Old Joy (USA; 76 min.)

directed by: Kelly Reichardt
cast: Daniel London; Will Oldham; Tanya Smith
Old Joy

Chris says: "Mark (Daniel London) and Kurt (cult folk-rocker Will Oldham) were once close friends; now both in their mid-30s, they've grown apart as friends often do. Mark has a career and a partner and is about to become a father, while Kurt, with his lived-in junker of a car, is less settled down and more carefree. One day, Kurt shows up in town out of the blue and coaxes Mark to join him on an impromptu overnight camping trip in Oregon's Cascade mountain range. As they head out of Portland, we get a real sense of the landscaping changing dramatically via the film's leisurely rhythms and lengthy, meditative tracking shots. After they reach the woods, we gradually get an even stronger (and remarkably complex) sense of all kinds of distance that has accumulated between them over time.

Kelly Reichardt's film is a plotless wonder—at times a character study, but really more a layered mood piece concerned with shifting landscapes and how they affect our consciousness and perception, much like the work of Antonioni or Kiarostami. Yet, this film is resolutely American. Melancholy and regret about this country's current state of affairs looms over it like a specter. The Air America radio broadcast Mark listens to in his car is one evident cue. However, it's mainly expressed in far subtler terms. We hear it both in Kurt's explanation of the film's title at a climactic trip to a hot springs bath, and in an earlier moment where he lets his guard down ever so briefly as a messy rush of conflicting emotions suddenly pour out of him. The only frustrating thing about OLD JOY is that it offers few resolutions, few obvious grasps at enlightenment. But, depending on what you look for in a film, you may find that to be its most remarkable feature. It rings true as it suggests, in its lovingly open-ended final scenes, that we can't always recapture the past. 4.5 cats

(OLD JOY screened at the 2006 Provincetown International Film Festival)"

Michael says: "Immediately after seeing OLD JOY, I was caught in the middle of liking and disliking it. I chatted about the film with Beth and Scot as we walked back to the subway, and still never really decided what I thought. My recollections of the film have gone up and down, so I guess for now I’m landing squarely in the middle. It’s a little film, only 76 minutes, about two old friends who haven’t seen each other for a while, and decide to catch up by hiking in the Cascades Mountains to take a bath in some natural hot springs. One of the friends has taken up the mantle of “responsible adult” with a woman he loves who is expecting a baby. The other remains pretty much as he was during their earlier friendship, drifting from circumstance to circumstance, smoking a lot of pot, and avoiding responsibility. The two friends in OLD JOY struggle to recapture the spark of the friendship that they once shared, but their lives have moved on in different directions. They come together is blissful relaxation for a brief moment in the film, but it takes a great deal of effort to get there, and it quickly becomes clear that they will move on and most likely grow further apart as they find themselves back in the city and moving on in their lives. 3 cats."