THE last film in FilmClub’s special focus on women directors is Meek’s Cutoff, a revisionist western directed by Kelly Reichardt. Catch it at the Tatham Art Gallery in Chief Albert Luthuli Street, Pietermaritzburg at 7 pm on Tuesday, April 5.
The movie offers a woman director’s take on the most masculine of film genres, and a woman’s perspective on the much-mythologised journey westward.
It contains none of the conventional heroics associated with the genre: no “cowboys and Indians” action-sequences; no face-off between sheriff and outlaw at either end of a dusty, deserted street; no lone gunman riding in to save the community from ruthless cattle-barons or to seek revenge for a murdered relative.
Instead is focuses on three families and their unstable guide who are trying to find their way along the gruelling Oregon Trail, and now lost on a treacherous shortcut – the “cutoff” of the title.
When the group captures an enigmatic Native American, they must decide whether he is the greatest danger they face, or their potential saviour.
Austerely minimalist in comparison to more conventionally spectacular Westerns, yet visually stunning in its own way, this film is proof positive that one of America’s most resilient homegrown genres is still capable of renewal.
As usual, entry is R35 per person and The Tatham Coffee shop will be offering a soup and bread supper from 6 pm onwards (at a very reasonable R40 per person). Safe parking will be available in the government parking lot next to the gallery.