Monday, May 21, 2007
Welcome Back, James Gray
There are numerous reasons critics and journos choose to support favorite filmmakers. Surprisingly, the consistent quality of their films isn’t always at the top of the list. Case in point is James Gray, whose last film, 2000’s New York drama “The Yards,” failed to match the intensity and intelligence of his debut film, the Russian mob drama “Little Odessa.” Those who pay close attention to the business of moviemaking will tell you that the movie audiences watched was not the same film Gray intended. His was a case of a young filmmaker losing creative battles with the company behind his movie.
Seven years after box-office defeat, Gray is at Cannes with his 1980s-set crime drama “We Own the Night,” about a war between New York police and the Russian mob, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg, his stars from “The Yards.” Gray’s latest film, just his third in twelve years, screens for Cannes audiences later this week but the film has already been bought by Columbia Pictures with plans for an Oscar-focused, late 2007 release. It’s a bold comeback for Gray and proof of what I admire best about him: enthusiasm for storytelling, a refusal to sell out and an unwavering belief in his art. It’s something I remember vividly upon first meeting Gray at an East Village bar to talk about “Little Odessa” and I’m betting that enthusiasm remains as fierce as ever.