New Zealand born, writer/director Andrew Dominik is something of an anomaly. Having made only three films – ‘Chopper’ (2000), ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ (2007), and ‘Killing Them Softly’ (2012) – he takes his time between films, and delivers something visually exceptional, and inspired, each time. Without further ado, I hand you over to writer Nathan T.Dean, introducing you to an overlooked contemporary filmmaker who is outshining all his competition…
THE ROCOCO GIRL [by Nathan T. Dean]
“He was ashamed of his persiflage, his boasting, his
pretensions of courage and ruthlessness; he was sorry
about his cold-bloodedness, his dispassion, his inability
From ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by The
Coward Robert Ford’ by Andrew Dominik
After his success with ‘Chopper’, a name bounced around the halls of Hollywood suites, with enigmatic and profound ease. Every man, woman, child, dog, victim, villain, hero wanted to find their way into the gorgeously crafted worlds of Andrew Dominik. And yet, much like that girl at the party who never accepts a single invitation to the bedrooms upstairs, he remained in creative limbo. Dominik, rather than leaping at the chance to pull himself into a broader limelight by using the fame of others, took his time. He waits, ready, for the perfect story, the perfect actor, and the perfect way to tell it. This, of course, is the first reason why we must give Dominik his dues. He has such a distinct voice, a distinct vision, and he comprehends how important that is in our current cinematic era; to create films everlasting and in quick succession would dilute the power of his imagery and words, so he waits.
“Making movies is hard. […] Ridley Scott can’t take more than two weeks between movies or he starts going bananas. I don’t understand those guys at all”, and so he keeps hearing the hollers of Hollywood highborns desperate for the next flick, and he keeps the interesting names in a little black book, and he waits, semi-chameleonic, for the perfect moment to grasp actor A, producer B, and brilliant idea C. Imagine that girl at the party. You already know the one. Even now – whether you are perverse gentleman or tutting lady, or some mixture of the terms – you know of that woman that everyone wants to take upstairs, and create with. Now imagine this girl wearing rococo flourishes, wincing over the rim of her glass, and you are a step closer to understanding Andrew Dominik.
And like that – A.B.C – we get ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford’. Andrew Dominik creates this blisteringly real world, with all the vibrancy of a fable. It is, in many ways, the perfect Western, and yet in so many others it just cannot be, for it is uniquely itself, uniquely Dominikian. Even though you can practically taste the dust and the depth of his world through the screen, Dominik comments on how hard it seemed to get the film through studios to our eyes: “They make movies that are real crowd-pleasing films. They look at a film like this and think: Jesus Christ, what is this?” As a writer and creative myself – and, naturally, if you are here, you are seeing the struggles and jubilations of Quandary Productions – this sense of fighting the economic requirement of a film, compared to the creative soul of it, can be profoundly disheartening. Yet here stands Andrew Dominik, with his little black book tucked in the hem of his skirt, dealing out some of the most beautifully crafted heroes and villains of cinema to some of the most daring, truly A-List actors of the day. How can one man bring together the whole? How can one man drag together the tickbox list of a happy be’suited producer, and the wild wonderment that is Jesse James? Only Andrew Dominik.
His work continues to flourish with ‘Killing Them Softly’, which, even after numerous viewings, continues to startle me. Not because of the activity within the film – the death, the violence, the gangster underworld – but for the opposite. The title is literally perfect. It’s his soft, human touch, to some of the hardest, morally ambiguous characters, along with an attuned visual eye which make his works memorable. The only downside to works so provocative is how there are so few. Andrew Dominik has ties to other films (adaptations of Cormac McCarthy for one) and yet he still waits for the right person to take to his boudoir upstairs. “I can turn up with Leonardo DiCaprio or some other movie star and they’re going to think: ‘Jesus Christ, it’s going to be another fruity, three-hour movie’” but that is where we praise him most. For his “baroque, rococo” heartbreakers that make the producers cringe. He may take his time to break down the walls of conventional marketable cinema, but when he does smash them away we are left with the most unfathomable rubble. I can only hope Andrew Dominik can find the right roles for DiCaprio and the gang, and we are offered more beautiful destruction to analyse.