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Review Blog

A Ghost Story

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on July 19, 2017 at 6:50 PM

A GHOST STORY   ***1/2

David Lowery


IDEA:  After being killed in a car accident, a man returns to his home as a ghost to check in on his bereft wife.

BLURB:  Ethereal, evocative, and pregnant with a voluptuous sense of mystery, A Ghost Story is a rumination on human consciousness that feels as fragile and wondrous as the fabric of existence it captures just a sliver of. From its first frames, Lowery lets us know that his universe is one where the eternal is enfolded in the everyday, juxtaposing shots of the cosmos with scenes of intimate domestic contentment. As in life, places are never just places, and attachments are never merely physical connections; they are imbued with and informed by history, memory, and existential knowledge, inscribed with the psychical imprints of human subjects. Lowery’s ghost is an allegory of this and more. It is a spectral emanation of an individual’s habits and anxieties, preoccupations and residencies, a manifestation of his attempt to cling to a world of which he is a mere transient fragment. A Ghost Story is, on this level, an achingly poignant meditation on impermanence that uses the figure of the ghost as a prism through which to view the imponderable flux of existence. But it is perhaps even more remarkable as a demonstration of cinema’s senses-expanding faculties. By anchoring his ghost, our point-of-view, in one location as time contracts and speeds by in front of him, Lowery offers a compelling metaphor for film spectatorship, making thematic the medium’s ability to reorganize space-time and present us with a world we are absent from. While the director’s narrative logic begins to unravel by the end – the line between allegory and serious metaphysical inquiry becomes too muddily negotiated, and his exceptional laconicity turns convoluted – his formal rigor never wavers. A Ghost Story is a slippery, diaphanous object, sometimes to its detriment, but it is also an exemplary showcase of meticulously controlled film form that invites us to bear witness to our own ghosts, including the ones conjured by the cinema.

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