52 Films by Women – Week 7

This week I continued my exploration into Kelly Reichardt’s filmography with Meek’s Cutoff and Night Moves.  With these films, Reichardt’s budgets increased from a couple hundred thousand to a few million dollars.  With this increase in budget the production value increased, and she managed to get some known actors.  The stories she tells also venture into slightly more traditional narrative, escaping the Dogme 95 feel of Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy, but her style remained uncompromised.

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Meek’s Cutoff (2010, Kelly Reichardt)

With Meek’s Cutoff, Reichardt produced her spin on a western.  Genre aside, it still feels much more like a Kelly Reichardt film than a John Ford film.  While most westerns revel in their masculinity, Meek’s Cutoff is definitively from the women’s point of view.  The film follows a group of three families and a guide as they wander the Oregon desert lost in desperate need of water.  After days of wandering to no avail, they come across a Native American whom they capture.  The men, specifically the guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) want to kill the man, but through the urging of their wives are convinced to use him as a guide in hopes of finding water.

Michelle Williams returns after her performance as Wendy to play Emily Tetherow the centerpiece of the film.  Despite portraying a woman in the 1840s she obviously holds a lot of social clout in the small community, but not in a way that feels anachronistic. Her quiet control is the highlight of the brilliant film.

night moves

Night Moves (2013, Kelly Reichardt)

Night Moves is an interesting entry into Reichardt’s filmography.  It was still critically praised, but not well received from the public.  I get why this happened.  In 2013, Jesse Eisenberg was a major star, and Night Moves had a plot synopsis that could be a standard studio film.  Unsuspecting viewers wouldn’t be prepared for the pacing and extended silence that are the hallmarks of her films.

Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning star as environmentalists who destroy a dam.  Reichardt, like in all her films, is more interested in her character’s thoughts than the actual written plot.  This film does still include some traditional plot developments, specifically with a major turn in the last few minutes.  I’m still at this point not sure how I felt about that specifically, but I do think that the fallout on the characters was handled well.

And my new found love with Kelly Reichardt is unfettered.  I think she is one of the poster children for this project.  She makes amazing films, that I don’t think could be made by a man.  Her films have a quietness and intimateness that feel distinctively feminine.

I did also watch one more film by a woman director.  See my post from Tuesday to see my feelings on Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong.

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