Posts Tagged ‘Wendy and Lucy’

Critical Bitchslap: A.O. Scott vs. Richard Brody

March 24, 2009

Imagine a war between the New York Times and the New Yorker, and you might think of Walter Burns tossing inkpots at the effete Eustace Tilly. In fact, it appears to be the other way around. A.O. Scott’s elegant consideration of a certain type of American Neo-Realism has been blasted via a pugnacious blog post from Richard Brody. After an initial exchange of fire, both returned for another salvo. The various broadsides can be read here, here, here and here. But for those who would just prefer to fall asleep without moving their mouse, here’s Squally’s scorecard.

It all started when A.O. Scott, as is his wont, looked over a series of forthcoming films and attempted to write a serviceable trend piece colored with his usual thoughtful commentary. In the best New York Sunday Magazine style, he explained to readers something they presumably hadn’t noticed before and gave them a bit of a back scratch as well. That “something” was the adaptation of Neo-realist techniques by filmmakers like Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart) and Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy), occasioned by the release of Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden‘s Sugar and So Yong Kim‘s Treeless Mountain in the next few weeks.

These films, he wrote, represented “an urge to escape from escapism,” an alternative to films like Watchmen, Knowing, and whatever else they’re condemned to watch in Greeley, Colorado. Each has several features in common with the classics of the postwar Italian Neo-realist movement, films such as Roma, citta aperta/Open City, La Terra Trema/The Earth Trembles and Ladri di biciclette/Bicycle Thieves. They are made during a time of economic and political upheaval. They use non-professionals in fictional roles that are close to their real selves. They are filmed on location and make use of “unadorned, specific” locales (Rome, Winston-Salem, N.C., a mountain village in South Korea). They emphasize work–whether as a profession, at home, or in the school. Although Italian Neo-realism passed mainstream American cinema by, these films look to foreign movies and are intent in showing the “American life that remains off screen.” While subdued in nature, these films can be ultimately inspiring in how they portray strength/resilience in the face of adversity.

All seems innocuous enough. But not so for Brody the firebrand blogger at New Yorker’s Front Row. In a numbered list and with a shaky criteria that recalls the manner of his New Wave heroes (Brody has written the acclaimed Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard), Brody swings at the Old Grey Lady’s oracle … and swings wildly.

It Takes Two: Kelly Reichardt and Jon Raymond

March 4, 2009

With Old Joy and now Wendy and Lucy, director Kelly Reichardt and writer/co-scripter Jon Raymond are fast becoming the Bresson/Bernanos of the Pacific Northwest. Here she tells Time Out London how the author’s short story “Train Choir” became Wendy and Lucyand, um, vice versa:

So he wrote the short story for this film?
‘He did. Then I started working on the script, then we started shooting and then he’d do another draft of the script. Working with him definitely makes my films better. He’s a great partner. He gives me notes and comments and if we disagree on something, I get my way for the film and he gets his way for the short story. But, the idea of doing this story is that you get more depth than if you go straight to the script. He writes from a very interior point of view. He doesn’t have to think about how it’s going to look on screen. He can just plunge into someone’s mind. A “train choir” [the rumbling of trains passing In the middle distance] was something I tried to use instead of a score this time, because I didn’t want to romanticise things. A girl and her dog is dangerous territory as far as sentiment goes. We used the trains anywhere where we would have originally used a soundtrack, but having the title as “Train Choir” no longer allowed it to be a subtext. I wanted the film to be very nuts and bolts.'”