It’s a bold move. Take one of the finest actors of his generation, noted for the subtlety of his recent Oscar-winning performance in Manchester By the Sea, and cover him with a sheet for most of a film. Casting Casey Affleck as the kind of bed linen-sporting ghost best known for menacing Scooby-Doo and pals is a decision akin to Lenny Abrahamson putting a massive papier-mache head on Michael Fassbender in Frank. But just as Fassbender managed to convey both humour and pathos despite the impediment of a giant moon of a false bonce, so Affleck imbues what could be an absurd presence, loitering on the edge of the frame like a piece of misplaced laundry, with an agonising sense of loss and mounting frustration. In his economic movements we recognise a soul adrift and increasingly unmoored from everything except his grief.
The fourth feature film from the American film-maker David Lowery, A Ghost Story reunites Affleck and Rooney Mara, the two stars of Lowery’s acclaimed second feature, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. The director also brings from this previous film the hint of a Malickian influence in the slow-burning pacing and spiritual themes.
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David Lowery on why he made A Ghost Story: 'I was freaking out, having an existential crisis'
Tonally, it could hardly be further from his third picture, the delightful but rather more conventional family film Pete’s Dragon. Rather than Hollywood, the inspiration here comes from Europe – Lowery cites Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles by Chantal Akerman as a reference point; I sensed a kinship with the matter-of-fact metaphysics of Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper – and Asia. It’s this that really stands out. Both in the long, mesmerisingly languid takes and the sense of a coexisting spirit world, the influence of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is evident....
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