into either the humor and charm of “Butch” or the nobility and grim beauty of “Bunch.” “Dust” simply looks derivative.

There’s also a mean-spirited feel to the film, which, seen in the context of contemporary conflicts in the Balkans, hardly provides a positive message about this war-torn part of the world.

Most surprising, however, is that the director makes little of what he claims to be his main theme — the legacy of personal history. This modern story never begins to work dramatically.

Manchevski stages the action scenes, which consist mostly of bloody gun battles, with efficiency, though animal-loving audience members may not appreciate the numerous scenes in which sheep are seen apparently in their death throes after being hit by wayward bullets.

Barry Ackroyd’s burnished photography is often beautiful, and the Macedonian locations have been well selected. Kiril Dzajkovski’s full-blooded music score functions well as a rousing counterpoint to the action, though the interpolation of some songs from the present, including a strident rap number, over action unfolding a century ago is as jarring as similar moments in “A Knight’s Tale.”

While Fiennes hardly registers as the “good” brother, Aussie thesp Wenham brings considerable charisma, and a full-on Southern accent, to the reckless Luke. It’s a pity the screenplay doesn’t allow him more opportunities, because he’s the best thing the film has going for it. In the modern story, Lester and Murphy are as effective as possible in ill-conceived roles.

Dust

U.K.-Germany-Italy-Macedonia

Production: A Film Consortium presentation of a History Dreams (London)/ena Film (Germany)/Fandango Film (Rome)/Shadow Films (Macedonia) co-production, supported by the National Lottery through the Film Council, with the support of BSkyB, British Screen. (International sales: The Sales Co., London.) Produced by Chris Auty, Vesna Jovanoska, Domenico Procacci. Directed, written by Milcho Manchevski.

Crew: Camera (DeLuxe color), Barry Ackroyd; editor, Nic Gaster; music, Kiril Dzajkovski; production designer, David Munns; costume designers, Ane Crabtree, Anne Jendritzko; sound (Dolby digital), Roby Guver; line producers, Kevan Van Thompson, Richard Dooley, Branislav Srdic, Frank Dragun; associate producers, Lars Bloch, Gjorgji Simeonov; assistant directors, Zoran Andric, Bojana Sutic; casting, Leo Davis (London), Amanda Mackay (New York), Aneta Lesnikovska, Boban Dedeic (Macedonia). Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (opening night), Aug. 28, 2001. Running time: 124 MIN.

With: Elijah - Joseph Fiennes Luke - David Wenham Edge - Adrian Lester Lilith - Anne Brochet Neda - Nikolina Kujaca Angela - Rosemary Murphy

More Film

  • 'The Dirt' Review: A Mötley Crüe

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

  • Zac Efron Amanda Seyfried

    Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried Join Animated Scooby-Doo Film as Fred and Daphne

    Zac Efron has signed on to voice Fred Jones while Amanda Seyfried will voice Daphne Blake in Warner Bros.’ animated Scooby-Doo feature film “Scoob.” It was revealed earlier this month that Will Forte had been set to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, while Gina Rodriguez would be voicing Velma Dinkley. The mystery-solving teens and their talking [...]

  • 'Staff Only' Review: Cultures And Values

    Film Review: 'Staff Only'

    Marta (Elena Andrada) is 17, from Barcelona and alternately bored and mortified to be on a Christmas vacation to Senegal with her estranged dad, Manel (Sergi López), and annoying little brother, Bruno (Ian Samsó). For her, the freedoms of imminent adulthood, such as the occasional poolside mojito, are tantalizing close but still technically forbidden, rather [...]

  • Rocketman

    Candid 'Rocketman' Dares to Show Elton John as 'Vulnerable,' 'Damaged,' 'Ugly'

    Elton John movie “Rocketman” dares to portray the singer’s personality early in his career to have been, at times, “ugly,” Taron Egerton – who plays the pop star – told an audience at London’s Abbey Road Studios Friday, following a screening of 15 minutes of footage from the film. It is a candid portrayal, showing [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck's Addiction Drama Set for Awards-Season Release

    Warner Bros. has given Ben Affleck’s untitled addiction drama an awards-season-friendly release date of Oct. 18. The film, which has been known previously as “The Has-Been” and “Torrance,” is directed by Gavin O’Connor and stars Affleck as a former basketball player struggling with addiction, which has led to him losing his wife. As part of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content