For Reel


God’s Country (1985)
December 28, 2016, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Louis Malle
4.5 Stars
gods-countryGod’s Country plays as a charming love affair between filmmaker and subjects. Louis Malle, originally commissioned to make a documentary about shopping malls for PBS, abandoned the project and happened upon the small town of Glencoe, Minnesota, which could stand in for any number of towns across the country. There is nothing unique about the location or the people there, but the very universality of the experience does offer a certain warmth and poignancy, particularly as Malle reflects on just how close he become to the subjects in a short time. Strangely, although the film often basks in Malle’s appreciation for a foreign way of life, misery is always around the edges—an old man solemnly telling Malle that he wants to die, haunting images of nursing home lethargy, numerous cases of racism and bigotry. When Malle returns to visit some of his subjects five years after the fact and finds little but stories about economic woes and stewing resentments, it is telling that Malle’s voiceover remarks on the authenticity and lack of pretension in his subjects. If the footage Malle captured in Glencoe is often magical in the way that only the best documentaries are, this unusual contradiction represents the push-pull between a filmmaker who was interested in telling a certain type of story and the story that was actually unfolding before him. Malle’s detached, amused perspective is oddly charming in its naïveté, with the outsider finding beauty in a multitude of stories about loneliness and bitterness.

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