'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' offers new take on American outlaw films

Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:50pm EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is the latest in a list of movies celebrating the American outlaw mythology, but the indie film set in rural Texas in the 1970s focuses more on mood and feelings than blazing shoot-outs and daring prison escapes.

For writer-director David Lowery, the impetus for the outlaw romance, which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, was a desire to be a part of the tradition of classic American storytelling, and to create a film that felt like an old folk song.

"More than anything else I just wanted to make a movie that felt a certain way. I am always trying to figure out ways to capture intangible, abstract things like that and turn them into movies," the 32-year-old director said in an interview.

With its beautifully filmed landscapes, rustic sets and melodic, hand-clapping original score, the film starring Academy Award nominees Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as doomed lovers has a graceful ease and a nostalgic, reminiscent of Terrence Malick's 1973 crime drama "Badlands."

It is also a nod to Robert Altman's 1971 Western "McCabe & Mrs. Miller," right down to the inclusion of actor Keith Carradine, who appears in both films.

At the Sundance Film Festival, where "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" debuted earlier this year, critics praised its singular quality and panache, as well as its director.

"Lowery is hardly the first filmmaker to crib Malick's poetic aesthetic, but his clear confidence in aspiring to the same sort of enrapturing experience is undeniably impressive," said the film magazine Screen International.

Britain's Guardian newspaper chimed in saying, "His is truly a fresh voice, exhilarating to hear," while New York's Village Voice newspaper described Lowery, an adopted Texan and the eldest of nine children, as "a filmmaker to watch."   Continued...

Cast members Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara pose at the premiere of "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in this file photo taken January 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files