In Search of the Elixir

Film Forum

Yesterday I went to Film Forum in New York City to see Meek's Cutoff, a film that was highly recommended by a friend. It's directed by Kelly Reichardt, who also directed Wendy and Lucy. The film, set on the Oregon Trail in 1845, is both highly realistic and dreamlike. It beautifully captures powerful emotions, reveals the inner lives of characters who aren't exactly articulate. (It seems that modern films that deal with subtle emotional stories tend to be populated by writers, psychiatrists or academics who traffic in self-reflection as a matter of course.) For my money, this film blows True Grit out of the water. If you're going to see only one film about the old West this year....

Anyway, that's not what I was blogging towards.  As an added bonus, Michelle Williams, who gives a beautifully subtle performance in the film, arrived to do a brief Q&A with the audience after the final credits. The folks who raised their hands all seemed to be "in the biz," or aspired to be in the biz. And the questions all flowed around the same theme: What do you know that can help me? Michelle Williams

They were the kinds of questions that no one can answer: "What would you do if you were me?" Correct answer: "How the fuck should I know? I'm not you." There followed more questions about how the film got made that were really asking, "Tell me how I can do this." If I hadn't been sitting in the second row I would have walked out at that point

"You've made some great choices to get to where you are today vis a vis the indie film world. How did you make those choices?" To her credit, Michelle tried gamely to politely address the desperate anxieties of the questioners. But the questions kept coming, as if her success is the result of some secret she's learned, as if there's some elixir out there that turns ordinary folks into successful producers, actors or screenwriters. At one point, an audience member turned to a particularly persistent questioner and told her to shut up. She didn't. Finally Michelle Williams said this: "Be yourself. Lead an interesting life. Don't take anyone's advice." (I'm quoting from memory here, but it's close enough.) It was the perfect answer for an audience of questioners who were in fact trying to be someone else; trying to be Michelle Williams or Kelly Reichardt or anyone but themselves. And while there's no road to success, that's a surefire recipe for failure.

Line Break

Leave a Response