Text

The Road at the Time of the Crisis | screening four
curated by pasqualecicchetti

Director: Wes Anderson
Country:
USA
Language:
English
Duration:
91 minutes
Year:
2007
Age:
15

An offbeat adventure set in the Indian subcontinent, The Darjeeling Limited presents yet another tale of self-discovery, punctuated by paradoxical twists.

Wes Anderson’s quirky take on the genre revolves around the story of three brothers. Following the death of their father, the Whitmans ride the Darjeeling Limited, a lively luxury train travelling across India, in a supposedly spiritual journey planned by their eldest brother Francis. The unlikely trio go through a carousel of encounters and tragicomic adventures, until eventually they manage to leave behind their weighty baggage - both literally and figuratively - and reunite.

Clearly devised as a national allegory (see the characters’ name), The Darjeeling Limited retrieves the thrill of the ‘move beyond’ which belongs to the tradition of the road genre. Its delivery of the trope, however, is wrapped up in Anderson’s distinctive film-making style, which makes it hard to discern the difference between parody and sincerity, between laughter and nostalgia. The result is a cunning mixture of hope and bitter-sweet resignation. Starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, the film won the Little Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2007.

— pc

Date and time of event: 2/10/2012, 9pm.
Ticket Prices: £6 (£5 Students)
Venue: The Byre Theatre of St Andrews, Abbey St, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9LA
t: 01334 475000
f: 01334 475370
e: enquiries@byretheatre.com

(thanks to evaunderwater for posting the picture)

Photo Set

A conclusion, with style.

(via evilrobin-deactivated20121112)

Text

After this avalanche of criticism, I will keep my own writing brief and punctual.

so well, I selected Wendy and Lucy because, as Scott also pointed out, it replicates some of the elements already mentioned about Into the Wild: the generational rupture, the inward turn of the journey (Alaska being the common destination for both films) and a sense of impenetrable isolation surrounding the main character. At the same time, Wendy’s intended travel stems from the carefully planned prospect of starting a new life elsewhere. It is a very concrete and material scarcity of job opportunities what prompts the young woman to leave.

On the other hand, Reichardts disintegrates the imaginary of the journey as a coming-of-age ritual, pointing out the social isolation of the character. In stark contrast to her warm and loving relationship with Lucy, Wendy’s behaviour towards the people she meets is defensive, transient. Rather than finding a new identity, the young woman is constantly displaced, defined by her movement as someone who – as she aptly puts it - is ‘just passing by’. And this is pretty much what this entire season is about.

- pc

Text

Finally, before spelling out my own reasons for picking the film, I would like to share an interesting piece I ran across in Film Think (worth reading entirely).

If it weren’t for Reichardt’s poetic deliberation throughout the film, the only logical end for Wendy would be her eventual “re-victimization,” […]. This quiet auteurist energy runs against the grain of the Kafkian senselessness of her predicament and the barely intelligible rhetoric of those few characters on the margin that could be considered as belonging to Wendy’s haphazard demographic. The effectiveness of her style, which also granted Old Joy an unexpected gravity, maintains her dignity as a mode of Reichardt’s response to all the social problems critiqued by the film. She “stands with” Wendy and “speaks her truth.” And then the audience, as a witness to this compassion, responds in turn. [Michael] Sicinski has criticized Reichardt for “a dubious preoccupation with a certain strain of Americana, to the detriment of providing a clear picture of how disenfranchised people in our country actually exist today.” Because Wendy is white, bumps into Will Oldham, and vanishes on a train, she is actually a stand-in for a kitsch version of the “poor.” She is only a moderately successful imitation of a Bob Dylan heroin that is more at fault for her predicament than the director lets on. But I think his criticism misses the way in which Wendy and Lucy are tragic figures in a cultural subtext beyond Reichardt’s own control. Wendy’s whiteness isn’t an issue, and neither is the way Reichardt elides her personal responsibilities. What is at stake in the film, where it either succeeds or fails, is in the teleology of Reichardt’s storytelling. Over this, she does have control, and frames Wendy as a social critique with a compassion that allows us to witness her flight into a lonely darkness as something other than an “exotic embellishment” to an otherwise “unconvincing argument.” (And perhaps even unravels some of the Sicinski-irking Jack London stereotypes of the Great North that fed the romanticizing of cash-strapped pilgrimages like Wendy’s.)

Unsigned article, Wendy and Lucy (article), Film Think, 13 January 2009

Source: film-think.com
Text

Secondly, here is a bit from A.O. Scott, whose view of the film is actually close to mine. The only difference is that he gets to voice it on the New York Times. But oh well.

[…] underneath this plain narrative surface — or rather, resting on it the way a smooth stone rests in your palm — is a lucid and melancholy inquiry into the current state of American society. […] Wendy and Lucy finds, in one woman’s partly self-created hard luck, an intimation of more widespread hard times ahead.

[…]

Ms. Reichardt, quietly establishing herself as an indispensable American filmmaker, explores some paradigmatic and contradictory native themes: the nature of solidarity in a culture of individualism; the tension between the lure of the open road and the longing for home; the competing demands of freedom and obligation.

But these lofty ideas — the same ones that animated Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, another movie about a young person’s trek toward Alaska — are grounded in an unyielding material reality, subject to the remorseless logic of the cash nexus. The most expressive, most heartbreaking moment in “Wendy and Lucy” involves a small sum of money changing hands, a gesture that encapsulates both Ms. Reichardt’s humanism and her unsentimental sense of economic reality. Whatever big dreams may be driving Wendy, her mind is necessarily focused on dollars and cents.

A.O. Scott, The (New) American Life, New York Times, 9 December 2008

Source: The New York Times
Text

Hey there. Here we are again, unusually late this week on a typically changeable Tuesday afternoon. In the last few days, on top of the usual saving-the-world routine, we have been kind of busy promoting the project around town, spreading the word and generally having a good time. Hope you had some too.

So, there we go: the usual selection of critical chunks on last week’s film. Wendy and Lucy was probably the most ‘art-house’ title of the entire season, which means our sources are particularly rich this time. First to go is Sam Adams from the LA Times:

Williams’ performance is remarkable not only for its depth but for its stillness. Whether in long shot or extreme close-up, she barely disturbs the movie’s lyrical compositions, beautifully filmed by Sam Levy. Reichardt often pushes her to the edge of the frame, literally marginalizing her, as if she were about to fall off the edge of the world.

Wendy’s Alaskan trek may not seem like much of a plan, and Reichardt and co-writer Jon Raymond offer no hint as to how Wendy came to be in such dire straits, but the movie is set in a world where even those with steady jobs are just a step away from desperation. Much as they might feel for Wendy (and not all of them do), they’re barely able to help themselves. […]

Fortunately, Reichardt is a minimalist first and a social critic second, which is to say that while “Wendy and Lucy” is as damning as any Ken Loach film, it preaches in a whisper, not a shout — a whisper or, rather, a song, like the wordless, undulating hum that takes the place of a musical score. Evanescent and intangible, it dissolves into the air, leaving something tragic and mysterious behind.

Sam Adams, Los Angeles Times, Wendy and Lucy (review), 12 December 2008

Source: Los Angeles Times
Text

The Road at the Time of the Crisis | screening three
curated by pasqualecicchetti

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Country: USA
Language: English
Duration: 80 minutes
Year: 2008

A low-key, indie picture adapted from a short story by Jon Raymond, Wendy and Lucy takes the tropes of the road genre to the harsh realms of poverty and social alienation.

Wendy, a young woman in her mid-twenties, is en route to Alaska to get a job in the local fishing industries, and possibly start a new life. She carries along her beloved dog Lucy. A problem with the car, however, stops their travel in a small town in Oregon. Faced with the unforeseen expense of the repair job and worried about her already dwindling budget, Wendy decides to shoplift a can of dog food. She is caught, and brought to the police station. When she is finally able to return to the shop, she finds that Lucy is gone.

Led by Michelle Williams' (I’m Not There, Blue Valentine, My Week With Marilyn) understated yet powerful performance, the film delivers a tale of material and social isolation. Filled with harsh economic reality and unsympathetic strangers, Reichardt’s take on the road genre leaves no room for cheap optimism. Despite its low budget, Wendy and Lucy was widely recognised as one of the best films to be released in 2008.

— pc

Date and time of event: 25/09/2012, 9pm.
Ticket Prices: £6 (£5 Students) £16 ‘The Road at the Time of Crisis’ season ticket
Venue: The Byre Theatre of St Andrews, Abbey St, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9LA
t: 01334 475000
f: 01334 475370
e: enquiries@byretheatre.com

Text

Finally, here is my own reason for liking the film (and including it in the season, of course).

Among all the films considered by this selection, Away we go is perhaps the most explicit in thematising the journey as a metaphor for a generational effort to re-assess their place in the world. Disappointed by the selfish behaviour of Burt’s parents, the young couple put themselves on the road out of responsibility, as it were, towards their unborn child.

The initial hints to their professional failures take on a broader symbolic meaning: these characters did not ‘make it’ in the real world because, essentially, they do not believe in the world-view that has been passed on to them. They perceive a lack of something in it, which they refuse to accept as their own. Disappointed and betrayed by the values of their parents, the characters set out to look for a new identity and a new ‘happiness’.

With a circular gesture, however, Away We Go discards the various options the two find on their way, and ultimately suggests a return to an idyllic ‘American’ past. But there again, idyllic rhymes with fairy-like, essentially unreal. I might be stretching things a bit, but I do not see much of a difference between McCandleless’ retreat into the wilderness and this couple’s journey. In both cases, these characters end up escaping from ‘grown-up’ social and historical reality, to seek refuge in some sort of mythological ‘beyond’.

Any thoughts?

— p.

Text

Away We Go belongs to that branch of the road movie in which characters examine their pasts to confront present dilemmas, like the doctor driving across Sweden in Bergman’s Wild Strawberries and the ageing couple visiting their scattered children in Ozu’s Tokyo Story, or that series of American pictures coming out of Julien Duvivier’s 1937 Un carnet du bal, most recently, Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers, in which the main characters trace old friends and relations.

[…] This is a slick, occasionally smug, at times overplayed and frequently very funny film, and the production designer, Jess Gonchor, and the cinematographer, Ellen Kuras, have combined to give a distinctive regional look to each episode. The film works through striking scenes and splendid moments, rather than as a continuous whole. It begins, for instance, with an extraordinary pre-credit sequence in which while engaged in cunnilingus Burt can taste that Verona is pregnant. This sounds like something out of a film from Judd Apatow or the Farrelly brothers (and indeed Burt’s father is played by that fine character actor Jeff Daniels, who made an uncharacteristic appearance in Dumb and Dumber), but it is, in fact, oddly touching as well as funny.

Philip Fresh, Away We Go (review), The Observer, 20 September 2009

Source: Guardian
Text

Hello there, and welcome to another rainy Monday in Scotland. Last week has been kind of hectic, which explain the long whooshing silence between this and the previous post. But oh, well. Better late than never, they say.

So, first all all, let me thank those of you who made it to the screening last Tuesday. I was not there, alas, but I have been informed by reliable sources that the turnout was encouraging and the overall screening a marked success. Thumbs up, and heart-felt thanks.

Now, as the third screening approaches, let me catch up with the criticism about Away We Go. By the way, the film is one of my personal favourites in this selection, so I really hope you liked it. Unlike Mr Bradshaw, who - for once - just did not get it. It doesn’t matter anyway, as he is a good critic, as demonstrated by the fact that even when he doesn’t get the film, he still has interesting things to say. Here you go:

Away We Go, directed by Sam Mendes, looks sometimes more like a series of provisional sketches for a movie, rather than the finished article, but there is an interesting idea at its heart. John Krasinski (best known for the American version of The Office) and Maya Rudolph play Burt and Verona, a couple in their 30s who have been together for a long time, and who are perhaps frozen, mentally, in the studenty-slackery twentysomethingness they shared when they first met.

[…] Everything about their lives appears ramshackle, temporary. They live in what appears to be a mobile home,  near Burt’s parents, and when Verona gets pregnant, they hope that his mom and dad will help out. But these parents, played by Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels, turn out to be even more flakey and dippy than Burt and Verona. They propose to take off for a long-planned trip to Antwerp, of all places, one month   before the baby is due, thus signalling their essential indifference, and ineligibility for the traditional roles of doting grandparents.

Dave Bradshaw, Away We Go (review), The Guardian, 17 September 2009.

Source: Guardian