SIFF Week 2– Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean

SIFF Week 2–1951: Joshua Tree, 1951:A Portrait of James Dean

Synopsis:A movie that’s both timeless and “outside of time,” Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean was shot with the classic compositions of a 1951 film, the boundary-pushing sexuality of the Gay New Wave of the 1990s, and a touch of the explicit sexuality that can be found today. Inspired by the facts, and maybe some of the fictions, surrounding the too-short life of cinematic icon James Dean, the movie is a rumination on the dream of being a star and its subsequent costs. In the title role, James Preston (TV’s The Gates) captures the confidence and the talent of Dean, but also his appetite for fame, intimacy, and sex from both men and women. An early conquest and central character is known only as “The Roommate,” a friend from acting school who shares an apartment with him. Other characters also have anonymous names, like “The Roommate’s Mother” (Erin Daniels, The L Word) and “The Famous Director” (Robert Gant, Queer as Folk). Writer/director Matthew Mishory’s short film, Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman, is now part of the permanent collection of the British Film Institute’s National Film Archive. With Joshua Tree, 1951, he adds yet another cinematic gem.  (

Origin: USA

Year: 2012

:Genre: Coming of Age, Biopic, Gay/Lesbian, Romance

Director: Matthew Mishory
Producer: Randall Walk, Edward Singletary, Jr., Robert Zimmer, Jr.

Screenwriter: Matthew Mishory
Cinematographer: Michael Marius Pessah

Prinicipal Cast: James Preston, Dan Glenn, Dalilah Rain, Edward Singletary, Jr., Erin Daniels, Robert Gant.

Running time: 93 minutes.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about James Dean? He was an idol of my father’s growing up (Dad saw Rebel without a Cause fifty times in the drive in), and soon as I learned about him as a teenager I become riverted with his three movies and his persona of a movie icon.

This movie was beautifully  shot in black and white on 35 MM to capture the look of the 50’s era of films. It wasn’t so much of a biopic, but seeing Dean as a character or outcast  trying to make it in Hollywood, and his place in the world.

The director did not shy away from the homosexuality, and there many  graphic sex scenes. People walked out of the theater.

Certain characters were supposed to represent actors in Dean’s life  once he makes in Hollywood. One actor reminded me of Natalie Wood, another of Tony Curtis. They were not given names expect for “The Agent,” “The Roommate, “The Director.” You could see the beginning of something brewing in his acting style.

While I didn’t love the movie, it won points with me for cinematography and editing. The directors, producers, and cast was there after the screening and said that it was more of a homage to him and his early career before he went off to New York, and was finally cast in East of Eden, Rebel without a Cause, and Giant. He died on Sept 30, 1955. Giant was released after his death in 1956.



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