Sunday, August 31, 2014

BOY MEETS GIRL (FORGOTTEN FILM CAST'S 1984-A-THON)


Leos Carax's productivity as a filmmaker has been spotty at best over the last three decades. While people always make a big deal about every Terrence Malick resubmergence every few years or so, they neglect to realize that since the late 90's, Malick has actually released four films with two more unreleased films currently in post-production. That's pretty steady work if you ask me (plus if you actually read any legitimate/researched literature on the man you'd know he was pretty active behind the scenes during the 20 year period, '78-'98, that people always like to fantasize as him being in hiding or something). Terrence Malick is often mislabeled as the JD Salinger of movie directors. In the last two decades alone Leos Carax has only put out two feature films, with a thirteen year gap between them (Pola X & Holy Motors), and one short film (Tokyo). If anyone is like JD Salinger it's Leos Carax.
I know some of you reading this piece alongside the other write-ups of more popular films in this 1984 blog-a-thon are probably wondering who the fuck Leos Carax is. And that's fine. Not every important art-house filmmaker is known outside of their own little bubble. But if you've seen anything by Harmony Korine, Jonathan Glazer or Noah Baumbach - chances are you've seen his influence in some shape or form.
Remember that scene of Greta Gerwig dancing down the streets set to David Bowie's "Modern Love" in Frances Ha? That's an obvious homage to Carax's Bad Blood (1986)...






Jonathan Glazer went so far as to use Denis Lavant in his music video for Unkle's Rabbit In Your Headlights to recreate certain moments from Leos Carax's The Lovers On The Bridge (which also co-stars Lavant)
The Lovers On The Bridge / Rabbit In Your Headlights


even James Cameron borrowed a shot from his work...
The Lovers On The Bridge, Carax (1991) / Titanic, James Cameron (1997)

Before becoming a filmmaker, Carax was a critic for the legendary French publication; Cahier Du Cinema (a magazine where filmmakers like Goodard, Rhomer, Truffaut & Assayas have all written for before turning to directing). Some critics are unfairly judged by filmmakers (usually at convenient times when they don't give out a good review) as untalented trolls who couldn't make it as filmmakers themselves so they turned to criticism in an effort to still participate in the world of cinema in some form all while being extra critical of people (filmmakers) who actually have the talent & drive to make movies. You all know this is kinda true. It's unspoken, but true.
While I'm sure that's the case with a few critics, that's still a ridiculous generalization (I myself have zero ambition to ever make a movie). Some people, like myself, are just passionate about film analysis & dissecting movies. Carax was also like that but he loved film so much that he eventually felt the need to participate. Seeing former critics-turned-filmmakers like Paul Schrader, Olivier Assayas & Leos Carax find success in cinema has always kind of shat on that theory of critics being wannabe/failed directors.
And think about the pressure of becoming a filmmaker after years of being a critic. You've spent all this time criticisizing, sometimes insulting, films safely behind a typewriter or a laptop and now its your turn to try it. Imagine how many people are doubting you and waiting for you to fail.

In my opinion, Carax has yet to fail, and he made the transition from criticism to filmmaking rather seamlessly.


In Boy Meets World, we follow "Alex" (Denis Lavant) - an aspiring young filmmaker who has yet to actually make a movie, and "Mireille" (Merielle Perrier) - a failed actress who is borderline suicidal. Both Alex & Mireille have just been dumped by their significant others and they're taking it pretty rough. After Alex overhears Mireille's voice by chance, without actually knowing what she looks like at first, he instantly falls in love with her. They eventually meet in person, and for the rest of the film we watch Alex & Mirielle try to make their new relationship work.

Although Boy Meets Girl is considered "arthouse", it transcends that label and can pretty much be enjoyed by anyone who likes offbeat romantic stories with a touch of drama & dry French quirkiness. Seriously tho - doesn't the basic plot sound like your typical romcom?
Unlike Carax's later work (Lovers On The Bridge & Holy Motors), Boy Meets Girl is a fairly minimalist work with a meager budget much like Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise. The acting is very low key & monotone (like one notch above the emotion in a Bresson film), a lot of the cinematography is made up of single long takes, and even the actors' wardrobes are mostly plaid & pinstripe patterns to further play on the black & white imagery of the film (you get the feeling that even if this movie was shot in color, the clothes worn by the actors in Boy Meets Girl would've still been primarily black & white).
Given Carax's Cahier Du Cinema background, it only makes sense that the young filmmaker would borrow heavily from the French new wave directors who came before him at Cahiers, along with the older French auteurs who predate the French new wave. Carax's black & white deadpan feature is similar to Godard (the quirkiness & exploration of young French romance) mixed with Bresson (the minimalistic qualities & deadpan delivery of the actors). Mireille Perrier & Denis Lavant sometimes come off like another version of Anna Karina & Jean Paul Belmondo under the direction of a matured Robert Bresson.

Boy Meets Girl / A Woman Is A Woman

The scene in Boy Meets Girl where Mireille tap dances to comes off like something Anna Karina would do in a Godard film...

Boy Meets Girl / Band Of Outsiders

Denis Lavant went on to play the Alex character in two more lose sequels (Bad Blood & The Lovers On The Bridge). My one & only gripe with Boy Meets Girl is that Lavant is way more laid back and he doesn't flex his amazing physical ability until Bad Blood.

Leos even references his work in later films...
Lovers embrace on the bridge in Carax's Boy Meets Girl (1984) & The Lovers On The Bridge (1991)

Most great directors have their regular troop or that one actor or actress they  use regularly. We all know Scorsese had Deniro, Herzog had Kinski, Claire Denis has Alex Descas, Cassavetes had his gang of actors etc. Leos Carax & Denis Lavant are synonymous with each other. With the exception of the underrated/misunderstood Pola X, Lavant has been in every film directed by Carax. Many people, Carax included, consider Denis Lavant to be Carax's on-screen alter ego (it makes sense that Alex is an aspiring filmmaker/cinephile in Boy Meets Girl). This collaboration is obviously the most iconic because it started the three decade long relationship between the two.

Carax hadn't completely found his signature style yet (how many directors do on their first try?) but little bits & pieces were starting to poke through. The theme of break-ups & broken hearts, something Carax explored extensively in the years to come, all started with Boy Meets Girl. And the emphasis of a dance number or a musical sequence, something found in every single Carax feature, can also be traced right back to his feature debut.

Boy Meets Girl isn't the easiest to come by, but if you have a multi-region DVD player or a VCR, you can get it on amazon, which I highly recommend doing if you're in to minimalist quirky darkly comical French art house cinema.

Friday, August 22, 2014

SEX, LIES & BITTERNESS...


If you followed PINNLAND EMPIRE this summer then you know I was heavily immersed in the Spike Lee retrospective that went down at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music (to read about my awkward Red Sox hat encounter, click here). Spike showed up to BAM for the closing night film (Bamboozled) and before the movie started he opened the floor to the audience for questions concerning any & all things Spike-related. To no surprise, everyone in attendance used this golden opportunity to basically stroke Spike's already sizable ego ("thank you so much for all you've done") or to ask pointless questions ("would you ever consider doing a sequel to Bamboozled?"). I'd had enough so I raised my hand to ask what I felt (and still feel) was a good question. I asked him if, in 25 years, he felt that Wim Wenders finally "got" or understood Do The Right Thing.

For those that don't know what I'm talking about, allow me to explain the back-story...

Wim Wenders

In 1989 Do The Right Thing was the favorite to win best picture at Cannes, but Steven Soderbergh's debut feature Sex, Lies & Videotape ended up taking the top prize. Wim Wenders was the head of the Cannes jury that year and in an interview he mentioned how he felt that Mookie (the main character in Do The Right Thing) wasn't heroic, therefor he couldn't bring himself to pick Do The Right Thing for best picture. I'm sure this influenced other jury members to go with Sex, Lies & Videotape as well.
None of this sat too well with Spike Lee and he kinda half threatened Wim Wenders with a baseball bat in a post-Cannes interview.
Now...it was quite childish for a grown man to threaten another grown man over a movie dispute (no matter how important the movie is) but I kind of see why Spike Lee was pissed. If heroism was an important factor for Wenders in determining the greatness of a film, where were the "heroic" characters in Sex, Lies & Videotape? I don't mean to simplify things but the main characters in  that movie were an unfaithful husband (Peter Gallagher); a shitty sister (Laura San Giacomo), an uptight, slightly annoying prude (Andie Mcdowell) and a creepy drifter that got his heart broken who now "gets off" to videotapes of women talking about sex on camera (James Spader). Why bring heroism in to play when there really is none in the film that you picked to win?

But that's not to say Soderbergh's film isn't great just because there are no heroes. Sex, Lies & Videotape is pretty brilliant in my opinion. It may not have the same impact or "importance" as Do The Right Thing, but it's still a relevant film.

Actually, this brings me back to the question I asked Spike Lee.
The dialogue between us want something like:


Me: After 25 years do you think Wim Wenders finally understood Do the Right Thing? Do you think he now feels he made a mistake not picking your movie to win best bicture at Cannes? 

Spike Lee: Man, fuck that guy. I don't give a fuck about him... 



After that he went on a minor rant (he didn't raise his voice or anything tho) about not winning best picture at Cannes in 1989. I didn't know my question would trigger that much annoyance in him. He started to rant so much that he veered off and went from (understandably) insulting Wim Wenders to essentially insulting Sex, Lies & Videotape and it's legacy (he also shat on Driving Miss Daisy in the middle of all that which is just fine with me. Fuck that movie). Spike said something along the lines of: "25 years later, no one is talking about Sex, Lies & Videotape" (of course the mostly pseudo bohemian Brooklyn-based audience mindlessly agreed with Spike Lee's sentiments, even though I'm willing to bet half of them never even saw Sex, Lies & Videotape).


Again, I don't personally think Sex, Lies & Videotape is as "important" as Do The Right Thing, but it did make a dent in modern film (I'm not gonna list all the awards & accolades. Its legacy speaks for itself). For Spike Lee that is unnecessary.
Lets not forget that Steven Soderbergh is/was a huge cheerleader for Spike throughout his career, and he also donated $10,000 to Spike's recent kickstarter campaign for a movie that has yet to get a good review from a "reputable" critic or any movie-goer period (I could go on a whole separate tirade about certain specific millionaire filmmakers using money from regular every day people to fund their so-called personal projects, but lets maybe save that for another date...)

Is Spike Lee still that bitter after all these years?? It's hard to tell because he has this passive/aggressive "I don't care" attitude, yet he goes on mini-rants still, in 2014, about not winning an award 25 years ago. He has to see big picture. We celebrated the 25th anniversary of Do The Right Thing in New York City all summer it seemed (the city of New York even renamed a street in Brooklyn "do the right thing way"). The movie has solidified its position in cinema history. Is there still the need to hold a 25 year grudge?

Perhaps Spike Lee got caught up in the moment, wasn't prepared for my question (no shots) got emotional and said a few things he didn't mean. Lets not front like we all haven't said things we didn't mean due to emotion, anger, long windedness, being put on the spot etc. But to say no one is talking about Sex, Lies & Videotape, as if it isn't relevant anymore, is just ridiculous. I used to think Sex, Lies & Videotape was an overrated & underwhelming movie when I was younger (as a kid I was expecting it to have a lot more sex with a title like that). But like Old Joy, The Son, Solaris (2002) & Ghost Dog, I eventually grew to like it the older I got. Sometimes maturity & experience in your personal life can get you to reevaluate your stance on certain things. Anyone (especially a sensitive man) who's ever had their heart broken by someone can relate to Graham (James Spader) in Sex, Lies & Videotape on some small scale (I know he's a little dramatic and maybe pretentious, but still...). I have no shame in saying that I can relate to Graham on some (very small) level. I've had my heart broken before and in turn I did some small stupid self destructive things (although I didn't start videotaping random women talking about sex for personal use as a coping mechanism to deal with my heartbreak like Graham did in Sex, Lies...).


Bottom line - Spike was wrong for saying what he said about Sex, Lies... 
I wish he took my question differently. Do The Right Thing is a film about the relationships between various races in New York City. The race relations Spike Lee explores are pretty specific to a certain area/part of this world. Perhaps Wim Wenders, a German, wasn't familiar with what was going on in New York City at the time (not making any excuses for him) and that's why he didn't understand the message that Spike Lee was trying to get across. Wenders has been pretty outspoken about his distaste for violence in cinema (not only does he have a movie called The End Of Violence, but apparently he walked out of the Funny Games screening at Cannes in '97 because he was too disturbed by it). Maybe the last 30 minutes of Do The Right Thing was just too much for him to handle. I dunno...

Personally, I think a documented/filmed sit down between Spike & Wim would be a unique way to commemorate the 25th anniversary release of Do The Right Thing. It would serve as a nice mediation between the two important filmmakers and maybe Spike could shed some light on what Wim may have misunderstood (perhaps Steven Soderbergh could mediate the sit down). But judging from Spike Lee's response to my question, I doubt that will happen (I want it to be known that if this ever does happens in the future, that idea came from here).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

PINNLAND EMPIRE'S PERSONAL FAVORITE SCENES OF THE DECADE SO FAR: PART SEVEN

Lists used to be a regular thing here at PINNLAND EMPIRE, but for whatever reason I gave them a rest in favor of writing longer articles that most of you probably don't even finish reading once you start. It recently hit me that although its way too early to start deciding what the defining movies of the decade are, there's already quite a few isolated moments from the last 4+ years that are either so visually striking, prolific, heartbreaking, frightening, hilarious or a combination of everything that they deserve to be mentioned.

So, as part of a new ongoing series, we're going to list my personal favorite movie moments of the decade so far.
I put an emphasis on the word; "personal" because its just that. My own personal opinion. This list in no way speaks for anyone else. And please keep in mind that this is ongoing (as you're checking this seventh installment I'll already be putting the final touches on part eight). So if you don't see something listed that you feel should be, give it some time. It may show up eventually. There's no order or hierarchy in what gets listed either.

FYI...two of the seven films represented in this installment are currently streaming on Netflix instant and three are easy to come by on DVD & Blu-Ray just about anywhere (I'm not sure about the availability of the other two)

As I re-read this entry back before posting it, I came to the realization that this is probably the saddest one so far. 

Here's part seven, Enjoy...



JAROBI BREAKS DOWN (BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE)
A Tribe Called Quest has never claimed to be "tough" in the world of hip-hop/rap music and we've certainly never expected that from them. But no matter how socially conscious & "peaceful" ones persona may be, there's still a societal expectation/generalization that the public has about most rappers being stoic & and "hard" (on top of the unfair expectation society already puts on men to be "strong" and to not show their sensitive side, coupled with the heightened expectation placed on black men to be extra stoic & strong).
Jarobi, the most mysterious member of A Tribe Called Quest, broke this stereotype in a scene in Beats Rhymes & Life.
Like any disease, it's tough to watch someone go through kidney failure. The dialysis process makes you weak and in some cases you kind of wither away. It's hard to see someone you love go through that like Jarobi did with ATCQ member Phife Dawg who was suffering from diabetes-induced kidney failure.
This moment let a lot of people know it's ok to be a man and cry which is a stigma men will probably have to deal with forever…



CAMILLE IS REMINDED OF HER EX (CAMILLE CLAUDEL, 1915)
Bruno Dumont's Camille Claudel, 1915 may go down as one of the more underrated/misunderstood biopics/true stories adapted for film in recent years. Filmmakers need to accept the fact that trying to cover an entire lifespan in +/- two hours is damn near impossible. Sure there may be a few exceptions but generally speaking, the handful of successful biopics only span a specific time line and didn’t go from birth to death (Ali, Lumumba, Last Days, etc).
Camille Claudel, 1915 just oozes with depression (which is ultimately what the film is about) and this specific scene, which is one continuous shot at one point, just hammers that home. This would be a perfect movie to watch for people who don't "get" or have the wrong idea about depression. It’s amazing what can trigger a dark feeling in someone. This scene shows how something seemingly harmless & non-threatening to one person can be a reminder of something dark & sad to another person.



HOW DID I GET HERE?  (12 YEARS A SLAVE)
12 Years A Slave is a powerful & important film but when it comes to style, I prefer the look & feel of Hunger & Shame (I'm just taking about style, everyone. Relax. I'm not downplaying 12 Years A Slave in any way).
The large majority of 12 Years A Slave's look felt like such a huge jump from McQueen's previous work, but this one scene brought me back to those polarizing quiet moments in Hunger (pretty much half of the movie) & Shame (Brendon watching his sister sing or that scene on the pier) that I love so much…



"MOTEL HELL" (THE PAPERBOY)
Who would have thought Lee Daniels had a dark & twisted side? I honestly did NOT see this part coming at all. I knew Matthew MacConaughey’s character in The Paperboy had some demons and there was a lot more to him than what we were led to believe, but I didn't expect anything like this S&M shit. Wow...
This scene, where MacConaughey bites off more than he can chew, could be analyzed in so many ways ranging from racial tension to repressed homosexuality.



THERAPY (ANOTHER YEAR)
Imelda Staunton in Another Year
Another Year is quietly brilliant. Mike Leigh novices or people more accustom to his more accessible works like Naked & Vera Drake might consider it “boring” or “tame” (which is what I heard a few people grumble to themselves after I first saw Another Year at the NY Film Festival back in 2010), but those that know Leigh’s work understand this film’s greatness. There’s plenty of scenes to chose from (I actually reached out to my Pink Smoke friend/Mike Leigh aficionado John Cribbs for suggestions). Given that therapy has become a big part of my life for the last two years, the two scenes with Imelda Staunton have a deeper meaning to me now. Sure, I’m not as miserable as her character obviously is…

Gerri (Ruth Sheen): What is the one thing that will improve your life other than sleeping?

Janet (Imelda Staunton): Different life

…I’ve still come to understand depression a lot better in recent years and can seriously empathize with this character who only has two quick scenes in the whole movie but leaves a lasting impression.



CARLOS IS BETRAYED (CARLOS)
I still have a lot of mixed feelings about this movie overall. Carlos was made well and kept my interest the entire time, but given Olivier Assayas’ history with left-wing politics & pseudo-revolutionism, I seriously think he idolized this guy a little too much and made him out to be some “cool” Jason Bourne espionage agent as opposed to the terrorist he really is. Nevertheless, this scene, where Carlos loses it after being betrayed by one of his cohorts, is excellent and Olivier Assayas’s use of silence (combined with Edgar Ramirez’s heavy breathing) is one of the best scenes he’s ever directed in my opinion.



ENDING IT ALL (A TOUCH OF SIN)
Honestly, the scene just before this part shown above is what I really wanted to highlight, but I don’t have this on DVD yet and it’s not up online so I couldn’t get the screen grab I wanted. But at the end of the day it all leads up to this moment (pictured above) where our young character decides he’s had enough and takes his own life (again – another scene I didn’t see coming)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

FISHING WITH JOHN: SEASON SIX


This season is probably the best mix of household names, important indie filmmakers, close personal friends/collaborators & obscure (almost unknown) figures in the world of film.
For the first time John will go overseas due to one of the guest's phobia of flying and we also have our first walk off.

Enjoy…


EPISODE 601: Quentin Tarantino


Relationship/connection:
1. none that I can think of but Quentin Tarantino was heavily influenced by quite a few films that John Lurie acted in or composed music for.

This episode is a quick one. At first QT would just ramble on & on about cool violent movies like he always does but eventually John Lurie would ask him about Jim Jarmusch’s subtle influence on his work which would then in turn piss QT off causing him to storm off the boat leaving John to fish by himself.
It's probably better this way. Who seriously wants to listen too Quentin Tarantino talk endlessly about how cool Sam Fuller is or how awesome Japanese movies are? I certainly don't...



EPISODE 602: Kevin Smith & Ben Affleck


Relationship/connection
none that I know of...

Look...it was the late 90's. This had to happen. Between '97-'99 these two guys were everywhere. Kevin Smith was on a pretty good run (Clerks through Dogma) and Ben Affleck was about to win his first academy award (Good Will Hunting). Behind the scenes I feel like John wouldn't be too thrilled about this one at first, but eventually he'd warm up to these guys. 
This appearance would give Kevin Smith a good opportunity to show folks that he knows more about movies than just Star Wars references (say what you want about his movies, but Kevin Smith is quite the cinephile).



EPISODE 603: Chris Parker

John Lurie (L) & Chris Parker (R) in Permanent Vacation
Relatipnship/connection:
1. John Lurie did the music for Permanent Vacation, which starred Chris Parker

A few years ago I attended a Tom Jarmusch retrospective at Anthology Film Archives and one of the shorts they screened featured Chris Parker - star of Jim Jarmusch's feature film debut Permanent Vacation, which featured a cameo appearance from Lurie. Apparently this short film was made in the mid/late 90's. I approached Tom after the screening and asked if Chris Parker was still alive and to my surprise he assured me that he has

yeah sure, he's still around - Tom Jarmusch (2010)

This surprised me because based on what little I know about Parker, he seemed like a mysterious guy. Not like a shadowy figure, but more like a lost free spirit who could easily go off the grid without warning (during the filming of Permanent Vacation Jim Jarmusch & Sara Driver spent hours tracking him down each morning because he didn't have a phone or a steady place to live). Plus his IMDB profile is pretty spotty.
This episode would act as a great "where are they know?" Chris Parker seems like an interesting/twitchy character which makes for a good guest.




EPISODE 604: Tom Jarmusch


Relationship/Connection:
1. Tom helped on the production of Stranger Than Paradise

I know a lot of these episodes are Jim Jarmusch-related in some way, but this is a film site, Jim Jarmusch is a PINNLAND EMPIRE favorite and Lurie was involved in his first four films. Deal with it...

Tom Jarmusch, Jim's brother, is an unsung figure in the world of semi-recent avante garde American cinema. I wasn't even aware of his work until that retrospective at Anthology film archives that spoke of in the previous episode (I knew he made a super 8 documentary on the making of Stranger Than Paradise, but other than that, I didn't know he was a filmmaker). Although Tom's work wasn't screening at any big art house cinemas at the time this episode would have taken place, he was still very active, churning out a bunch of work. His appearance on Fishing with John would expose him to a whole new audience...




EPISODE 605: Tom Dicillo


Relationship/connection:
1. Tom shot the first two films John acted in

By '97 Tom Dicillo had moved on from being just a cinematographer (which is how he and John know each other) to becoming a fairly well known director during the American independent renaissance of the 90's (Johnny Suede, Living In Oblivion & Box Of Moonlight). John & Tom would catch up and reminisce about old times while promoting Tom's latest film; The Real Blonde.




EPISODE 606: Lars Von Trier & Udo Kier


Relationship/connection:
1. none that I know of but Lurie & Von Trier were both involved in films that premiered at the '84 Cannes film festival. Perhaps they crossed paths without realizing it?

For those that don't know, Lars Von Trier only travels by car, boat or train and has never been off the continent of Europe. Because of this, John would have to get on a plane to Denmark to meet up with Von Trier and his muse Udo Kier. Given Von Trier's many documented phobias, I imagine it would take him a while to build up the courage to get on the fishing boat with John, but after a while he'd finally overcome his fear.
In this season finale, Von Trier, who wasn't the super controversial figure that we know of today, would discuss his "beef" with Roman Polanski that started at the '91 Cannes film festival, the Dogma movement which was right around the corner and Udo Kier would reminisce about working with Rainer Werner Fassbender.

Friday, August 8, 2014

AN INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN WOLKSTEIN (INSIDE THE PHOENIX PODCAST)


I made another appearance on Inside The Phoenix recently to interview filmmaker Lauren Wolkstein alongside ITP's Warren Anderson.
Listen as we discuss everything from John Waters & David Lynch to hometown pride & her award winning films.

Lauren was featured in Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces" last year, and was recently included in Indiewire's list of "50 LGBT Filmmakers You Should Follow On Twitter" this year.

Enjoy...




Also be sure to check out her excellent short film Social Butterfly, which you can view by clicking the movie title below...




Friday, August 1, 2014

THE CINEMA OF KELLY REICHARDT TOLD THROUGH IMAGES & STILLS...



I don't know if I could come up with my own personal list of today's top American filmmakers right now (too many of them are too inconsistent, inactive or new these days), but if Kelly Reichardt were one of the names on someone else’s list, I wouldn't be mad at that. These days when I think of “American Cinema”, I think of stuff like Old Joy. In the last 8 years, Kelly Reichardt has explored everything from poverty (Wendy & Lucy) & “eco-terrorism” (Night Moves) to this country’s history (Meek’s Cutoff) & the importance of friendship (Old Joy). And what’s so great is that she touches on all these topics in a subtle/non-preachy way. 

Kelly Reichardt has been one of the true MVP's this year here at PINNLAND EMPIRE so it’s only right that we explore her filmography.

Enjoy…

THE GREAT OUTDOORS 
It's no mystery that Kelly Reichardt's work (especially everything post-Old Joy) is rooted in natural surroundings. Nature, woods and just all things green are a noticeable backdrop in Ode which gives the film a calming vibe. In Old Joy we see our two characters driving through the mountains of Portland to find a hot spring (along the way they do things like hike, camp and just embrace nature). Around the time of Wendy & Lucy (2008) is when things got a little darker... 
In Wendy & Lucy, nature becomes Wendy's home due to the fact that she's homeless. Instead of hot springs, mediation & heart-to-hearts by camp fire (as seen in Old Joy) Wendy is forced to survive in the woods. Survival became an even bigger factor in her next film...
Meek's Cutoff follows a group of travelers crossing the Oregon Trail and we see an even harsher side of nature (along the way our characters get lost, run low on supplies and are headed towards potential danger). It makes sense that her most recent film (Night Moves) deals with Eco-terrorists/extreme environmentalists who go to horrific lengths to protect the earth they love so much.
Old Joy
Old Joy
Wendy & Lucy
Wendy & Lucy
Meek's Cutoff
Night Moves
Night Moves
Certain Women
Certain Women
Certain Women




FOUR LEGGED FRIENDS...
Long before Night Moves, which opens with Jesse Eisenberg pulling off to the side of the road to help an injured animal, Kelly Reichardt has been an advocate for animal rights and just an overall love of animals since day one. If they aren't always present in the background of every other frame (Meek's Cutoff & River Of Grass), they're treated like key supporting actors (Old Joy & Wendy & Lucy)...
Meeks Cutoff
Certain Women
Old Joy
River Of Grass
Wendy & Lucy





THE OPEN ROAD
With the exception of Wim Wenders, I don't know if any other country has mastered the modern road movie genre quite like America has (Jim Jarmusch, Alexander Payne, Monte Hellman, Bette Gordon, etc). Actually, some of Wenders' best road movies take place in America (Paris Texas and the first half of Alice In The Cities). Kelly Reichardt's work has taken us from the south (River Of Grass & Ode) to the northwest (Old Joy & Meek’s Cutoff). And like any road movie, her characters are using the open road to either run away from something (River Of Grass); start over (Meek's Cutoff & Wendy & Lucy) or for existential reasons (Old Joy).
Meek's Cuttof
Old Joy
River Of Grass
Wendy & Lucy
Certain Women
Night Moves




MALICK'S (POSSIBLE) INFLUENCE
I feel like Kelly Reichardt has quite a few subconscious influences ranging from Chantal Akerman to Gus Van Sant, but nothing seems more obvious than Terrence Malick (besides the visuals below, Reichardt utilized haunting voiceover narration with her first film)
Badlands/River Of Grass
Days Of Heaven/Meek's Cutoff





FALSE PROPHETS/CHARACTERS FULL OF SHIT
I recently attended a Q&A with Reichardt and I asked her if the similarities between Harmon (Night Moves) & Meek (Meek's Cutoff) were intentional. I felt both characters, birthed from the same author and brought to life by the same director, talked a good game but were, as Reichardt herself put it, "full of shit". This was the validation I needed. Right when Reichardt made that statement about both characters being full of shit, it hit me that Kurt (Old Joy) is also another one of her characters that’s in the same boat. Throughout Old Joy Kurt talks so much about what he knows and gives off the vibe that he’s doing ok when in reality he's jobless, probably broke and living in his van. Meek is very similar. He talks about all his experience in the wilderness yet clearly gets the group of people he's supposed to be leading lost. Josh & Dena (Night Moves) hire Harmon because he's supposed to be a discreet marine with experience handling explosives, only to find out he's also an ex-con who doesn't fully know what he's doing. 
Old Joy
Meek's Cutoff
Night Moves




COUPLES/PARTNERS IN CRIME
I’m not sure if this is intentional, but Reichardt focuses a lot on couples (Ode), buddies (Old Joy & Wendy & Lucy) or partners in crime (River Of Grass & Night Moves). I wouldn’t necessarily label her films as “buddy movies”, but there’s definitely that buddy/couple dynamic in most of her work, and she rarely focuses on just one lone person (an argument could be made that Wendy & Lucy is mostly about Wendy, but her dog Lucy was still very much her companion and an important part of the story).
Ode
Old Joy
River Of Grass
Wendy & Lucy
Night Moves



A FEMALE'S PERSPECTIVE
I almost didn't want to include this category because I thought it would be a little cliché (a female director focusing on female characters & "female topics" from time to time). But some of the issues in her films are a little heightened because of the female protagonists.
Men don't have to deal with some of the same potential threats as women do who travel alone or are living out of their car like Wendy in Wendy & Lucy (Reichardt doesn’t play too much in to the dangers of being a female drifter, but she does include a few scenes that are gender specific to women in my opinion). Reichardt also challenges traditional characters like “the bored housewife” (River Of Grass); the young girl discovering her sexuality & attraction to boys (Ode) and the complacent old fashion wife whose supposed to know her place (Meek’s Cutoff).
Ode
Meek's Cutoff
River Of Grass
Wendy & Lucy
Certain Women
Certain Women



RECURRING SETTING: DINERS...
A lot of key scenes go down in diners in the cinema of Kelly Reichardt (this could be a reach on my part but I love diners)
Night Moves
Certain Women
Old Joy




TENSION
Although Night Moves is Reichardt's first official "thriller" with plenty of tense moments, it’s not the first time she’s shown serious onscreen tension. There's often some kind of unspoken tension between Reichardt's characters. Kurt & Mark (Old Joy) haven't seen each other in a while and they both have a lot to say to each other regarding their friendship, but they don't know how to address it (Mark always seems to have some kind of scowl or uncomfortable facial expression when dealing with Kurt). With the exception of ... all the other characters in Meek's Cutoff are afraid to come right out and call Meek on the lousy job he's doing in leading everyone across the Oregon trail, but it’s written all in their body language and facial expressions.
Old Joy
Night Moves
Meek's Cutoff
Certain Women



DREARINESS & LONELINESS
There's an understated bleak tone to most of Reichardt's work (that's not to say there isn't an element of beauty to everything she does). Her characters are either homeless (Wendy from Wendy & Lucy); on the verge of homelessness (Kurt from Old Joy) or lost, either literally (the character’s in Meek’s Cutoff) or figuratively (Josh & Dena in Night Moves). 
Meek's Cutoff
Night Moves
Ode
River Of Grass
Wendy & Lucy


This leads us to the final category…


OPEN ENDINGS
Reichardt’s last four films have ended on a sad ambiguous note. She often ends things giving off the vibe that her characters won’t be alright or are headed down a destructive, dangerous and/or sad path. The last time we see Kurt (Old Joy), he’s roaming the streets of Portland with no place to go. By the end of Wendy & Lucy, Wendy no longer has her dog or her car (which was technically her home); she barely has any money left and has no job prospects. Meek’s Cutoff is probably her most “notorious” ending as she ends the film abruptly without notice and leaves it to us to decide what everyone’s fate will be (which, in my opinion, isn’t looking too good).
Meek's Cutoff
Old Joy
Wendy & Lucy
Certain Women





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