As one of the most ubiquitous heartthrobs in cinema history, those iconic photographs of actor James Dean have been littering the walls of teenage bedrooms for the last half a century. Now Dutch filmmaker Anton Corbijn explores the screen legend from the other side of the lens, with new film Life, about the friendship between Dennis Stock, photographer for Life Magazine & James Dean, posthumous legend of 1950's Hollywood.
Starring Dane DeHaan as the Hollywood legend and Robert Pattinson as his friend and shutterbug, Life tells the story of Stock, the photographer who shot the iconic photographs of James Dean at home in Indiana and on the rain spattered streets of New York.
Corbijn's film is a subtly drawn – but ultimately flat – portrait of the relationship between two men, with very little in common besides the industry they work in. Pattinson shifts from dead-eyed to comically awkward as the man who chases up those final, intimate photographs of the rising star. Dane DeHaan as Dean is clearly a talent to watch but his devil-may-care attitude lacks the inspiring quality that caused people to see his potential.
Whilst the tragedy of James Dean's death overhangs Life and gives ironic weight to many scenes in which he's struggling between a desire to create art that will make him a legend, and disdain for the media circus surrounding him, it's not quite enough to sustain Corbijn's film.
What does ring unexpected and moving is the intimate side to Dean: the sensitive romantic, the shy family man, the homesick son. But Dean's friendship with Stock, if you can call it that – is difficult to believe – interactions between the men are skimmed over and instead there's an chilly stillness that overwhelms the whole film, like the snow that silences the New York streets five months before Dean's untimely death.
Having built a reputation as the top rock photographer of the last forty years – shooting for the likes of Nirvana, U2 and Depeche Mode – this latest project is perhaps the most personal to Anton Corbijn – and he the best qualified to approach the subject. His most recent films Control, The American and A Most Wanted Man displayed this same subtlety of expression and eye for detail and whilst the film provides an interesting opportunity for fans of Corbijn and Stock's work to look behind the lens, and is clearly a photographer's love project, Life ultimately feels overly long, slow and lacking in the legend it purports to depict.
|What||Life: review James Dean biopic too flat to be chilling|
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25 Sep 15 – 30 Nov 15, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
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