#Crucial21DbW: Night Moves directed by Kelly Reichardt

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There isn’t a single rule of composition that can explain the sublimity of the opening shot of Night Moves. And yet, its odd, detached specificity manages to become a narrative and formal theme of the work.

In the fourth scene, Kelly Reichardt introduces Jackie Christianson, a female filmmaker—portrayed by Clara Mamet (a female filmmaker and actress) — an instance of triple-mirroring.

And yet…

Christianson’s film-within-the-film is stylistically the opposite of Reichardt’s, featuring heavy-handed time-lapses, dissolves, and risibly cliched voiceover (“So let the revolution begin!”).

Dena (Dakota Fanning) raises her hand: “I’m curious what you think it is exactly that we’re supposed to do?”

Dena suggests a foil to the filmmaker’s sermonizing; later, she corrects Harmon about the availability of his past criminal record. Frustrated by inaction and ignorance alike, we might think of her as Night Moves‘s point of view, or at least its protagonist.

And yet …

It’s Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) who occupies the screen for most of the film, and is the most obvious candidate for protagonist. “The class did ask me once, ‘What motivates you?’ And I said, ‘Anger.'” (1) Josh exhibits/suppresses the anger that Reichardt talks about, whereas Dena seems motivated by shame at her privilege, and Harmon might just be showing off his bomb-making skills.

And yet …

The minor character who owns the organic farm might be the closest we have to Reichardt’s point of view on-screen: “Look out the window. It’s a lot slower, but it makes more sense to me,” perhaps answering Dena’s question from the earlier scene, although the conversation is several days later and Dena isn’t there.

Night Moves makes a case for the quieter narrative approach of “slow cinema”, similar to that made for community supported agriculture as a path to ecological healing. It is also an extended metaphor for telling a woman to shut up, — which Josh does in an early scene, foreshadowing the permanent silencing act of the climax.

Reichardt’s work hints at an ecriture feminine, transcending the protagonist/antagonist dichotomy and sidestepping the cathartic set piece (Sean calls the destruction of the dam “theater”). It universalizes her concerns precisely by being about these specific characters.

And yet…

Night Moves is available to stream on Amazon Prime and Fandor. Screening rights are available through Cinedigm.

(1) Interview with Slant Magazine, 2017.

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