By – Gareth Jones
For fans of Ari Aster, personal psychological examinations in the form of art, experimental narratives, hallucinogenic and psychedelic movies without the drugs, challenging art
As you can see from that list, this film pushes the audience to extremes including lengthy lists of comparisons. It has already polarized audiences and critics alike and will most likely be a substantial financial loss. Ari Aster has become synonymous with the Folk Horror Revival led by the production company A24. His two previous feature length films, Hereditary and Midsommar, both made considerable money on the investment leading to many copycat productions but also giving A24 the clout to give filmmakers like Aster the opportunities to make unconventional work. For those expecting a third Folk Horror film completing a trilogy, there will be disappointment. This is a deeply personal work for Aster. It is an expansion on a short film he made in 2011 called Beau. It has been gestating in the back of his mind while he has made these more “traditional” films that have given him the financial ability to make Beau is Afraid. In fact, I would hazard to state that it has been his life’s work.
This is a challenging piece that asks the audience to enter a chaotic, horrifying, and deeply anxious world. It will put you on edge from the very start and it does not let up. It shares with his previous films an uneasiness or unheimlich, the German word for uncanny or weird. The title character (brilliantly inhabited by Joaquin Phoenix) is an avatar for the neuroses of the modern man. It is an epic tale modeled on the likes of the Odyssey or the story of Job, relentless in its examination of the human condition. Of course, there are some humorous elements along the way (Nathan Lane is a riot) and call backs to his previous films. The cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski is astonishing. His brilliant work in Aster’s previous films continues here and expands tremendously as the world of Beau is constantly changing. The supporting cast is incredibly strong, particularly the three women in his life, Pati Lapone, Parker Posey, and Amy Ryan. All are equal to Phoenix’s performance.
It is a film that demands multiple viewings and leaves you thinking, for me a good sign for a film. In fact, it will leave you in need of a therapeutic conversation with others who have experienced the life of Beau.
Go see it at Sidewalk Cinema now!
Written by: Gareth Jones
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