Phoenix Film Festival 2017: The Lost City of Z

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One of my favorite books in recent years was The Lost City of Z. It was interesting to me because as I was reading it I was kind of bored with it. It is a non-fiction book that chronicles several expeditions into the Amazon by Percy Fawcett as he searches for an ancient lost city. The premise intrigued me, but because I am a rational human being I know there is no city of gold, so as I was reading this I knew he wasn’t going to find anything, so it seemed pointless to me, until the end. The author of the book makes his own expedition into the jungle and he details evidence of advanced roads and bridges and a city that was in fact there, so at that moment the book was worth it. I know he wasn’t searching for a lost city of gold or anything, but now I can fully appreciate his journeys and I’m left with a question in my head, did he find one and stay there? There has been talk of making it into a movie since it was published, and I read it eight years ago, but I had no idea they had actually shot it until I saw the trailer maybe late last year. When I saw it on the schedule for the festival I had to jump on it, naturally.

Turning a non-fiction book into a linear narrative can be a bit tricky and the way the book is written left me wondering how they would portray the events in this movie. The author’s point of view is completely gone here, as the movie focuses solely on Percy and his time, which is not a problem in and of itself. Unfortunately what that does in this particular movie is strip the story of the magic and intrigue. I personally didn’t care if Percy found anything at all in the movie. This is a pretty lengthy movie and a lot of the time is spent on stuff that isn’t pertinent to his quest. He yearns to return to the Amazon to find “Zed,” but I was never shown a reason for him to lust after it to warrant a dangerous, and fateful, return to the jungle.

I know I should be cautiously optimistic when going into a movie based on one of my favorite books; I think we all learned this lesson all too well with The Hobbit. I don’t think The Lost City of Z quite falls into the same category as the one mentioned above, but I do feel that falls flat for me. I’m still trying to process everything and would much like a second viewing. I feel more disappointed than anything, because the movie wasn’t boring. It was well-directed by James Gray, and not being a fan of Charlie Hunnam or Robert Pattinson I found their performances really enjoyable in this, which is a bummer because if I had felt more admiration for the movie itself they would’ve elevated it so much more.

At this time I can neither truly recommend nor dissuade any one from seeing it. As with anything I encourage you to make your own decision, but until I can give it another watch to fully digest everything it was an unfortunate low point of the festival.

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Jim Lincoln (The Film Department)

A man of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by his mystery. Writer of things. Watcher of stuff. Quoter of movies. Master of puppets.

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