Cannes Film Festival – Deadline

Kelly Reichardt has been doing minimal Americana since the early 1990s, mostly in the state of Oregon where she lives and mostly about her favorite goofy team: silent square pegs that don’t quite match holes circles provided by the company. In this continuing quest, she has found many collaborators, but none more in tune with her recessive brand of naturalism than Michelle Williams.

As a homeless woman trying to find her stolen dog in Wendy and Lucia, as part of a westbound wagon train in the counter west Meek Cut, and as one half of a married couple trying to build their dubious “dream house” in Some womenn, Williams lets his performance ripple almost imperceptibly towards us, which is very much Reichardt’s way. The drama of each character, if you could call it that, lurks beneath the surface.

In Reichardt’s last, To show up, in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, Williams plays Lizzy, a middle-aged ceramic artist who earns rent working in the office of an arts and crafts school. His daily life is a tangle of borders that are difficult to blur. His father is a potter, now retired, whose reputation precedes him; her mother manages the office where she works, which can make dealing with staff difficult; her brother is a conspiracy theorist whom her mother expects her to admit is the genius of the family, but who is more or less in her care. She limits her housing costs by renting an apartment in a duplex belonging to another artist, Joelle, who lives next door and who is simultaneously a landlady, colleague and ostensible friend.

It’s another tricky combination, especially since Lizzy’s hot water service has packed up and Joelle obviously can’t fix it. “I told you: you can shower at my place!” said Joelle outgoing, but Lizzy would probably rather bathe in a bowl for the rest of her life than waltz around Joelle’s bathroom in a towel. She gets along with it, of course, because making art is her priority.

She has an exhibition in the week that could be noticed – could be life-changing – and a squadron of pottery figurines to be glazed and fired. The job gives her time to do her real work, while Joelle’s garage gives her space. It’s easy to draw a parallel to Reichardt’s own career, making the little films that established her as a major American filmmaker while making a living teaching students. It’s about showing off, on all fronts.

It’s possible to watch Williams as Lizzy fusses around her apartment in her frumpy socks and skirts and thinks she’s getting next to nothing, at least performance-wise. Reichardt’s characters register emotional changes almost barometrically, like changes in atmospheric pressure. Lizzy is not talkative. When someone else at the arts center tries to drag her out to lunch, she doesn’t quite tell him to back off, but wraps herself around the sandwich she’s eating as if to remove.

When she leaves Joelle a message screaming how furious she is with his continued lack of hot water, her anger feels staged; Joelle certainly doesn’t take it seriously. It’s in his stony insistence on using the shower in unlikely places – at the gallery where his work is shown, for example – that one really feels his pent-up resentment.

That and the case of the pigeon, a perfectly ordinary bird that Joelle finds after being mauled to death by Lizzy’s stray cat. Joelle puts the pigeon in a box, stating that she will look after it, then parks it with Lizzy who is too embarrassed by her cat’s bad behavior to refuse. The pigeon ends up going everywhere with one or the other of them; he lives in the studio, goes to the galleries, to the vet – much to the vet’s surprise – and goes back and forth between their apartments, a living monument to the tangle of roles, responsibilities and resentments common to the life of everyone, but especially to the lives of women trying to carve out a space for themselves to do creative work.

There’s a lot of boredom in all of this, underlined by a maddeningly repetitive score. Where Meek Cut and first cowReichardt’s last film, were counterpoints to the Western genre that embraced epic themes, gunfights and a wagon falling off a cliff, To show up is about tiny, endless acts of perseverance. Very little happens.

Lizzy establishes her workspace by closing herself off from others, including us. She doesn’t want our company. It’s not until the end of the movie, as her exhibit opens and she worries if there’s too much cheese on the snack plate, there might be a crack. opens in his armor. It’s not much, but for fans of Reichardt’s internalized cinema, it’s enough.

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