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A Minor Miracle of a Film: Magical Realism Comes to Montana

  • Aug 12, 2004
NORTHFORK. Just the name of this jewel of a film provokes some of the more interesting responses from those who take the time to review and share their thoughts and responses on Amazon.com's invaluable forum. That the movie ignites such polar feelings sort of says it all: this movie is one of the great ones.Mark and Michael Polish have found their own language in writing this fable: they have obviously observed in the dark theaters the works of Fellini, Resnais, Tim Burton, the Coen Brothers, Dali, Buneul, Kurosawa, et al. Their writing ideas are fresh, universal in validity, quirky in the right sense, and devastatingly beautiful. Michael Polish directs this venture and his brother Mark assumes on of the acting roles. It all works.Northfork is either an actual Montana town destined to be leveled for the 'progress' of building a dam (a lovely bit of statement about the environment and her enemies...), or it could be just the final pages of life as we all will live it - the closing chapter that explains it all, a parable. And there are many more arenas of interpretation here - part of the joy of art. Evacuating the town are the men in black (James Woods, Mark Polish, Peter Coyote, and others) and they face obstructionists to the flow of progress - a fact that the men in black happen to agree with. There is a priest (Nick Nolte in a lovely cameo) who is left in charge of a sick child Irwin (Duel Farnes) who leaves his ailing bed to consort with a band of angels in search of a lost one of their kind. Each of the 'angels' is named for the worldly belongings of Irwin: Cup of Tea (Robin Sacks), Flower Hercules (Daryl Hannah), Happy (Anthony Edwards in a role that captures the magic of the group exquisitely), and Cod (a mute but effective Ben Foster). The 'plot' includes the exhuming of all the town's past folk, measures by which a Noah character is convinced to give up his ark and two wives, the discovery of a child's angel wings - but to say more would destroy the magical tour this film holds for the new viewer. The music is oddly lovely, the camera work is from another planet, and the atmosphere this film creates remains indelibly stamped on the mind and heart of every vulnerable, open viewer. See it, buy it, treasure it. This is a little jewel.

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review by . March 06, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Imaginative storyline, cinematography, characters      Cons: Lots of loose ends, not for viewers who require tidy endings.      The Bottom Line: This is a fable and a lachrymose for a town destroyed for the sake of a dam. The story is not tidy, so if that is a requirement, avoid.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      Northfork a 2003 creation of the Polish …
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Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Following their super-quirky filmsTwin Falls IdahoandJackpot, the Polish brothers take a leap of faith with their third picture,Northfork. And it pays off handsomely. Somewhere in the desolate Midwest, the town of Northfork is about to be drowned in the waters held back by a new dam. It's up to a group of men (in identical black suits and fedoras) to clear out the last stubborn landowners. Meanwhile, a deathly ill boy bargains with a delegation of heaven-sent searchers--at least that's what they seem to be. Is thisFargomeetsTouched by an Angel? That's the peculiar feel of this otherwise unclassifiable movie, which veers from academic artiness to wacky blackout humor. Who can explain the restaurant where diners must guess the lone menu item? And who would want to? James Woods and Nick Nolte lead a game cast through this oddly winning enterprise.--Robert Horton
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