Dragged Across Concrete ★★★½

Gibson whatever Gibson is, is one of the actors most determined to reconcile melodrama and minimalism through the face. In his most humane work he uses slight modulation to communicate the impossible difference on the threshold of two spartan lines, and most evocatively the direction of the blink. Many great actors pierce us through the dislocation of the closeup from action, but Gibson's face directs thought and feeling from an embedded position within the continuity of the film. Hence the unsettling presence he holds: the face refuses to become a syntactic element, and instead creates an apprehension over the authority of the cut. Instead of three images connecting the thinker with the object of their thought back to the thinker, Gibson bridges the spectrum of all possible meaning in the eyes, including the presence of what can't be shown. With him there is no mysterious duality of internal and external worlds, but a blink that follows thought's process to its terminus in realisation: eyes that are inwardly rising and falling, breaking and casting out to one form or another of faith. This is why in spite of its always conspicuous (and at times outright incompetent) dialogue this film convincingly runs on the bile promised—it dramatises life after the death of thought. Late capitalism not as farce but as the empty western, with the skies as heavy as concrete.

Operating through a perversion of the searching eye, it reveals sets that like a corpse, blankly reflect what was once decided on, now held forever to be true. If there is a point of access to the film it is in Gibson and Kittles but not because they betray a pulse. Rather, they anchor us in Dragged Across Concrete's dead telling. Other than hatred, or more accurately leveraging hatred, what has replaced thought is the speculation of life according to its use. (This should have been a silent film). There is no questioning the frame because every one of them arrives having clearly, logically replaced what came before. Every one is a settled checkpoint for imminent action, undermined by the very nature of imminence. Here more than anywhere else it is all for nothing, but nothing takes down everything else with it because it is limitless. Thought is over, but in giving themselves to ruthless teleology the images take on the quality of eroded tombstones—they've already accepted their operative role in an empty time to be presented to nothing, to ask and stand for nothing. Its tension then is peculiar, because everything comes scrutinised according to its purpose but dwells on a distrust of the very concept of purpose. The static shots, the deliberation of the pause, the informational density of every frame, all run according to a feedback loop of ruinous internal coherence. Every cycle like the lapping tide, taking something with it. Once again farce won't do. It is instead an uncompromising look at a system that is incompatible with change and incompatible with life. This will end the world and is the mode of the living dead.

Max liked these reviews