Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.
In what could be an overly played out creative terrain, Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain resuscitates the JFK assassination story with the nuanced eye of the outsiders take on the great American Tragedy.
Focusing on the immediate aftermath and psychic trauma of the suddenly widowed Jackie Kennedy, Larrain (known for the intense mise-en-scene of his critically lauded dramas of his home country) succeeds in creating an effectively claustrophobic chamber piece whose fragmented editing style mirrors the breakdown and haunting coming to grips of one of the 20th century’s most fabled public personas.
The always reliable American actress Natalie Portman is virtually transformed into Jackie as her monstrous pain and anger at being both a participant in the fateful Dallas day back in 1963 as well as the inevitable sinisterly subtle subsequent power vacuum taking place with the changing of the political guard.
Stumbling around in shocked disbelief in her freshly blood spattered Dior clothes, Portman carries the film entirely on her ample shoulders (most other characters serve as small planets revolving around Galaxy Jackie) in a performance that easily tops her previously amazing Oscar winning turn as the tortured and driven ballerina in Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” (who also served as a producer here).
The cinematography by French DOP Stephane Fontaine (who’s having a bumper year with “Elle” and “Captain Fantastic”) keeps things visually compact and edgy with his sensuous, saturated photography (the bold red color of Jackie’s outfits and the aforementioned splashes of blood being a prominent motif throughout).
The film’s editor, fellow Chilean Sebastian Sepulveda, creates a seamless flow back and forth cross cutting to the various time frames before, during, and after the assassination- using the time worn method of structuring the plot around an interview the aggrieved and somewhat bitter Jackie has after the fact with a magazine reporter (played nicely by Billy Crudup) a la “Citizen Kane” as well as deftly mixing in a large amount of stock footage from the era.
The music in “Jackie” by Mica Levi opens with a strongly discordant orchestral flourish and holds an impressive and mesmerizing sway over the film- adding to the undercurrent of universal grief and confusion of “Jackie” as we see her constantly being suffocated by the never-ending encroachment of political handlers and faceless bureaucratic White House gawkers.
As a film that eschews loading the audience down with a steady stream of fact-based drama, “Jackie” director Larrain (and screenwriter Noah Oppenheimer) instead deliver a sensuous, disturbing fever dream that also serves up a nightmarish glimpse into the dark side of Camelot.
“Jackie” is simply one of the best films of 2016.
Viva La Cinema!