Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Meek's Cutoff

This quiet Western movie has been mainly on film festival circuit and I saw it two weeks ago in a Finnish film festival. It's an indie Western that doesn't much resemble any other Western movie I can think of.

Meek's Cutoff is a simple story of some dozen settlers who are going somewhere in middle of the desert. They are escorted by a man called Meek, who seems to be as lost as everyone else in this film, even though he thinks he knows all the time where they are. The settlers meet an Indian and capture him and think he can show them the nearest waterspot.

The film is very quiet and slow. There are lots of scenes where people just work and don't say anything. In the scenes with people that are far away their dialogue is only barely heard, and some of the important plot points take place during those scenes! (Put the subtitles on, if you're watching this on DVD.) The climactic scenes are also pretty slow with long shots. There's all the time some tension on, though - this is not a boring film. (Must admit, thought, that I took a nap during the screening. I can blame only the viewing hour, from 5.00 p.m. on. I'll always fall asleep during those two or three hours.)

The ending is cryptic. It feels like there's something you just can't grasp, some inner meaning that just doesn't want to come out. The director Kelly Reinhardt has said though that the ending came about because they ran out of money! Yet there's something intriguing about the ending.

I recommend Meek's Cutoff, but don't expect any chases on horseback, fighting with Injuns or any other Western stuff. Nothing blows up real good. Some critics have compared this to the French director Robert Bresson, but I can't find any deep religious symbolism in Meek's Cutoff (unless the image of lost settlers is a religious symbol in itself). You might compare this to the Western films of Monte Hellman, but Hellman's films are B-westerns on the surface, this isn't. I kinda wished, though, this would've been more cryptic, more difficult to decipher - yet I find myself in some trouble saying something definite about it. Will have to see this again.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog here.


pattinase (abbott) said...

It's playing here now. But I can't get any takers on it. Maybe this will help.

Juri said...

Patti, sorry, does that mean you can't find anyone to watch it with you? Here's hoping you'll find someone. I'm sure you'd like the film.

Todd Mason said...

Yes, no one is taking up the option of going with Patti. It's in arthouse release in the States, and it looks pretty interesting...thanks for the rec!

Juri said...

Hope you both will see it!