Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

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royalton
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#26 Post by royalton » Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:06 am

Maybe I'm a grasping neophyte as I've only seen The Meetings Of Anna, but the haunting minimalism also got me thinking of Chantal Akerman's films - of course, I was already thinking of her because I am planning to see Jeanne Dielman at Film Forum. Of course, I imagine that by that token we could name a dozen other similar filmmakers.

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lacritfan
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#27 Post by lacritfan » Wed Jan 07, 2009 3:09 am

foggy eyes wrote:
SpoilerShow
Seriously, why on earth doesn't Wendy kick up more fuss about not leaving Lucy before she's being driven away in the police car? I don't believe that anybody who cares about their dog that much would act so passively - it would be the first thing I would think about. This may seem rather petty, but the contrivance really did prove too problematic for me - not least because the rest of the film is built upon it. Logic is surrendered to a specious narrative conceit, and the rest of the film suffers.
From an interview (which also explains why the NY-based filmmaker has set her last two movies in Oregon):
SpoilerShow
One scene that is quite gut wrenching is when Wendy has to leave Lucy tied up outside of the grocery store. As a dog owner, I felt like I would have done anything to make sure Lucy didn't have to stay out there unprotected, and I wanted to scream when Wendy didn't put up much of a fight. I think that has to do with what different people expect from authorities, and I think there's a huge part of the population that does not anticipate help from the authorities, and feels that cops will really just make their lives worse. Even for myself, I wouldn't necessarily trust with what would happen. I'd rather deal with it myself than have some law enforcement take my dog. For me, I just didn't think that someone in Wendy's situation would be looking for any kind of bureaucracy or police to be able to solve any problems for her.

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foggy eyes
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#28 Post by foggy eyes » Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:32 pm

Thanks for the link. I'm still not convinced, but it's good to know that Reichardt feels the way one would expect about the scene. Michael Atkinson's review of the film in the new issue of Sight & Sound is a total rave, btw, and he even states that:
It's fair to say, from the most objective standpoint, that the movie tests the tensile strength of your own innate empathy, and if you are unmoved, the failure is yours.
Oh well.

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John Cope
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#29 Post by John Cope » Wed Jan 07, 2009 3:11 pm

That comment by Atkinson is indicative of what I aggressively dislike about this film. He presumes to prescribe how we should all react. Atkinson's is a proper response to the material though. It's certainly what Reichardt is going for.

A friend recently saw Boy in the Striped Pajamas and told me later that he was distressed that he had not been more distressed throughout as he knew that he was supposed to be. I didn't see that one but my own first reaction to his story was quite different. I generally assume, unlike Atkinson, that the failure is with the film. I'm always willing to be moved and to suggest, as MA does, that someone's unresponsiveness is a sign of an inherent failure of empathy is treading perilously close to a kind of emotional fascism, and a fascism of empathy of all things.

Anyway, it's not even that I'm open to being moved, I welcome it and am often seriously effected by what many would dismiss as steamroller contrivance and manipulation. On it's own terms that criticism has never bothered me as I regard the negative description of how such stuff works to often be confusing superficial mechanisms with their presumed content.

Wendy and Lucy did not work for me at all and I was left not only singularly unmoved but, to be honest, resentful of Reichardt's manipulative approach. I recognize this may sound hypocritical but let me elaborate. First, and fwiw, I loved Old Joy; I thought that was a deftly handled, maybe even perfectly handled synthesis of elements and their sensitive treatment. Also, that picture, as foggy suggests above, simply aspires to far more than this one. Its allusive qualities don't register as intentionally elusive (not an easy thing to do) and in fact give weight and expansive reach to the proceedings. The fact that Reichardt would break through apparently with this new film rather than that one is no great surprise but still disheartening in the face of Old Joy's advanced accomplishment.

What most perturbed me about Wendy and Lucy, and what became more aggravating throughout, was its inherently fraudulent nature. Here I'm not saying, of course, that it doesn't ring true to some degree for many and doesn't have "something to say" about present day real life correlatives because God knows it fully intends that association but it's this underlying stacked deck mentality that alienated me. To put a further point on it, I resented the fact that Reichardt's dominant aesthetic stance (with its quasi-naturalism and proudly low budget "authenticity" supposedly giving voice to the underclass or marginal, as cued by Williams' haircut) seemed designed to downplay and deny her film's resemblance to or appropriation of traditional melodramatic techniques. There is the stench of both shame and smug superiority coming off this movie, so eager to declare its ostensible kinship with little lives of the socially marginalized but unwilling to grant them a multi-dimensionality or fully fleshed out character as realized through a layered , resonant aesthetic approach. It was no great shock to me to see that Todd Haynes had something to do with this (I need to just avoid his coterie completely). I realize that the argument would be that she's attempting to expand a frame of reference for melodramatic technique and that this is her boundary breaking accomplishment. To be frank,though, if I were to take that seriously I wouldn't see it as an accomplishment but rather a retreat into a kind of naive and half formed emotional articulation, one arrested rather than liberated by its disdain for familiar and recognizable emotional beats (Williams' is beaten into submission before we get to her so that, supposedly, her emotional release at the end will be more vital and vibrant--for me it was just a foregone conclusion of Reichardt's unflexable, anti-character agenda).

And of course the film is an eye roll inducing polemic as well. Which (once again I have to qualify) does not mean I disagree with its basic underlying tenets. But it is, in fact, precisely because I agree with them so strongly that I find the film's half baked sentiment inadequate for representing them properly. For me, the whole film, regardless of Williams' work which is solid and affected and of a piece with everything else, is designed purely to lead inexorably to the farewells at the end. This would be fine if Reichardt's abashed mishandling or tentative treatment of sentiment didn't work against her and if the film weren't so much more about its political position than the deceptively titular characters.

Oh, and the final scene had to be the most cringe inducing of the year for me. Compare the staggering intentionality behind that with the shot of Oldham wandering the streets of Portland at the end of Old Joy. The distinction is between the blackjack social mentality of the former and the diffuse, wayward but undeterminable essence of the latter.

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foggy eyes
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#30 Post by foggy eyes » Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:15 am

John, great stuff as always. I wish my response was similar to Atkinson's, but (alas!) I'm much more inclined to agree with everything you say. The more I think about it, Wendy & Lucy probably owes an awful lot to the lineage of (canonical) Italian neorealism - Reichardt employs a schematic template very similar to Bicycle Thieves or Umberto D (where attention to social reality is overwhelmed by a defeatist sentimentality), but it's a shame that she comes up with such a run-of-the-mill achievement.

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#31 Post by montgomery » Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:12 pm

It's fair to say, from the most objective standpoint, that the movie tests the tensile strength of your own innate empathy, and if you are unmoved, the failure is yours.
This is indicative of Atkinson's own lack of innate empathy; he simply cannot fathom that someone else would come to the film with a different reference point, or away from the film with a different viewpoint.

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foggy eyes
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#32 Post by foggy eyes » Fri Jan 09, 2009 1:21 pm

Thought it might be worth mentioning that Doug Cummings, in his Top Ten(s) of 2008, views the film's similarities to Italian neorealism and Umberto D in a considerably more positive light:
Like a contemporary Umberto D (and I don’t make that comparison lightly), this film dramatically uses the bond between a dog and its owner to expose the human implications of a person on the fringes of society–what that means to the individual and the decisions they make and, by implication, what that means to society at large.

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domino harvey
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#33 Post by domino harvey » Fri May 08, 2009 5:52 pm

So this DVDs packaging is the first "environmental" (read: goddamned slot) set that actually makes sense: the digipak's cardboard is super thick and sturdy, like a regular plastic-lined digipack, and the slot rests in a cut-out circle to keep it secure. Still not as good as having a tab, but this is the first one that's even come close.

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brendanjc
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#34 Post by brendanjc » Fri May 08, 2009 9:42 pm

domino harvey wrote:So this DVDs packaging is the first "environmental" (read: goddamned slot) set that actually makes sense: the digipak's cardboard is super thick and sturdy, like a regular plastic-lined digipack, and the slot rests in a cut-out circle to keep it secure. Still not as good as having a tab, but this is the first one that's even come close.
I don't know, I dislike it. The case is huge and my copy from Wherehouse which just arrived yesterday was smashed completely flat. It's in worse shape than any of the Criterion Blu-ray digipaks so many people complained about.

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#35 Post by Nothing » Fri May 08, 2009 9:52 pm

I'm waiting for the UK disc next month, which is half the price. Caught (the second) half of Wendy & Lucy in the cinema and it seemed very impressive, but shall reserve judgement until I've seen the whole thing...

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domino harvey
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#36 Post by domino harvey » Fri May 08, 2009 10:19 pm

brendanjc wrote:
domino harvey wrote:So this DVDs packaging is the first "environmental" (read: goddamned slot) set that actually makes sense: the digipak's cardboard is super thick and sturdy, like a regular plastic-lined digipack, and the slot rests in a cut-out circle to keep it secure. Still not as good as having a tab, but this is the first one that's even come close.
I don't know, I dislike it. The case is huge and my copy from Wherehouse which just arrived yesterday was smashed completely flat. It's in worse shape than any of the Criterion Blu-ray digipaks so many people complained about.
I was lucky as my copy came from Wherehouse in the same bundle as the Deradoorian CD and so there was a little more room for it than if it were just shipping by itself. Don't get me wrong, I'd still prefer a normal digipak, my point was just that as far as horrible Earth-friendly packaging goes, this is the best I've seen

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Michael
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#37 Post by Michael » Sat May 09, 2009 10:34 am

Completely enthralled by Wendy and Lucy. A perfect little movie that is. Ethereal and beautiful. Deeply affecting. I wish there are more movies like this being made in America, hell no, in this world. There is a lovely, refreshing whiff of Antonioni in the film. We spend most of the film with a young woman searching for her missing dog. But that serves as a vehicle for something more poignant. I love the careful structuring, the composition, the color palette (browns, blues, greens) of the movie. And Williams. What can I say about her? Her performance is sublime, perfect...the best I've seen coming from American cinema in years. Reichardt has officially joined my list of to-watch directors.

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Foam
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#38 Post by Foam » Mon Jan 11, 2010 2:09 am

Apologies in advance if in posting this I am violating some unwritten "don't bump that/don't respond to things from over a year ago" rule.
John Cope wrote:To put a further point on it, I resented the fact that Reichardt's dominant aesthetic stance (with its quasi-naturalism and proudly low budget "authenticity" supposedly giving voice to the underclass or marginal, as cued by Williams' haircut) seemed designed to downplay and deny her film's resemblance to or appropriation of traditional melodramatic techniques. There is the stench of both shame and smug superiority coming off this movie, so eager to declare its ostensible kinship with little lives of the socially marginalized but unwilling to grant them a multi-dimensionality or fully fleshed out character as realized through a layered , resonant aesthetic approach.
I would like to know how this sort of thing (Reichardt's aesthetic stance primarily designed to smugly distance itself from more "traditional" films) can be detected. It's almost as if what is being suggested is that Reichardt chose this aesthetic stance purely for fashionable reasons rather than an honest conviction that this is the best way the material could be presented. If this or something like it is what you are saying, then what specifically about the film alerted you to this smugness and hatred for itself? I have to say honestly that in watching this film I never got the sense that Reichardt had any sort of anti-traditional agenda; on the contrary, it seemed to me to borrow (rather overtly and unashamedly) from canonical neorealist melodrama.

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#39 Post by david hare » Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:13 am

Foam, your posts are such a joy to read.. well, I simply hope you're right and he's wrong.

And you've guided me neatly to someone new that I feel I can really enjoy.

EDIT: "from very old tart."

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#40 Post by gokinsmen » Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:59 am

Even as someone who thinks Old Joy was a bit of an artistic con job, I have to scoff at accusations of deck-stacking in Wendy and Lucy. In fact, its refusal to resort to easy manipulation was what impressed me most about the film. It would have been so easy to have Wendy robbed, raped, beaten, killed, or any number of tragic things that practically any other filmmaker would have done (take Von Trier or Varda's Vagabond, for instance). Obviously, those things do happen in real life, but they become cheap (or even salacious) emotional suckerpunches on screen. But Kelly Reichardt, for all the pointless praise about how "real" her last two films are, understands Bresson's wise words: "A cliche will never feel true, even when it is."

Instead, Reichardt seems to stack the deck against easy sympathy -- allowing Wendy no sob (back)story, a stranger willing to help, some kind of family to call, and, yes, an honest mechanic (!). That scene with Larry Fessenden as the drifter ("Don't look at me...") who accosts Wendy at night, but leaves her physically unharmed, is so powerful because of its restraint and refusal to indulge in easy emotional shocks. He's terrifying because he's crazy, but also because of what he represents -- the real bottom rung of society. For all her troubles, Wendy doesn't even have it that bad (at least she has her sanity).

Admittedly, her leaving the dog tied up in front is the one detail that did bother me. But it's a minor complaint all in all, and frankly, in that situation, I can't see myself telling the arresting officer, "Um, excuse me, can you do me a favor and turn around so I can bring my dog to the station?" People tie up their dogs all the time. It's not crazy to think you're better off coming back in an hour than risk pissing off a cop.

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#41 Post by bottled spider » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:50 pm

The only thing that bothered me a little in Wendy & Lucy was the prominent silver cross dangling from the neck of the stock boy. That was too on the nose.

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#42 Post by James » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:32 am

bottled spider wrote:The only thing that bothered me a little in Wendy & Lucy was the prominent silver cross dangling from the neck of the stock boy. That was too on the nose.
I'm not really sure why people are offended by this. Do we really need to tiptoe around the fact that there are religious nuts in this world?

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bottled spider
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#43 Post by bottled spider » Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:09 am

But I'm not offended. In a movie that was good for all the reasons gokinsmen cited, that cross lacked subtlety and tact.

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david hare
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#44 Post by david hare » Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:38 pm

I liked this very much, indeed I have a completely opposing view to Doug Cummings or at least the reference John Cope made to him (probably not suprrising given a sklirmish or two a few years ago): Yes, I recognize the lineage or the citation of Umberto D - which is probably the best of the de Sica Zavattini outings - but I think Reichardt's film is superior to Umberto, if only (and there are other reasons) BECAUSE it is not at all manipulative and in no way does it feel to me to be carrying a predetermined/received social consciousness.

I'm hoping Old Joy will be just as good, if not better.

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#45 Post by ezmbmh » Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:45 pm

Finally saw and loved this movie, a small gem that still is resonating. Williams is amazing, direct, heartbreaking, honest (yes I know that's applying an objective criterion to a subjective statement but that's the way the whole movie felt to me). While I admire the camera shots and the way she made some technical moves, I was just swept up by a story of how thin the line is between hanging on and slipping off the edge altogether. Something about it reminded me of Morris Engle, the Coney Island film, where, if there are any sane rules in the world, they aren't accessible to all of us. I saw no polemic being thrust at us and didn't respond to it as a time-specific critique of the US or fraying social services. There are people sliding off the edge always.

Some touches I particularly loved:
SpoilerShow
The way we never quite learn what happened, what the brace on her waist is about, the wound or whatever under the bandage--that could easily have led to pleading and polemical demands (abuse, lack of social services, the decline of the family, ad nauseum). Instead we just see the result of whatever happened, and when she finally tears the thing off in the washroom, it's a perfect moment of trying to tear everything from her past from her w/o saying a word about it.

The raging loon at the campfire with the teeth I'll never forget. Wacko as he is he has a story which is at once ridiculous, meaning nothing, and has landed him exactly nowhere, but also is something Wendy wants, a simpler one, and never gets.

Loved the fact the guard gives her exactly six bucks, not enough to do much but significant to both of them, as his daughter, a roadie for Hole, glowers from the wagon
.
SpoilerShow
What works so well for me is the way the movie examines the dynamic of narrative itself, who gets to have a story and who doesn't. That's why the cross didn't bother me. The righteous prick had a story and goddamn it it had to be everyone's. The guy at the camp had one but it's no more useful than the rules and beaurocratic barriers that are supposed to impose sense and do the opposite. The guard clearly has a story but we never get to hear it. The trains and boxcars imply both destination and endless wandering. It's a road movie about just trying to get to the road. Maybe Wendy will have a story, maybe not, but that theme itself was beautifully understadedly examined.

Hope I figured out how this spoiler think works. Apologies if not.
Last edited by ezmbmh on Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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domino harvey
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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#46 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:46 pm

The "brace" on her waist is a moneybelt

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#47 Post by ezmbmh » Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:50 pm

is it? I thought the moneybelt was green, worn lower, she reaches into it at one point. That's a pretty bulky contraption to hold some bills. Maybe I'm wrong.

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#48 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:56 pm

Gus Van Sant interviewing Kelly Reichardt at the time of the release of Wendy and Lucy.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#49 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:48 pm

I wish I could have liked this as much as some of you other folk -- but I found it pretty disappointing. Not awful, but not especially compelling or believable either.

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Re: Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

#50 Post by Cde. » Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:06 pm

Me too.
This felt underdeveloped, both narratively and in its political commentary. For me, the limited 'indie-verite' aesthetic acted as a block to my becoming emotionally invested with the story and characters. I think, as John Cope suggests, this is a result of the synthesis of Reichardt's style with such a conventional and half-baked narrative. Where Wendy and Lucy feels limited, Old Joy felt ambitious, expansive and beautiful.

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