Such is the ardor and devotion of the notorious James Gray cabal that when a fellow who is either a member or temporarily posing as one — New Yorker critic Anthony Lane — tries to gently dismiss Gray’s The Lost City of Z (Amazon Bleecker, 4.14), he can’t help but dance a little side-step. Which wouldn’t be a problem if you weren’t muttering to yourself, “C’mon, man…spit it out.”
One, do not trust the 89% Rotten Tomatoes rating — the foo-foos have been worshipping Gray for years and will almost always give him a pass no matter what. I’ve said two or three times that this film will empty the sand out of your hourglass and make you feel imprisoned in your theatre seat. On top of which you must always, always beware of the word “fantasia” if the speaker isn’t referring to a 1940 animated Disney feature. Remember also that Lane is obliged to show a certain deference to David Grann‘s “The Lost City of Z,” which ran in The New Yorker before being published in book form.
New Yorker illustration by Wesley Allsbrook.
Two excerpts tell the tale:
Lane excerpt #1: “Gray has borrowed the title [of the book], and he dramatizes many of the episodes to which Grann and other writers have referred. Yet the movie that results should not be combed for historical truth. It is best approached, I would say, as a fantasia on Fawcettian themes.”
Lane excerpt #2: “Does The Lost City of Z count as an action movie? It seems more like a study in restlessness. You could frame Percy Fawcett as desperate, deluded, and ill-prepared. [But] Gray’s Fawcett is a sturdy and somewhat monotonous creature, who, for all the strivings of Charlie Hunnam, does not consume us.”