Archive for November 7th, 2017

 © 2017 by James Clark

      This film, from 2010, touted as a remarkably “minimalist” presentation in the form of getting real about the gritty hardships of mid-nineteenth-century travel with a view to starting afresh in Oregon Territory, proves to be, in fact, a most modern story. It features three ox-drawn covered wagons, a circus-cowboy-buffoon and scout and three ladies of the convoy in bonnets and gowns so pronounced they resemble an order of nuns. There is, you might appreciate, room for large confusion in getting to the remarkable sophistication being the nub of this work’s working.

Whereas other film investigators in her orbit tend to put all their audacious cards on the table each time out—producing therewith a critical mass of mysterious logic for their fans to digest in relative tranquility—Reichardt harbors a secret trajectory (from out of the iconoclastic territory beloved by her colleagues). And that outer limit does not show up in strength time after time. In fact, to date, it has only appeared twice, in our current effort, and in the very recent, Certain Women (2016). Badasses everywhere you turn; but rarely devising something about badasses beyond the standard appalment and compromised isolation. In Meek’s Cutoff, the desperately lost wagon train captures a lone Indian and proceeds to coerce him to reveal where the water might be. In Certain Women, Jamie (an Indian woman requiring some surveillance to be seen as such) offers to show a lost lawyer where the fun is and gets a rude brush-off which smashes her equilibrium going forward. In the saga of Meek and his would-be cutoff of a supposed primitive nobody, there comes about a turning of the tables, with the outsider having somehow acquired the trappings of an insider. But so much seemingly old-school nail-biting and games-playing obtrudes there that the remarkableness of the loner does not effectively register. However, in the light of Jamie’s being robbed of her unsecured mojo, Meek’s Cutoff (Meek the boss-clown being denied his bid to annihilate the Oregon Indian) brings that “new frontier,” which tripped up Jamie, to an instinctively vivid significance. (more…)

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