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Old Joy

Screening on Film
Directed by Kelly Reichardt.
With Daniel London, Will Oldham, Tanya Smith.
US, 2007, 35mm, color, 76 min.
Print source: Chicago Film Society

In her first collaboration with Jon Raymond, Reichardt discovered the restrained pacing and ruefully muted tone that unites Old Joy with her other narratives of intimate but ambiguous relationships. A careful distillation of Raymond’s eponymous short story to its most essential elements, Old Joy is as much a film about inaction as action, with equal space given to frank, too sudden, confessions as the long shadows of unspoken words and desires that suggest a hidden counter-narrative just below the surface. Cult musician/performer Will Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy, brings an almost unhinged intensity to his depiction of a middle-aged rebel barely able to hide his desperate reaching for meaning, in jittery contrast to indie actor Daniel London as a seemingly laid back soon-to-be-father quietly resenting his burdensome friend while also hoping for a regressive escape. The moody soundtrack by quintessential Nineties indie rock band Yo La Tengo underscores the film’s subtle melancholy and sense of loss.

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