The Aesthetics of Kelly Reichardt edit

Kelly Reichardt-4454

Elaborated Time edit

Slow Editing edit

There are no fast cuts to tear us away from narrative in Reichardt's films. The duration between cuts creates a slow-moving film that communicates to the audience’s sense of time.[1]Reichardt achieves empathy for her characters through this slowed time that rapid continuity editing can’t achieve.[2]

Long Takes edit

Reichardt slows the pace down and makes her audience digest the image. Long takes help build emotion on actors faces.[3] To make the audience give in to an image, Reichardt gives her characters the time to wait for time to pass therefore; it elaborates on time.[4] If not for the strategic use of long takes, the empathic threads of these characters would not be understood.[2]

Simple Everyday Tasks edit

Mundane tasks play out in full on screen; the characters are doing monotonous work. The work hypnotizes the audience to be complacent in the characters own sense of time. Meek’s Cutoff shows three women go about their daily chores: grinding coffee, knitting, washing dishes, drying clothes, etc.[2] In Certain Women (2016) , farm handler, Jamie tends to her horses, then goes back and forth sweeping out the stalls. There's scene where Beth's long drive to work plays out and takes the audience with her. These menial tasks are hyperreal when shown on screen and make the audience feel as if they participated Reichardt's characters on goings.[4]

Characters Without Safety Nets edit

Reichardt's characters are people with no safety nets to catch them, any shortcomings are even greater. Her complex characters create almost like small glimpses into a bigger story. Her characters capture the bitterness that Italian Neo-realism holds in its' characters.[5]

Wendy edit

Wendy and Lucy (2008) is about a woman and her dog traveling to Alaska, but ends up breaking down in town in Oregon. Wendy was inspired by the terrible hurricane Katrina, and the thoughts of those people having to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.[5] Wendy is a person trying to make ends meet due to no fault of her own.[5] Only the hardships of life have gotten in her way. Her car breaks down in a town she’s doesn't know. She can’t afford a hotel to sleep in or the repair of her car. Her only way to get food is to steal. She gets caught stealing. Wendy is sent to jail, so her dog Lucy is sent to the dog pound. Her only choice now is to let go of everything she has and move on.

Meek and His Crew edit

Meek's Cutoff (2010) follows a group of settlers heading down the Oregon trial. Meek is supposed to be a provider and a leader. His band questions his leadership and hurts his pride. The more time Meek’s drags them around the more hungry and thirsty they get. They capture a Native American and bring him along, while they are undecisive about whether to trust him or kill him.

Cookie and King edit

First Cow (2019), a skilled chef named Cookie, rejected by his fur trapper crew, finds a connection an Chinese immigrant named King. Cookie and King are perceived as outsiders by the village, and both are lost in the new world of west expanding America. They have no way of making money until they have an idea to steal milk from the mayor’s cow to make bread. They get caught and are executed.

Simple Stories edit

Reichardt’s films are simple stories told at a slow pace. The stories are made with simple components that make up a vast world. [6]

Wendy and Lucy’s story edit

Wendy’s car breaks down in a town in Oregon and she loses her beloved dog Lucy, then she moves on to Alaska without her pet.

Meek’s Cut Off’s Story edit

A band of settlers are lost in the Oregon wilderness in struggle for power an leadership of their journey.

First Cow’s Story edit

Cookie finds a new friend and together they sneak out to steal milk from the mayor’s cow to make bread to sell.

Still & Minimal edit

Stillness resonates with Reichardt’s aesthetics.[2]

Blocking edit

Blocking is a great technique to create depth in an image. In Meek’s Cutoff when one of the women look at the native American walk out to the distance. Her face at the center of these branches dirtying up the frame, thus creating a blocking technique. In First Cow, we see Cookie in the doorway and his friend thought the window chopping wood. These shapes blocking around the characters make an the static image look minimal.

Framing edit

The frames lead our eyes to where they want us to look. Reichardt uses the rule of thirds to divide the subjects on the screen. The viewer’s perspective meets a neat vanishing point in the middle of the screen”[5]

Minimal Dialogue edit

Silence and ambience add to actions or shows that characters have a thought process. Not everything needs dialogue to keep flowing. We as the audience watch a character not mutter a word but try to imagine what they could be saying in their head.

Animals edit

Reichardt also loves to work with animals in her films. She has casted animals in First Cow, Certain Women, Meek’s Cutoff, and Wendy and Lucy.

Improv Acting edit

Animals can only have genuine reactions, which can lead to actors improv acting to how an animal reacts while shooting a scene. In First Cow, when the cow nudges Cookie to pet her, the mayor notices and Cookie then has to play it off as if he does know why the cow is taking a liking to him. This was not scripted and was improv acting with an animal.

Bonding with Animals edit

Creating a bond with an animal is necessary at times. The surest connections are either enabled by animals or are between humans and animals.[4] When it came to Wendy and Lucy, Reichardt had Michelle Williams bond with her dog Lucy before shooting the film. This bond is needed to make the bond believable. When Cookie is with the cow, the cow recognizes him and takes a liking to him.

Open Ended edit

Most of her films are open-ended and are up to interpretation. They end with a coda, not a resolution. Really the ends say this beauty will continue.[4] Reichardt chooses to leave a narrative pleasure-less and not conformed to the common sense of connection.[2]

Certain Women edit

The three short stories in, Certain Women, leave viewers wanting answers.[4] Laura and Fuller story ends with them having a casual conversation. Gina stares at the sandstone pile that she has yet to build anything with. Jamie leaves her feelings about Beth unspoken then continues to work on the farm by herself.[4]

Wendy and Lucy edit

The film Wendy and Lucy ends with Wendy leaving her dog Lucy in a town she barley knows. Wendy gets on the bus heading to Alaska still feeling the defeated feeling that she has felt the entire movie. Lucy is with a new owner that the audience doesn’t know. The fates of these characters are never to be revealed.[6]

Landscapes edit


Character Reflection edit

The vast mountainous regions of Montana in Certain Women reflects the isolation and loneliness of the characters.[4] The wide openness makes our character small in the scheme of life. The dry arid desert of Meek’s Cutoff reflects Meek’s lost navigation and the band’s thirst and tiredness.

Sensory edit

Reichardt’s film gives the viewer time to create sensory and corporeal experiences with the landscape. Landscapes can let the audience feel the material and get immersed in the world. They can stimulate the body and emit a body response. Reichardt’s landscapes bring the comprehension of a film to something more than a visual stimulus.[2]

References edit

  1. Hastie, Amelie. “PASSING TIME WITH CERTAIN WOMEN.” Film Quarterly, vol. 70, no. 3, 2017, pp. 74–79. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Paszkiewicz, Katarzyna. “GENRE IN THE MARGINS: KELLY REICHARDT’S MEEK’S CUTOFF.” Genre, Authorship and Contemporary Women Filmmakers, Edinburgh University Press, 2018, pp. 134–72. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.
  3. ALLEN, BROOKE. “Slow Movies.” The Hudson Review, vol. 69, no. 4, 2017, pp. 624–30. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Hastie, Amelie. “PASSING TIME WITH CERTAIN WOMEN.” Film Quarterly, vol. 70, no. 3, 2017, pp. 74–79. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 van Sant, Gus, and Kelly Reichardt. “Kelly Reichardt.” BOMB, no. 105, 2008, pp. 76–81. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Michelitch, Jason. “Thinking at Lightspeed: The Flickering Transformations of Kelly Reichardt’s Cinema.” Cinéaste, vol. 42, no. 1, 2016, pp. 4–8. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.