Gold ★★★

Into the woods
Driven to the edge of the world
Abandoning a land of promise.
Animals frozen by nature
Cut to the bone.

Revisionist Western? Elemental form? Who knows, but entirely watchable simply because Arslan doesn’t waste images. Parallels to Dead Man for its pretty badass low key rock score and Meek’s Cutoff's narrative are bound to be made, but Arslan’s story is less minimalist and more direct, which might sound like a bad thing, but it instead plays to his skills as someone who is purposefully removing key narrative information (as opposed to Reichardt slowly eliciting it). He’s interested in process, careful negotiations, and differences in moral compasses in a land that requires none. There are certainly some frustrations that come out of this, because like In the Shadows it’s all too neat in some way. But I disagree with Adam Cook’s short assessment that calls the film an “accidental parody,” that Arslan doesn’t have anything interest to say besides re-creating the process. As things become more elemental (animals become frozen into wooden statues), Arslan elides expectations—characters suffer expected fates but not in the way that feels easy (one scene involving a removal of a leg—is as funny as the moment in The Big Sky, though for very different, morbid reasons). New relationships are formed not own of desire but necessity. Plus, Michael Sicinski’s take on the film’s visual design, perhaps the reason this is so fascinating to watch, in relation to Canadian painting is damn essential. This is less a story of survival than the desire to abandon society.

The problem with watching the Berlin School and why I feel bad for missing most of MoMA’s recent retrospective is that watching them in comparison to other movies makes it too easy to pay attention to the surface differences to Hollywood cinema or say, The Lives of Others. I feel a serious plunge into these is necessary in order to first get the rhythm and then search for what makes each film distinctive. Reviewing them on an individual level without basis often feels like scraping an iceberg of a form that only reveals itself until one can see the entire ocean. Gold is another interesting oddity, but only when one searches for what it is instead of what it isn't.