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Overall Rating

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Worth A Look: 31.58%
Just Average52.63%
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Sucks: 5.26%

2 reviews, 7 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"Bootlegging and Kris Kristofferson at his most Yodaesque"
4 stars

Now, it’s been some time since a period bootlegging adventure graced the big screen. That whiskey-powered minimalism alone is almost enough to pass as a night’s entertainment, but “Disappearances” isn’t content to be a joyride; instead the film is also an eccentric, atmospheric tale of family and the metaphysical. The picture is strange and frustrating, but at the very least it’s memorable.

During the prohibition era in autumnal Vermont, young Wild Bill Bonhomme (Charlie McDermott), his father Quebec Bill (Kris Kristofferson), and his family are having trouble making ends meet. Offered a chance to run liquor out of Canada, Quebec takes to the bootlegging offer, convincing Will Bill to join him. Once on the road to their problem-solving payday, the men run afoul of rival gangs, while Wild Bill finds guidance and mystery in the strange appearances of a magical family sage (Genevieve Bujold) who warns the boy of future catastrophes.

Writer/director Jay Craven adapted “Disappearances” for the big screen from the book by Howard Frank Mosher. It must have been the enigmatic approach of the prose that enchanted Craven’s imagination, since there’s such a clear dedication to the material spread throughout the film.

Shooting his picture around Vermont, “Disappearances” is a gorgeous visual creation that turns the rivers and forest into something of a supporting character; a witness to the real and unreal that pass through the woods. Craven sells the foreboding personality of the locations as much as his love for their pristine beauty – even in the decay of autumn. There’s a dying symbiosis with the land that underscores the picture, and when the film sludges through some head-scratching leaps of faith, there’s always something crisp and beautiful onscreen to distract from the story.

The accomplished and surprising performances can only take “Disappearances” so far. Once the film turns over into a creation straining for poetic effect, it loses a great deal of its appeal. On the page, the story has time and freedom to build a dreamy mindset of life and death. On the screen, the tone is complicated to pull off, putting a large amount of strain on the viewer to follow along with the abstract thematic touches without any tangible emotional pull in return.

One reason the fantasy aspect of the picture doesn’t quite engage is partly because the old timey adventure textures of “Disappearances” are much more romantic. With Wild Bill and his father dodging bullets, hitching rides on locomotives, and traipsing through the forest with the bad guys on their tails, there’s a special Boy Scout charm to it all that I was enchanted with. That rare sense of fun comes in handy I think more than Craven knows, and ultimately gives “Disappearances” something to cheer for.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13978&reviewer=404
originally posted: 06/08/07 02:00:03
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/21/11 mr.mike Engrossing drama that goes off the rails toward the end. 3 stars
1/03/09 Lindsey strange...i'm still trying to completely figure it out... 3 stars
8/10/07 George Good acting trapped in a confusing mess of a film. 2 stars
5/07/07 Virginia Chen This movie did not live up to its A rating by Yahoo. 1 stars
10/09/06 Ray Larsen Kris is pretty good in this, and the kid is too, but the story is ludicrous and the script 2 stars
4/13/06 Bennett Knowles Some nice acting in a weirdly overwrought story 3 stars
4/04/06 Rosa Great Story 3 stars
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