16 September 2009

The Decade List: Old Joy (2006)

Old Joy - dir. Kelly Reichardt

I often wish I could speak of most films without categorization, without placing them in the context of others. Whether that context be some unorganized but critically declared movement or in relation to its nationality or its director's body of work, I always resort to those trappings, and maybe that comes with watching as many films as I do. While a bulk of my appreciation for Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy stems from my dissatisfaction with American independent and faux-"indie" cinema, I imagine I would have felt just as strongly if I didn't have a background in film.

The best way for me to describe Old Joy is to compare it to a hauntingly bittersweet song, one which you're compelled to listen to on repeat for whatever length of time. It flows like music, and while the literal music of Yo La Tengo's score compliments the film beautifully, Reichardt is the composer of Old Joy's particular melody. It, more than anything else, strikes this deeply personal emotion from within and does so in the simplest, most bewitching of ways.

While the specific sentiment is quite recognizable, Reichardt's gracefulness lures it out of the film in such a way that it hits you like something strange and new, but somehow still familiar. Films like Old Joy, ones that take on a feeling and movement more akin to musical arrangements than cinematic narratives, use the specifics of story only to guide their melody. And if that melody is as good as Old Joy's is, it lingers, and with memory, becomes all-the-more enchanting.

With: Daniel London, Will Oldham, Tanya Smith
Screenplay: Jonathan Raymond, Kelly Reichardt
Cinematography: Peter Sillen
Music: Yo La Tengo
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: Kino

Premiere: January 2006 (Sundance Film Festival)

Awards: Producers Award - Neil Kopp (Independent Spirit Awards)

No comments: