Questioning the American Dream in Kelly Reichardt’s Cinema

Over the past two and a half decades, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has made a name for herself as a true maverick of contemporary independent cinema, winning wide acclaim for her sparely lyrical and fiercely intimate character studies, all of which unfold against rugged American terrain. This week, in celebration of her inimitable voice, the Criterion Channel is presenting a mini-retrospective featuring a handful of her finest works, including River of Grass, Meek’s Cutoff, and Wendy and Lucy, a quietly devastating 2008 drama about a broke young woman (Michelle Williams) stranded, with her dog, in a woodsy pocket of the Pacific Northwest. Reichardt talks with critic April Wolfe about the genesis of that last film in the above clip from Masterclass, an ongoing series on the Channel that features filmmakers talking in-depth about their work. Shot last year, this episode finds the director telling stories about her creative process, including how she and frequent writing partner Jon Raymond conceived Train Choir, as the movie was originally titled, as a character-driven meditation on the American dream, and our responsibility to one another, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

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