By Roger Costa
There is one moment that defines the trajectory of glory and fragility of a renowned jockey. Every time someone notes his ability and talent, delivering a compliment about his riding, he rapidly reacts with a cynical smile and an eye contact full of self confidence, demonstrating he is totally assured of his potential. Clifton Collins Jr. delivers an enigmatic performance as Jackson, the antihero aging jockey lead-character, a remarkable work that consecrates him as one of America’s best contemporary actors. This impressive facial technique will permeate the narrative, as he must deal with many obstacles imposed his way, including a history of injuries and negligence. First, he is stubborn and self centered enough not to notice he is sick and urgently needs treatment. The only thing he cares is to get prepared for the next ride or competition, and how to survive in the game, now opening possibilities for younger talents. One of them is a very promising rider, Gabriel, bringing some sort of competitiveness and intimidation to Jackson, but then falls into emotionally charged field, as he claims to be his son. Now he must analyze his condition as a competitive, narcissistic athlete and also as a father in order to find redemption and healing from his inner wounds. Moises Arias is also brilliant in the role of Gabriel, building up a character with lots of suspense, ambiguity and uncertainty. He is certainly a contender for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, alongside Collins, who is among the frontrunners in the Best Actor Race. The third part of this fabulously performed drama is Molly Parker as Ruth, the horse instructor struggling to tame Jackson’s impulses and reckless decisions. Brilliantly shot by cinematographer Adolpho Veloso, the film perfectly depicts the uneasiness of the situation while vividly capturing the drenching sunny skies and the rush of the horse tracks with compelling results. First time director Clint Bentley crafts a powerful character study, a seductive and impressive look at a male’s ego crisis, an athlete determined to battle all odds to maintain his integrity and status.
(Sony Pictures Classics. 12/29. Film Forum.)
THE VELVET QUEEN
An exuberant, thrilling and brilliantly contemplative doc examining the mysterious, unique and naturally dangerous wildlife found in the icy freezing, splendorous landscapes of the Himalayas. A place of fascinating creatures and powerful spiritual clarity, it is home to some of the most exotic and intriguing animals. Co-directed by French filmmaker Marie Amiguet and renowned photographer Vincent Munier, the film follows their attempt to encounter the rare snow leopard while facing the risks, the brutal weather and other life-threatening conditions. Along the way, comes their travel companion, author Sylvain Tesson, with whom they share individual perspectives on their passion and relationship to nature and its inhabitants deeply captured by precise lenses. As they venture the wilderness and cross paths with amazing animals, they make us part of the journey, taking us thru an unforgettable, visually arresting and breathtaking adventure. It feels like a spiritual meditation session, filled with fantastic natural imagery: exactly what we need for the Holidays.
(Oscilloscope Laboratories. 12/22. Film Forum.)
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!