Kelly Reichardt

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senseabove
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:07 am

Re: Kelly Reichardt

#26 Post by senseabove » Tue Aug 04, 2020 9:42 pm

We do seem to be talking past each other, so I'l just say that yes, I responded to what read to me as condescension and a pretty willful misreading with a dashed-off, sarcastically overwrought clarification, but it sounds like I went more than a little too far, and I apologize for that.



Old Joy is one I've tried to write up many times, but I've never been able to get it down adequately, which is odd, because the reason it's my favorite of hers, at least most of the time, is its rather simple, direct survey of the gendered dynamics of (American) male intimacy. It's a subject that doesn't get explored often, despite being an abundantly more common feature of daily life than the extreme, typically masculine power dynamics that get trotted out endlessly... It's something I was hoping for more of in First Cow, given the leads, and it's definitely there, but, at least on first pass, it gets a little hidden behind the back half's plotting.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Kelly Reichardt

#27 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Aug 04, 2020 10:24 pm

That’s a good way of summarizing why Old Joy stirred me so much the first time (I suppose a revisit was bound to fail to measure up to that original experience of genuine male intimacy, which I can only describe as spiritual in cutting away the fat to get at a truth I hadn’t seen depicted so authentically before). This last watch I was attuned to two moments where the bond was challenged by the realities of social norms, and individualized anxieties that exist despite a harmonious union with history.

The first was Mark taking a compliment about helping kids learn carpentry (I think?) and then nervously reacting by trying to compliment Kurt for giving back to his community too, aware of the nature of social comparison and significantly not wanting his friend to be upset as the driving force rather than not wanting to have an awkward moment (though that’s fair too).

The second was when Kurt is touching Mark’s shoulders and telling him to relax when they’re naked in the hot springs. This speaks for itself, a stress between Mark trusting his friend and challenged in overcoming his own conditioned heteronormative socialization to intimate male touch while nude. His inability to fully relax his muscles is honest, but his willingness to try, and to relax a little - which he does - is critical to understanding the strength of their friendship.

The beautiful truth about these fumblings is that they don’t take away from the intimacy but portray authentic experiences that disallow a false presentation of stagnantly positive, yet shallow, camaraderie seen in many films. Their ability to either acknowledge those moments, or disregard them, and be empathic in considering the other’s feelings the whole way, allows each man to emerge closer together and aligned with empathy for their friend.

Nasir007
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Re: Kelly Reichardt

#28 Post by Nasir007 » Tue Aug 04, 2020 10:58 pm

Since this started as a comparative, I will add my two cents here.

I have only seen Wendy & Lucy, Meek's Cutoff and Certain Women. I will say this about her cinema which I don't think gets mentioned much (and seems to me just in general film criticism and analysis - certainly American and English language film criticism and analysis - have moved away from this manner of looking at films) - for being such small humble indie films, her films show enormous formal accomplishment. At least the first two I mentioned. In the sense - fuck the movie's meaning, or what have you, just as a job of directing and mis-en-scene, the films are sensationally directed. Meek's Cutoff most definitely - (I don't know what Tarantino is smoking for that one).

I'd go so far as to say Meek's Cutoff is probably one of the most formally accomplished American films of the 2010s. The blocking, composition of the frames, the placement of people and objects within the frame is constantly remarkable and striking and for a humble film, and shows enormous auteur-ial (I know I am making up a word here) control. Her films are very heavily directed in the sense Haneke's films are very heavily directed. The approach might be different but the result is the same - you are seeing a very fastidiously put together image of exacting control by the director which is very particularly and very specifically composed and the movement of object and people in the frame is very deliberate and choreographed - despite its natural appearance. In fact I was remarkably impressed with how spontaneous she made Wendy and Lucy feel. It often takes a lot of direction for something to feel 'undirected'.

I think formal rigor is something people might not often associate with female film-makers (except say Chantal Akerman or the like) and is often attributed to control freak and obsessive male directors but Reichardt does display formal rigor which pleases me. I personally prefer this mode of analyzing films rather than digging too deep into symbolism and meaning etc so her work generally interests me. (Though of course her work gives you a lot to think about too. Meek's Cutoff's audacious ending remains one of the most impressive, stirring and haunting endings of the decade. I actually found it inspiring to the extent that a story that I have in mind which I will write some day will in some ways echo the feeling she manages to create in the ending of Meek's Cutoff. I have rarely seen that expressed so well.) (If there's any doubt by this point - let me just say it - I consider Meek's Cutoff to be a major American masterwork.)

And while we are on the topic and if we are to compare - I find Tarantino's directing to be extremely unsophisticated and banal for being such a great director - in formal terms. He does create some memorable and striking images and there are some moments of inspiration but his films don't display the regular and thorough command of the medium that some of the greats display. You can see that he was a film-lover, a genius one at that, who kinda acquired film-making chops by sheer observing. He's able to make fantastic movies but hasn't internalized film direction to the extent that anything he directs would be interesting. He leads with his writing which is very much where his major talents lie. For such a influential director, his formal capabilities are at best indifferent.

I know formal rigor is an extremely academic way at looking films and means jack squat to 99% of the film-going population (and rarely seems to interest American film critics either who have almost entirely shifted to a 'meaning' based analysis of cinema). But I personally take immense pleasure in it as I believe formal rigor can disassociate cinema from being a purely literal medium - essentially stories staged for the camera - to being its own medium.

And in Reichardt we do have a director who in her own humble unassuming way and in her humble unassuming films, has shown some remarkable formal achievement.

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domino harvey
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Re: Kelly Reichardt

#29 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 04, 2020 11:08 pm

Well, I hope you’re all happy

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Kelly Reichardt

#30 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Aug 04, 2020 11:18 pm

Saying the Serenity Prayer helps remind me that I can’t control other people’s behavior, but it doesn’t work to repress the trauma of every thread turning into the Once Upon a Time.. in Hollywood thread

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swo17
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Re: Kelly Reichardt

#31 Post by swo17 » Tue Aug 04, 2020 11:22 pm

Maybe one day Tarantino will make a movie where this thread ends differently

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senseabove
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Re: Kelly Reichardt

#32 Post by senseabove » Wed Aug 05, 2020 8:18 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 10:24 pm
That’s a good way of summarizing why Old Joy stirred me so much the first time (I suppose a revisit was bound to fail to measure up to that original experience of genuine male intimacy, which I can only describe as spiritual in cutting away the fat to get at a truth I hadn’t seen depicted so authentically before)....
You're more optimistic than me... I don't think Mark and Kurt actually have a strong friendship. I think the two of them probably had some good times in college, but both of them are realizing throughout this that, if it ever was, it isn't all that profound a connection now. They'd both like it to be, because they could use it, but the friendship they each need/want from the other requires something neither is equipped with, and that's the tragedy of the movie.

The two moments you highlight are certainly key, as they're cross-sections of the anxieties that have separated them in the intervening years: the first, social, in that "giving back" to one's community in ways that are valued requires a commitment to norms that Kurt isn't interested in or able to conform to and that Mark feels constrained by (economic stability and class cohesion); the second, interpersonal, where Kurt is so desperate for a deeper individual connection that he's breaking norms that Mark seems only marginally aware of (heteronormative masculinity; cf. the opening scene between Mark and his wife, where he's incapable of seeing how he's casting her in the role of "nagging wife" no matter what her reaction is).

I think both of them realize some aspects of why the trip and their attempt at reviving their friendship isn't successful, but neither of them knows how to ask for something different, or to receive it, and neither is quite able to see what's preventing the other from meeting them halfway, even if they can see that they're trying. The ending puts their individual lonelinesses in opposition: Mark drives with talk radio and the film cuts after he comes to a stop outside his home, and Kurt moving with unclear purpose from place to place, rejects the panhandler before changing his mind and giving him some change, then continues his desperate wandering.

So while I'd agree that their ability to recognize those moments and react empathetically is crucial to the movie, if they "emerge closer," it's with a mutual, futile-feeling recognition that neither knows how to bridge the distance between them. And Reichardt is neither diagnostic nor prescriptive about that, just observant and empathetic.
therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 11:18 pm
Saying the Serenity Prayer helps remind me that I can’t control other people’s behavior, but it doesn’t work to repress the trauma of every thread turning into the Once Upon a Time.. in Hollywood thread
It's an iteration of Godwin's law: "as an online [film] discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving [Tarantino] approaches 1."

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Kelly Reichardt

#33 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Aug 05, 2020 8:38 pm

senseabove wrote:
Wed Aug 05, 2020 8:18 pm
So while I'd agree that their ability to recognize those moments and react empathetically is crucial to the movie, if they "emerge closer," it's with a mutual, futile-feeling recognition that neither knows how to bridge the distance between them. And Reichardt is neither diagnostic nor prescriptive about that, just observant and empathetic.
I agree with all of that, though I suppose I'd reframe the tragedy you see as something honest that transcends the expectations of a getaway weekend with your friend into self-consciousness and inevitable individualization. The intimacy I find is in an admittance (the first step in a paved way to acceptance) that relationships are dynamic and not static. So their inability to engage in the way they want to could be seen as tragic, and it is in a sense, but it's also a reminder of what 'was' and what 'is'- the acceptance of which can make one grateful for what they had (freedom, youthful years, a closer friendship), and what they have now (a wife, a child on the way, memories), without trying to escape one for the other, holding both as inherently compromised states when compared to fantastical expectations. By experiencing the shattering of the fantasy of heightened movie intimacy, they can assess their relationship on the terms of reality and find that gratitude, which like real life often doesn't come by way of in-the-moment catharsis but afterwards.

I think we really only get an insight into Mark's perspective on this, or at least that's how I read it this last watch. I also believe you're right about Reichardt's stance towards all of this- I just think there's a surging beauty and "real" intimacy there that might appear as a half-measure of traditional cinematic male friendship, but nonetheless is true to the condition of many friendships with history into that era of adulthood when people have gone their separate ways. As someone around that age who has been wrestling with many instances like this, trying to recapture the magic, becoming depressed when that reveals itself as futile, and ruminating on those memories of 'better' times, there's something very serene about accepting what 'was' and what 'is.' I still have some strong friendships that are more stereotypically "intimate" from those years, but most have changed on the surface 'for the worse' but with a reframe, exactly how they're supposed to be. Sometimes the intimacy of history, even if more awkward and distant in many ways, still surges between people- and it's the movement from those false expectations to the true realities, that allows one to see it.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Kelly Reichardt

#34 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Sep 08, 2020 5:31 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 3:19 pm
Night Moves is one of my favorites of her works, mostly because it takes the thriller model and whittles it down to a real-time drama. The film’s rhythm mimics the slightly elevated heartbeat of someone breaking the law (outside of an exaggerated high-intensity robbery scenario), and that deconstruction of an eco-thriller into the pace of the thrills of actual ecological beings is fascinating. I think she does something similar but reversed in Wendy and Lucy, taking a more deceptively ‘lowkey drama’ story and building it as a realistic ascending anxiety attack to become a thriller.
Just revisited Night Moves and though I feel like it functions similarly to what I stated here from memory, I forgot just how intense the anxiety amounts to over the course of the narrative. This is a thriller that acknowledges how stress is most excruciating when forced to just... sit with it, a sedate state opposing the relaxation often associated with slowness. Reichardt films many scenes in real time, with enough objectivity to provoke a steady paranoia in us as we align with the elevated heartbeat of a pace rather than loud chaos, which just isn't an accurate depiction of this kind of anxiety. As the stakes for self-preservation increase, there's an established hopelessness in escaping the enigmatic threat of persecution, and instead of a 'twist' the tragedy is in there being no outlet to connect and relieve personal burdens.
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When Sarsgaard refuses to meet up with Eisenberg, who only wants to bridge a connection with another human being, and therapeutically receive validation for the decision they made together, his impotence for release is cemented. The irony is striking, for what started as an underground collective of likeminded people on a harmonious mission to keep the world liberated ends with these characters either dead or damned to individualized figurative prisons of solitude. Eisenberg's destiny is to always be looking over his shoulder and trapped with guilt that he can never share with another human being. And the real kicker is that we empathize with his position, not through typically-detailed characterization but from having literally been trapped in his shoes of brooding stress this whole film, and must divorce our morality of 'deserve' with what simply 'is'.
The most pleasurable parts of the film occur in the first act when we witness the plot moving into place, with a particular highlight being Fanning's attempt to purchase fertilizer from LeGros. The tension in that long exchange across two scenes is a testament to how Reichardt can take a simple documentary-like banal scene of dialogue in going through red tape to purchase goods, and transform it into one of the best thriller setpieces of the last decade.

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dustybooks
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Re: Kelly Reichardt

#35 Post by dustybooks » Sat Nov 28, 2020 6:54 pm

Just saw Night Moves and was surprised there wasn't a dedicated thread.
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I'd be really interested to read a more extensive defense of the film, specifically the last third. Up to then I found it gripping and quite enjoyable to watch Reichardt engage in thriller structure in a very idiosyncratic Reichardt fashion (playing the explosion exclusively in sound, on the characters' faces, for example). But I felt a little lost when trying to parse out whether the derailing of the scheme after the fact was intended to have a larger social point -- not that I seek or especially want that in a film, but in a story wherein so much has been made of the contextual environmental concerns driving the characters and their lifestyles, it feels weirdly like Eisenberg's character Josh's final actions as well as the collateral damage and the grief over it beforehand play as a rebuke of the idea of "direct action," along the lines of statements that two of the characters (Josh's boss and the filmmaker toward the beginning) actually make. I doubt that's what Reichardt really believes, but it causes the finale of the film to play as rather muddled to me, at least on a first impression. If this were more like the director's other movies, I would tend to believe that what we're meant to glean is a study of the way in which these characters fall apart under this stress, but with such a sense of the larger world and of societal consequences, it feels strange to wrap everything up into a simple and extremely clumsy act of violence. But I fear that I'm being dense.
Edit: I missed that there was a second page to this thread, and now I see there is more discussion about the film than I thought, which I will now read...

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Kelly Reichardt

#36 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Nov 28, 2020 10:48 pm

I got into why I think the last act works so well in my post upthread, but regarding you specific issue
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I don't think Josh's actions or the collateral damage negate any ethos of "direct action" so much as they reflect what happens when one's abstract morality and concrete convictions get caught up in a ball of yarn. The issue isn't whether killing or any action can be justified objectively, it's that we ourselves as human beings have challenges, stemming internally, that prevent the ability to forge that justification. So when radical activism results in death, morality must exist separately from only the principles of one's cause- otherwise such rationalizing is as solipsistic a position as the environmental-defilers they're fighting. The final killing isn't justified objectively, but is recognized as a solution one may be pushed to sacrifice their morality for, simply because at this point it's a game of self-preservation for Josh.

I think Reichardt is taking great risks here by painting an inclusive position that empathizes with the activists' cause and demonstrates how even the most liberally-minded individuals have a point of moral sacrifice- without showing the industrial barons who have questionably done the same for different reasons. By showing Josh kill, she doesn't condemn him with her intrusive morality like a divine filmmaker might, but instead lets his own sense of morality condemn him authentically from within, trusting in the conscience's power to judge us as its own God. Josh can be right in his cause, beliefs, and even primally-understood in a moment of fight/flight murder, but there are consequences to actions.

The violent actualization of one's cause and beliefs through direct action will have external and internal effects, and- as I mentioned before- even if Josh isn't condemned by Reichardt or the legal system for his murder, he will be haunted forever by it. This isn't a black-and-white morality play, where "direct action" is tied to a positive or negative pronouncement. A part of Josh is right for wanting to stay afloat and resist Dena's call to turn themselves in, and a part of Dena is also right for wanting to listen to that conscience and confess. It's a grey world, but even with all the justifications in the world combatting one another for the prize of what is most 'right,' we still can't escape our own morality that exists separately from our ideologies- something none of these activists, and nobody really, wants to believe.

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