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American Mythology by Scott Esposito and Michael Smith

In aesthetics, film, history, North America, philosophy, photography, visual arts on September 16, 2012 at 06:25

From: American Mythology: A Conversation About Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff by Scott Esposito and Michael Smith, The Quarterly Conversation, http://quarterlyconversation.com

Michael Smith: Kelly Reichardt initially came to my attention with her film Wendy and Lucy (2008)—I immediately noticed a sensitivity to social issues and also a relatively spartan aesthetic. She relied on long takes and came across as a patient filmmaker and storyteller. Meek’s Cutoff is a more complete realization of that aesthetic. The opening shots alone are extraordinary in that they don’t constitute a narrative exposition so much as establish the physical nature of a journey being taken by several pioneer families. Using static, relatively long takes, Reichardt shows them performing tasks: crossing a river, drying their clothes, fetching water from a stream, cleaning dishes. These all seem mundane, which is exactly the point. Part of the experience of this film is becoming familiar with the sheer punishment of the Oregon Trail, how the movement westward was full of not only considerable challenges but also what might be called elongation. After the initial sequences, Reichardt employs a beautiful, very slow dissolve in which a wagon train gradually appears on the horizon, and then she cuts to a night shot as clouds slowly move in real time. The journey already seems endless, even though, as viewers, it’s just started for us.

Read the conversation

Reposted with permission from: The Quarterly Conversation

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