Richard Lutz picks out the best movies on the box this week.
I’ll kick off this column with a tribute to the 2010 film of the year: Meek’s Cutoff (Wed; Film4, 22.50).
A group of tired and thirsty wagon train travelers are heading west in 1845. They may be lost or they may be bang on target on their way through a short cut to the Oregon farmlands. They don’t know where they are; their guide may or may not know where they are; and the Indian they captured to help them may or may not know where they are.
All that is certain is they are parched and they have to deal with one problem after another…one uncertainty after another.
Michelle Williams (she was Monroe in My Week With Marilyn) is outstanding as one of the family members who tries to hold it all together in the face of incipient violence, lack of resolve, waining water supplies and heat.
Director Kelly Reichardt summons up the overwhelming beauty and harshness of this part of the untrammeled west. She holds the shots forever to show you the small troupe as they trek west, west, west. Only one other American director does this so well, Terrance Mallick, and, like him, she has the guts to let that sunset infinitely burn in your eyes or the quiet empty hills sullenly loom over you.
The movie has more questions that answers. I won’t give anything away. But stick with it even if it is slow.
But one hint: the captured native American obviously doesn’t speak our lingo. He appeals to his gods in his own language. He rants on and on to the spirits above. I did copious research (ie; I googled the movie) and there was a translation of what he is saying. It is truly moving.
Other stuff: Why don’t you compare Meek’s Cutoff with a more traditional- and very successful- western? The Outlaw Josie Wales (Tues; 5USA, 21.00) is a Clint Eastwood affair. Analyse the two and how the directors tackle the west. I want the essays in by Monday, please.
And staying on the left side of the Rockies, there is a real old horse opera with Pony Express (Thur; Ch4,13.05) starring a very young Charlton Heston before he became Moses.The cowpokes are right out of costume and make up, the story hokey and the real star, as in any western, is the scenery when the producer lets the crew out of the sound stage. Check out Chuck’s hair do. Truly a magnificent affair.
If all that heat and dust gets to you, settle down to some suburban comedy. Rock Hudson and Doris Day get all cuddly in Lover Come Back (Sat, ITV1, 2.35…yes, in the morning).
Or you can finish the week with The Shining (Fri; ITV4, 22.00). Spooky. Kubrick can scare you as can mad Jack Nicholson.
NB: Nothing to do with movies, but a pat on the sweaty back to Simon from Selly Oak who clocked in at 2hrs, 40 minutes in the London Marathon. I drive slower than that.