Part of Essential Westerns.
Wed, Sep 26, 7:10pm: Introduction from Dawn Hall, professor of English at Western Kentucky University, specializing in film, popular culture and gender, and author of Refocus: The Films of Kelly Reichardt. BUY TICKETS
The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon train of three families has hired mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a shortcut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants face the scourges of hunger, thirst and their own lack of faith in one another's instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as a natural born enemy.
“If Leone brought enormity to the Western genre—a mythic scale that made every dusty street into Monument Valley—Reichardt brings gravity. The cinematographer, Christopher Blauvelt, uses the same roughly square 1.33:1 aspect ratio that Anthony Mann filmed his early 1950s Westerns in, and Reichardt employs the boxy frame with similar skill. There's space all around the characters, but having no clear-cut path or destination makes it eerily claustrophobic—an effect heightened by the sci-fi desolation of lunar salt flats and empty plains.” —Jim Ridley, Nashville Scene (May 19, 2011) “...As a new approach to a traditional western tale, MEEK’S CUTOFF is something special… A film that’s positively transporting, one that immerses you in a way of life long since vanished without feeling like a dry history lesson.” —Film Journal “[T]he first film I've seen that evokes what must have been the reality of wagon trains to the West. They were grueling, dirty, thirsty, burning and freezing ordeals. Attacks by Indians were not the greatest danger; accidents and disease were…The distinctive thing here is the subservience of the characters to the landscape. These pioneers do not stand astride the land, they wander it in misery and exhaustion…” —Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com