One of the biggest question marks and most exciting prospects of this coming fall is the potential return of New York writer-director James Gray who, after 2008’s underrated drama “Two Lovers,” reunites with Joaquin Phoenix and teams with Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner for an untitled 1920s set drama formerly known as “Low Life.”
The film was recently snapped up by The Weinstein Company with an eye on a 2013 release though we’re hoping that doesn’t totally rule out an appearance at the Lido or Toronto later this year, which was previously noted by Gray as being within the realm of possibility. A profile of the film’s DoP Darius Khondji in the NY Times over the weekend adds to the intrigue, reporting that the film is making significant progress in post-production with Khondji returning to New York this week to “fine-tune the color.”
Also attached to Khondji’s profile is a new photo from the film (see above) which features Phoenix and Cotillard decked out in period costume and appearing to be in the midst of ships/docks of some sort. Gray has already excitingly predicted that the film is “going to be [his] best work” with Cotillard also recently revealing that she went as far learning Polish for her role as an immigrant who travels to New York only to see her sister become deathly ill. In order to help her, Cotillard heads down a dark path where she sells herself for money and medicine and eventually falls for a charming magician (Renner), the cousin of the sleaze who keeps her turning tricks (Phoenix).
While the new film seemingly treads the same themes of Gray’s earlier works, the helmer revealed a personal angle from which he developed it from telling le Point that he “imagined the story of this film by crossing my family heritage and the notion of redemption. My grandfather owned a saloon on his arrival in this country. Among his clients, there was a group of pimps, Jewish Russians who also gathered the girls upon their arrival at Ellis Island, placed [them] in their brothels in the area and made them play small roles in yiddish theater, to lure the client.”
Citing Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese as early inspirations particularly with his own fascination with the mafia (albeit of the Russian kind), Gray also noted that “[the Mafia] is mostly a way to address the fundamental tragedy of the family. The Greeks had the Atreides and their curse. Today, there are criminal families. Basically it’s the same thing. The weight of fate that crushes people, the secret hope of redemption.”
We can’t wait to see just what Gray has crafted here, though, the question remains — particularly with “Django Unchained” and “The Master” in their ranks — will the Weinsteins hold out to unveil the film next year, maybe at Cannes, where the French hold Gray in very high esteem? Or perhaps, with “Killing Them Softly” and most likely “The Silver Linings Playbook” not quite award-season players, could Gray’s film even come in and add to TWC’s Oscar steel? We’ll have to wait and see.