September 19, 2006

Old Joy.

Old Joy At Reverse Shot, Vicente Rodriguez-Ortega talks with Kelly Reichardt about what remains one of my favorite films of the year so far, Old Joy.

J Hoberman, writing in the Voice, calls it "a diminished, grunge Easy Rider.... Coming in the same year as Andrew Bujalski's similarly understated and character-driven Mutual Appreciation, it attests to a new strain in Amerindie production - literate but not literary, crafted without ostentation, rooted in a specific place and devoted to small sensations."

Adam Nayman opens the Reverse Shot round at indieWIRE: "It can be read as many things: as a sorrowful account of liberal alienation, as a gentle rebuttal of weekend-warrior movie tropes, or as a muted tragedy of unrequited affection. Old Joy is complex, but it is not a carefully attenuated Rhorshach test like Gus Van Sant's Gerry, one of several films to which it will inevitably be compared (the others are Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Blissfully Yours and, more tenuously, Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain)."

Updated through 9/25.

Dave Kehr, by the way, has a fine piece on Old Joy in the print version of the current issue of Film Comment.

Update, 9/20: A "triumph of modesty and of seriousness that also happens to be one of the finest American films of the year," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "[I]f Mark and Kurtís excursion resembles any number of classic adventures across time and space, the film is also insistently about this specific moment in time and space. Namely, an America in which progressive radio (actually, snippets from Air America) delivers the relentless grind of bad news that Mark can only listen to without comment and with a face locked in worry, a face on which Ms Reichardt invites us to project the shell shock, despair and hopelessness of everyone else listening in across the country."

Updates, 9/22: Alison Willmore: "[T]he film accomplishes more in its subdued 76 minutes than others have with casts of dozens and globe-spanning sets."

Armond White in the New York Press: "Old Joy's gentility could be called a woman's take on Deliverance, but it's really just indie persnicketyness. Old Joy stays high-minded about human behavior, and yet one walks away thinking, 'I have no idea who those people really are.'"

"Some viewers may well be bored, or monumentally irritated, by this," warns Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "I found it masterly, riveting."

Michael Joshua Rowin interviews Reichardt for Stop Smiling: "I know I'm not capable of making an out-and-out political film, but I did think there were elements in the film of what I was experiencing - ineffectualness - and I saw in the characters' relationship a metaphor: two lost liberals trying to find their way. But I concentrated on the friendship - the other stuff were ideas for myself, ideas that make you feel like you're doing something relevant."

Daniel Kasman: "Director Kelly Reichardt lets the film drift too much on standard cinematic tropes of buddy films and pastoral getaway narratives (towards the end I began to wonder if Old Joy was leading up to a murder), and the well-composed but unsatisfying look of the film further drains away a texture of realness from an already gaseous scenario."

Dan Persons talks with Reichardt for IFC News.

"Why aren't we seeing more independent films like these? Are there more Bujalskis and Reichardts in hiding somewhere?" asks Scott Tobias at the AV Club. "After the studios co-opted the independent movement with their specialty divisions (Fox Searchlight, Warner Independent Pictures, Focus Features, etc.), has the door completely closed for true independent films? Are directors who could be making low-key films such as Mutual Appreciation and Old Joy having to tailor their art in order to appeal to these studio divisions?"

Update, 9/25: It took forty years, argues Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic, but the literary Beats finally found their cinematic equivalent in what he calls the "Listless Film," the first of which would be Slacker. A "good Listless Film carries a double melancholy for all: it makes us sad for its characters and sad for the world that has thus affected them. Old Joy is such a film... About [Reichardt's] directing, after praising her simplicity, one has to praise her daring. To make this film took considerable conviction - and, for an artist, conviction usually entails courage."

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Posted by dwhudson at September 19, 2006 3:12 PM


Part of what works in 'Old Joy' is the tension the viewer feels based on what we expect in a movie about two guys who go away together into the woods. One is that something horrible will happen [like Blair Witch or something]. The other is the homosexual expectation, which one expects in indie films these days.
Some viewers will be disappointed that the movie doesn't take these routes. But that was never the director's intention in the first place.
Maybe that's one reason I like it. It's not a genre movie.

Posted by: Matt at September 19, 2006 4:45 PM