The proliferation of streaming services and prestige TV may have the old business models shaking in their boots, but these chilling trends have fringe benefits. Namely, movies, in my—sadly limited—experience, are getting weirder. I have bellyached at length about the lobotomy of “weird” on the global-market scale, where weird is just a synonym for novelty. But there’s a flip-side: indies that don’t compete with a world that drains our attention spans, but create new experiences to contemplate it.
Case in point: David Lowery’s A Ghost Story. Maybe it’s because I just saw Stalker (1979), but this film reminded me of Tarkovsky not just in its long, long takes, but in the muddy delta its streams of consciousness form. The glue between the ideas is pure intuition, so the movie reads like a collation of thoughts and feelings: a tone poem rather than a statement. And where Tarkovsky made his movies dense, both visually and verbally, Texas makes this one plain and lucent. The director, who lives in Dallas, has delivered something that’s tonally in between The Tree of Life (set in Houston) and Boyhood (set in Austin). Even its bouts of pretension seem homey.
The wisp of a plot is an inversion of the traditional ghost story: in this telling, the dead person is haunted. After moving into an unprepossessing ranch house with Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck gets into a car accident and makes her a widow. (I’m guessing here; their marital status is undefined.) Sporting the sheet that covered him at the morgue, he watches his beloved grieve and eventually move on—from their home, if not from him. He stays behind, as marooned from his past as he is moored to it.