Old Joy

21 Dec


22 December 2012, Friday.

Read Christmas Day In The Morning, a jolly holiday tale for the whole family. And get your free Kindle application to boot. On Amazon, visit:
You can also lend it and borrow it. And tomorrow and Sunday it is not $2.99 but free!

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Old Joy – directed by Kelly Reichardt. Drama. After a ten year separation two twenty-eight year olds reunite on a trek to the Oregon woods, and the question is, will they go on being friends? 76 minutes Color 2007.


This is really one of those perfect movies in which the cool temperament of the director is just the right temperature to release in the actors the natural stirrings in them about their characters own lives and how they accord.

I love the leisure of the film. How it moves slowly and respectfully through the Oregon countryside past the Vale Of Ashes outskirts of Portland, through pastureland, and into the deep woods on the way to Bagby Hot Springs. The two are accompanied by Lucy a dog who chaperones them and who is free of past, of restraints, of ambition. For it is the clear intent of one of the men to seduce the other back into the life they led when they were 18, which was careless and carefree. Both parts are played perfectly: Will Oldham plays the balding hippy and Daniel London the soon-to-be-father whose life has become domestic and suburban.

London’s first look at Oldham when they get in the car is one of stern incredulity. Is this guy still spouting the old stuff about everyone running around naked on the beach and getting laid? Has this guy not outgrown his hippy malarkey? No, he has not, but as he tests my patience, I also find patience with him. “I never got into anything I couldn’t get out of,” he says which is just his problem.

Oldham can’t grasp that his friend would want to be a father. But Oldham has marvelous stories to tell, because he has marvelous adventures, whereas his friend, London, has only a pregnant wife, domesticity, and a hard time doing Zen in a poor suburban yard. “The universe is just a tear falling through space,” is Olham’s advanced astronomy, but his friend London doesn’t know the truth that the director allows us to see.

She gives us a world drenched in the passages of life and nature. So I come to sympathize with Oldham, left to wander and mooch. And I sympathize with London, his eyes gleaming with a piece of his life saying farewell to itself. “Sorrow is nothing but worn out joy” – and we see it arrive in both of them, where it belongs, as it must, as personal history outlived.

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