James Gray is one of our most classically elegant contemporary filmmakers and, in the United States, at least, one of our most underappreciated. His films have an ambitious, sweeping vision, but they’re deeply intimate, too. The Lost City of Z, based on David Grann’s best-selling book, is the story of a man who, once he’s gotten a taste of a secret world buried deep in the Amazon, no longer feels wholly comfortable either in his own country or his own skin. Charlie Hunnam stars as real-life British explorer Percy Fawcett, who, in 1925, disappeared in the Amazonian jungle while seeking a long-lost civilization. Others doubted its existence, and scoffed at Fawcett’s obsession. But Fawcett knew in his bones, and in his heart, that the place was real, and he devoted his life to locating it. The Lost City of Z is about the way dreams take hold of us. But it also reminds us that we, too, are adventurers, and that we must be prepared for the everyday kinds of bravery expected of us. Gray is unafraid of intense emotions, written out in a filmmaking language that’s bold yet fine-grained. His pictures are sometimes bracingly out of style. But why else do we look at them—and why do we look at old ones, made before we were born—if not to feel lost in time?
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