Directed by: Robert Machoian
Distributed by: TBA
Written by Taylor Baker
Robert Machoian’s 2020 critical darling “The Killing of Two Lovers” played like a long steaming kettle forced shut, its high-pitched whine audible in our hearts and our minds throughout its runtime. Two years later he’s reteamed with the star of “The Killing of Two Lovers,” Clayne Crawford in a meandering film on manhood entitled “The Integrity of Joseph Chambers.” It shares more than a few commonalities with its predecessor, though that moniker of critical darling likely won’t be one of them. With brief and unnatural appearances by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jordana Brewster, these characters that define the “human” world outside of the forest that Crawford’s Joseph Chambers is hunting in are perhaps the pieces that compromise it most. Not directly because of their performances though stilted, but because of the plodding pseudo-transcendentalism that makes up our time in the woods. As we watch Chambers armed with a rifle, toting a lunch pale walking to and from a tree stand.
The film is predicated on the single event of Chambers firing a round when he hears a stick break behind him and how he deals with the consequences of firing that shot. Machoian again implements a restrictive square frame and in collaboration with Crawford gets a lot of diagonal momentum based on the composition of that framing. In one sequence you’ll see Crawford stumble and trace his way up a wooded hill perfectly to the top left corner of the screen, in another he’s skipping stones on the river carving ripples to the bottom left corner. This control and focus from the performer, director, and Oscar Ignacio Jiménez the cinematographer work to conjure a sense of comfort for the viewer as we witness tightly controlled images. Equal respect and attention should be paid to the sound design team especially Pietu Korhonen, Lauri Marjamaa, and Heikki Kossi who worked as the Foley mixers and artist respectively. Their work in particular brought the sounds of the forest to life and evoked the fabric of the world Chambers seems trapped in.
The finale of “The Integrity of Joseph Chambers” doesn’t pack the wallop that its score indicates, nor does it quite pay off the character journey that we’ve witnessed. But Machoian’s interest in the forks in the road where one can do the wrong or right thing with a morally ambiguous character is interesting. This feels like a slight misstep in both the filmography of Machoian and Crawford, and yet I’m still excited by the possibilities and prospects of this creative team coming together again.
“The Integrity of Joseph Chambers” Trailer
“The Integrity of Joseph Chambers” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival.