SNAPPING JAMES: Life – film review

by

LIFE   

director: Anton Corbijn   

opens December 4th   

Troubled photographer. Moody, genius actor. LIFE magazine. Sounds like cinema bonanza.

Almost.

Dennis Stock’s iconic still of a sopping wet James Dean wading through Manhattan is a grand piece of art, and former NME photog Anton Corbijn attempts to translate that magic on to a moving screen. Corbijn has tread similar waters with an excellent look at Ian Curtis in “Control” (young, troubled, moody, dead), but instead of telling the story, he seems to be reaching for something special here.

Though reaching is understood. Dean was a mumbling mystery; an original maverick, who would reshape the Hollywood landscape in three classic films (two posthumously), before driving his racing Porsche into immortality.

As a hustling freelancer trying to get his foot in LIFE magazine’s door, Stock locked on to Dean, knowing he was something special: his ticket. Their complicated, short relationship, from professional and subject, to drinking buddies, to something only hinted at, is the crux of “LIFE”.

Poster boy Robert Pattinson is oddly awkward and unlikable as the shutterbug, whilst Dane DeHaan plays the wicked rebel as a whispering softie. It’s an oddball movie, filled with oddball characters, in an oddball time. The performances are sublime, and Corbijn delivers the time capsule (1955) perfectly. The film is quite fascinating, but like Dean’s career, it seems a tad incomplete.

jamesDEAN1

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