Since last posting here more or less a year ago, Coming to Terms has screened a few places, as usual, to almost no one. To my observation – and that of others – this kind of cinema is more or less dead. People continue to make it, as I do, but the audience now is almost nothing, and along with it any sense of cultural meaning or value. Zombie cinema that dies and keeps coming back, albeit for an ever shrinking audience. Which leaves little to say.
But, the other day, addressing quite another cinema – commenting on Facebook about Nolan’s Dunkirk, a Google search for something else had me bump into a review from a year and a half ago of Coming to Terms, from a thinly attended screening in New York City in January I think of 2016. I hadn’t seen this review back then, and I guess my departure to Italy, a back operation and other things deflected my interest. As this is the kind of review which I get a kind of perverse pleasure from, I print it here for your delectation. It is about as kind to me as I was in my ramblings about Nolan’s film, though in my case I didn’t even see the film – just the trailer – to have a harsh opinion. (Truth is that my Facebook verbiage had less to do with the film proper than with Hollywood and its near infinite capacity for falsehoods and fakery, right up there with Trump.)
Anyway here’s the review, by Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine – a film which I excoriated on my blog Cinema Electronica back in 2013. So I guess there should be no surprise his view on my film was, oh, a bit negative:
, filmmaker, critic, musician who lives in New York City and is apparently a fan of
THE BOTTOM LINE
Despite the inspired casting of legendary filmmaker James Benning, Jon Jost’s Coming to Terms is a baffling misfire on every conceivable level, resulting in not only the year’s worst film, but one of the worst film’s in recent memory.
Critic Rating 0.5
James Benning has been one of the leading voices in the underground experimental movement for many years, and his appearance in the documentary Double Play alongside Richard Linklater only further illustrates the true scope of inspiration that has resulted from his work. Having released a steady stream of films since the early 1970s, Benning has always been able to stay on the cusp of the constantly changing experimental scene without ever succumbing to the pressures of mainstream media.
Writer-director Jon Jost is another filmmaker of this ilk, and his most recent film Coming to Terms casts fellow experimentalist James Benning as a dying father whose only wish is to be killed by his family. Assisted suicide, really, but the concept is still as unceasingly bleak as it sounds. One son is a pastor, the other is gay. One of his former lovers is a portly, blonde woman while the other is a thin brunette. Jost’s film is nothing if not a study in stark contrasts.
Unfortunately, the film is also a massive, profound failure on every conceivable level. From a horrible script with even worse performances, an unappealing palette, and an abundantly obvious lack of substance that doesn’t even justify its relatively brief 85 minute run-time, Coming to Terms isn’t just bad: it’s aggressively bad. Almost every scene goes on much longer than it needs to, and the unwatchable performances only add to the feeling that this horrid experience will truly never end. There is no reason for a film like this to exist. It says nothing profound about life, death, or love, although, at every conceivable moment, it tries so hard to.
The only redeeming quality in this film are two beautifully composed shots that offer a brief detour into the naturalistic groove that Jost seemed to be going for. The first was a wonderful composition of a red rock hill that Benning is revealed to be gazing at roughly six minutes after the scene should have ended. The other, which takes place directly after the death of Benning’s character, is a shot that could have only been done with a DV camera. It features a messy abundance of forest, all with the fuzziness offered by the camera of Jost’s choice.
One could theorize that Jost was attempting to create beauty with a seemingly inferior device, as evidenced by Jost’s odd choices of mise-en-scene during certain dialogue sequences, but this is possibly the only moment in the film where this approach is exploited to its fullest potential. Other than that, Coming to Terms is painfully bad and, to slam it with an even worse pun, I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I was able to sit through it.
Here’s the URL to see the original:
As this review demonstrates, there’s a lot of tastes out there in the world. And they tend to conflate their taste with some absolute measuring stick. Ah well.
Here, to balance the matter a touch, is a review of another kind:
And to be found on earlier postings here are other views, nice and not.