Kelly Reichardt Collection [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Soda Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (5th August 2014).
The Film

This essential collection brings together Kelly Reichardt's debut RIVER OF GRASS (1994) and the three films OLD JOY (2006), WENDY AND LUCY (2008) and MEEK'S CUTOFF (2010) that established her as one of the most important auteurs in modern American independent cinema.

OLD JOY (2006)
OLD JOY is the story of two old friends, Kurt (WILL OLDHAM) and Mark (DANIEL LONDON), who reunite for a weekend camping trip in the mountains of Oregon. The trip signifies different things for them – for Mark a respite from imminent fatherhood, for Kurt a part of a long series of adventures. As the trip progresses and the landscape changes, the friends begin to examine their lives and their friendship. B.

WENDY & LUCY (2008)
WENDY & LUCY is the story of Wendy (Oscar-nominated MICHELLE WILLIAMS, Blue Valentine), who is driving to Alaska in hope of a summer of lucrative work and the start of a new life with her dog, Lucy. When her car breaks down in Oregon, however, the thin fabric of her financial situation comes apart, and she finds herself desperately searching for her only true friend. Starring Kelly Reichardt’s own beloved dog as Lucy. A-

MEEK'S CUTOFF (2010)
MEEK’S CUTOFF tells the story of Emily Tetherow (MICHELLE WILLIAMS), a young pioneer who sets out with her husband and families in 1845 along the infamous Oregon trail. Led by Stephen Meek, the families are soon lost and start to mistrust each other and their guide. After days of wandering in the inhospitable landscape, they cross paths with a Native American and must decide if they can trust this man to lead them to safety. B+

Video

OLD JOY (2006)
Old Joy is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, rather than in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. After asking Soda Pictures why, I was told that this was due to the fact the source provided to them by the producer was 1.78:1. I have been informed that although the aspect ratio was indeed a hot topic of conversation amongst the Soda Pictures team, it was decided they would keep with the ratio provided by someone who worked on the film, which for me, is perfectly fair reasoning. Originally shot on 16mm using an Aaton A-Minima camera, the transfer here, whilst far from reference quality, is very pleasing to the eye. Natural grain runs throughout, and compared to other low budget independent films on Blu-ray with a 16mm source, doesn't suffer from becoming overly noisy. Colours are strong and vivid, especially the greens in the surrounding wilderness, whilst skin tones look natural, if occasionally warm. Detail is good throughout, with the Volvo estate car window reflections, and woodland environments showing details in distant shots, and the wooden frame in the scene at 58 minutes, showcasing surprisingly fine details in the wood. There are some slight nicks in the print here and there (59:10 for one of the more noticeable examples), but nothing to be concerned about. There is no major damage, and no signs of digital noise reduction, or any other behind the scenes tinkering. B.

WENDY AND LUCY (2008)
Wendy and Lucy is presented on Blu-ray at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is 1080p, and uses an AVC MPEG-4 encode. Like "Old Joy", Reichardt shot this feature on 16mm, this time opting for an Arriflex 16 SR3 camera. Once again, Soda have done a professional job with this transfer, with a natural film grain throughout, and only some occasional noise during some of the more darkened scenes (such as near the start with Wendy hearing about work). Some of the more minor shadow details do suffer slightly here in these darker scenes, though generally due to lighting on-set rather than crushing blacks. Other details are good for 16mm, and the bleak colour palette suits the depressing tone of the movie perfectly. On occasion, skin tones do feel a little warm (when Michelle Williams is at the dog pound for example), but they look natural for the majority of the run time. Like the previous feature, there is an occasional blemish in the print, but nothing too noticeable (bar a scratch at 46:59 at the top of the picture), and there is no major lasting damage or cause for concern. Again, there are also no signs of digital noise reduction or any other filtering, though there's some jagged edges and minor haloing at times. B-.

MEEK'S CUTOFF (2010)
The final film in this presentation gets the strongest transfer by far. Provided to us in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, Meek's Cutoff receives an exceptional 1080p transfer using an AVC MPEG-4 encode. The palette uses many colours associated with westerns, especially yellows and oranges, and this transfer makes them all look vivid with depth and pop. Some of the scenes are very dark, with only the light of a lantern for company, making faces barely visible, yet still showing some very strong shadow details. Other details in lighter scenes look fantastic. Facial close-ups show every blemish and contour, whilst the environments are enriched with the smallest of details from the dusty locations. Unlike the 16mm prints of the previous films in this set, I noticed no blemishes or dirt whatsoever here, yet the natural grain is still visible and there are no signs of tampering by way of digital noise reduction or other methods. I noticed no edge enhancement, no aliasing, and only one moment of brief banding in the skyline which was barely noticeable on my 120" screen. This is what home media is all about; bringing the best possible transfers from the big screen to the comforts of our own homes. Spot on. A.

Audio

OLD JOY (2006)
Old Joy receives a single audio option; lossless LPCM 2.0 Stereo in the original English. It's a pretty standard track for films of this ilk, with no real surprises. Dialogue is clear at all times from beginning to end with no issues of mumbling, or volume levels being inconsistent. Channel separation is unsurprisingly minimal, though there isn't really much call for it. A 5.1 upmix may have added a few environmental sounds to the scenes in the wilderness, but to be honest, it may have detracted a little from what is some solid writing. There are no scratches or drop outs to the track. It's a sensible, consistent, problem-free track. B.

WENDY AND LUCY (2008)
Soda Pictures have provided two audio options for this feature; English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and English LPCM 2.0 Stereo. For my viewing, I opted for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which was surprisingly quiet, with the surrounds barely getting a look in, though this is understandable for what is essentially a dialogue driven feature. That isn't to say that the surround usage is poor though, because during the scenes they are utilised, they sound great. The biggest moment for the surrounds is with a scene involving a train, where the low-key rumbles of the track also makes some nice subtle use of the LFE. Dialogue is clear throughout, and there is no damage to the track such as drop outs or scratches. B.

MEEK'S CUTOFF (2010)
Soda Pictures have provided two audio options for this feature; English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and English LPCM 2.0 Stereo. For my viewing, I opted for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which was more than sufficient for the task in hand. With the barren landscape setting, the surrounds do have some long quiet moments, but they are used to great subtle effect when required for things like swirling wind, horses and carts moving along, and some quiet insect sounds. Dialogue is clear for 99% of the time, but one or two lines of dialogue that take place in the background can be slightly quiet and some may feel the need to revisit these brief moments. The score by Geoff Grace eases in and out of the feature beautifully, never overpowering the setting or the dialogue. As to be expected for such a new feature, there is no damage present. B+

All three features come with the option of English subtitles.

Extras

OLD JOY (2006)

The main extra on this disc, is a bonus feature film also directed by Kelly Reichardt. "River of Grass" (1994) (75:25) is presented in standard definition and is described best by Reichardt herself, who calls it a "road movie without the road, a love story without the love, and a crime story without the crime". Her debut feature, it was nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and for three Independent Spirit Awards. A very welcome addition, and a great debut from one of the world's best independent and relatively unknown filmmakers.

The next extra is the "Old Joy" short story presented as text. It's a welcome read and addition to the package.

We finish up this disc with some self-explanatory extras.

Bonus Trailers:
- "Wendy & Lucy" (1:32)
- "Meek's Cutoff" (1:47)
- "Night Moves" (2:16)
Theatrical Trailer (2:26)

WENDY AND LUCY (2008)

The main extra on this second disc is the "Kelly Reichardt in Conversation" interview which runs 80:14 and is audio only, running against the backdrop of the film like a commentary. Recorded at St Anne's College at the University of Oxford on May 29th 2014, and moderated by Dr Andrew Klevan, this is an in-depth interview in which Reichardt covers all bases of the production process, with plenty of informative snippets. The moderator does refer to footage they are watching from other features including Meek's Cutoff, so it is unfortunate we are getting audio only here, but still, this is an excellent extra feature.

The next extra is the "Train Choir" short story, presented in on-screen text format. A welcome addition, and worth a read through.

The disc finishes with some self-explanatory extras.

Bonus Trailers:
- "Old Joy" (2:26)
- "Meek's Cutoff" (1:47)
- "Night Moves" (2:16)
Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

MEEK'S CUTOFF (2010)

The main extra on this disc is a short "Making Of" featurette clocking in at 9:35. This features no narration or soundbites, and is a selection of behind-the-scenes footage. It's worth a viewing, but some form of narration or an introduction would have gone a long way.

The rest of the extras on this disc are self-explanatory.

Bonus Trailers:
- "Old Joy" (2:26)
- "Wendy and Lucy" (1:32)
- "Night Moves" (2:16)
Theatrical Trailer (1:47)

IN THE CASE

Also included in the case (but was unfortunately not available for this review), is a booklet about Kelly Reichardt by Larry Fessenden.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C+ Overall: B+

 


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