The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z ★★★½

If not for the ineffably modern hollowness of Charlie Hunnam’s speaking voice, or the distinct rind of 21st century celebrity that still clings to co-star Robert Pattinson like the dying traces of yesterday’s cologne, someone could easily be fooled into thinking that “The Lost City of Z” was shot 40 years ago. In fact, that might be the greatest compliment a viewer could pay writer-director James Gray (“The Immigrant”), a man who seems increasingly determined to revive the glory days of our national cinema, when movie were pictures and auteurs were mavericks. Gray pulls from the past as liberally as Quentin Tarantino, but without the ego — he doesn’t try to process his influences through the slaughterhouse of his own fetishes, he simply wants to Make American Movies Great Again.

Uncommonly sumptuous, patient and textured for a movie with such little emotional heat or staying power, “The Lost City of Z” doesn’t feel like a work of mimicry or homage so much as it does an immaculately crafted throwback — this isn’t just what movies used to look like, it’s also how they used to crackle, move and hum. Oh, what a blessing! Seeing this projected in 35mm is like mana from heaven. The film is further removed from Gray’s own experience than anything that he’s made before, and yet something about it feels indivisibly personal.

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