(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) “Haunting” is the cheapest adjective you can affix to any ghost story, but there’s a fair case for it in trying to describe A Ghost Story. For one thing, it’s a slow, methodically paced, nothing-moves-too-quickly story from the point of view of the ghost. As our protagonist dies, he remains trapped into the house, seeing his wife mourn (by eating an entire pie) and then leave. He’s not too fond of the next owners and does his best to scare them. Then, well, who knows: We travel in a future metropolis presumably built upon the space occupied by the old house. Then back in time for the first settlers on the site of the house. This circular trip in time achieved, the ghost comes to grip with his nature and can let go, leaving his bedsheet behind. A Ghost Story sounds insane when summarized (and the trailer makes it look like the most ridiculous thing ever made with the bedsheet-with-eyeholes ghost) but I found it unexpectedly effective upon watching. Soothing, even. There’s an unexpected profundity to writer/director David Lowery’s film that even surprised me—considering that I usually strongly dislike these kinds of films, I was surprised to be swept along with the wordless narrative. The time loop is what wraps the entire film in a nice little bow, giving it the necessary push in otherworldly status. I’m not sure I’d recommend A Ghost Story (and even after watching the film I still see how silly it looks) but it does feature great images and a unique atmosphere.
(In French, In Theatres, August 2016) As the father of a preschooler, I’ve been watching a lot of kids’ movies lately, and this 2016 remake of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon is notable for its refreshing sense of decency, restraint and timelessness. It’s not a particularly complicated story, and that helps set the tone for an unhurried film in which an orphaned boy, living in the forest under protection of a dragon, gradually reintegrates human society. A number of clever design decisions reinforce the film’s intent. Voluntarily set in small-town America, this is a film that avoids too-clear markers of time, and could have been set at nearly any time during the last forty years. The dragon is made fuzzy-green, intensely huggable like a big cat rather than scaly and frightening. The cinematography is all in soft tones, back-lit trees, hazy sunlight and desaturated colours. (Alas, those choices often clash with the film’s 3D projection and make it harder to watch than necessary—Pete’s Dragon may be best seen flat at home.) Robert Redford shows up as a likable old man with stories to tell, whereas Bryce Dallas Howard is just as sympathetic as the mother figure of the film and Oakes Fegley earns notice as the boy in the middle of the story. Director David Lowery’s deliberate pace makes it easier to underscore the film’s themes about family and growing up, as well as big emotional payoffs for most characters. (Even the dragon!) A family film in the classic, almost forgotten sense of the term, Pete’s Dragon is charming and well-made at once, ensuring that it will earn at least a modest success in years to come.