Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Girl and Her Dog: Part Two

WENDY AND LUCY (click here for part one)

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"No weeping strings."
-- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Then Lucy is gone, and Wendy is stuck in a strange town, all alone with a dead car. No one is purposefully mean to her, and some of the locals, like Walter Dalton's security guard, are actually quite kind, but they can't solve all her problems.

And if she isn't an idiot, Wendy isn't exactly a rocket scientist either, i.e.
she's like most of us, regardless as to how she ended up in her predicament.

If while watching Half Nelson you thought, "But a crack addict shouldn't teach school," you'll surely agree with John Robinson's grocery clerk that poor people like Wendy shouldn't have pets, in which case this film isn't for you (and a little compassion might be in order). Then again, whenever I see a rich person feeding their dog chocolate, I tend to wonder if they should be allowed to have pets (Will Patton
and Larry Fessenden play two characters who cause Wendy further stress).

Click here for the trailer

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Emilie Dequenne in 1999's Rosetta

After her dog, Wendy is her own best friend and her own worst enemy. Intention-
al or not, Reichardt's film also recalls Robert Bresson's Mouchette and Jean-Pierre
and Luc Dardenne's Rosetta. The impoverished women in those works aren't heroic either. They make bad choices, they suffer the consequences, but their directors don't judge them for their mistakes—not with so few options available to them.

Despite such distressing parallels, Reichardt hasn't made a tragedy. Wendy and
Lucy
isn't even depressing, though it seems to start out that way. Instead, it ends
on a note of sadness that can also be read as possibility. It's all a matter of per-
spective. Where I saw hope, you may see something completely different.

Since I first watched the movie in late December, I've had almost two months to
think about it, and whenever I do, I find myself flashing on Kris Kristofferson's ub-
er-'60s lyrics for Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee,” i.e. “Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose / nothing don't mean nothing, honey, if it ain't free...”

By the end of the song, Bobby's gone, but the narrator lives on. Similarly, Wendy
is free from all ties and obligations, but can you be truly free in America without money? In prison, after all, even inmates get free room and board—at the tax-
payer's expense—but they can't have pets. It would be a spoiler to reveal wheth-
er or not Wendy finds Lucy. Suffice to say: she finds herself along the way.

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Wendy and Lucy continues at the Varsity Theater through Thurs., 2/12. The Varsi-
ty is located at 4329 University Way NE. For more information, please call 206-781-5755. According to L.Q. Jones, "A Boy and His Dog played in the Varsity…which was
the biggest theater at that time; we played...for twelve months in a row. It did humungous business. Unbelievable!" And he planned to title the sequel (never made, unfortunately): A Girl and Her Dog. Starting on 2/13, Wendy moves to the Northwest Film Forum, where it plays through Tues., 2/17. The NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave. For more information, please call 206-829-7863. Images from Cinema Strikes Back, Cinematic Reflections, and Oscilloscope Pictures.

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