Saturday, February 6, 2016

Alejandro Iñárritu's new film "The Revenant" at Sundance & SIFF Cinema: Jan 7 - Feb 18

The defining characteristic of Alejandro Iñárritu's most recent collaboration with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, is that the the two have produced a fully realized vision of the scale and splendor of frontier America, a land of endless riches and great danger. In doing so, "The Revenant Welcomes You to Paradise. Now Prepare to Fall". Choosing as their vehicle a grand experiment with genre, this time the Western fashioned as "The Revenant" into another advancement in the director's art of "Gut-Churningly Brutal, Beautiful Storytelling". It is this steadfast dedication to realism in his portrayal of human honor and duplicity "Set Against the Unsympathetic Magnitude of Nature" that makes Iñárritu's latest stand out from the pack. This almost spiritual concoction is comprised of the extraordinary visual vocabulary, refined through decades of, "Emmanuel Lubezki on Working with Iñárritu, Cuarón and Malick" and Iñárritu's commitment to being there in the inhuman expanse of the natural world. Expressed in the film’s hesitant regard for the grandeur of America's once great wilderness and it's skeptical consideration of the moral framing of the life of Frontiersman, Hugh Glass and his time as a pioneer explorer under the employ of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Their commercial and explorational forays into the Midwest were the paving of the way for the Homestead Act of 1862 and the 19th Century's Western Expansion. The driving Manifest Destiny of America's move west and the ethical fallout of resource and legislature enabled land acquisition are the contextual groundwork of Iñárritu's unflinching, enveloping drama, set against the unsympathetic magnitude of the cosmos.

To compliment the scale of "The Revenant"'s physical and psychological landscape, in choosing central elements from the Raster-Noton aesthetic, Iñárritu has designed both a challenging and correspondent companion in it's sound design. The film's depiction of "A Return From Death's Door" was mirrored both onscreen and off, as during it's production Ryuichi Sakamoto had just emerged from a extended hiatus from touring and performance, while battling cancer. In an interview for Rolling Stone upon his return to health Sakamoto "Detailed 'Gigantic' Score to The Revenant" revealing the collective soundtrack stands as more than a work by it's three central composers of Bryce Dessner and Alva Noto. The recordings they produced as featured in the film are instead a complex intermingling of their larger structures, as is described in FACT Magazine's "The Returned: Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto on Recovery, Oscars and David Bowie", NPR's "Alva Noto on Co-Scoring 'The Revenant'" and Create Digital Music's, "Sakamoto and Alva Noto again Create Electronics, Scoring Masterpiece". The duo's compositions interwoven into a larger sonic tapestry constituting the work of Raster-Noton label contemporaries, Vladislav Delay and Ryoji Ikeda, as well as excerpts from Seattle Symphony's recording of John Luther Adams' Pulitzer Prize winning "Become Ocean", Eliane Radigue's "Jetsun Milan" and Olivier Messiaen's "Oraison". With an additional, curious Northwest connection as Sakamoto's orchestrations were recorded here by an expanded chamber symphony including Hildur Guðnadóttir alongside members of the The Northwest Sinfonia and Chorale as well as what Alex Ross describes as the "Water Music of John Luther Adams’ 'Become Ocean'", upon it's premier with the Seattle Symphony in 2013.