Kelly Reichardt has only directed four feature films in her career, but her minimalist style has struck a chord with film lovers and critics alike, and she is now one of the most celebrated American filmmakers working today. So it’s no surprise that the TIFF Bell Lightbox would host a retrospect of her work along with the release of her latest film, Meek’s Cutoff.
Set in 1845, Meek’s Cutoff tells the true story of a group of settlers lost as they travel along the Oregon Trail. Like Reichardt’s previous films Old Joy (2006) and Wendy and Lucy (2008), Meek’s Cutoff is a very slow-moving and mesmerizing piece to watch. Unlike her previous films, it’s a lot more atmospheric and features better performances from her cast, which includes Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, and Bruce Greenwood. For someone like me, who has been on the fence with whether Reichardt is a genius or a hack, it proves how talented she is and has made me look at her body of work differently.
The New Auteurs: Wandering, Wondering: The Films of Kelly Reichardt kicks off at the Bell Lightbox on Thursday, May 12 at 7 p.m. with a screening of Reichardt’s 1993 debut film, Rivers of Grass. Described as a “sun-drenched take on film noir”, it’s a raw, overlooked, piece of cinema that got lost amongst other American indie films in the early ‘90s from the likes of Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, and Quentin Tarantino. This is a brand new print of the film that fans will surely be pleased.
Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy, Reichardt’s more popular works, admittedly didn’t appeal to me upon first viewings. After second viewings though, I found myself enjoying them and “getting” them a lot more. Especially the performances by Will Oldham in Old Joy and Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy. Both screen twice during the series.
The Bell Lightbox is also playing Reichardt’s 1999 short Ode, the first time it is screening in Toronto, and Nicholas Ray’s 1952 Western-drama The Lusty Men, which Reichardt has personally picked to screen.
The New Auteurs: Wandering, Wondering: The Films of Kelly Reichardt runs at the Bell Lightbox May 12 to May 17. For more information and the full schedule, visit tiff.net.
Top image: A scene from Meek’s Cutoff. Courtesy Kinosmith.