Sunday, January 29, 2012

Getting a jones for Preston Miller's JONES, an earlier film from the God's Land director; it's on FANDOR now -- for free!

Since God's Land was (and still is) my favorite film from last year -- this doesn't necessarily make it the "best" film, by the way, just my personal favorite because it went places and did things for me that no other movie accom-plished (my earlier review is here) -- I wanted to take a look at something else from its filmmaker, Preston Miller. Mr. Miller was kind enough to send me a DVD of his earlier movie JONES, which I finally got around to watching the morning. It's different enough in some ways, similar in others, to make Miller seem an even more interesting director and one worth keeping an eye on.

What the two films have most in common, I think, is Miller's interest in filming in real time (the filmmaker is shown at left). He edits a good deal less than do many other filmmakers, and while this made God's Land pretty lengthy (nearly three hours), Jones is surprisingly short -- just 76 minutes. The title refers to the title character (played oddly but indelibly by a Brooklynite from Texas named Trey Albright), and also -- perhaps not by intention but by the way art is created sub-consciously -- to both the Jones Mr. Jones has for many things Asian, and the Jones some of us viewers may get from watching Albright (below) in the altogether, full-frontal and (in one scene, at least, semi-erect.

The actor has a good body: muscular (but not "toned"), pale and freckled, and he uses it naturally and easily, whether clothed in a business suit (below: Jones is up in New York City on business, shooting a video for a legal deposition) or in nothing at all. Most odd is his non-business attire, as he strolls around Manhattan in what is clearly chilly weather, clad only in a jeans and a t-shirt, while everyone around him wears sweaters and/or jackets.

This creates an odd tension, setting Jones apart in yet one more manner, as he wanders the Big Apple,

drifting into a bar and engaging in conversation with a fellow (Bob Cabrini, above, right) who just might be a "made" man,

taking a subway to the end of its line,

and hiring a call girl (Amy Chiang, above, but below Jones).

The single really odd thing in the film is how we finally cannot hear all of Jones' dialog. We hear what the other person is saying, but sometimes (unless this was a glitch in the DVD*) we can't hear what actor Albright is saying, particularly in that bar scene. Whether this means that what he is saying is relatively unimportant, or maybe boring (the dialog is not what you would call slick) I don't know. I think this cutting-it-out, however, is somewhat misjudged, but as a stylistic "tic," it's no deal-breaker.

The sex scenes are quite realistic, so if this sort of thing disturbs you, be warned. They are not, however, unpleasant. They're just there, and every bit as natural as is Jones himself. Since the character, we have already learned, is happily married to a woman expecting his child, the question of why he is doing what he is doing does crop up.

Mid-sex, he suddenly seems to either lose his erection or have his attention wander. We learn why, in interesting fashion, at a later point in the film. But for now, as we know he craves Asian culture, I would say he is simply acting like men often act when on a business trip -- getting what they cannot get at home, adultery and Moses' commandment be damned. (Jones also engages with a young woman in the street -- photo at bottom -- who's having a problem with her new infant, and we see him react a bit haltingly to the prospect of being a father.)

Needing more of this special Asian hospitality, Jones craves a second night of pleasure but maybe wants to save money by going to the establishment itself (it's $200 a pop for the girl to come to him, but only $150 if he goes to her). This leads to the film's quiet climax, in which our hero gets a bit more (and less) than he bargained for.

Jones seems to me a nice precursor to Miller's later film: thoughtful, never less than interesting and very well-acted and directed. Made in 2005, it shows a filmmaker exploring and taking chances, both of which pay off here -- but even more beautifully and spectacularly in God's Land. You can savor Jones on Fandor now. In fact, the film site is offering a free 7-day pass, and if you log in with Facebook, you can watch the whole movie free. Might be a good way to get acquainted with Jones and with Fandor.
Or, you can purchase a Jones DVD here.

* It apparently was a DVD glitch. Preston Miller has informed me that the Jones character is indeed meant to be heard throughout the bar scenes, and that the DVD I obtained had somehow mis-fired. For those of you watching the film via Fandor, don't worry: Miller quickly went on Fandor to make sure that its copy was OK. It is.

No comments: