Wednesday, March 29, 2017

God's Country (1985 film)

Written, directed, and shot by Louis Malle, God’s Country is the story about a small farming town in Glencoe, Minnesota where Malle visits the people in 1979 as he would return six years later to see how much has changed. It’s a documentary film that explores the life of a small town that seemed to have a nice niche for themselves only to suffer through an economic decline during the years of Ronald Reagan. The result is an intoxicating film from Louis Malle.

Originally made for public television, the film has Louis Malle traveling around America where he stumbles around this small farming town 60 miles west from Minneapolis in Glencoe, Minnesota. Though Malle was originally going to make a documentary about a large mall in the state, he and a small crew roamed around the country where it was an old lady’s garden that got Malle’s attention as he made this film about this little community where everyone kind of know each other and they would all mow their lawn once a week. Shot largely in 1979, the film chronicles this life where many of the locals are Caucasian of German descent as they all eat and run local businesses. Some of the locals that Malle would meet would prove to be very fascinating.

Among these locals is the old woman Malle meets in the beginning of the film as he would see her again six years later where she’s still planting and tending to her garden at the age of 91. Much of the film’s first hour is focused on the town in 1979 where Malle would meet various individuals such as an attorney and his wife who is a councilwoman and creates plays, a bachelor whose job is to get cows pregnant by inject bull semen into their genital areas, a family who runs the local Dairy Queen, and some farmers as the youngest of them is in his late 20s. The people that Malle talk to are very interesting as the lawyer and his wife have a son who is part of movement in the 60s as he had moved to California and eventually become part of the culture in Silicon Valley. While some of the locals admit to talking about issues such as homosexuality, racism, and political issues. They all do it very kindly as it is surprising that as conservative as the town is. They are open to progressive thinking as it allows people to get along easier as there’s not much crime.

By the time the film reaches its final 20 minutes where it picks up six years later, it becomes a much somber film as it play into the struggles that the farmers are going through. Especially as the young farmer and his family reveal the dreams they had for their children about taking over the family farm only to wish years later for the children in hoping to do something else. Even as some farmers become frustrated with how things have turned out during the Ronald Reagan administration as it ends with Malle, who doesn’t make his presence known in the film except in the last 20 minutes, eating dinner with the attorney and his wife where the former expresses his own views of what Reagan has done for the country as his sentiments really echo a lot of what America was becoming. Much of Malle’s direction is straightforward as he and a couple of camera operators shoot the film with James Bruce editing all of the footage where he uses some jump-cuts for some of the interviews. Sound editors Jean-Claude Lareux and Keith Rouse both provide the sound with the former doing much of the work from the 1979 footage and the latter doing the sound from the 1985 footage.

God’s Country is a phenomenal film from Louis Malle. Not only is a rapturous portrait of a small American town seen from the eyes of a European but also a look into a community that is very ordinary yet content despite the troubles they would endure in the 1980s. In the end, God’s Country is an incredible film from Louis Malle.

Louis Malle Films: (The Silent World) - Elevator to the Gallows - The Lovers (1958 film) - Zazie dans le Metro - (A Very Private Affair) - (Vive Le Tour) - The Fire Within - (Bons baisers de Bangkok) - (Viva Maria!) - (The Thief of Paris) - Spirits of the Dead-William Wilson - (Phantom India) - (Calcutta) - Murmur of the Heart - (Humain, Trop Humain) - Place de la Republique - Lacombe, Lucien - Black Moon (1975 film) - (Close Up (1976 short film) - (Dominique Sanda ou Le reve eveille) - Pretty Baby (1978 film) - Atlantic City (1980 film) - (My Dinner with Andre) - Crackers (1984 film) - (Alamo Bay) - (And the Pursuit of Happiness) - Au Revoir Les Enfants - (May Fools) - (Damage (1992 film)) - (Vanya on 42nd Street)

© thevoid99 2017


Dell said...

I've not even heard of this one. It sounds really interesting. If I'm being honest, I don't think I've seen any Malle films. Some of the titles you listed at the bottom are familiar to me, but I've not watched any of them. Thanks for giving me another director to take a crack at.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-Louis Malle is a very interesting filmmaker. He's made some films in America but mainly in France as he dabbles both in documentaries and narrative films. This film was actually made for PBS but the reason there was a six-year gap in the filming wasn't just because he ran out of money but it was also because he had other projects lined-up at the time. When he came back in August of 1985 to finish the film, things definitely had changed in the town and he felt he needed to finish the story.