Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Film of Kelly Reichardt: An Introduction

Ever since seeing Kelly Reichardt’s 2006 film Old Joy, I have been a fan of hers. Since then, she has made five other films – including the upcoming First Cow – and she has yet to make a bad film. I figured it was time to revisit her filmography – including her 1994 debut film River of Grass – which I have never seen before (I have also never seen her quasi-short, quasi-feature Ode – but that doesn’t seem to be available anywhere).
Her films are subtle and quiet – but incredibly well-observed and moving. It’s a great filmography – and I look forward to seeing them again.
Onto the initial ranking:
N/A River of Grass (1994) – I haven’t seen this one – I remember when Old Joy came out, a few people referenced her debut from a decade earlier, but not much – and I never had a chance to catch-up with it. I cannot wait to see it.
5. Night Moves (2013) – This is probably Reichardt’s most conventional film – a thriller about a group of environment activists who are planning an act of terrorism. It’s quite good – and not quite a conventional thriller – but still, I think I prefer Reichardt’s normal mode.
4. Old Joy (2006) – A very good, subtle, gentle film about two men who try and rekindle their friendship now that they are in their 30s, and have gone their separate ways in life in many ways. It’s the type of film where so many say nothing happened – but they are not paying attention.
3. Certain Women (2016) – A trio of stories about women, all of which are terrific and has an amazing cast. I do think the film gets better as it moves along – the first story stars Laura Dern as a lawyer trying to defuse to a hostage situation, the second has Michelle Williams as a woman who wants to break new ground on a home, and will not take no for an answer. The final story though – with Lily Gladstone as a young farmer, who falls in love with her teacher (Kristen Stewart) is quite simply stunning.
2. Meek’s Cutoff (2010) – Reichardt’s film about a group of settlers travelling through the Oregon desert in 1845, and take an ill-advised “short-cut” that leads to nowhere. It is a Western, but one that traps the characters in the vast open spaces, rather than seeing it as freedom. It’s about women’s place in this world – who no matter how qualified, they will never be in charge. It features another great Michelle Williams performance.
1.Wendy & Lucy (2008) – For me, Wendy & Lucy, which is a remarkably simple film, is Reichardt’s best – and one of the most emotional films I can remember seeing. The story is simple – a woman named Wendy is making her way to Alaska, and stops in a small Oregon   town, and one horrible thing after another happens to her – leaving her separated from her dog Lucy, and without a way to get out of town. It’s a simple story – but it builds to one of the most emotional moments I have ever seen in a film – one that moves me as much as the final moments between Harry & Tonto. A quiet, subtle masterpiece.

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