Once upon a time in California
The Sisters Brothers
Film. Jacques Audiard’s film, awarded at Deauville and Venice, manages to reinvent the Western rules. Breathtaking !
By Jacques Braunstein
Many late westerns, from Sergio Leone’s The Trilogy of Dollar to Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, tell of the greed that built the United States. The Sisters Brothers is no exception to the rule. Two hired assassins, two brothers: Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli Sisters (John C. Reilly) launch on the track of a chemist (Riz Ahmed). He has a formula that can find gold without dredging tons of pebbles … They are preceded by a dandy detective and scholar (Jake Gyllenhaal). But nothing will happen as planned. The protagonists will sympathize and consider living together between “bromance” and Fourierist utopia.
This extraordinary story allows the film to avoid clichés of the western or rather to send them without due process. The majestic landscapes are crossed at a gallop. While the gunfights are shot in a few shots, reported by lights in the dark, or seen from afar through a dirty window. What’s the point of raising the suspense since the “Sisters Brothers” always come out winners, it’s their destiny, and their curse.
The camera lingers, on the contrary, on a camp of researcher of gold, where San Francisco, the bubbling city that discover the two brothers who have never seen before amazed. Or on the mouth of John C. Reilly. When a spider lays eggs while sleeping under the stars. When he discovers the use of the toothbrush … The film is bathed in surrealist and desperate humor, the antithesis of Tarantino’s creaky punchlines. Just as his violence is never where it is expected.
The French director Jacques Audiard (Dheepan, A Prophet, The Beat That My Heart Skipped …) and his usual screenwriter (Thomas Bideguin) try to show more closely this little known time. We are in 1851, twenty years before the classical age of the western.
It is John C. Reilly, great actor eclectic course (Step Brothers, Carnage, The Lobster …) who discovered the book of Patrick deWitt whose film is adapted. He’s the one who convinced the filmmaker whose he’s a fan. Reilly is also co-producer of the film and takes the role of Eli Sisters, which is a perfect vehicle for the Oscar. A role while half-hearted tone while that of his brother, desperados flamboyant, is more agreed. Eli would like to change jobs, but is forced to continue to protect this alcoholic and suicidal little brother. This character of very discreet hero conveys all the mythology of the western to which the film constantly looks to turn his back. Paradoxical and elegant!