Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Year-End Reflections of 2023


2023 has been an insane year and definitely one that I wouldn’t forget as well as things I would like to forget as it was crazy. Notably as the rise of inflation which has angered my mother while she had lost one of her jobs a few months ago mainly because its owner didn’t want to run two dry cleaners as it was too much for him. Fortunately, she still has a job with one of those cleaners as well as another as things aren’t too bad. Still, the year saw a lot of bad shit happening as well as a lot of deaths and all sorts of shit. It’s been fucking insane and honestly, let’s hope it ends quicker and hope the New Year is much better.

In the year of 2023, I saw a total of 278 films in 161 first-timers and 117 re-watches with 67 first-timers being films directed/co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge and thirteen theatrical viewings all being first-timers. Not a bad year though it was down from the previous year due to the fact that I have a niece and nephew to watch over and they’ve been all over the house. Plus, there was also financial difficulties that prevented me from renting or seeing films though it was the year that I finally ended my time with cable TV as that is gone for good. There weren’t a lot of first-timers from the past that I saw which is why there won’t be a list because there’s so little great films pre-2015 that I saw. Still, one of the highlights of the year has been my Blind Spot Series as here is the final ranking for that series:

1. Eight Hours Don't Make a Day
2. Tetsuo the Iron Man
3. La Chinoise
4. Buck and the Preacher
5. La Haine
6. Kiki's Delivery Service
7. One-Eyed Jacks
8. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
9. The Seduction of Mimi
10. Polyester
11. The Quiet Man
12. India Song
The year was a big deal towards late in the year as it marked the return of the Auteurs series where I went back to my first essay on Sofia Coppola where I expanded and updated as it got me back into finally finishing the essay on Kelly Reichardt that began in 2019 but was stopped because of my dad’s passing then COVID and writer’s block. With the completion of the Reichardt essay, I’ve already prepped work on the next two essays in both J.C. Chandor and Michael Mann respectively with David Lean to follow later in the year and a new subject in Damien Chazelle.

Before I close this piece, the recent passing of Tom Smothers of the Smothers Brothers and Tom Wilkinson as there has been a lot of people that has passed so here is a farewell to those who have passed as we will never forget them

Well, that is all to say for 2023. It’s been a wild year where the Atlanta Braves had a good year until the playoffs where we were burned out while the Hawks and United did fine. Let’s hope 2024 is a better year for all of these teams. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2023

Films That I Saw: December 2023


2023 is coming to an end as it was a crazy year though the past few months have been rough for my mother although things are looking up for now. The Christmas holidays were good as I just wanted to relax and wind down as I got some good stuff this year. Yet, it is more about niece and nephew as they love Christmas as they continue to maintain that chaos in the house as the year is about to end. I’m hoping next year is a much better year all around while I definitely do not look forward to the upcoming U.S. elections because I don’t believe in democracy. I don’t like the idea of stupid people having the right to vote because they will fall for anything.
In the month of December 2023, I saw a total of 24 films in 12 first-timers and 12 re-watches with 5 films being directed/co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge with a trio of those films being shorts by Kelly Reichardt that I was able to watch for her Auteurs essay that I was finally able to complete after starting work on it more than 4 years ago but was delayed due to family matter, the pandemic, and writer’s block. That was the highlight of the month as well as my Blind Spot choice in The Seduction of Mimi. Here is the top 10 first-timers that I saw for December 2023:

1. Poor Things
2. Cow
3. Elemental
4. Times Square
5. Owl
6. Cal State Long Beach January 2020
7. Here Now
8. Bronx New York November 2019
9. Jackals & Fireflies
10. Obsessed
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’m Watching

Jackals & Fireflies

This short by Charlie Kaufman in collaboration with writer Eva H.D. is an experimental short that has H.D. reciting her own poetry as she walks around New York City amidst its many wonders including beautiful and ugly moments. Shot on an iPhone, the short is 20 minutes long with not a lot of plot. Yet, H.D. does have some unique poetry that plays into her surroundings and her love for New York City.

Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies
This documentary on the history of nudity in cinema isn’t as well-researched in comparison to some late 2000s documentaries IFC did about sex and cinema. It is an entertaining documentary that does explore cinema’s history with sex and nudity in films though it does omit a lot of important films that do play into its history that includes several post-war European films from the late 1940s/early 1950s. There are several people including filmmakers, actors, and historians that do provide some unique insight with some of it to be funny as it is something worth watching for anyone interested while it also touches upon the recent conflict about sex in cinema in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

This drama by Kim Dae-woo about a South Korean colonel who falls in love with his new neighbor’s wife as he deals with PTSD during his time in the Vietnam War is a compelling drama despite being overlong at times. Notably as it features several sequences in which a circle of officer wives gossiping and saying some awful shit as they would stir trouble with the colonel’s wife also being part of that circle. Still, the leading performances of Song Seung-heon and Lim Ji-yeon are fantastic while also doing some amazingly hot sex scenes in the film.

Times Square
This 1980 cult film by Allan Moyle that is produced by Robert Stigwood is a film I’ve heard about for many years as it’s about this unlikely friendship between a mentally-troubled poor girl that wants to be a punk rock singer and a young rich girl whose father is running for office in the hopes he can clean up Times Square in New York City. Starring Tim Curry as a radio deejay who reads the letters from the rich girl as he would enable their behavior, the performances of Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado are incredible as they really do a lot to keep the film exciting as it also features a tremendous music soundtrack. Plus, the fact that it was shot on location in New York City and in Times Square when it was dirty, unruly, and chaotic makes it even better as it’s a film everyone needs to see.

Here Now

From Gregg Araki in collaboration with KENZO is this odd short film that definitely recalls some of the films he did in the 1990s starring Avan Jogia, Jane Levy, Jacob Artist, Grace Victoria Cox, and a few others as they all wear KENZO clothing. It plays into this young man who is dealing with the chaos around him involving his girlfriend, a young woman he hadn’t seen in a while as she’s become a nun, a couple making out at the restaurant and all sorts of shit. It is a comical short as it’s something fans of Araki should see.

From Pixar and Peter Sohn is a film that really makes the case that Pixar needs to focus on creating original projects instead of latching on towards sequels and spin-offs as this is definitely one of their finest works. Notably as it feels like a really personal film from Sohn as it plays into a world where elements such as earth, wind, fire, and water all live in a city though the fire people live in a small section of their own as it does play into immigration and prejudices yet it is largely a love story between a young fire woman and a water city inspector who tries to help the former from having her parents’ shop not get shut down. It is a film with a lot of heart as well as playing into what this young fire woman could do and why she is filled with a lot of anger as it’s a great film that was initially dismissed following a disastrous opening weekend when it was released this past June only to find its audience throughout the summer.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians (season 1 episodes 1-3)
It is clear that the film versions of Rick Riordan’s young adult series were a bust as not only did they seek input from Riordan but also tried to be like every other YA film franchise that was all over the cinemas in the early 2010s and they all sucked. Thank goodness Disney decided to have Riordan be involved with his creation into a TV series for Disney+ and three episodes have been released so far and it is amazing already. Not only does the series take more time to develop the characters as Walker Scobell’s performance as the titular character really has the nuances of a young kid dealing with growing pains, dyslexia, and still trying to find himself as he had just learned he is the son of Poseidon. Leah Sava Jeffries and Aryan Simhadri’s performances in their respective roles as Annabeth and the satyr Grover are also compelling as they too bring in some depth while the ensemble has also been powerful. In this format, not only do they bring in the stakes of what Percy, Annabeth, and Grover have to do but also help them become friends and learn more about themselves as I look forward to the rest of the season.

What If…? (Season 2)
The second season of Marvel’s animated series is phenomenal in its 9 episode run with a third season set to come soon thanks to a preview that features Bucky Barnes, the Red Guardian, and T’Challa in a high speed chase. It all plays into the multiverse with Captain Peggy Carter being at the center of these conflicts where she goes into different timelines while having a close friendship with Natasha Romanoff and having interactions with the show’s narrator in the Watcher. The series has some amazing animation with the sixth episode being its major standout as it relates to a time period in the late 15th Century in which Spanish conquistadors tried to find the Fountain of Youth only to encounter Mohawk warriors including Kahhori who went into this fountain leading to a parallel universe with powers that are far more incredible than she could imagine. It is definitely a standout moment as she would appear in the season finale as the show also has Cate Blanchett doing voice work as Hela in a few episodes where Hela gets to have her own moment. Given the very difficult year Marvel had this year, this show does end the year on a good note.

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. The Red Shoes
2. The Beatles: Get Back
3. Reservoir Dogs
4. Django Unchained
5. Paddington 2
6. A Charlie Brown Christmas
7. Classic Albums: Suede: Coming Up
8. Room in Rome
9. Ski School
10. Fun and Fancy Free
Well, that is all for December 2023. Next month will be the beginning of a new year as I will make a final post for the year that will involve a lot of new things as well as catching up on some 2023 releases. I will also make a list of the best in pro wrestling for 2023 in a separate post as the year is not finished with a lot of things happening in what has been an insane year. Not sure what film in my 2024 Blind Spot Series will start the new year as I will also take time in doing work on 2 essays for the Auteurs series as the only announcement I’ll make for now is that I’ve added Damien Chazelle as the 76th subject of the series coming later in 2024. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2023

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Poor Things


Based on the novel by Alasdair Gray, Poor Things is the story of a scientist who resurrects the body of a Victorian woman following her suicide as she goes into a discovery of self and sexual identity. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and screenplay by Tony McNamara, the film is a unique take on the story of Frankenstein as it play into men dealing with this woman who has been brought back to life as they are also dealing with her sense of self-discovery. Starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Margaret Qualley, Christopher Abbott, Jerrod Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter, and Hanna Schygulla. Poor Things is an astonishingly surreal and exhilarating film from Yorgos Lanthimos.

Set in the late 19th Century during the Victorian era of London, the film revolves around a young woman who had killed herself only to be resurrected by a scientist as she goes on a journey of sexual discovery, identity, and ideals through some of the people she meets along the way including a greedy and nefarious attorney who lusts after her. It is a film that follows the life of this woman who despite having a brain transplant following her suicide as she would have the mind of a child that would then grow into a full-fledge woman with an appetite for sex and knowledge. Tony McNamara’s screenplay is filled with not just this unique study of a woman’s mental and emotional development but also through the people she meets in her life including the scientist in Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) who found her dead body in a river and would make a discovery as he would remove her brain and put in another brain and use electricity to revive her as he would call her Bella (Emma Stone).

Dr. Baxter and his maid Mrs. Prim (Vicki Pepperdine) would take care of Bella who would start off with the mind of a child learning to walk as one of his students in Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef) would aid them both and take notes as he would fall for Bella. Yet, Bella gets the attention of the attorney Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) who would fall for her and convince Bella to travel with him around the world much to Dr. Baxter’s reluctance and Max’s refusal. Bella’s relationship with Duncan revolves around sex at first until she gets to know him as someone who is a control freak that couldn’t keep up with Bella’s thirst for sex and knowledge as they travel on a ship to Alexandria where she meets the cynical philosopher Harry Astley and the elderly German Martha Von Kurtzroc (Hanna Schygulla) who are both amazed by her. Yet, Bella would also encounter things that would challenge her ideals as it all plays into her own journey and revelations about her past life before her suicide.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ direction is quite sprawling in terms of not just the way he imagines some of the places that Bella would encounter but also a world that is just as odd and wondrous as she would imagine. Shot largely on location in Hungary with several interiors and sets made at the Origo Studios in Budapest, Lanthimos does play into this world that is full of wonders but also a reality that is too terrifying to ignore. Much of the film’s first act is shot in black-and-white with bits of color emerging in flashbacks as Lanthimos’ usage of fish-eyed lenses for wide shots add to the surrealistic tone of the film as well as this world where Bella is protected from during her time living with Dr. Baxter who is a father figure to her while also knows the truth about who she is. Max is also protective of her as he would take notes observing her while all three and Mrs. Prim are happy at Dr. Baxter’s lab in doing experiments including the hybrid animals that Dr. Baxter has surrounded himself. Still, Lanthimos’ direction also play into the outside world as its second act goes into full-blown color while it also play into this sense of manic energy into Bella’s hedonistic attitudes as she finds a partner in Duncan.

The scenes set in Lisbon, Alexandria, and the cruise ship they travel on are quite surreal as it is this strange mix of a futuristic world (by 19th Century standards) and the period of the time as it has something that feels artificial and dream-like. Lanthimos’ usage of the wide and medium shots add to the scope of that world while Lanthimos does maintain some intimacy including the usage of close-ups including some extreme close-ups that play into Bella’s sexual awakening. There is a lot of humor that play into Bella’s understanding of the world as well as humanity where its third act that begins in Paris where she learns a lot about the ways of the world and what Dr. Baxter was trying to shield her from. Especially as there’s revelations into her past life where Max feels the need to take a stand for her as well as realize the sacrifices that Dr. Baxter had done towards her. It all plays into a woman discovering herself but also a world where men do what they can to maintain the status quo unaware that she is willing to challenge these ideals. Overall, Lanthimos crafts a majestic yet wild film about a woman coming of age in her understanding of sex and its many ideals including her own identity.

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan does incredible work with the film’s cinematography from the striking imagery in the black-and-white photography in its daytime interior/exterior scenes to the exterior scenes at night as well as the lush colors for the scenes in Lisbon and the interiors in the ships as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Yorgos Mavropsaridis does excellent work with the editing as it has elements of style as well as some unique jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts that add to some of the humor and drama. Production designer Shona Heath and James Price, with set decorator Zsuzsa Mihalek and senior art director Jonathan Houlding, do phenomenal work with the set design in the way Lisbon is presented as well as the interiors of the ships as well as the rooms and lab at Dr. Baxter’s home as it is a major highlight of the film. Costume designer Holly Waddington does fantastic work with the design of the dresses that Bella wears as well as the suits that the men wear during that period in the late 19th Century.

Prosthetic makeup designer Mark Coulier and hair/makeup prosthetic designer Nadia Stacey, along with hair/makeup supervisor Carolyn Cousins, do amazing work with the look of Dr. Baxter with his scars and deformed body parts as well as some of the scars that Bella has in her body. Special effects supervisors Balazs Hoffmann and Gabor Kiszelly, along with visual effects supervisor Simon Hughes, do terrific work in some of the visual design of some of the hybrid animals that Dr. Baxter have created as well as some set dressing including some of the cable cars at Lisbon. Sound designer Johnnie Burn does superb work with the sound in creating an atmosphere in the way Bella hears things as well as certain natural sounds and textures that play into the humor and drama. The film’s music by Jerskin Fendrix is brilliant for its unconventional music score filled with unique string and piano arrangements and textures that are offbeat in its presentation as well as some orchestral themes that have some discordant elements as it is a highlight of the film while music supervisors Anne Booty and Sarah Giles cultivate a soundtrack that largely features European folk music of that period performed by Carminho.

The casting by Dixie Chassay is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from composter Jerskin Fendrix as a restaurant musician in Lisbon, Carminho as a Fado performer Bella sees in Lisbon, Wayne Brett as a priest whom Bella would have sex with, Tom Stourton as a steward on the ship that Duncan tries to fight against, Vicki Pepperdine as Dr. Baxter’s maid/assistant Mrs. Prim who is very loyal to Dr. Baxter, Suzy Bemba as a prostitute in Toinette whom Bella would befriend and learn the ideas of socialism from, and Margaret Qualley in a terrific small role as Felicity as a replacement for Bella at the Baxter home as she provides a lot of humor as someone that has a hard time learning. Kathryn Hunter is superb as Madame Swiney as an aging brothel madam in Paris that gives Bella a job in the film’s third act as well as show her a broader view of the world through good and bad. Hanna Schygulla is fantastic as Martha Von Kurtzroc as an elderly passenger whom Bella befriends on the ship as she gives Bella some joy and insight as well as gaining her own sense of joy through Bella.

Jerrod Carmichael is excellent as the American philosopher in Harry Astley whom Bella meets on the ship towards Alexandria as a cynic who wants to show Bella the cruelties of the world while he also realizes that Bella’s viewpoint also has some upsides. Christopher Abbott is brilliant as Alfie Blessington as a cruel and sadistic general who is a key figure in Bella’s past as he is this representation of the darkest aspects of humanity and masculinity. Ramy Youssef is amazing as Max McCandles as a medical student that Dr. Baxter brings in to assist him as he falls for Bella while also coping with her absence as he copes with Dr. Baxter’s growing illness as he is someone that represents the best in men as he is also open-minded and caring. Mark Ruffalo is great as Duncan Wedderburn as this sleazy and hedonistic attorney that falls for Bella as he would take her around Europe only to be overwhelmed by her as he is full of dark humor and snobbery that adds to how awful his character is as it is one of Ruffalo’s finest performances.

Willem Dafoe is incredible as Dr. Godwin “God” Baxter as this scientist and surgeon who has a deformed face and hands while also is unable to fart as he is this odd yet caring figure who is trying to understand humanity while caring for Bella as if she’s his daughter as it is a very tender and somber performance from Dafoe. Finally, there’s Emma Stone in a magnificent performance as Bella Baxter as this woman who had been resurrected after committing suicide but with the brain of a baby as she would learn about things while there is also a sense of physicality that Stone brings to her performance. Stone also exudes this sense of wonderment and ferocity in her role as there’s a lot of energy and emotions into her role but also the willingness to be vulgar in a humorous way as it is a performance for the ages.

Poor Things is an outstanding film from Yorgos Lanthimos that features a towering leading performance from Emma Stone. Along with its ensemble cast, Tony McNamara’s riveting script, ravishing visuals, gorgeous cinematography, wondrous sound design, and Jerskin Fendrix’s offbeat score. It is a film that explores a woman’s journey to find herself but also her exploration of sex and identity as it is told in a grand and stylistic manner. In the end, Poor Things is a magnificent film from Yorgos Lanthimos.

Yorgos Lanthimos Films: (My Best Friend (2001 film)) – (Kinetta) – Dogtooth - (Alps) – The Lobster - (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) – The Favourite - Kinds of Kindness - (Bugonia)

© thevoid99 2023

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Blog News: Blog Plans for 2024


2023 is coming to an end as I've finished the 2023 Blind Spot Series earlier than I expected to while something even more surprising came in my Auteurs essay on Kelly Reichardt as I almost thought it wouldn't be finished as I'm glad I did. Yet, it was in going back to my first essay on Sofia Coppola which I updated and expanded as if I hadn't done that. The Reichardt piece wouldn't have created as Coppola gave me that push. Now that I've finished my piece on Reichardt, it does mean that the Auteurs series is definitely returning but not as frequently as I used to do it monthly but then it became every few months until 2019 when my dad passed away and I kept it on hold for years. At the same time, I had been stalling for upcoming new releases as I've already prepared essays for the next two subjects in J.C. Chandor and Michael Mann as the latter is about to have a new film towards the end of the month while the former is going to have one out next year. Both filmmakers' essays will be in the works for the time being but once Chandor's new film Kraven the Hunter comes out, it is likely that his essay will be released sometimes after I see the film. Then I hope to do Mann and then I will go into David Lean.
Then there's the question of what is next and honestly, I really don't know. Part of the difficulty of choosing a subject for the Auteurs series isn't just on who to profile but also the number of films that are available. I have created a shortlist of filmmakers that I want to profile but it is about the films that I want to see and if they're available on a streaming service or on YouTube where I can rent those films. Then there are those that I have profiled over the years as one of the things that I want to do is update some of my old essays with new pictures as well as update some things and write about some new films as I do have a watchlist of the filmmakers I've written about but the films I haven't covered. It will be a bit of a smaller project that relates to the Auteurs series as it will allow me to keep my brain going whenever I'm not reviewing films.

Now that I've unshackled myself from the burden that is cable TV and now have gone full streaming though there's a few services I haven't gotten access to that I'd like to have. The fact that there are still many services available that I can use will allow me to watch whatever I can find. The Cannes marathon will continue but likely in a smaller form due to the fact that there's timing and dealing with a couple of kids to take care of. I still plan on taking part in the 52 Films by Women pledge as I've exceeded my goal this year. I also hope to do more TV-based projects as another thing that will give me something to do as I am planning to do a big project that will take me a few years.
Given the fact that I had grand ideas for a 20th anniversary celebration project for Lost in Translation only for the project to fall apart due to my lack of how to code visuals and all sorts of things as well as the fact that the Blu-Ray I got earlier that year that I watched on September 21st was shit. Instead, I made a list of what I want from a Criterion 4K UHD Blu-Ray for the film. Yet, I saw this failure of this project now as a blessing in disguise as it forced me to think things differently. What I will do instead is write a book about Lost in Translation as I've outlined chapters that will include material that I've written in the past as a lot of it will be new material. This will take years as I want to do it right and take my time with it. That is the one thing I want to do and hopefully lead to something.

I think that is all that I have to say about what I plan to do for next year as well as the years to come. I'm still hoping to get a new laptop while just chilling and relaxing. Hopefully go to a concert or two as I haven't been to one in over 5 years. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off...

© thevoid99 2023

Sunday, December 17, 2023

2023 Blind Spot Series: The Seduction of Mimi


Written and directed by Lina Wertmuller, Mimi metallurgico ferito nell’onore (The Seduction of Mimi) is the story of a poor laborer whose refusal to vote for the Mafia in a local election in favor of a communist candidate as he leaves Sicily for Turin where he falls for a communist sympathizer only to return to Sicily through circumstances beyond his control. The film is an exploration of a man who is caught up in two different systems as he is torn between an unhappy family life and something thrilling in his new lover in the hope of finding a sense of worth in a corrupt and complicated world. Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato, Agostina Belli, Luigi Diberti, Elena Fiore, Tuccio Musumeci, Ignazio Pappalardo, and Turi Ferro. Mimi metallurgico ferito nell’onore is a whimsical and evocative film from Lina Wertmuller.

The film follows a Sicilian laborer who loses his job after refusing to vote for a Mafia-backed candidate as he leaves Sicily for Turin where he finds himself in a far more complicated and corrupt world despite falling for a communist woman whom he would bear his child despite the fact that he’s married. It is a film that explores a man whose attempt to defy the system only to enter a modern world where corruption is almost everywhere as he tries to be part of another system in communism while falling for a woman who shares his ideals only for things to get complicated due to encounters with other Mafia-based factions and such. Lina Wertmuller’s screenplay follows the many misadventures of its titular character in Mimi (Giancarlo Giannini) who lives with a family including his wife Rosalia (Agostina Belli) whom he is unable to impregnate. After it was revealed that he voted for a communist candidate instead of a Mafia-backed candidate, Mimi loses his job as he goes to Turin to find a new job only to realize that he is dealing with those who are part of the Mafia where Mimi claims he’s related to a Mafia boss’ cousin.

During his time in Turin, Mimi would meet Fiorella (Mariangela Melato) who sells sweaters while is also a communist as he tries to prove his love to her including an act of rape that doesn’t go well yet Fiorella falls for him despite the fact that he’s already married. Still, they would gain a child until he witnesses an incident involving the Mafia boss he used to work for would force him to return to Sicily with Fiorella and their son in tow though he doesn’t tell anyone about them. Still, rumors are made about Mimi as he is given a new job with some power as he learns about what Rosalia has done since he left Turin as he decides to get revenge by sleeping with a police officer’s wife in Amalia (Elena Fiore) who learns about what her husband did. Yet, it all plays into everything that Mimi would endure but also how he would also put himself in situations beyond his control and give in to corruption.

Wertmuller’s direction is entrancing for not just showcasing these two different worlds that Mimi would endure as she would set the film both in Sicily but also Turin that both act as unique characters in the film. Notably as the film and closes with a desolate location on a mine in Sicily where a group of men would send out pamphlets to vote for this Mafia-backed candidate where Mimi would show a world where workers have to choose for their own survival as nothing is secret which only frustrates Mimi. The usage of wide and medium shots not only play into the locations that Mimi would be in but also in this sense of isolation that Mimi would endure as a man who feels like he doesn’t belong in the world. Even as Wertmuller would use close-ups to add to the drama including these extreme close-up zooms to show men with three moles on the right side of their faces as they all represent some form of corruption.

While the film is presented as a comedy of sorts as it plays into Mimi’s own background as a Southerner from Sicily who doesn’t understand the ways of the modern world. Especially when it comes to women as Wertmuller doesn’t mince words into the fact that Mimi confuses passion towards women as they feel like he’s trying to rape them. Wertmuller also showcases that despite the freedom that Mimi would attain with Fiorella and in Turin, the presence of the Mafia would always come in to play into his fate. The third act is where Mimi’s actions as a man and this need to be presented as a man showcases some of the fallacies of masculinity as it is a system in itself. A system that is full of flaws as well as the fact that ideals can make people lose sight of what is really important in the grand scheme of things. Overall, Wertmuller crafts a riveting and witty film about a laborer’s attempt to buck the system in a modern and complicated world.

Cinematographer Dario Di Palma does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of fog and low-key natural lighting for the exterior scenes in Turin as well as a mixture of vibrant colors for some scenes in the exteriors in Sicily along with some straightforward lighting for some of the interior shots. Editor Franco Fraticelli does excellent work with the editing as its usage of rhythmic cuts play to the humor along with other straightforward cuts to emphasize some of the drama and suspense. Production designer Amedeo Fago and set decorator Emilio Baldelli do amazing work with the look of the different homes that Mimi lived in to the spacious loft he would share with Fiore in Turin to the more cramped world that he was living in Sicily before his departure to Turin as well as a more chaotic lifestyle upon his return to Sicily. Costume designer Enrico Job does fantastic work with the costumes from the colorful sweaters and wool clothing that Fiorella creates to the more stylish look of suits that Mimi would wear later in the film as well as the black that many of the people in Sicily wears.

Hair stylists Giancarlo De Leonardis and Michele Trimarchi, along with makeup artist Rosa Luciani, do terrific work with the different hairstyles that Mimi would have throughout his time from the ragged perm as a laborer to a slick look while the makeup showcases the different bosses that Mimi would encounter. Sound mixer Franco Bassi is superb as it play into the atmosphere of the locations and the places where Mimi would work at as well as some sound effects that add to the drama. The film’s music by Piero Piccioni is wonderful for its orchestral score that has some playful themes as well as some somber themes that add to the film’s humor and drama.

The film’s remarkable cast feature some notable small roles from Livia Giampalmo as the wife of a worker who is friends with Rosalia, Gianfranco Barra as Amalia’s police sergeant husband whom Mimi doesn’t like, Ignazio Pappalardo and Tuccio Musumeci as a couple of fellow laborers that are friends of Mimi who feel alienated by his new social status, and Luigi Diberti as a mysterious figure from the Mafia that wants to help Mimi. Elena Fiore is brilliant as Amalia Finocchiaro as the police sergeant’s wife whom Mimi tries to woo in the film’s third act in an act of revenge as she also learns about what her husband did as she takes part in the revenge. In a trio of roles as different Mafia bosses, Turi Ferro is excellent in those different roles as men who serve as an obstacle for Mimi as well as make him do things he doesn’t want to do.

Agostina Belli is amazing as Rosalia as Mimi’s wife who never feels sexually attracted to Mimi as she is often sad until Mimi leaves Turin where she finds herself and does things that would eventually piss Mimi off bad. Mariangela Melato is incredible as Fiorella as a Trotskyist clothing designer whom Mimi falls for as she shares Mimi’s ideals relating to communism while coping with the fact that he’s married as well as involve himself in things that are too much for him to handle. Finally, there’s Giancarlo Giannini in a sensational performance as Mimi as this laborer who tries to defy the system only to leave Sicily for Turin only to encounter a far more complicated world and then return to Sicily with a new family only to put himself in bad situations. Giannini’s performance is full of wit and physicality in his approach to humor but also showcases a man who is seriously flawed in his treatment of women but also how his masculinity and idealism would also play into his downfall.

Mimi metallurgico ferito nell’onore is a phenomenal film from Lina Wertmuller that features an incredible leading performance from Giancarlo Giannini. Along with its ensemble cast, colorful visuals, a playful music score, and its exploration of social and gender politics from the views of a man that is trying to buck the system. It is a film that showcases a man trying to fight the system only to realize that he is part of a system that is far more complicated than what he’s trying to rebel against. In the end, Mimi metallurgico ferito nell’onore is a sensational film from Lina Wertmuller.

Lina Wertmuller Films: (The Lizards) - (Let’s Talk About Men) - (Rita the Mosquito) - (Don’t Sting the Mosquito) - (The Belle Starr Story) - Love and Anarchy - (All Screwed Up) – Swept Away - Seven Beauties - (A Night Full of Rain) - (Blood Feud) - (A Joke of Destiny) - (Softly, Softly) - (Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) - (Summer Night) - (As Long as It’s Love) - (The Tenth One in Hiding) - (Ciao, Professore!) - (The Nymph) - (The Blue Collar Worker and the Hairdresser in a Whirl of Sex and Politics) - (Ferdinando and Carolina) - (Too Much Romance…It’s Time for Stuffed Peppers)

© thevoid99 2023

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Cow (2021 film)


Directed by Andrea Arnold, Cow is a documentary film about the life of two dairy cows at a farm in Kent, England. The film is an exploration into the lives of these two cows and what they do and provide as well as showcase the world they live in as it is told in a cinema verite style. The result is an exhilarating and riveting film from Andrea Arnold.

Set on the dairy farm area in Kent, England, the film follows the life of a cow who would give birth to two calves on different occasions in the course of a year with a focus on the dairy cow Luma as she spends what might be the final year of her life and one of her calves who is starting a life of her own. It is a film that showcases a year in the life of Luma as it begins with the birth of her first calf as well as how a calf develops and then be sent to a nearby farm with other calves while Luma endures her own struggles in providing milk with other cows. A lot of it takes place in different seasons where Andrea Arnold follows the lives of these two cows with Luma being its main protagonist with farmers doing what they can to check on her health and everything else. Arnold does showcases the farmers from afar as they do a lot to ensure the well-being of the cows and calves where there are moments as a farmer checks on Luma and see if she can pump milk while one of them is careful in putting a machine on its udders as there is a humanity to the way Arnold showcases farmers doing what is right.

With the aid of cinematographers Magda Kowalczyk and Ponvishal Chidambaranathan, Arnold keeps a lot of the visual elements straightforward as there are moments where everything is gorgeous such as a scene of one of Luma’s calves roaming free in the grass and eating some of the grass as she is playing with other calves. Much of Arnold’s direction emphasizes on hand-held cameras to capture everything as it is happening while there are some odd moments as Arnold and her crew are forced to watch such as Luma being mounted by a male cow who would impregnate her leading to the birth of a second calf. Editors Rebecca Lloyd, Jacob Schulsinger, and Nicolas Chaudeurge would keep much of the editing straightforward where shots go on for minutes as Arnold wanted to showcase everything but also knowing where to put the camera from afar. Especially during the film’s final moments as what is presented is shocking but it’s not surprising for the fact that there is a fate for cows yet Arnold showcases that the farmers at least do it with a sense of dignity no matter how horrible a cow’s fate can be.

Sound designers Maria Carolina Santana Caraballo-Gramcko and Raphael Sohier, with sound editor Nicolas Becker, do amazing work with the sound in capturing everything that is happening as the layers of sound in the cows’ moos as it adds a unique atmosphere to the film. Music supervisor Simon Astall does fantastic work in cultivating a lot of the music that is played on location as there’s always music played in the farm as it’s usually something that is being aired from the BBC as it includes music from Billie Eilish with Khalid, Soak, Charlotte Day Wilson, Kali Uchis with Tyler the Creator and Bootsy Collins, Mabel, Angel Olsen, Jorja Smith with Kali Uchis, Olivia Dean, Kelsey Lu, Woom, and the Pogues with Kirsty MacColl while the lone non-diegetic music used in the film is from Garbage.

Cow is a tremendous film from Andrea Arnold. Featuring gorgeous imagery, an evocative soundtrack, and a riveting look into the life of a cow and one of her calves. The film is an unconventional yet daring documentary film that explores the life of a cow in all of its fascinating stages as well as a calf coming into her own development while being unaware of what will happen to her mother. In the end, Cow is a sensational film from Andrea Arnold.

Andrea Arnold Films: Red Road - Fish Tank - Wuthering Heights - American Honey - (Bird (2024 film)) - The Auteurs #31: Andrea Arnold

© thevoid99 2023

Friday, December 08, 2023

The Auteurs #72: Kelly Reichardt


One of the key filmmakers to be part of a new wave of American neo-realism in the 21st Century, Kelly Reichardt is a unique individual who doesn’t play into the conventions of Hollywood. Rather making minimalist-based films that center around real people who are either part of the working class or on the fringes of society. Often refusing to have her films defined by genre or to play to its rules, Reichardt would also explore ideas of feminism as it relate to women and their environment but also allow men to express their own voices in a world that expects so much from them. While her films may not appeal to a wide audience, she has become a filmmaker who has managed to let the audience find her and come out of her films seeing the world differently from what Hollywood would expect.

Born on March 3, 1964 in Miami, Florida, Kelly Reichardt was the daughter of two people who both served the local law enforcement in the state as she grew up in the city where she was fascinated by the world of photography at a young age. Despite also enduring the separation of her parents around that time, Reichardt’s fascination with photography also lead her to discover the world of film. Attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in Boston where she received her MFA, Reichardt’s interest in film increased as she sought to make something of her own while also taking a job as a teacher for many liberal art schools. Yet, the late 1980s and early 1990s saw an opportunity for Reichardt to develop ideas for what would become her first feature film.

River of Grass
Inspired by her own experiences in South Florida, Reichardt and producer Jesse Hartman worked on a treatment for a story about a housewife/mother who meets a man in a bar who had found a handgun where they accidentally shoot the gun believing they had killed someone. The couple would go on the road to escape the law yet they would endure this air of realism as it relates to uncertainty and lack of funds as Reichardt who understood the idea of wanting to leave a certain place but not have the money to do so is something she would explore with later films. With a small budget and a small crew that include cinematographer Jim Denault and be shot on location parts of South Florida including Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.

Reichardt would get a cast of mostly unknowns and lesser-known actors such as Michael Buscemi, Greg Schroeder, Santo Fazio, Dick Russell, and Lisa Bowman while horror film icon Larry Fessenden would play the lead role of Lee and Bowman as the female lead Cozy. Fessenden, who is also a filmmaker, would help Reichardt with a lot of the film’s post-production work where he edited and did sound design for the film as it would give Reichardt an idea of what to do where she would later take on editing duties herself in future films. Given the limited resources she is given, Reichardt would shoot on actual locations to give the film that air of realism while getting help from her parents to help with law enforcement as they would appear in the film in small cameos. Reichardt would also play into the idea of these two people who both live unhappy lives and their attempts to escape South Florida. Yet, they’re unaware that the handgun that Lee found actually belonged to her father while they also don’t know about the man they supposedly shot as it adds to panic and confusion along with the little money they had to get out of South Florida including a fee for the toll.

The film made its premiere at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival in January of that year where it was well-received as it was followed a month later at a screening at the Berlin International Film Festival where it also received a rousing reception. The film took a year to get a distributor where it finally shown publicly in New York City in August 1995 at the Public Theater that was followed by its limited release later that October. The film would garner three nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature, Best Debut Performance for Lisa Bowman, and the Someone to Watch Award to Reichardt yet all of the critical acclaim and positive response from film festivals wouldn’t give her money to make another film which was common for women filmmakers in those times.

Ode/Then, a Year/Travis

Like many independent filmmakers who were unable to get funding for projects, Reichardt spent the rest of the 1990s trying to get projects going and like many other women filmmakers before her, who didn’t work within the Hollywood system, found her efforts to get funding stalled. The lack of money to get any feature film projects going forced Reichardt to do things herself by creating a trilogy of short films as the first was an adaptation of Herman Raucher’s novel Ode to Billie Joe that was based on Bobbie Gentry’s hit song from 1967. Shot on Super 8mm film, Reichardt’s 52-minute short would feature score music by indie musician Will Oldham and a cover of a Sun-Raa song by Yo La Tengo. The short starred Heather Gottlieb and Kevin Poole as a young couple who try to be together despite the fact that the former is a pastor’s daughter and the latter is a troubled runaway. Featuring narration by Terry Bison, the film explores that air of realism of why this couple couldn’t be together as it relate to their respective environments including identities and social politics as Reichardt would receive support from many in the independent film community including Todd Haynes and Ira Sachs to get the short made and released through film festivals in 1999.

Two years later during the early days of the George W. Bush administration, Reichardt would make a short entitled Then, a Year as it is largely a collage of images shot in Portland, Oregon that includes narration by many people from TV crime shows including love letters written by Mary Kay Letourneau who was infamous as a school teacher who got impregnated by her teenage student. The 13-minute short would have Reichardt not just emphasize on images serving as collages to play into this sense of uncertainty in the early 2000s. It also showcases a world that seems peaceful yet the many voiceover narrations show a world that is anything but peaceful. Reichardt would have the film be shown in various film festivals as she would get the support of many in the independent film community despite the lack of funds she would receive.

Three years later, Reichardt made another short that would have similarities in her previous short as it’s based on collages where it would play into loss and the chaos surrounding the War of Iraq. The 12-minute short would essentially display blurry images that would loop throughout the film with ambient guitar accompaniment by Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan where a woman speaks about her son going into war as it would repeat throughout yet it would play into the sense of loss, fear, and anger the woman would endure as the short would be well-received with the independent film community.

Old Joy
Having moved from Florida to Portland, Oregon in the early 2000s, in which the city was a haven for various filmmakers in the independent film scene that wanted little to do with Hollywood, Reichardt would meet writer Jonathan Raymond, whose stories set in various parts of Oregon where he lived, as the two would begin a fruitful collaboration that either had Reichardt adapt some of Raymond’s work or with the two working together on a project. Taking one of Raymond’s short story about two friends who go on a weekend camping trip to the Cascade mountain range and stay at the Bagby Hot Springs. The project would be an exploration of the emergence of adulthood with these two men both enduring major changes in their lives as the trip would be a final moment for the two as they’re both about to embark the next phase in their lives.

Reichardt and Raymond would work together on creating a script for the film as it would explore two men living in two different lifestyles as it would also explore the harsh reality and economic turmoil in America under the George W. Bush administration. Playing the lead roles in the film is indie musician Will Oldham and actor Daniel London in their respective roles as Kurt and Mark with the former living as a hippie and the latter is a man with a job and a home and a child to emerge. The film would also star Reichardt’s dog Lucy as she would join the two on the trip as the film would be made on a small budget $30,000 with Reichardt serving as her own editor and having a small crew including cinematographer Peter Sillen shooting the film. The film would be shot on location at the Cascade mountain range and at the Bagby Hot Springs as it be told in a style that is low-key and simple which would be a style that Reichardt would perfect in the years to come.

Helping Reichardt with the post production is the indie-rock band Yo La Tengo as they would provide some score music for the film while sound designer Daniel Perlin would help gather radio clips from Air America Radio that plays into the growing alienation for Kurt and Mark over the next phase in their lives. The film made its premiere in January of 2006 at the Sundance Film Festival where it was well-received by critics and audiences. The film would become a hit at various film festivals including the Rotterdam International Film Festival as it helped exposed Reichardt to a worldwide audience. Though the film only gained a small and limited theatrical release, it would be well-received by critics where it shared the Douglas Edwards Experimental/Independent Film/Video Award prize with So Yong Kim’s In Between Days from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and a producer’s award to Neil Kopp at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Wendy and Lucy
Through her friendship with Jonathan Raymond, Reichardt chose to adapt another story that Raymond had as it relates to a young woman traveling to Alaska with her dog only to lose the dog because of an accidental shoplifting incident. The story played into many of Reichardt’s interest in some of the economic disparity people are going through during the George W. Bush presidency as well as the recent 2007-2008 financial crisis. Yet, Reichardt wanted to play into those that don’t fit in towards social standings that are beneficial as well as what happens to those with very little money and control of their situations. The film would once again be set in Portland and areas nearby as it would be this place where the film’s protagonist Wendy would be stranded by due to the fact that her car is out of gas and doesn’t have much money. Reichardt would work with an entirely new crew with the exception of Will Oldham and producer Larry Fessenden who would both make small cameos in the film while Reichardt’s dog Lucy would play the titular role of the dog.

For the role of Wendy, Michelle Williams took on the part as it would mark a major departure for the actress who gained fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the teen TV drama Dawson’s Creek though would follow her time in the show doing different kind of films in studio features to working in offbeat indie films for such filmmakers as Wim Wenders, Thomas McCarthy, Todd Haynes, Charlie Kaufman, and Ang Lee in the last of which was in the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain where she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Williams took part in the $300,000 budgeted film just two days after completing work in Kaufman’s film Synecdoche, New York as she cut her hair and dyed it brunette to play the role of Wendy. Williams also took the role as a way to cope with her own personal issues as she and then-boyfriend in Australian actor Heath Ledger were going through a separation as she found comfort in Reichardt’s approach as well as playing a character that had to fend for herself.

The film made its premiere at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival that May as it played at the Un Certain Regard section where it was well-received with the dog Lucy winning the festival’s Palm Dog award. Following a run of appearances at various film festivals, the film was given a limited release in early December of 2008 as the film managed to gross $1.4 million overall against its $300,000 budget while garnering rave reviews and a slew of awards from various critics at the year-end polls towards both Reichardt and Williams including being voted as the best film of the year by the American Film Institute.

Meek's Cutoff
The success of Wendy and Lucy not only allowed Reichardt some newfound clout but also the chance to work with a bigger budget as she and Jonathan Raymond decided to create a project based on the Oregon Trail as it relates to a real-life incident in 1845. Raymond would write the project as it would mark a major departure for Reichardt as it would be her first period film as well as with a budget of $2 million which would be the biggest production of her career to date. Fortunately, the experience of working with Michelle Williams proved to be fruitful as Williams chose to take part in the project as a key factor for the film’s budget. While Reichardt would retain the service of sound designer Leslie Shatz who worked on Wendy and Lucy, Reichardt would gain a new collaborator in Christopher Blauvet as her cinematographer who had been a camera operator in several prominent indie films including Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg and Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are.

With an ensemble cast that would include Bruce Greenwood as the infamous guide Stephen Meek as well as Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Will Patton, Neal Huff, Tommy Nelson, Rod Rondeaux, and British actress Shirley Henderson. The film would be shot on location in barren areas of Oregon similar to where its trail was based on as Reichardt and Blauvet wanted to maintain a realistic look to the film. Even as Reichardt would shoot the film in the 1:37:1 Academy ratio which was a format made for Westerns before the 1950s and the emergence of widescreen. Reichardt use the format to create a sense of claustrophobia as the settlers ponder whether Meek knows where he’s going with Williams’ character often challenging him as well as intervening in wanting to kill a Native. The film also played into elements of slow-core cinema that is a style adopted by European filmmakers that allowed long shots to commence as it would to the air of uncertainty the characters would endure.

The film premiered in September of 2010 at the Venice Film Festival in competition for the Golden Lion where it was well-received as well as win the SIGNIS Award at the festival. The film would be followed by a limited theatrical release through Oscilloscope Laboratories in April of 2011 in the U.S. as the film grossed $1.2 million. Despite its lackluster box office performance, the film would get rave reviews in the U.S. and Europe as it would continue Reichardt’s reputation as a top filmmaker despite her commercial limitations.

Night Moves
Having tackled a genre film with Meek’s Cutoff, Reichardt decided to once again go into another genre film in the form of a suspense-drama but with her own take as it plays into real people in real-life situations where things can go wrong. With Jonathan Raymond co-writing the screenplay with Reichardt, the project would revolve around two radical environmentalists who team up with a former marine in blowing up a dam where the aftermath of the event lead to a lot of issues. Reichardt would gather many of her collaborators including David Doernberg who did the production design for Meek’s Cutoff but died in March of 2012 during pre-production as Reichardt would dedicate the film to him. The film would be shot in Southern Oregon with the dam shot at the Galesville Reservoir at the Klamath Mountains along with other nearby locations that would give the film a minimalist feel with a limited budget. While Paul Dano and Rooney Mara were in consideration to play the lead roles, Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning were eventually cast as the environmentalists along with Peter Sarsgaard as a former marine who works with them with the ensemble that would include Alia Shawkat, Katharine Waterston, James LeGros, Kai Lennox, and Logan Miller.

Before shooting was to begin in the fall of 2012, the project was nearly halted by a lawsuit from the Edward R. Pressman Film company over plagiarism as it relates to a planned adaptation of Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang that was to be helmed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Though the stories shared similar ideas, the lawsuit was eventually dismissed in early 2013 months after Reichardt and her crew shot the film during the fall of 2012 in a thirty-day shoot. Reichardt would maintain her minimalist approach as well as showcase how a group of people would plan a bombing but also with an aftermath that is troubling as it relates to guilt and paranoia. Even as Reichardt and Raymond would play with the structure with its first half being about planning the act of destroying the dam and its second half being its aftermath.

The film made its premiere on August 31, 2013 at the Venice Film Festival in competition for the Golden Lion where it was well-received despite not winning any awards. The film would also be well received at various film festivals in the following weeks including winning the Grand Prix prize at the Deauville American Film Festival in France as it would be followed by its U.S. release in late May of 2014 through Cinedigm where it got rave reviews despite its limited screening. Still, the film grossed more than $850,000 worldwide despite not being a commercial hit as Reichardt would still be a darling of the critics but not someone with any true commercial appeal.

Certain Women
Following two films that explored different genres despite not being commercially successful, Reichardt decided to change things a bit as she had spent much of her film work in Oregon as she wanted a change of scenery. Reading the short stories of Maile Meloy that all play into the struggles of women living in Montana, Reichardt was fascinated by these stories as she decided to take a trio of them and turn it into an anthology film all based on Meloy’s stories with Reichardt writing the script herself allowing Jonathan Raymond to take a break. With cinematographer Christopher Blauvet, sound designer Kent Sparling, and music composer Jeff Grace returning to work with Reichardt as they had become regular collaborators along with Larry Fessenden serving as an executive producer. It would be filmmaker Todd Haynes that would help Reichardt provide the funding she needed as the film would be given a $2 million budget with Michelle Williams also playing a key role in the funding as she would co-star in the film along with Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and newcomer Lily Gladstone in lead roles.

With a cast that would include James LeGros, Jared Harris, John Getz, and Rene Auberjonois, the film would be set in Livingston, Montana instead of Helena where Meloy based her stories at. The three stories would play into women in Livingston with Laura Dern as an attorney dealing with a disabled client who has become desperate for money by holding a security guard hostage as it would be the first story. The second story has Michelle Williams as a woman who is trying to have her dream home built as she is dealing with issues including her teenage daughter. The third story stars Gladstone and Stewart with the former as a lonely ranch hand who attends night school where she befriends a young teacher played by the latter. It all plays into these women eager to connect or to take control of something in a world that is often isolated from conventional society with Livingston being this key location that Reichardt would use to play into a world that these women live in even though they don’t interact with one another.

The film made its premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in January of that year to great acclaim followed by festival appearances including winning the top prize at that year’s London Film Festival as the film would get a limited U.S. release that October through IFC Films where it grossed over a million dollars in the U.S. making it Reichardt’s highest grossing U.S. film to date as its worldwide tally would be at $1.5 million. Despite not covering its $2 million budget, the film would receive a lot of praise from critics as the film would be released in France a year later where Cahier du Cinema would name it the third best film of 2017. The film would also garner numerous critics’ prizes including a New York Film Critics prize for Best Supporting Actress to Michelle Williams for her performance for the film as well as for Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea while Lily Gladstone would also get many notices as it would begin her ascent to stardom.

First Cow
Following the release of Certain Women, Reichardt had revealed to the press that her next project was to be an adaptation of Patrick deWitt’s novel Undermajordomo Minor as she would collaborate with deWitt for the script as it would be the first film that Reichardt would shoot outside of the U.S. Yet, the project would go into development hell as Reichardt decided to put the project on hold to reunite with Jonathan Raymond in adapting his novel First Cow about a loner who befriends a Chinese immigrant in the Oregon territory in the early 19th Century as they discover a cow from a rich landowner as they use the cow to make some money. The project would be Reichardt’s second period piece film as it would also shift its focus on two men who are trying to live simple lives as Reichardt and Raymond would write the script together with cinematographer Christopher Blauvet, production designer Anthony Gasparro, and sound designer Leslie Shatz returning to be part of the project with famed producer Scott Rudin serving as a producer for the film.

With a budget over $2 million as it would then be Reichardt’s most expensive project to date, the film would star John Magaro and Orion Lee in the lead roles with a supporting cast that would include British actor Toby Jones as the landowner as well as indie rock musician Stephen Malkamus, Ewen Bremner, Gary Farmer, Scott Shepherd, Lily Gladstone in a small role, and Rene Auberjonois in one of his final film performances as a trader. Alia Shawkat would also make an appearance in the film’s opening scene set in the 21st Century as a woman who finds a shallow grave as it would lead into the main story. Production began in November 2018 as it was shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio to give the film a presentation that is unconventional but adds to this story of two outsiders who don’t fit in with this emerging territory at a time when it was starting to get civilized with those in power wanting to control things because of a cow that allows these two men to take its milk and make things that would get them rich.

The film premiered in late August of 2019 at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado to a great reception that was followed by a showing at the New York Film Festival less than a month later as the film would get U.S. distribution to A24 for its theatrical release in the spring of 2020. After a well-received screening at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival in competition for the Golden Bear, the film’s limited U.S. release started off until it was pulled a week into its showing due to the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down all film theaters though the film would get screened through various streaming platforms in July of that year. Despite its relatively short theatrical run, the film did manage to gross $1.4 million worldwide with many felt it would’ve been Reichardt’s first commercial hit. Still, the film would garner numerous rave reviews and end up in many year-end lists as one of 2020’s best films with its biggest prizes in being named Best Film of 2020 by the New York Film Critics Circle as well as being named the best film of 2021 for its French release by Cahier du Cinema.

Owl/Bronx, New York November 2019/Cal State Long Beach, CA January 2020

During post-production for First Cow, Reichardt and cinematographer Christopher Blauvet collaborated on a 4-minute short film in which they captured the activity of an owl late one night though it was meant for an owl to sense something but it missed its cue leading to a happy accident occurring for this four-minute short. The short was one of a trio of shorts made in late 2019 and early 2020 as the second short was made during a visit to the Bronx in New York City as part of a series of projects for a French YouTube channel in Centre Pompidou. The first of the two shorts would revolve around an art gallery instillation at the Bronx by Michelle Segre as it is a largely silent documentary short that has Reichardt and her crew that includes Christopher Blauvet shoot Segre as she makes her art with so much attention to detail in her loft studio in the Bronx.

Reichardt’s second short for Centre Pompidou focuses on two sculptors in Jessica Jackson Hutchins and Alexander Demetriou at their studio at Cal State on Long Beach, California. While it shares the same aesthetics as Reichardt’s previous short, it does feature a bit of dialogue in the film as Reichardt showcases the meticulous detail the two put into their sculptures. Despite their different styles, both Hutchins and Demetriou do showcase unique visions into what they want to present as the short also show them what they’re capable of despite not fitting in with mainstream art.

Showing Up
Inspired by her collaboration with Centre Pompidou as well as returning to a project she had been developing for a decade in a project about the Canadian artist Emily Carr. Reichardt decided to create a film about the art world as well as the struggle for an artist to create art despite not making a lot of money. Teaming with Jonathan Raymond in writing a screenplay that would explore a woman set to open her own art exhibition as she deals with her family, friends, competing artists including her landlord, and tending to an ailing pigeon. Gathering many of her collaborators in cinematographer Christopher Blauvet, production designer Anthony Gasparro, costume designer April Napier, music composter Ethan Rose, and visual effects supervisor Chris Connolly as well as putting other regulars in John Magaro, Larry Fessenden, and James LeGros in small roles. The film would also mark Reichardt’s fourth collaboration with Michelle Williams who would play the lead role of artist Lizzy as the film would take place in Portland, Oregon with the Oregon College of Arts and Craft being a key location in the film.

The ensemble cast would also include Maryann Plunkett, Hong Chau, Judd Hirsch, Amanda Plummer, and Andre Benjamin aka Andre 3000 of the Atlanta-based hip-hop duo Outkast who would collaborate with Rose on the film’s music score by playing flute. Shooting began in Portland in June of 2021 just as the COVID-19 pandemic was coming a close with actors and crew allowing to work regularly with some precautions as the shooting took over a month. Artist Cynthia Lahti would be the artist that would create the sculptures that Williams’ character would create as Williams also studied with Lahti and others to understand the amount of craftsmanship artists go through in their work. Hong Chau would also do the same as the art work her created was inspired by Michelle Segre and others where Reichardt was able to capture the spirit of the Portland art scene that was starting to get back on track following the pandemic. Even as Reichardt also managed to help out the art scene and the Oregon College of Arts and Craft in showcasing many of its local artists who had been stifled by the pandemic.

The film made its premiere in May of 2022 at the Cannes Film Festival where it played in competition for the Palme d’Or as it was well-received despite not winning any awards as the film would be picked up by A24 for a limited theatrical release in April of 2023 in the U.S. to great acclaim and a worldwide box office tally of $1.2 million. The film would also receive some accolades including appearing in the year-end top 10 list from Cahier du Cinema as well as being named as one of year’s best independent films from the National Board of Review and gaining the Robert Altman Award for its ensemble cast from the Independent Spirit Awards.

While she may not have the commercial appeal as other women filmmakers as well as the clout that other filmmakers can get to make their own films. Kelly Reichardt does however have an integrity in doing things her way and sticking to her guns. Even if her films has a limited appeal on a commercial level yet remains beloved by film buffs as she’s made eight feature films so far that are all unique in its depiction of showing a realism that some of her contemporaries wouldn’t go into. It is why her films are lauded as there is always interest in what she will do next no matter how long fans might have to wait which is common with most independent filmmakers including women. Yet, when it comes to Kelly Reichardt and her films. They’re always worth waiting for.

© thevoid99 2023