Monday, November 3, 2008

OLD JOY by Kelly Reichardt

I saw this film again on DVD as it is one of the 400+ DVDs that we brought with us to Hong Kong.

It is a short feature (about 70min), but beautifully shot. There's not much story or dialog. If you take away some sequences that are just scenery of Oregon woods, the film would be about 55 minutes.

I wanted to see this initially a couple of years ago after learning that it was based on a short story by Jonathan Raymond, who graduated with me from Swarthmore College.

Jonathan Raymond was one of these guys at Swat who was really serious and very smart. I'm actually a little surprised that he is now a writer. I always sort of pegged him to become an English prof.

Anyway, he has a novel called THE HALF-LIFE. He also did the screenplay for OLD JOY.

The film is a roadtrip/camping trip of two men who were old friends but have grown apart. One is a bohemian drifter. The other one is married and is expecting a child. The drifter guy comes to town and the two men go into the woods to camp out and spend some time together.

The story doesn't have classical dramatic structure. There's no conflict. Seeing it a second time, the film wouldn't work at all if it weren't for its visually stunning cinematography and the nuanced acting.

The whole movie is two guys sitting in the car, sitting by a campfire, talking about random stuff that are linked together by thinnest shared motif of having to grow up and longing for the past in a world that seems to pass by so quickly.

The film supposedly cost $30,000 U.S. to shoot. In the hands of another director, the film might have tanked without seeing the light of day. It benefits from gorgeous cinematography. I don't know the technical details eg. what cameras they shot on etc, but some scenes look lik they were shot on 35mm film. Sound is excellent, and some scenes are intense.

Overall, I checked it out to see what Jon Raymond contributed to the film. The guy knows Portland and Oregon. He was from there. I hear he now lives in Brooklyn.

Anyway, this is a contemplative small film that requires active viewing.

Kudos to a fellow Swattie for keeping it real. Where the hell are you Jon Raymond?

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