Posts Tagged ‘ jim jarmusch ’

Three Films By Kelly Reichardt

kelly-reichardtOne of only a handful or so of legitimately independent American directors working today whose films are distributed and seen beyond the realm of film festivals and New York City, Kelly Reichardt (who, according to Wikipedia, is still holding down a day job teaching at Bard college) makes small, minimalist films about cash-strapped, transient people struggling for a sense of place and purpose in contemporary America. None of her films are startlingly original in terms of camera work or content, but Reichardt is really a superbly careful storyteller, and she has an exacting eye for the crucial, sudden turns of plot and character that drive these kinds of tales. Acme carries three of her titles, all of which are worth checking out —

riverofgrasscoverRiver Of Grass: Her debut, and actually the most stylistically adventurous of the three reviewed here, it’s essentially a crime/noir-cum-existentialist-roadtrip, wherein a young mother of two goes on the run from the law — while simultaneously fleeing the ennui of her new motherhood. The main character, Cozy (played by Lisa Bowman), narrates throughout, musing on boredom, fear of growing old, the ‘why’ of existence, etc. And while it wears its influences on its sleeve (Jarmusch, Godard) this is still a pretty cool little film, with solid performances from its two main leads, and loads of beautiful, vaguely eerie photography of the Florida Everglades.

OldJoy_DVDOld Joy: For what it’s worth, this is one of Acme’s more popular titles. Kind of amazing, right? I mean, here you have an 80 minute film about two old friends who go on a camping trip, get a little lost, and go home. That’s pretty much it. Very little in the way of dramatic tension. The most it can claim in terms of pedigree is that Yo La Tengo scored the soundtrack, and Will Oldham stars. Not exactly a sure fire recipe for indie-film success. And yet people rent this movie all the time. And this is where – for those of us who are interested in these sorts of things – Reichardt’s work becomes a kind of case study for the current state of independent cinema in America. My theory is that this is one of those films that lots of people who are interested in cinema have heard about — either through word-of-mouth, online forums, or film columns — but that almost no one got to see because the distributor just didn’t have the cash to really get it out there (I do recall it playing at The Cable Car for a week or two). If you’re at all interested in Reichardt, this is probably the best place to start. And make sure you stick with it to the end — the film’s coda is its most dramatic moment, frightening and beautifully shot.

wendy_and_lucyWendy And Lucy: Remains to be seen if this will prove to be Reichardt’s breakout film. It was certainly written up more than any of her previous work, and deservedly so — it’s (probably) the best thing she’s done so far. Based on a short story by Jonathan Raymond, it tells the story of a temporarily homeless woman who gets stuck in a small railroad town (as with Old Joy, this one is set somewhere in the Northwest) while trying to make her way up to Alaska. Two things, in my mind, raised the bar on this one. Reichardt gets legitimately great turns from all her actors — Michelle Williams won high praise for her role as the lead (she continues to prove a versatile, able actor), and Will Oldham, Wally Dalton and Larry Fessenden all turn in visceral, if brief, performances. And tonally, it’s a triumph: there’s a constantly looming sense of ruin, with the main character Wendy teetering perilously close outright financial and emotional collapse as a series of mishaps keep her stuck in this one small town. The character, in many ways, feels like a more clearly drawn version of Oldham’s Kurt from Old Joy — both characters are wandering and disillusioned, but Raymond’s story puts more pressure on Wendy, forcing her further and further from her comfort zone. One hopes this film is evidence of a further maturation of Reichardt’s style; American cinema is fairly starved for this kind of filmmaking right now — or anyway, even if those films are out there, we’re not seeing them.

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better late than never

rachel_getting_married_mainI guess I’m pretty late to hop on the bandwagon for this movie, but anyone who hasn’t should make it a priority to see Rachel Getting Married. It is an immaculate piece of filmmaking, organic and honest to a degree that is extremely rare in American cinema. Jonathan Demme directed, and his work is deft and utterly fearless – the majority of the movie is shot on shaky handheld and filmed in a single house, the story revolving around Anne Hathaway’s character, Kym, as she returns from rehab after nine months just as her sister, Rachel, (a pitch-perfect Rosemarie DeWitt) is preparing to get married. But to call this just another story of recovery from drug addiction would be a gross-oversimplification – Demme, aided by a harmonic, flawless script from first-time writer Jenny Lumet, handles the human drama with an arresting, exacting grace; it is to his great credit that he chooses to trust his actors to be handle the many long, dialogue heavy scenes and to endow them with the necessary weight. And indeed, the film is superbly acted on all fronts: bit players Tunde Adebimpe, Bill Irwin and Mather Zickel all give vital performances. And for all that has been made of Anne Hathaway‘s performance, her work is remarkable, brave and deeply felt.

But what really surprised me was that Rachel Getting Married turned out to be so much more than just a very good character piece. For as frightening and perfectly played as Kym is, the film itself is has a kind of Chekhovian vision which has become ever-so-scarce in American cinema; Jarmusch‘s Broken Flowers, Linklater‘s Before Sunset, and Darren Aronofsky‘s recent The Wrestler are some of the only recent films that have accomplished something similar. In the face of many of the films that have garnered major praise in the last year or so – the grandiose, over-thought Synecdoche, New York, the stilted Vicky Christina Barcelona, or the woefully predictable, toothless Slumdog MillionaireRachel Getting Married feels like a minor revelation. I defy you to watch how the camera tracks Kym’s hesitant, insecure movements through the hallways of her own house while the wedding’s string band rehearses in the yard outside, the imperfect sound winding in through the windows, and not be moved by the scene’s startling artistry. The entire film is like this – perfectly, lovingly made and respectful of its characters to the highest degree.

sons of lee marvin

lee-marvinThere purportedly exists a “secret” society, founded by the filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, called The Sons Of Lee Marvin. Rumors abound as to the club’s official roster and raison d’être. Tom Waits and John Lurie (who currently grace this site’s header) are widely believed to be members, along with (possibly) Nick Cave, Iggy Pop, Thurston Moore, Josh Brolin and Neil Young. The sole criterion for admission is said to be that one must bear some kind of physical resemblance to the actor Lee Marvin himself. For my money, the resemblance is fairly strong for all of the above names, but do a Google image search and judge for yourself.

Of course, several of the club’s members have a professional history with Jarmusch, which can’t have hurt the case for their candidacy. Both John Lurie and Tom Waits have worked on several of Jarmusch’s films, including Stranger Than Paradise (Lurie), Down By Law (Lurie and Waits), Mystery Train (Waits), Night On Earth (Waits), Coffee And Cigarettes (Waits). And Waits acted opposite Iggy Pop in one of Coffee And Cigarettes‘s better segments, (Pop also has an awesomely fucked-up, flippant, cross-dressing turn in Jarmusch’s masterpiece, Dead Man (which Neil Young scored)). Jarmusch’s Year Of The Horse documentary on Neil & Crazy Horse is pretty great, too. Where Nick Cave, Thurston Moore and Josh Brolin fit in to this web isn’t immediately clear, though each of them is certainly familiar with the film industry.

For his part, Marvin acted in dozens of movies and TV shows throughout his career, Gorky Park, Prime Cut and Cat Ballou (for which he won an Oscar) among them. Come by the store and ask Ralph if he can recommend some others.