Joshua Tree, 1951 Resurrects James Dean in South Beach Tonight
In the fickle world of Hollywood, longevity is king, and Dean has had one of the most enduring careers that Tinseltown has ever known. It's nearly impossible to make it through a day without confronting an image of James Dean himself or the rebellious look he made popular. Though Dean's life came to an abrupt end at age 24, in his wake he left an indelible impression that is still vivid nearly six decades later.
Tonight, the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival presents filmmaker Matthew Mishory's Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean as part of it's GLOW Film Series.
Mishory's gorgeously shot and beautifully edited film is in many ways unlike anything you've seen: a present-day film that manages to be both rooted in the past but very much moving forward. Unlike many of the Dean biopics of the past, Joshua Tree is less interested in the creation of the iconic Dean image we've all committed to memory, but refreshingly focuses on the doe-eyed young man who dared to go after his dreams in a town known for shattering them.
Much like his celebrated short film, Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman, which was acquired by the British Film Institute for it's archives; Joshua Tree has a visual aesthetic that is nothing short of stunning. Shot in sumptuous black and white, the film's most ethereal and emotional moments are eventually given up to color, heightening viewers' emotions the same way opera performances do when they switch from liberetto to aria.
Dean's sexuality has long been a topic of debate, and Mishory tackles it head-on, ensuring that the complexity of Dean's alleged homosexuality or bisexuality is not relegated to a speculative footnote in history and underscoring the importance he thinks it played in the young actor's life. Yet for all Joshua Tree's artistic merits, it is important to remember that the film is an imagined glimpse into the life of the young actor -- a narrative that relies on some historical facts but draws upon the filmmaker's own creativity and opinions to flesh out the details. This doesn't make Joshua Tree any less watchable. Seeing Dean through the eyes of Mishory, himself clearly a young talent worthy of our attention, is a joyful experience.
We spoke with Mishory about Joshua Tree's retro look, the appeal of the outsider, and his upcoming projects.