Lord Battle, Huntress, and The Berkeley Blazer rode out on a somber Saturday evening to that most select of San Francisco Landmark Theaters, The Embarcadero. We traded coin for death treats and coma fizz, then plopped our splendid carcasses in leather recliners and soaked in A Ghost Story. Below you will find translated and transcribed the banshee cries and guttural barks that were the creature's raw reactions to A24's latest outing. Perhaps a few nights regeneration and a moonlight bath will reshape our immediate impressions, but nonetheless below are our crystallized comments for you to enjoy, mock, or burn at your leisure.
Was I amazed? No. Did I like it very much? Could I see myself loving it or despising it with the passage of time. Yes! I saw A Ghost Story an hour ago and the more I think about it the more I re-(member/discover). When the credits hit, I was pleasantly if lightly satisfied. From the trailer I imagined A Ghost Story as enjoyably pretentious art film obsessed with grief and lingering static camera shots, and while it definitely delivered this, it was also a genuinely playful, almost pitch-perfect meditation on eternal recurrence, emotional meaning in the vortex of history, and the cosmic value of personally attachment.
It's also pretty funny! Occasionally acknowledging its own absurd premise and at other times drawing back from the cusp of the plain ridiculous. While I wouldn't call it an inconsistent film, it varies its tempo dramatically, and I realized what David Chen meant on the /filmcast podcast that A Ghost Story should be watched in a theatre in order to minimize the possibility of distraction during the earlier, more subdued moments.
There are too many exciting (occasionally adorable) tonal shifts to ruin for you here so I'll avoid details, but hipster Socrates unwittingly, and perhaps too bluntly, puts it best when he says something like "take away God and take away love, then all you have is other people."
Every adventure to the Embarcadero Landmark Theatre results in a classy, comfortable outing to the cinema. I chose my words to reflect the fact that I have never seen a film that could be called “low-brow” at this theatre. Well you could say Tangerine fits the phrase but you’d be swiftly beheaded here in the bay area for saying so. Anyway, I always try to keep an open mind when approaching a film but heading to the Embarcadero to see A Ghost Story (an A24 film) I couldn’t help but feel a little angry thinking I was about to watch a deconstruction of paranormal films.
Wow, I approached this film as a defensive horror fan and left as an emotional film fan. A human figure in a sheet is a perfect protagonist to project emotions on. A 1:33:1 aspect ratio amplifies these emotions by narrowing the scope, and a little humor makes the pain that much worse. It’s always surprising when a film about non-humans portrays the human condition so vibrantly. I can honestly say I’m not offended as a horror fan and I’m enchanted as a film fan.
A Ghost Story doesn’t feel like a really long movie, but is filled with very long gaps in which your mind will wander. The absence of action on the screen was made up for with questions like “Is she really about to eat that whole pie?” “Is that really Casey Affleck under that sheet the whole time?” “What genre would I consider this?” I’m still unsure how to answer that last inquiry, which seems to be the pattern with A24’s allegorical arthouse releases.
I knew that this wasn’t a horror movie going into it (which is something I learned you should do with A24), but other than that I tried to stay as clueless as possible, not even watching the trailer. I didn’t want to have any expectations in either direction, and I wonder if that affected my opinion of the film. I loved the imagery, the always jolting time lapse, and the incredibly unexpected bits of humor, but several of the shots lingered too long. Fully intentionally, I’m sure, but I’m not sure how they intended people to react to it. Personally, I liked the idea of it more than the execution.