The “Elaborated Time” of Kelly Reichardt

The Journey is the thing.
Meeks Cutoff
By  · Published on July 3rd, 2017

If you’ve ever been on the road – that is, if you’ve ever been traveling to a far-off destination by car, or bike, or on foot, something that takes a good long while – then you know that time has a way of stretching out, cognitively, every moment is noticeable because every moment is brand new, a first experience, and even the simplest, most mundane things – stopping for gas, brushing your teeth in a strange motel room, scanning for radio stations – take on a deeper meaning because they are elements of the journey, the Journey, that philosophical, emotional accompaniment to the physical trek.

Writer-director Kelly Reichardt calls this concept “elaborated time,” and it’s been at the center of several of her films, including River of Grass, Old Joy, Wendy & Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff, and Night Moves. In an interview given in 2011 when Meek’s was released, Reichardt explained how she conceives of elaborated time, and how she tries to apply it to her films, how she attempts to extract tension from the un-heightened moments; that is, in the lulls that more often populate life. Video essayist Travis Lee Ratcliff has taken audio of this interview and laid it over scenes from Reichardt’s films as well as others like Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D, John Ford’s Wagon Master, and Chantal Ackerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai Du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles to demonstrate what Ratcliff calls the director’s “almost neorealist exploration of time and emotion.”

This is a must-watch video for every Reichardt fan, as well as for those interested in getting to know her work.

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist