Kelly Reichardt: Powerfully Observant

Kelly Reichardt is a true American auteur; you know her films when you see them. Her camera focuses on a landscape and remains, still and patient, until the most minor action occurs—and then she holds for a moment more, an audaciously minimalist style that challenges the audience to focus on light, shadow, or the merest sound. Reichardt’s films have always been preoccupied with the ordinary, tricky messes characters cook up in their daily lives, and her characters are conflicted, exhausted, inhabiting unremarkable worlds laden with broken promises. But when they do break out, like the miserable Florida housewife in River of Grass—beware!

From the unconventional buddy movie Old Joy, to the parched, harrowing wagon train journey of Meek’s Cutoff, to the trio of small-town stories in last year’s Certain Women, Reichardt plumbs human memory, survival, self-reliance, and loneliness. Another unconventional buddy movie, Wendy and Lucy, reflects the economic downturn of 2008 through a taciturn, pragmatic woman who packs up her car and her dog to find work in Alaska.

This mid-career retrospective includes the six feature films Reichardt has made since 1994—a seemingly modest filmography for more than 20 years of work. But these intricately produced and fiercely independent are well worth the wait. As Catherine Wheatley wrote of the characters in Certain Women, “They know to keep their counsel, these women: know the importance of restraint, silence, of knowing when to speak and when to act and when to stay still.” These same qualities characterize the graceful, intensely perceptive films of Kelly Reichardt.

Organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film. Thanks to Dan Berger of Oscilloscope Films and Brittany Shaw.