“The lies are in the dialogue, the truth is in the visuals.” – Kelly Reichardt
American screenwriter and director Kelly Reichardt is known for her minimalist explorations of economic anxieties that are often omnipresent in rural communities. For the past 25 years, she has been constructing quiet and devasting visions of life, focusing on the American wild and the economic margins of society. Reichardt’s latest film First Cow is set in the 19th century and is an adaptation of co-screenwriter Jonathan Raymond’s novel, The Half Life.
Kelly Reichardt made her debut in 1994 with River of Grass which was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards, as well as the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. She struggled to make a film after that, not releasing any until Old Joy in 2006. Reichardt revealed, “I had 10 years from the mid-1990s when I couldn’t get a movie made. It had a lot to do with being a woman. That’s definitely a factor in raising money. During that time, it was impossible to get anything going, so I just said, ‘Fuck you!’ and did Super 8 shorts instead.”
Before the release of First Cow, Reichardt spoke about her new film, “Well it was Jonathan Raymond’s novel, The Half Life, which has kind of been hovering around us, he and I, for a couple of decades, and we’ve been trying to think of how we could ever sort of get our arms around it, because the novel spans 40 years and there’s a ship ride to China and it’s this very big [story].”
She added, “So part of it was that and that I had my head in this time period for this film that I ended up not making, and I had been sort of steeped in just some paintings from the 19th century, in images I didn’t really want to lose hold of. Some of it made its way into First Cow – things I had been living with for a while.”
In the same interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Reichardt was asked to list five of her favourite films which helped influence her filmmaking style. She cited the likes of Satyajit Ray and Kenji Mizoguchi.
Kelly Reichardt’s 5 favourite films:
- Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi – 1953)
- Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray – 1955)
- The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda – 2000)
- Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher – 2018)
- The Tree of Wooden Clogs (Ermanno Olmi – 1978)
While listing Ray’s masterpiece, Reichardt explained, “Ultimately, there is ambition in the Apu Trilogy – he’s leaving his village and he marries into a different class. But there’s also that incredible friendship that runs through the Apu Trilogy. I return to the Apu Trilogy constantly.
“I saw it first in art school and I felt overwhelmed by it; as someone coming from Miami and who hadn’t seen anything of the world, I was just like, India, it’s too much for me. But for some reason it really resonated and I have returned to it so often. I find Satyajit Ray’s filmmaking so lyrical and there’s a real economy to the way he shoots the film.”