DALLAS So one of the worst kept secrets in the Metroplex -- which movie was going to be the "surprise" screening at the second night of the Oak Cliff Film Festival Friday night -- turned out to be exactly what everyone assumed it would be: the Texas premiere of Ain't Them Bodies Saints, the first major feature from Dallas filmmaker David Lowery.
But if the announcement of what the film would be left no room for shock among the large crowd, the good news is that Saints, which was shown at Sundance and Cannes and has been picked up by IFC for distribution, lives up to the hype that has been mounting since it became known that Lowery was working with a cast that included Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Rooney Mara, and Keith Carradine. Shot in Shreveport but set in small-town Texas, this semi-contemporary tattered romance (it takes place sometime in the late '60/early '70s) has echoes of Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands but stands on its own.
Affleck is Bob Muldoon, a low-level hood who leaves his pregnant girlfriend, Ruth (Mara), behind when he's sent off to prison. He escapes with the thought of getting back to her and seeing their child though, in the meantime, Officer Wheeler (Foster), one of the men who helped take Bob down, has moved into Ruth's life.
It's a compelling and quiet character study painted in shades of blue and gray, and with a rich musical accompaniment a bit reminiscent of the soundtrack to John Hillcoat's Lawless, one of last year's best scores.
This is the second noteworthy film to come out of North Texas this year. It comes on the heels of Shane Carruth's more obtuse but fascinating Upstream Color.
Lowery, Carradine, and producers Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston showed up for the Q&A after the film though Lowery did most of the talking. He said at one point that Robert Altman's 1971 film McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which was shown before his at the festival, was a folk song and that Saints was more like a cover of a folk song. Maybe. But the tune is still haunting all the same.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints will be released in August. The Oak Cliff Film Festival continues through Sunday night.