"Disappearances" is a film I'll show to as many friends as possible, and hopefully have many deeply stimulating conversations with others who are stirred and haunted in a good way by its magic and beauty. This has "cult classic of the best kind" written all over it, in the sense that it has everything you'd want from a ripping good yarn of a film, would appeal to someone who's favorite film was, say, "Raiders of the Lost Arc" or "Rio Bravo", but plays by its own rules and those *aren't* the rules that get a film a mega-promotional package. And that's exactly why fans looking for something new will love it, and why word of mouth on it'll spread. Writer-Director Jay Craven, working on a small budget, performs the tricky balancing act of capturing the excitement and suspense of the often over-the-top material, while maintaining a humble, understated, down-to-earth tone. Here we have bootleggers, drunken monks, drunken bootlegging monks, car and boat and train chases, a spectral witch who disappears and reappears in the damnedest times and places to offer wisdom, an undead whiskey-running pirate straight out of New England folklore with a gang of henchmen seriously, what's not to like? - and as an enthusiast and former resident of Vermont, if I told you how much of this seems plausible, you wouldn't believe me. The film captured everything best in the rugged, feisty, often adventuresome spirit of the state of Vermont, depicting an outlaw culture that thrived on the fringes of a fading northern frontier, personified in Quebec Bill, a farmer in the Depression who must revert to his old whiskey running practices to save the farm after his barn is struck by lightning and burns down. This guy's my new movie-character hero. His dynamic with friends/partners-in-crime Rat Kinneson (William Sanderson) and Henry Coville (Gary Farmer), of how buddies together in an outrageous, sometimes dangerous situation, each surviving and making sense of things in his own way while putting up with each other - to some degree surviving each other - is spot-on. Particularly that whole scene in the tavern, and the delivery of the line "Because I couldn't stand myself if I wasn't there to help you out of whatever you're about to get into." Kris Kristofferson is amazing as Quebec Bill, deepening my already considerable respect for someone who was already one of my favorite musical artists, as are Sanderson and Farmer in their respective roles. Years back, I had a chance to read the screenplay to this film before it was produced. As a fan of the TV show "Deadwood," when I found out Sanderson was playing Rat, I thought, "Damn, that's perfect!" And it's interesting to find Farmer in both this and "Dead Man", as I found that film tonally and thematically similar, in its dreamlike quality and embrace of fantastical, metaphorical imagery and mystery, things that aren't always explained, yet actively invite the audience to participate with their own imagination and come to their own conclusions. "Disappearances" is, however, far less brutal, as well as warmer and more inviting to like and identify with its characters. Quebec Bill and crew are guys I'd like to hang out with. By the end of the film, I wished I could stay in their world with them longer. It left me longing for the things in the world that have *disappeared* -- SPOILIER WARNING -- as symbolized by Bill and Cordelia literally doing so END SPOILERS -- under the weight of "progress," even though only the ghosts of many such things have been around to know in my own lifetime. In that sense, I related to Wild Bill, and wanted to see where life takes him from there. Also a delightful surprise is the film's handling of its demonic villain Carcajou, particularly Lothaire Bluteau in the role. In the novel and script, he was a far less developed, more hulking ogre-like monster, though clearly with a cunning brain. Here, he becomes something far more ambiguous and complex. I don't think I've seen this actor in anything else, though he should be seen more. Any time the character's on screen, you can't take your eyes off him. Moments like when he comes snarling onto the train waving that knife around were genuinely terrifying, yet there were other times when I felt a strange sympathy for him. I really wanted to see more of that character and learn more about him, though truthfully such a character is generally most effective when actually seen only in small doses, someone who becomes an ominous off-screen ever-presence, sort of like Dracula in Bram Stoker's original novel. And like Stoker's Dracula, Carcajou is in many ways a personification of unresolved things within the good guys, things they're not comfortable with, can't yet face within themselves, things they're running from, manifested as a physical boogie-man onto whom those fears become projected... someone from whom they must literally run. Such metaphoric exploration is what's always truly wonderful about the best fantasy in film and literature, light and dark. And "Disappearances" certainly ranks with the best!
Action / Adventure / Drama
Action / Adventure / Drama
Quebec Bill Bohomme is a hardy schemer and dreamer, who, desperate to raise money to preserve his endangered herd through the rapidly approaching winter, resorts to whiskey-smuggling, a ...
February 18, 2020