The Bed You Sleep in
Thomas Tsang | New York, NY USA | 07/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Bed You Sleep in" by Jon Jost, is a beautifully crafted film set amongst the landscape of Oregon. It came as a complete surprise to me, having been introduced to his work for the first time, via a friend, and not knowing what to expect. It's a film that manages to be both thought-provoking and disturbing on the one-hand and also lyrical and a visual pleasure to watch. Viewers will find their patience rewarded, (arguably the pace is slower than what we have become accustomed to in mainstream Hollywood films), as no other film I have seen in the last five years looks at family life in America with such acuity and frankness as this minor gem by Jost. Superb also is the acting by Tom Blair and Ellen McLaughlin, reaching new levels of intensity. Throughout the film we always feel that we are party to extraordinary events occuring just beneath the surface of small town American life. Check out also the luminous photography by Jost himself, featuring many special effects that evertheless always add to rather than detract from the storyline.This is a film builds and builds to a final shattering effect.I for one was reduced to tears and this will be a film that will remain with the viewer long after the final credits."
Tragedy, inarticulate and incomprehensible
Muzzlehatch | the walls of Gormenghast | 11/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ray (Tom Blair) operates a lumber mill in central Oregon; times are tough and he's facing a lot of hard decisions, such as whether to work out a deal with overseas investors to bring in foreign wood and mill it and then ship it back to Asia. He struggles with his conscience, finding solace in fishing trips up in the unspoiled back-country, the irony of the contrast between what he does for a living and for relaxation apparently lost on him. His wife Jean (Ellen McLaughlin) spends time with her friend Beth, discussing how the troubling economic situation is affecting Beth's family - her husband is apparently violent - Jean seems lucky; Ray takes her on his trips and seems the loving husband, if not particularly open about things. But then their daughter writes to explain that she can't come home for Thanksgiving - can't, in fact, ever see Ray again, because of what her father once did to her...
My initial thoughts on this, my 4th film from stunning American avant-garde director Jon Jost: it's just slightly disappointing, in that it's not so radically different from the three other films I've seen as they are from each other; or, I've now seen enough of Jost's tricks that I'm not as surprised anymore. But that's a small criticism. A larger "problem" would be that the denouement and ending are a little too obvious and set-up, but I'm not sure that's a criticism either; this is Jost doing a sort of Old Testament morality play in a sense, and if you look closely at how he films people at odd angle - hands - men at work - the fly fishing rod and line, but not the man casting it - water - you may be reminded of another OT moralist, Robert Bresson. This strikes me as a Jost parable of guilt that is part MOUCHETTE, part L'ARGENT - the innocent (never seen) corrupted by capitalism and the American male's inability to communicate, to articulate, to forgive others or himself, to open up, to love. This in turn is reflected in the contrasts between the beauty of nature and it's corruption and destruction in the mills. The fatalism of a late Bresson is certainly in evidence here, if not the overt Catholic religiosity and spiritual guilt.
As usual, it's strikingly photographed by the director/writer/editor; this is his second film in 35mm and it is gorgeous; the water (in particular during the fishing sequences), but also the windows, the sawmill and other industrial sites, reflections in mirrors - the whole film seems to be about images and reflections, about the distortions in the way we see each other, distorting and bending nature, distortions because of money, because of our obsessions with work, "getting ahead", because we don't really ever see each other clearly, because we can't, don't want to, don't even try to. I'm not sure that there are any scenes here of two people talking, seen clearly together in the same shot, everything is fractured or mirrored or seen from just one point of view. Even in the most impressive single shot of the film, a long and intricate track through a diner full of people, we don't see any serious conversations - everybody seems distracted, or trying to impress, or just not really thinking. Together - but not understanding.
The cast is exceptional: Blair is every bit as good as he was in SURE FIRE, and I think there's more for him to do here - the scene in which Jean confronts him and forces him to hear his daughter's words of accusation is particularly powerful, as Jean grows in power and Ray retreats, like a whipped dog, his face growing ashen and actually looking hollow, seeming to age years in just a minute. McLaughlin is excellent as well; this is probably the most potent role and performance for a woman I've seen in any of the director's fairly male-centric work.
It's a little too neat and concise in the end, and the quotation from Emerson seems a little over-the-top and unnecessary, so all in all this is not my favorite of the director's films at the moment, but it's a strong work and reconfirms my sense that this is one of our greatest filmmakers; would that enough people felt that way so that he felt he could continue to make features on film, and get them seen.
jeffrey a. saunders | San Francisco, CA United States | 12/15/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film blew me away, but I am a sucker for the excrutiatingly long shot. The best film I have seen in years."