RSA's Dominik Crafts a Real Outlaw

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Both the running time (152 minutes) and the name of the sophomore feature from RSA's Andrew Dominik, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, are longer than those of your average Hollywood movie. And there is really nothing else average about the beautiful, brooding film about the legendary outlaw and the man who worshipped and then killed him. Having directed music videos and, in 2000, the feature Chopper, starring Eric Bana, Dominik was drawn to the James project after reading Robert Hansen's 1983 book of the same name.

The director completed the film, which stars Brad Pitt as James and Casey Affleck as his apostle Ford, in 2005 but it wasn't released until last month, due in part to its rather unconventional nature. "It was always going to be an unusual movie," says Dominik. And it is. The unhurriedly paced film is an absorbing and gorgeously crafted unraveling of events and characters that also provides a compelling look at the effects of fame on those undone by it. The film features excellent performances by Pitt as the increasingly unstable and lonely celebrity (Pitt won the acting prize for the role at the Venice Film Festival) and Affleck as the star-struck acolyte whose petulant desire to be someone turns to murderous jealousy. Dominik says he saw the James character as "someone approaching middle age and realizing that life is not going to end well for him. A person with a foot in the next world."

The film's cinematographer Roger Deakins contributes one striking moment after another, with plenty of sweeping, desolate landscapes and a palette inspired by photographs from the period and, glancingly, Wyeth paintings. Another heavy hitter, Nick Cave, with whom Dominik is now working on a video, contributed the score. RSA's Jules Daly and Ridley Scott were producers on the project.

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