You have no idea for how long I’ve been waiting to watch Life (2015). It was released last year in February, for the Berlinale Film Festival (which I’m going to attend one day, mark my words). I knew for some time that this movie was gonna come out in 2015, and after Berlinale I thought, great, now I’m gonna be able to find it and watch it too. But no. I couldn’t get my hands on it until last night.
I am a big Dehaan fan, not gonna lie about it. He was great in every movie he was part of, but the only role to truly match his potential was the one in Kill your Darlings (2013). So I was happy to hear that he finally got a good part in a good movie.
This film follows the story of the emblematic James Dean photo essay in Life magazine, before the East of Eden premiere, in 1955. I’ve brought you some info regarding the hype around biopics when I wrote about The Walk (2015).
Not to spoil anything for you, but James Dean died at the age of 24 in a car accident. How was that quote? Live fast die young? A lot of legends bear this aura of fatality around them. They are as famous for their art, as for their death.
Life is not the first biopic about James Dean. There’s also one made in 2001, James Franco being the one playing Dean. There’s really no use in comparing these two movies because, well, they might be about the same person, but they cover different aspects of his life. It would be like comparing Redmayne’s portrayal of Hawking in The Theory of Everything(2014) with Cumberbatch’s one in Hawking(2004). James Dean (2001) is a more general view on the actor’s life, on the struggle for the first roles, on his first years in the industry and the relationship with his father. Life follows the trail left by Dean and Stock through New York and Indiana, in the legend’s last year of life.
The idea of recreating a live setting for the famous photographs was pretty awesome, I must say. While watching the movie I googled the original photos and I was like wow, so this is how history was made. Yeah, I was really excited.
Here’s a link to the original picture, taken in 1955.
So, we like to see how stars were made. How legends were born. And James Dean was a legend. He had a fascinating awkwardness that made him special. He was a chain smoker, he played the bongos, he rode a motorcycle. In Life, photographer Dennis Stock (played by Robert Pattinson) recognized this special something in Dean before his career even started blooming. He saw a potential, he saw what the big public was going to love and admire in him. And he offered to take pictures of that.
But James was not an easy person. He was moody, you never knew what to expect from him. His decisions were rush, he was all about instinct. Dennis had to follow him for some time until he finally got some good shots. Here’s a link to the iconic photo, taken in Times Square.
My questions are: what makes other people grater than others? More interesting than others? More captivating? Do they work for it? James was not really into the celebrity responsabilities and duties outside the set part. He just sort of got the roles, played them and then disappeared.
Dane Dehaan made a wonderful job playing Dean. A bit poetic, a bit fragile, natural, sensitive. I wasn’t a big fan of the hair though, haha. Robert Pattinson was great too, playing a guy dealing with his own problems and trying to understand Dean’s persona. You’ll see how beautifuly these two stories mix together.
You can watch an interview that’s very dear to me below. Dane’s such an awesome guy!
*i do not own any of the pictures