Seraphim Falls

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007 | All Things, Film

Tonight, an advance screening of Seraphim Falls. First-time feature film director David von Ancken is an alumni of the Gen Art Film Festival, where his digital short Bullet in the Brain had its New York premiere in 2002. The film captures the moment of a bullet piercing a bank robber’s skull while a former teacher revisits poignant episodes in his life. Hypnotic, a global distributor of short films, had streamed the film as original content on its website as part of the company sponsored Million Dollar Film Festival. Von Ancken’s was one of five films selected for the contest’s final round by web voters. A five-member jury awarded Bullet in the Brain the “Most Hypnotic Film” title by considering not only the short but the filmmaker’s feature film proposal. At a special ceremony during the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, von Ancken was presented with a $1 million production deal with Universal Pictures for his first full-length feature.

Loews 19th Street

The result is this metaphorical revenge western, starring Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan emerges on the screen like a hero from a Jack London novel: fur-clad, feral, and all but indifferent to the fine art of speaking – essentially the antithesis of James Bond. The opening, dialogueless opening sequence shows him shot in the arm like an animal (necessitating some howl-inducing DIY surgery), chased through snowy mountain forests and down a waterfall by Neeson and his hired-gun posse. Over the next couple of hours, in an escalating spiral of bloody violence, you just know the ranks will be thinned until all that remains is a final climactic showdown between the two men. Along the way, there are encounters with the usual cast of Civil War era characters: a hardscrabble pioneer family, Chinese railroad workers (and their brutal Irish overseers), religious missionaries, a trio of fugitive bankrobbers… all shot in a beautifully-shifting scenic backdrop of snow-dusted rocky valleys, icy rivers, woods and scrub and desert, garden and frontier. The cinematography, for me, was the best part of the film. My sense is that the filmmaker intended to build intrigue in this rather rote drama by leaving it mostly ambiguous as to which side of good and evil the protagonists fall. The reason for the vendetta (a war atrocity tied to the titular location) is expositioned through a series of very brief flashbacks and is not fully revealed until about two-thirds the way through the film.

By then, at least among this screening audience, very few cared, having already sat through a lot of intense, squinty-eyed gazing, but precious little dialogue. By the time a heavily made-up Anjelica Huston appears as a snake-oil peddling vision in the desert, those that lasted through to the end had descended into snickers and groans.

Having bid adieu to my partner for the evening in pile-up of popcorn, I passed on the afterparty festivities at new club Ultra, known for its raised 30-person VIP “Tree House” overlooking the main tree-pillared floor. The 3,500 square foot space, which once housed world music venue Satalla, has been tricked out with scent-generating machines and an 80-foot-wide projection wall. Ultra indeed.

On the way to the subway, past Madison Square Park on a chilly night:

Madison Square Park

Metropolitan Life Building

There are 3 Comments ... Seraphim Falls

January 29, 2007

What’s the history of that 2nd tower?

January 29, 2007

11 Madison?  The clocktower is about to go condo.

Go for it ...