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Archive for February 15th, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by James Clark

At the outset of Kelly Reichardt’s film from 2008, Wendy is taking her dog, Lucy, for a walk in some wooded area near a railway freight yard where one of the boxcars announces, “Golden West Service.” She puts moderate body English into her tossing a stick for her golden girl to retrieve; and there’s a tone of curiously guarded warmth in her voice, “Drop it, Luce!” Coinciding with that attenuation unsuited to so young a woman with school girlish features, are her severe hair, faded complexion and boyish attire—a sweatshirt with a hoodie and tight basketball-length shorts (somehow redolent of the presence of Joan of Arc).

That overriding reserve in her presence here is set in much sharper relief by the subsequent stage of their walk. It leads them to a fire-lit encampment of late-adolescent drifters, waiting to hop a southbound freight in the morning. Lucy has discovered them first, in plunging ahead in what is now darkness, coming upon figures so raw and elemental as disclosed by the pulsing flames (bearded, dirty, with matted hair, missing teeth, a bandaged arm, head gear implicating the faces in medieval times)—who resemble a rag-tag army (say, from the early fifteenth century). They are quick and effusive to pay deference to the beast and the presence of a young, austere beauty. A shapeless girl, with studs in her nose and mouth, calls out, “Great dog! What’s her name?”/ “Lucy,” is Wendy’s quiet reply, with no eagerness to maintain the familiarity. (She had paused from the fringes of the woods to overlook the company, with far from enthusiasm on her face.) Instantly, as if she were a born leader, Wendy finds the way to glide by the little traffic jam they clearly represent to her. “I’m going to Alaska… to Ketchikan [Catch-as-catch-can], to work in a fish cannery…” That gambit elicits from the foot soldiers, firstly, a torrent of glib, callow, mildly irreverent encouragement. “… good for greenhorns… [free] housing’s awesome… Money’s better with them [that cannery]…” The head honcho of this group of routed irregulars (“Icky”) grabs from that reminiscence a take-off for cheap bravado, for instance, regarding what a person of interest he is up there. Seeing himself as a picaresque sweetheart, he first alludes to his being big-time notorious, in having, while drunk, wrecked a piece of heavy equipment, his playfulness behind the wheel resulting in rolling the big and somehow offensive (to him) instrument. “A hundred thousand dollars, gone in four seconds! … They couldn’t pin it on me… I was gone!” (more…)

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