Certain Women – interview with Kelly Reichardt filmmaker

Certain Women – interview with Kelly Reichardt filmmaker – words Paul Risker

An adaptation of author Maile Meloy’s collection of stories, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women is the celebrated filmmakers fifth film. Literature and film both share an interest in the short form by way of the anthology and that connection is one that is highlighted here.

Yet this is not the only connection, the film’s cast of characters cross paths and while they fail to observe the moment from their obscured point of view, our perspective is one that forges an intimacy that goes otherwise unnoticed on the Montana landscape.

Certain Women charts the momentary travails of Laura Dern’s lawyer encounter with her volatile client (Jared Harries), married couple Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams) and husband Ryan’s (James Le Gros) attempts to acquire sandstone from Albert (René Auberjonois), to ranch hand Jamie’s (Lily Gladstone) unrequited feelings from lawyer Beth Travis (Kristen Stewart).

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From speaking with filmmakers, one idea expressed is that a short film allows you to hone in on a moment, whereas in a feature film the moments get lost. I’d describe Certain Women as a celebration of moments.

Well I guess there is the B side of the record. Westerns in particular are about heightened moments and that has sort of become a standard for the genre, bracketed around more regular life moments [laughs]. I guess I am a little bit more nuts and bolts – interested in the small tasks in a day, the routine and the smaller hassles of life. The short story does allow for elaboration, whereas a novel is more that you are taking out. I guess that does build up to smaller moments, but they are also big moments in people’s lives that  are just not shouted out.

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If we look at these as smaller moments that are in fact significant moments, does this speak to the disconnect that exists between ourselves and the characters?

Yeah I think so. The Jared Harris character Fuller, he’s really at a crisis moment in his life. He didn’t think of hostage taking and big things are going on besides trying to buy sandstone. So even the purchase of the sandstone really does bring up a big moment in the Albert (Rene Auberjonois) character’s life of realising that what they’re basically saying is: “Your time is over.”

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Filmmakers have told me that editing is the best training ground for a director. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how the experience of editing Certain Women will impact your approach to writing and directing in the future? And how have the experiences of editing your previous films influenced your approach from project to project?

After this many films, on Certain Women I could think much more when I was planning shots of what the cut was going to be like. I am always thinking in terms of the cut when I am on set, but I don’t know if that was true when I started, or to the degree it is now. Likewise when I am in the editing room, I am mostly sat there thinking about what would have been the best way to do something, but by then it’s too late. So yeah, it’s an excellent means but also in the editing room you are painfully hearing your own voice. You are hearing how you direct and work with the actors, and I had to remember on Old Joy all of those things: just tell me what you want, just say what you want, and then I’d hear myself in the editing room. I would hear myself say, “Are you sure you want to?” I still catch myself doing this passive aggressive approach, and I’m having to train myself not to because it can be a painful experience in the edit room.

Certain Women is released theatrically in the UK on Friday 3 March by Park Circus.

For cinema listings visithttp://www.parkcircus.com/films/27240-certain-women

Certain Women – interview with Kelly Reichardt filmmaker – words Paul Risker

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