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Frownland / Wendy and Lucy

A woman sitting on a sidewalk.
June 18, 2022 - 7:30 pm


U.S., 2007

If one were to picture a modern American version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, it would be Ronald Bronstein’s Frownland. Dore Mann gives an unforgettable performance as a lost-20s door-to-door salesman drifting through the thousand indignities of daily life, both suffering and empty at the same time. He’s so paralyzed he’s unable to speak in anything but a stuttering frenzy, save in a panicked moment when using a sock puppet to try to bring his suicidal girlfriend (played by Bronstein’s wife Mary Wall) from the depths of despair. Mann never acted again after this searing role, and when one sees the darkness his character wanders amidst, one knows why. If it all sounds miserable, it is—but in all the right ways, somehow finding a heart within its horrors.

35mm, color, 106 min. Director: Ronald Bronstein. With: Dore Mann, Mary Wall, Paul Grimstad, David Sandholm.

Wendy and Lucy

U.S., 2008

Wendy and Lucy is the second of Kelly Reichardt’s many excellent collaborations with writer Jon Raymond. Based on his short story Train Choir, it tells the tale of Michelle Williams’ Wendy en route to an Alaska she may never reach, along with her faithful dog Lucy (played by Reichardt’s own dog). Wendy is the cultural heir to Richard Linklater’s early vagabond anti-heroes, exploring American byways with precious little to offer in the way of fulfillment amidst a culture of stultifying comforts. The mood of impending loss looms over the Oregon small town where Wendy’s car breaks down, but is the mood hers or the town’s? Reichardt paints an indelible portrait of two souls just trying to get by in a land that doesn’t care.

DCP, color, 80 min. Director: Kelly Reichardt. Screenwriter: Jon Raymond, Kelly Reichardt. With: Michelle Williams, Walter Dalton, Will Patton, Will Oldham, John Robinson, Larry Fessenden.