Sunday, October 30, 2011

Meek's Cutoff

Kelly Reichardt, 2010 (8.6*)
Independent filmmaker Kelly Reichardt makes sparse and esoteric films that will appeal to the more artistic and discerning cinephile rather than the average cinemaniac. This is not your typical western.

In this western taking place in 1845, a small wagon train of three families on their way to farm in Oregon has hired a mountain man named Meek (Bruce Greenwood) as their guide. Promising them a shortcut to a pass in the Cascade mountains, the group basically becomes lost in the high, arid eastern Oregon desert. With their water running out and food low, the group becomes increasingly split over which direction to proceed, whether to continue trusting their guide or simply head north toward the Columbia River.

Along the way they begin to see a lone Native American almost stalking them. Fulfilling their stereotypical paranoia, some men go capture him and bring him back. Meek especially seems to keep inferring they are little more than animals, and are much better dead, and the living are much safer with them gone. However, deferring to the women, especially a gun-toting and headstrong Michelle Williams, the men decide to keep him alive, but tied up as their prisoner.

Now the group has another dilemna – can this wilderness survivor help them survive? For a western, this is a pretty existential story, from Jonathan Raymond, who often pens Reichardt’s films – and who has also used the name Slats Grobnik. Yo, Slats!

This story won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s still a beautifully shot western, subtle and tasteful, with ethereal and sparingly used music by Jeff Grace . The cast is perfect, they all even look like dirty, smelly western pioneers, even veterans Bruce Greenwood and Will Patton.

Director Kelly Reichardt


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Artist, photographer, composer, author, blogger, metaphysician, herbalist

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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