Resurrecting the Dead: Why The ‘Assassination of Jesse James’ Revival Is Important

By  · Published on October 29th, 2013

It’s strange to think that we’re in need of a revival (and a “revival” in the truest sense of the word) of a film that’s not even a decade old and that features star turns from big names like Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, and Sam Rockwell, but such is the case when it comes to Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The critically beloved (it has a strong 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though we think that should still be a fair bit higher) box office flop (it pulled in less than $4m at the worldwide box office in a very small release, a real mess considering its reported budget of $30m) is currently set for a two-night revival at New York City’s own Museum of the Moving Image, and that’s just the beginning.

The best part of getting Dominik’s modern masterwork back on the big screen is that it comes care of an admiring fanbase. The new revival, amusingly titled “No Eulogies,” is hitting the big screen thanks to cinephile and big time Jesse James fan Jamieson McGonigle, whose admiration of the film extends so far that he recently told the New York Times that he thinks “It’s the best film that’s come out since 2000.”

McGonigle originally conceived of the revival as something of a bachelor party, as he already has his own print of the film to screen and considered his plan on marrying next year at the museum a good bargaining chip to get a discount on renting out the museum’s theater. Things, of course, spiraled sort of wonderfully out of control, culminating with Dominik himself agreeing to attend the screening and the museum just going whole hog and offering it as part of their “See It Big!” programming. If there’s a recent example of one fan’s passion resulting in an unexpectedly great event for many people, “No Eulogies” is it.

Jesse James remains one of very favorite films of recent vintage, simply because it still haunts me. In short, I think about the film a lot. I certainly think about it much more than I think about ninety percent of films I see in a given year, and it seems that my experience with the film is not a unique one. Tickets for the first New York City event sold out within a day, prompting the event organizers to add another screening for the following day to accommodate demand.

McGonigle is now helping fans in other cities arrange their own revival screenings, a grassroots campaign to get an underseen film in front of eyeballs in its intended fashion, and a model fans of other gems should considering employing in order to revive their favorites for a larger audience. Response on social media has been quite hearty, and if the legacy of McGonigle’s work isn’t just renewed passion for Jesse James, but renewed passion by fans for all sorts of other overlooked classics, it’s a damn fine legacy indeed.

Dominik himself seems tickled pink by the revival, sharing in a museum press release that “Jesse James is the thing that I’ve done in my life that I’m most proud of…I think it’s a movie that really benefits from being on the big screen, and I love the idea of it having some further life on the big screen.”

The screening on Saturday, December 7thwill take place in the Museum’s Sumner Redstone Theater, with the post-film conversation moderated by Chief Curator David Schwartz. It will be shown in DCP format, as preferred by Dominik as this version most closely matches his intentions from his original digital intermediate of the film. While that screening is sold out, the newly added December 8th screening will go on sale today (they are $20 for the public, $12 for Museum members, and free for Silver Screen members and above) and you can purchase them here.

You can read more about the Jesse James revival at its official site.

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