Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Minimalist Meek




Hushed sounds.

Strained listening.

Did they say what I think they said?

Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff is not for everyone, judging by comments on the web. This western is based on the true story of a wagon train to Oregon that is led by a guide, Stephen Meek, who attempts to bypass the route through the Blue Mountains where an attack by Indians is rumored to await, leading the train into a harsh desert.

Things become desperate. Meek's leadership is question.

An Indian is captured who now becomes an enigmatic guide through the harsh terrain.

Michelle Williams plays a strong-willed woman, Bill Patton as her husband, and Bruce Greenwood as Meek in a small cast that reduces the true story's large group of hundreds of wagons to just three.

This reduction serves the story well and the cast does a great job with a sparse script.

As alluded to above, the sound design is purposefully designed so that dialog is difficult to understand in some cases. Meaning is what is made of words misheard. Or missaid.

The framing is 4:3, designed to mimic the women's bonnets and the wagons themselves, where a narrow field of vision is only available to the viewer.

This does not prevent some amazing cinematography being put on display of the barren Oregon landscape.

Much has been said of this allegorical tale on politics, untrustworthy leadership, and current events.

Everyone should see this movie.

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