292 Great Directors: Kelly Reichardt

“Here was the story of this braggart leading a bunch of people into the desert without a plan and becoming completely reliant on the locals who are socially different from him and who he is suspicious of. All of which seemed relevant to the moment.”

Why This Director?
: Love Wendy and Lucy.

My Last Experience Was…: See above.

What Did I Watch: Old Joy/Meek’s Cutoff.

Where Does She Fit: Old Joy’s opening notes involve dividing and conquering, with a radio show that perfectly encapsulates the misunderstandings that will develop between the two men on their bonding trip. The dog from Wendy and Lucy seems to want to run away to a woman who likes her, while Yo La Tengo strums away in the background and the bonding curdles even when the enjoyment of each other’s company seems to be going well, too. The brief little squint of a running time means that everything goes well for about twenty minutes…then it stops. That is the whole story, and that is okay.


The long lonely shots of the road in Old Joy, which didn’t last very long, are nothing compared to Meek’s Cutoff where that is essentially the entire film, an Academy ratio piece of textures and nothing else, with performances that feel a bit off in a way that lends to a mood piece attitude. The heroes slowly, tediously throw away the things they do not need as they go across the Oregon Trail, right down to a grandfather clock. Close-ups are avoided, and good for her on not using them as a crutch until we have made some progress in the realm of the journey, a series of shots that both contrast thrillingly (some of those cuts from sunlight to darkness are astounding) and in a way that lends the quietest of political subtexts. Also, that final line is a super intelligent choice in this world of men fucking everything up for the women and dehydrating the whole damn world.


Most Valuable Asset: What people say and what they do are different.
Most Excited For: Certain Women.

Coming Up Next: Wen Jiang, actor-director.


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