I haven’t written for a while here. So, what have I been doing?
Writing academic papers, drinking, attending classes, sleeping, walking, angsting, wanting to write uncontrollably but unable to, wanting to learn and unlearn, getting bored of what I like, searching for new things to like.
I have seen many films, some old, a few new. I haven’t seen a lot of films too. Sometimes I don’t want to.
So in this post I’d like to talk about Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy (2006). I saw it some months back and I’m writing purely from memory. At times, I just scroll through my list of films and look at them, thinking of how they made me feel when I saw them. On hindsight, some memories are still fresh, while some garbled. I like the garbled ones more.
So my memory of Old Joy is a bit fuzzy. But I still remember the landscapes and the slow enchanting movement of Mark and Kurt’s car to Yo La Tengo’s soundtrack around curving mountain sides. The charm of leaving cities behind, for countrysides and mountains is dear to many of us. Here the changing landscape from city to hills is lyrically captured. Their hope for some time away to clear their heads camping in nature felt familiar and identifiable. The film is patient and in no hurry. Reichardt’s camera is sympathetic to nature and their presence in it, indeed ours as viewers presence in it as well. She is not Herzog, who wants to confront the dangers of nature and man’s unhealthy relationship with it. And there’s a lovely dog Lucy to give them company. She is the same dog in Reichardt’s other film – Wendy and Lucy. I can still vividly recall the sequence of them crossing a tree log in the forest. After Mark and Kurt have crossed over, there is an oh so gentle pause, as Lucy makes her way across to them. She looks expectantly at the two friends, the camera, at us. You just want to reach out and pet her so much!
Old Joy can be simply surmised as two friends quest to find hidden hot springs and have a bath. That is the solace for Mark’s depression, Kurt’s joblessness and the overall hopelessness of our lives – economic or otherwise. When I went to Manali last year, I lounged around twice in the natural hot springs of Vashist. Watching the two of them lie down in tree trunk bathing tubs, sipping beer and lapsing into a state of nothingness filled me with upto the brim with joy and subtle ecstasy. As they complete their excursion and return to civilization, you are filled with that not so common feeling of bittersweetness, that you managed to escape only for a while, but escape you did.