Old Joy (Kino Intl., NR)

film_oldjoy_smThis is an American independent film in the best sense of the word, the 1989-1994 definition where it meant that the filmmakers could experiment with and embrace their low budgets and come up with something that you would never see in mainstream cinema.

 

 

 

 

I wrote in a recent edition of "Celluloid Atrocities" that the existence of Old Joy made it hard to write my top ten list of 2006 as I wanted, as it was not available on DVD and had never screened in St. Louis, but it was, you know, out there, and certainly deserved to be on the list. It screened at many film festivals (including Sundance 2006, where I saw it), and had a long run in New York and shorter runs in various other American indie-friendly cities. Luckily, Kino International picked it up in one of their uncommon bids in giving a film theatrical distribution (and an American film at that, which Kino almost never screws with in any capacity, unless it is a classic that they're releasing on DVD).

film_oldjoy 

Old Joy is a short, poetic road movie about two guys, Mark (Daniel London) and Kurt (Will Oldham, who's perhaps better known as the musician Bonnie "Prince" Billy), who were great friends when they were younger, but have little in common and don't speak to each other much anymore as adults. Kurt is a drifter and is completely unattached and sort of unreliable and irresponsible, while Mark has a good job and is in a serious relationship with a baby on the way. The road trip that they go on is (mostly unspokenly) an attempt at rekindling their lost glories, but the scenario lends itself to nothing other than awkwardness and disappointment.

Audiences looking for movies that are easily categorized will surely be put off by this film (it's of the sort that one can easily imagine the average person wondering what the point is), as it is not entirely dramatic or comedic, or anything in between. What it is, though, is an American independent film in the best sense of the word, the 1989-1994 definition where it meant that the filmmakers could experiment with and embrace their low budgets and come up with something that you would never see in mainstream cinema. Aside from Oldham's presence (which is great; he's a very naturalistic actor, as anyone who has seen Matewan can attest), the only real connection director Kelly Reichardt uses that the average person who wanted to make a movie on $30,000 wouldn't have access to is a great, haunting, floaty score from Yo La Tengo, which goes perfectly with the endless shots of America passing by through the window of a car. Old Joy is the sort of movie that, once I have it tied down in DVD form, I can see myself revisiting very late at night on many occasions, as it is pleasant enough and goes down easily, but doesn't leave you feeling empty after it is all over. | Pete Timmermann

 

Old Joy will screen at the Winifred-Moore Auditorium on the campus of Webster University at 7 p.m. on the evenings of February 16-18. Visit http://www.webster.edu/filmseries for more information.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply