Note: This is a reconstructed version of this entry, about half of which disappeared after publication.
I was excited to get my Blu-Ray copy of The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford for several reasons. Obviously, it’s a film that looks and sounds better than almost anything released in 2007, so a high-def presentation seemed like a must. And I’m thrilled to be able to watch the film whenever I want; there are quite a few sequences I’d like to have permanently bookmarked for frequent reference.
Then there’s the fact that the Blu-Ray disc has a special feature the bare-bones SD DVD lacks: a documentary about the history of Jesse James. Sadly, the half-hour show has little to offer over and above what you might find on the History Channel. While it’s got a few behind the scenes glimpses, mostly of the train robbery that essentially opens the story, that video footage is altered to look like the finished film. You won’t glean from those clips any insight into how Andrew Dominick created this astonishing piece of work.
Beyond that, the documentary is a straightforward account of the life of Jesse James. If you’ve read the source novel very little will be new (author Ron Hansen does speak quite a bit in the doc) and in fact, even those who’ve spent a few minutes with sources as easy to come by as Wikipedia and the James family page won’t learn much from this doc.
Not to say that it’s a bad piece of work; as an introduction to Jesse James it’s perfectly serviceable. But in contrast to Dominick’s stunning feature film, the doc looks like not even a half-hearted effort.
Guess I’ll have to wait a while for a decent feature that really goes into the time James spent as a Confederate raider and the resulting reverberations that made him into a folk hero, much less one that shows how the new attitudes and civil standards of Reconstruction set him up for his last days.
While I wrote this I was listening incessantly to an advance copy of Earth’s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull. For anyone who was as entranced as I was by the Nick Cave / Warren Ellis score to Assassination, this might be an essential buy.
Dylan Carson has slowly channeled his old slowcore doom metal songcraft into a bizarre, dirgey Americana. Oceans of reverb wash rural twang over the bass and drum beat of a crushingly hot Southern September evening. Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method debuted this change (with song titles lifted liberally from Cormac McCarthy) and after a couple of interludes (the Hibernaculum e.p, a split with Sunn O))) ) we get Bees, a slightly more accessible and broad use of this new palette.
The connection here is that an extremely limited live record that followed on the heels of Hex featured on the cover the famous death photo of Bloody Bill Anderson, with whom Jesse James once rode on Confederate raids.
Tenuous? Sure, but it’s all in the sound.
Listen to a track from Bees; buy Hex here from CHUD and Amazon or pre-order Bees here.