“An indispensable American filmmaker.” —New York Times
The Walker Art Center’s ongoing
Regis Dialogue and Film Retrospective
program, which brings together some of the most innovative and influential filmmakers of our time with leading critics, writers, and historians, presents
Kelly Reichardt: Off the Beaten Track
, May 5–14. A Regis Dialogue with the director and film critic Scott Foundas takes place at 8 pm Saturday, May 8. Working outside the Hollywood system with a bare-bones crew of friends and co-collaborators, Reichardt has created a body of work that is stunning despite its remarkably small scale. Her deceptively simple character studies, stories of friendship and loss, and melancholy road narratives quietly address contemporary class and economic struggles and cut across the grain of archetypal romantic American myths. Films in the series include River of Grass (May 5, 7:30 pm); Wendy and Lucy (May 7, 7:30 pm, and May 14, 9 pm); Old Joy (May 7, 9 pm, and May 14, 7:30 pm); and an evening of Reichardt’s short films (May 12, 7:30 pm).
Born and raised in Miami, Reichardt first discovered photography through the camera lens of her father, a police detective. In 1988, she moved to New York City and worked in the art department on several influential debut films, including Hal Hartley’s The Unbelievable Truth and most significantly, Todd Haynes’ Poison. Her own first feature, River of Grass (1994), took its title from a Native American term for the Everglades and was set in her hometown. Here, as in subsequent films, location plays a crucial role; as Variety noted, Reichardt has a “richly atmospheric feel for regional American landscapes and the characters that populate them.”
In the ensuing 12 years, Reichardt concentrated on experimental short work shot on Super 8 film, which was praised by Artforum as “delicate and emotionally harrowing.” Then, while visiting Portland, Oregon, Reichardt was sparked into a return to feature filmmaking. Old Joy (2006), based on a Jonathan Raymond short story and produced by Haynes, was shot in less than two weeks in Oregon. Setting breathtaking vistas against exquisitely small moments, Reichardt’s efforts to capture the mid-decade sense of liberal alienation and ineffectuality met with acclaim: the New York Times called the film “one of the most persuasive portraits of generational malaise—and tentative hope—to come from an American director in recent memory.”
Buoyed by the success of Old Joy, Reichardt and Raymond collaborated on Wendy and Lucy (2008), creating a concept and story line together. Countering what she sees as this country’s obsession with middle-class values, Reichardt said, “We were asking ourselves, hypothetically, how [do you] improve [your] station in life if you don’t have anything?” The film was also made in Oregon with a small crew. Its resonance in post-Katrina America was particularly stinging, and Wendy and Lucy landed on more than 60 top-ten lists, including those in the New York Times, Newsweek, the Village Voice, and the National Board of Review.
Reichardt’s fiercely independent vision has become a touchstone of a new realism in American cinema. Telling stories about those living (by choice or not) on the so-called fringes of society, her poetic work has a visual intimacy that shows this country’s landscape in all its heights and depths.
All films are directed, edited, and cowritten by Kelly Reichardt and screened in the Cinema. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $8 ($6 Walker members).
Cinephile’s Special: See all 5 film programs (including the Regis dialogue) for $25 ($20).
KELLY REICHARDT: OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
A REGIS DIALOGUE AND RETROSPECTIVE
Wednesday, May 5, 7:30 pm
River of Grass
“A road movie without the road, a love story without the love, and a crime story without the crime.” —Kelly Reichardt
Reichardt’s debut is a riff on the American outlaw myth. In washed-out suburban Miami, Cozy (Lisa Bowman), a lonely mother of three, meets up with the shiftless Lee Ray Harold (Larry Fessenden) and sees an escape from her dreary existence. Mistaking their mutual aimlessness for excitement, they go on the lam. “Reichardt is so agile, ingenious, and funny that she can make a lively, entertaining movie about how life isn’t like the movies” (Los Angeles Times). Selected for the Berlin and Sundance film festivals, and nominated for a Sundance Grand Jury Prize. 1994, 16mm, 76 minutes.
Friday, May 7, 7:30 pm
Friday, May 14, 9 pm
Wendy and Lucy
“[Wendy and Lucy] shows what it means to live in a society that’s not big on safety nets and second chances, even as it asserts our common humanity. . . offering a dose of grim reality tempered with hope.” —Der Standard (Austria)
Wendy (Michelle Williams) is en route to Alaska, hoping to land a job at a fish cannery. But when her car breaks down in a small Oregon town, her financial situation—and tenuous existence—begin to unravel. Williams’ performance is a revelation; her stillness speaks volumes about loneliness, vulnerability, and loss. Evoking The Bicycle Thief and Umberto D., while also drawing parallels to the Great Depression, Wendy and Lucy reveals the depths and limits of care available to people in the world’s richest country. Film Comment’s pick of the year. 2008, 35mm, 80 minutes.
Friday, May 7, 9 pm
Friday, May 14, 7:30 pm
“A triumph of modesty and of seriousness that also happens to be one of the finest American films of the year.” —New York Times
Two friends with a past—Mark (Daniel London), a husband and soon-to-be father, and Kurt (Will Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy), an off-the-grid drifter—reunite for a camping trip. Set against the majestic beauty of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, Old Joy is an exquisitely minimal meditation on friendship, loss, and the impossibility of reconnection. As Kurt observes, “sorrow is nothing but worn-out joy.” The film premiered at Sundance and went on to critical acclaim at the Cannes, Toronto, and New York film festivals. 2006, 35mm, 76 minutes.
Saturday, May 8, 8 pm
Regis Dialogue: Kelly Reichardt with Scott Foundas
$15 ($12 Walker members)
See celebrated director Kelly Reichardt interviewed at the Walker by film critic Scott Foundas. Since its inception, the Regis Dialogues and Retrospectives program has hosted more than 50 guests, including international directors, American masters, and inde¬pendent visionaries in discussion with writers and critics who help shape the way we think about con¬temporary film. The in-depth conversations reveal insights about a filmmaker’s creative process, illuminated by film clips, anecdotes, and personal stories.
Wednesday, May 12, 7:30 pm
An Evening of Kelly Reichardt’s Short Films
These experimental shorts showcase Reichardt’s rich visual style. Ode is an adaptation of the novel Ode to Billy Joe (inspired by Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 pop hit), with music by Yo La Tengo and an original soundtrack by Will Oldham (1999, video, 48 minutes). Combining abstract images with fragments of recorded radio and TV texts, Then a Year is “lyrical, ominous, and evocative of how horribly love can hurt” (Village Voice) (2002, video, 11 minutes). Travis is an abstract piece inspired by an NPR profile of the mother of a fallen Iraq War soldier (2004, video, 12 minutes).