The best part of Disappearances by far is the teleporting aunt, because hell, it's a teleporting old woman who spouts off Shakespeare and shoots people. You can't miss the potential in that. Also, the film looks great; even though it was shot on the cheap (budgeted at 1.7 million dollars), the director does an admirable job using natural scenery to create atmosphere. Unfortunately, that's pretty much where the unique parts of Disappearances come to a halt. The plot is some hoary nonsense about smuggling whiskey that gets completely dropped in the last twenty minutes of the movie to make way for shit randomly disappearing and some ridiculous subplot about a curse. I guess these seemed like neat elements to include in a Western, but they just didn't fit here.
The kid gave probably one of the worst child performances I've ever seen. Every line he delivered took me straight out of the movie, which wasn't that hard in the first place because it's not particularly gripping. They should have just put teleporting lady in his place and the movie would have been ten times better. The rest of the acting isn't bad; I guess Kris Kristofferson is important or something, which is why he ends up doing movies like this, right?
The movie is thoroughly rural. Like the countryside where it was produced, Disappearances unfolds itself slowly but magnificently. Do not expect to find your heart in your throat for two hours, followed by a climactic, tidy resolution to the cosmos. Disappearances tells a story of father and son in rich symbolism, and it is rightly more of a process than an event. In that regard, the plot development is stylistically closer to eastern European cinema than it is to its American peers.
With only a couple hitches (minor characters are more prop than person), Disappearances' strong symbiosis of script and talent is the film's greatest offering. The superb synergy of Farmer and McDermott with the others, the perfect casting of Sanderson to character, and a rock solid performance by Kristofferson, have me pinching myself at times to remember this is family is fiction. Disappearances ventures further, or more believably, into the psychology of its main characters than many American films dare go.
If the fact that Jay Craven was ambitious with his budget shows at times during Disappearances, it becomes more of a mark of honor than a detractor. This film is the antithesis to the contemporary action blockbuster. It moves slowly at times, and the action is not always plausible, but the characters are enchanting. Our suspension of disbelief in the cinema is an aesthetic choice above all, and I highly appreciate the way Disappearances, in its fusion of magic realism and frontier, challenges me to look at movies anew.
[color=#000000][font=Arial]The film captured everything best in the rugged, feisty, often adventuresome spirit of the state of Vermont, depicting an outlaw culture that thrived on the fringes of a fading northern frontier, personified in Quebec Bill, a farmer in the Depression who must revert to his old whiskey running practices to save the farm after his barn is struck by lightning and burns down. This guy's my new movie-character hero. His dynamic with friends/partners-in-crime Rat [/font][font=Times New Roman][size=3]Kinneson (William Sanderson) [/size][/font][font=Arial]and Henry [/font][font=Times New Roman][size=3]Coville (Gary Farmer)[/size][/font][font=Arial], of how buddies together in an outrageous, sometimes dangerous situation, each surviving and making sense of things in his own way while putting up with each other - to some degree [u]surviving each other[/u] - is spot-on. Particularly that whole scene in the tavern, and the delivery of the line "Because I couldn't stand myself if I wasn't there to help you out of whatever you're about to get into." Kris [/font][font=Times New Roman][size=3]Kristofferson[/size][/font][/color][color=#003399][font=Times New Roman][size=3] is [/size][/font][/color][font=Arial][color=#000000]amazing as Quebec Bill, deepening my already considerable respect for someone who was already one of my favorite musical artists, as are Sanderson and Farmer in their respective roles. Years back, I had a chance to read the screenplay to this film before it was produced. As a fan of the TV show ?Deadwood,? when I found out Sanderson was playing Rat, I thought, "Damn, that's [i][font=Arial]perfect![/font][/i]" And it's interesting to find Farmer in both this and ?[i][font=Arial][i]Dead Man?[/i][/font][/i], as I found that film tonally and thematically similar, in its dreamlike quality and embrace of fantastical, metaphorical imagery and mystery, things that aren?t always explained, yet actively invite the audience to participate with their own imagination and come to their own conclusions. ?[i][font=Arial][i]Disappearances?[/i][/font][/i][i][font=Arial] [/font][/i]is, however, far less brutal, as well as warmer and more inviting to like and identify with its characters. Quebec Bill and crew are guys I'd like to hang out with. By the end of the film, I wished I could stay in their world with them longer. It left me longing for the things in the world that have *[i][font=Arial][i]disappeared&[/i][/font][/i][i][font=Arial] -[/font][/i]- SPOILIER WARNING -- as symbolized by Bill and Cordelia literally doing so ? END SPOILERS -- under the weight of "progress," even though only the ghosts of many such things have been around to know in my own lifetime. In that sense, I related to Wild Bill, and wanted to see where life takes him from there.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=#000000]Also a delightful surprise is the film?s handling of its demonic villain Carcajou, particularly Lothaire Bluteau in the role. In the novel and script, he was a far less developed, more hulking ogre-like monster, though clearly with a cunning brain. Here, he becomes something far more ambiguous and complex. I don't think I've seen this actor in anything else, though he should be seen more. Any time the character's on screen, you can't take your eyes off him. Moments like when he comes snarling onto the train waving that knife around were genuinely terrifying, yet there were other times when I felt a strange sympathy for him. I really wanted to see more of that character and learn more about him, though truthfully such a character is generally most effective when actually seen only in small doses, someone who becomes an ominous off-screen ever-presence, sort of like Dracula in Bram Stoker's original novel. And like Stoker's Dracula, Carcajou is in many ways a personification of unresolved things within the good guys, things they're not comfortable with, can't yet face within themselves, things they're running from, manifested as a physical boogie-man onto whom those fears become projected... someone from whom they must literally run. Such metaphoric exploration is what's always truly wonderful about the best fantasy in film and literature, light and dark. And ?Disappearances? certainly ranks with the best! [/color][/font]
Are Mosher's novels so .... full of awkward, pretentious utterings, seems to try too hard to be deep, stiff, artificial dialogue arising from implausible, unpleasantly unreal eccentric characters?
Does Mosher also have his characters mouth the same strange epithet "Christly" as Craven's characters do in both "Rivers Run North" and "Disappearances."
I do appreciate the cinematography, and his ability to capture great landscape, but other than that, I find watching Craven's films dull, ponderous and annoying.
The acting is also not professional quality, but I'll cut the cast a little slack. In any case, while the film offers some beautiful shots of the Vermont countryside and is certainly on par with sets and costuming, it leaves much to be desired in scripting, shooting, and overall presentation.