Shot in the Jauja ratio (square with rounded corners). Strange movie – I didn’t know where it was going, thought the much-discussed pie scene was fine, followed along through some wtf moments, and finally felt deeply moved at the end. The second great ghost film of 2017. Theme of writing down secrets and slipping them into rocks and walls, similar to the Wong Kar-Wai whispers. Writer/director Lowery has a bad mustache, makes lyrical indie dramas in between Disney live-action cartoons.

Rooney and Casey are married, argue sometimes, make love sometimes, then he dies in a car accident just outside the house and appears as a classic ghost (white sheet with eyeholes). Time moves fast – months pass while he makes a single round of the house. He terrorizes some new residents, observes a house party with a nihilist Will Oldham, and witnesses the demolition of the house and construction of a massive office building. Suddenly time resets and we’re in American settler times, then back to the house, where the strange new-house noises heard by Rooney and Casey appear to be the Casey ghost, making one wonder whether the ghost is even Casey after all. No need to write down what happens in the final minute, because I’ll never forget it.

Another beautifully composed and assembled cavalcade of sweet sadness. I’d been over-adequately warned about all the sadness, so had to feel bad about myself afterwards for not feeling sad enough. Somehow I’d not been warned at all about the awful music – maybe it’s an acquired taste for over-loud choral arrangements – nor about the warm humor that weaves around all the sadness.

Casey Affleck (I know who he is now, thanks to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) is Lee, who lives a life of lonely bar fights in self-imposed exile after accidentally killing his three kids in a fire years earlier (revealed gradually in flashback). His big brother Kyle Chandler dies of heart failure, leaving teenage Lucas Hedges (The Zero Theorem) to Casey, who acts properly responsible towards his beloved nephew, but also tries to rid himself of the responsibility as fast as possible and return to his basement-dwelling solitude.

All the actors are terribly, achingly good, each experiencing their own version of grief. Especially terrible is the scene where Casey’s ex Michelle Williams confronts him, and he responds with quietly stuttering denial. Reading this back it sounds like I don’t love the movie, but I mean “terrible” in a good way, and I hope all the attention it’s getting (best actor at the globes, six oscar nominations) makes up for Margaret‘s mistreatment.

I missed the evening show of Manchester by the Sea because I misremembered the start time and got caught up watching Black Mirror episodes. But I still wanted to get bummed out watching a long Casey Affleck movie, so fortunately I had The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford handy. I don’t remember Casey from the Oceans trilogy or Interstellar, so this served as a reintroduction before Manchester, and both turned out to be stunner movies with great lead performances. If anyone is working on a Timothy Carey biopic, I nominate Casey as lead.

I’ve seen this story before, in Sam Fuller’s I Shot Jesse James, in which The Coward Robert Ford shoots his hero/boss Jesse in the back, then lives the rest of his short life as a famous outlaw-killer, reenacting his crime onstage. This movie fleshes out the gang much more, showing a Robert as a starstruck, excitable kid, the runt of the Fords, and Jesse as paranoid and dangerous.

After one last train robbery, the gang lays low. Jesse has a family with wife Mary-Louise Parker, lives in a forest house near Kansas City under a fake name, never got caught. Ol’ Frank James (Sam Shepard) and Charley (Sam Rockwell) make the weasely, weak-sounding Robert feel bad about his Jesse James hero-worship, but Jesse recruits Robert when the rest of his gang starts falling away and he gets nervous that someone will sell him out for reward money, visits old friend Garret Dillahunt and kills him. Meanwhile, Paul Schneider and Jeremy Renner are none too bright, compete for the attention of a teen girl, eventually have a huge falling out and Bob kills Renner and calls the cops on Schneider. Late appearance by James Carville as the governor, Nick Cave as a troubadour and Zooey “She” Deschanel.

Casey and Carville have a psychic battle:

Dominik and DP Roger Deakins don’t overdo the stylistic quirks, allowing the story and actors to do their thing against gorgeous landscapes, but the movie’s got its share of flair – shots with edges blurred like old-timey photographs, an occasional omniscient narrator.

Casey of the Clouds:

A. Cook:

On one side it mythologizes the transitionary period of American history via the fable-building narration and dreamy photography, and on the other it slowly and methodically demystifies the characters that populate it and the falsehood of celebrity. It is this contradiction that is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the film and mirrors the inner-conflict of Robert Ford and his complex relationship with Jesse James.