Michelle Williams, Certain Women screened at NYFF

6 October, 2016

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Certain Women :Shooting on 16mm, Reichardt creates understated, uncannily intimate dramas nestled within a clear-eyed depiction of the modern American West. An IFC Films release. We then follow Michelle Williams’ Gina, a wife and mother whose efforts to bring her splintering family together on a weekend camping trip become increasingly strained.
October 3 screening only. Unfortunately, the Q&A with Kelly Reichardt on October 4 has been canceled.

[February 18 2015 “Manchester-by-the-Sea,” Zoe Kazan, “In Your Eyes” ]

Williams has signed on to star opposite Casey Affleck in Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester-by-the-Sea,”    She will shoot a Kelly Reichardt untitled indie drama in the spring, with “Manchester-by-the-Sea” shooting later in the year.

Williams has signed on to star opposite Casey Affleck in Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester-by-the-Sea,” She will shoot a Kelly Reichardt untitled indie drama in the spring, with “Manchester-by-the-Sea” shooting later in the year.

Now, via release on Vimeo, we have In Your Eyes, a Whedon script directed by Brin Hill and starring Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David as two strangers who share an inexplicable telepathic bond.   Kazan plays Rebecca, a pixiesh twentysomething with a teardrop-shaped face, big blue eyes and terrific taste in playful girly-girl dresses.

Now, via release on Vimeo, we have In Your Eyes, a Whedon script directed by Brin Hill and starring Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David as two strangers who share an inexplicable telepathic bond. Kazan plays Rebecca, a pixiesh twentysomething with a teardrop-shaped face, big blue eyes and terrific taste in playful girly-girl dresses.

[April 5 2011 Meek’s Cutoff New York Opening]

zoe kazan

zoe kazan

Michelle Williams, Zoe Kazan, Meek's Cutoff

Michelle Williams, Zoe Kazan, Meek’s Cutoff


The three families in Kelly Reich-
ardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff” keep mov-
ing west on the Oregon Trail—slowly,
tortuously, hungrily, with many stops
and much arguing and occasional talk
of heading back East. They have noth-
ing but three Conestoga wagons and
some oxen, and they’re never far from
despair. The year is 1845, and the fam-
ilies are being led through high desert
by a mountain man in buckskins, a gar-
rulous tall-tale artist named Stephen
Meek (Bruce Greenwood), who may or
may not be taking them to a fertile val-
ley in Oregon. Their immediate prob-
lem, however, is water, both for them-
selves and for the animals. When they
capture a lone Indian (Ron Rondeaux),
Meek wants to kill him, but Emily (Mi-
chelle Williams), one of the wives—a
woman of strong, steady character—
raises a rifle and faces Meek down, pro-
tecting the captive, who just might lead
them out of the desert to a river or a
lake. The terrain is bleak and feature-
less, and Reichardt doesn’t provide
much context. As far as we can see, the
settlers aren’t inspired by religion or by
gold. There’s a discussion among the
men about the politics of settlement,
but the scene is photographed in mid-
dle distance, and remains barely audi-
ble. The journey, seemingly from no-
where to nowhere, and led by a rambling
poseur and a morose Indian, becomes
an absurdist quest. It’s as if John Ford
had been overtaken along the trail by
Samuel Beckett.
Reichardt is trying, as she was in
her previous film, “Wendy and Lucy”
(2008), for a mood of existential objec-
tivity. She takes us from the florid
grandiosity of Western myth to the
bone-wearying stress of mere life. The
movie offers a new kind of feminist and
materialist realism. Reichardt empha-
sizes the families’ monotonous days,
spent walking and walking, and then in
such camp activities as cooking, feed-
ing, mending, and tending the sick.
The work, much of it done by women,
is repetitive and exhausting. Apart
from Bruce Greenwood’s roistering
performance—he might be the star of
a Wild West show—the movie is al-
most punitive to sit through. Reichardt
is a pleasureless artist, an anti-sensual-
ist, but, in her thorny way, she uses
classical film technique—parallel edit-
ing of both camera and people consis-
tently moving west—to indicate that,
despite her many revisions, the pioneer
spirit isn’t quite a sentimental inven-
tion. The families may not know where
they are going or why, but they do
keep moving. Maybe, someday, they’ll
get somewhere.

When I think of actress Zoe Kazan the word that comes to mind is “immersion.” Kazan is in the soon to be released movie “Meek’s Cutoff,” the new movie from director Kelly Reichardt (”Old Joy,” “Wendy and Lucy”). The film takes place in 1845 along the Oregon Trail and concerns a group of pioneers trying to find their way with the help of a mysterious guide, who may or may not be reliable.

Kazan has the unique ability to disappear into her roles so completely that it is not always easy to know that it is her up on the screen. Regarding her secret for achieving this Kazan said, “There’s no intention except playing the part. There’s no greater plan or something. I come from a big theatre background. I think that there’s a big emphasis on transformation rather than representation.” By way of example Kazan expressed admiration for actors Bruce Dern and the late John Cazale, “where you feel like they completely disappear and become someone new.” Kazan said she also admires Barbara Stanwyck and Katharine Hepburn but pointed out that, “They are more the same in every part. I didn’t get into acting to be like those people so much.”

Part of Kazan’s transformation into a pioneer from 1845 involved attending “Pioneer Camp.” “Basically I am completely useless in a post apocalyptic world…things like shooting a gun don’t come that naturally to me,” Kazan explained. “I was the worst student at ‘Pioneer Camp,’ but I did successfully learn to build a fire without matches.”

Despite her limited success at “Pioneer Camp” Kazan said she romanticizes the time of the pioneers. “The last real push was the push west and the idea that there was all this land that was untamed and unknown and that there were all of these people that the white people hadn’t encountered yet, and cultures that hadn’t yet become extinct and all the plant life and the herds of Bison. It just seems like a different America and I wish so much that I could have seen it. And also the bravery of these people to just go west, and the kind of restless spirit. Reading the journals of people from that time and the idea that people just wanted to be closer to the unknown…Just the idea that there was a line where civilization ended and people then crossed that line. It just seems incredible to me.”

In terms of the gender codes for 1845 Kazan explained, “There’s a real distinct division of the sexes in the movie and that’s historically accurate. People were divided basically by gender in terms of what their work was. The women cooked and gathered firewood and took care of setting up camp, and the men would hunt and lead the oxen. Because their work was so divided, the sexes were really divided. We kind of, I think, unconsciously, in a way, mimicked that on set. Me and Shirley (Henderson) and Michelle (Williams) would sit around and knit all day, and talk, and the boys would play chess.”

Having worked on big budget, as well as lower budget films, like “Meek’s Cutoff,” Kazan said that budget is not an issue for her. Her interest is in character and story. “One thing I really do like about independent filmmaking is there isn’t enough money for everyone to have their own trailer and there isn’t a lot of down time,” Kazan explained. (As a result) “there’s a sense of being thrown together all the time that I actually think engenders better work. I think it’s good for people not to have three hours to go sit alone in their trailers and take themselves out of the movie.” She said that on “Meek’s Cutoff,” “We had one trailer for all nine of us. We were all thrown together and it helped bond us and I think it shows up on screen.”
Kazan

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