Posted tagged ‘Kelly Reichardt’

Neo-Neo Realism: Here at a Discount

March 23, 2009
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Photo from the New York Times

A.O. Scott has a great piece here on Neo-Neo Realism (or as I call it, American Neo-Realism).

In the article, he discusses how filmmakers have gathered around the nexus of our hard times, channeling the bleakness of the Italian neo-realists in Rosselini’s Rome: Open City or De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. He cites such filmmakers as Kelly Reichardt with Wendy and Lucy and Old Joy, Lance Hammer with Ballast, Ramin Bahrani with Man Push Cart and So Yong Kim’s Treeless Mountain. Those films, he argues, show the struggle of underpowered individuals in a world they can never succeed in (thus: realism). By contrast, take the Oscar’s Slumdog Millionaire a movie with underpowered indivudals triumphing despite (and to spite) all odds, which Scott points out aptly is “the magical power of popular culture to conquer misery, to make dreams come true. And the major function of Oscar night is to affirm that gauzy, enchanting notion.”

Scott also makes some good analogies about borrowing, looking at how a film like Wendy and Lucy can take a lost dog from De Sica’s Umberto D and teach it a new trick. And indeed, these filmmakers are building on each other.

The place where many of these filmmakers meet, where the “American neo-realists” got their break, is at the New Directors/New Films Festival. Because from Kelly Reichardt (Class of ’05) to Ramin Bahrani (Class of ’06) to Lance Hammer (Class of ’07), all of these filmmakers had their breakthrough “neo-realist” films here at ND/NF. And as if to put the icing on the cake, A.O. Scott even included a film that’s playing this year at the festival: So Yong Kim’s beautiful, difficult and diffident Treeless Mountain.

So check it out. After all, in these “hard-scrabble times”, tickets are only 10 bucks for students, saving you a bit (plus a nice Q+A with those cool director-types).

After all, if this writer may opine: “Ticket to ND/NF Film: 10 dollars. Chance to one-up A.O. Scott by knowing about a good movie before he does: Priceless.”

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-Nicholas Feitel, ND/NF New Voice

What Was “Old” Is New Again: Kelly Reichardt’s “Old Joy”

March 13, 2009

When Wendy and Lucy placed atop the charts on Film Comment‚Äôs 2008 Poll, I was surprised to hear most laudatory comments containing the phrase ‚Äúnascent filmmaker.‚ÄĚ Not that Kelly Reichardt is unworthy of such praise, but just two years ago she already made good on her promising talent. It seemed as if many of these cinephiles had forgotten that Reichardt already bloomed‚ÄĒparticularly with the 2006 release of her¬†first feature in¬†7 years, Old Joy (New Directors/New Films ’06). It may not have the prescience of Wendy and Lucy‚Äôs¬†vision of a troubled economy, but¬†Old Joy is a sublime observation on failed fraternity that is without the creaky narrative devices that detracted from the gracefulness of Wendy and Lucy.

Striking many truthful chords in tiny moments, Old Joy is an insightful meditation on near-middle-age malaise. On the surface, the story is driven by a hiking trip taken by two reunited pals as they traverse the lush, green woods of Portland and vent their inarticulate thoughts over campfires and harmless firearms. Mark (Daniel London) is a hopelessly stable married thirtysomething on the brink of fatherhood while Kurt (Will Oldham) is a wayward soul on the brink of stoner-oblivion. The interaction between these former best buddies is appropriately uncomfortable, as a trip that was meant to be a vacation from anxiety only puts into perspective the angst of aging.

Old Joy is emotionally charged in the most delicately nuanced way possible; the¬†true emotions perpetually bubble¬†under the surface of stilted silences and banal chatter.¬†Reichardt’s camera captures these characters through facial expressions and pauses, not overexplicit dialogue. Most impressive is Reichardt’s acumen in¬†deconstructing the idea of masculinity, and man’s¬†alienation from nature. Its title and presentation are¬†richly ambiguous, but Old Joy was one of 2006’s best films due to what¬†is easily apparent: the painfully honest depiction of expired friendship and the disillusionment¬†with nostalgia.

-Nick McCarthy

Nick McCarthy also writes for The L Magazine.

Snapshots: Michelle Williams and Kelly Reichardt

September 29, 2008

New York Film Festival Snapshots sponsored by:

Wendy and Lucy director Kelly Reichardt and star Michelle Williams

Photo: C.J. Contino

Hot tickets: Michelle Williams shines in Wendy and Lucy

September 22, 2008
Michelle Willams in Wendy and Lucy

Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy

Wendy and Lucy, directed by Kelly Reichardt and co-produced by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I’m Not There), is a streamlined and atmospheric film about the separation of two companions, both dependent on each other and at the edge of destitution.  This may sound more bombastic than the film actually is, but what amounts is intensely identifiable:  Wendy and Lucy is the story of a woman who has lost her dog.

Michelle Williams (2006 Oscar-nominated for her supporting role in Brokeback Mountain), not a scene shot without her, gives an even-keeled performance as Wendy, a young woman in search of work in the canneries of Alaska.  Wendy’s plan is slipshot at best: homeless and jobless, she finds her way just outside of Portland, Oregon before her car finally gives out on her.  The story of Wendy and Lucy, however, has less to do with Wendy’s economic predicament (she keeps a sharp eye on the $500 left to her name) than it does the sort of feedback-loop odyssey she finds herself in.  When arrested after shoplifting a can of food for her dog, Wendy becomes separated from Lucy (with a memorable, heartbreaking shot through the back windshield of the police car, Lucy tied to a bike rack and faithfully waiting at the door of the supermarket); from this point, Wendy is caught in suburban blue-collar purgatory without anywhere to go, in hopes that Lucy is still somewhere nearby.

The bulk of the movie is quietly harrowing, entreating the viewer into Wendy’s predicament; not a pet-lover (or otherwise) could leave this movie without feeling Wendy’s loss and translating it to oneself.  With her companion gone, Wendy is both stranded and lost (emotionally, spiritually), with few friends to rely on.  The film is sparsely populated with characters; homeless drifters, mechanics, even a security guard in the parking lot of a Walgreen’s prove to be both hurtful and helpful to Wendy; ultimately, her plight to find Lucy is left square on her shoulders.  What amounts may not resolve completely in terms of story, but the film is almost hyper-conscious of this fact:  down to its bones, this is an atmospheric, behavioral film rather than one that adheres to Aristotelian rules of story and structure.

Director Reichardt came to the Film Society of Lincoln Center and spoke with the audience a bit about her film.¬† Wendy and Lucy is based on the short story ‚ÄúTrain Choir‚ÄĚ by Portland-native Jonathan Raymond (whose work Reichardt had previously drawn from for her film Old Joy), shot over 20 days on location around Portland, and self-edited in her apartment in New York City.¬† Reichardt‚Äôs vision of Wendy translates to film quite well, and she proves herself to be a director of startling control in crafting Wendy‚Äôs awareness of the day-to-day, veering away from the ‚Äúbig picture‚ÄĚ because, in the end, Wendy can‚Äôt afford to cast her net so wide.

Tickets to Wendy and Lucy are still avaliable:

Sat Sep 27: 9:30
Sun Sep 28: 3:15

Snapshots: Wendy and Lucy director Kelly Reichardt

September 19, 2008

Wendy and Lucy director Kelly Reichardt and the Village Voice’s J. Hoberman

Photo: Godlis

Snapshots from the New York Film Festival are sponsored by Chopard.