From Italian neorealism to American indie: transcultural heritage in Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy (2008)
Motion picture authorship
Motion pictures and transnationalism
Issue Date: 
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Echart, P. (Pablo); Noguera-Tajadura, M. (Maria). "From Italian neorealism to American indie: transcultural heritage in Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy (2008)". En Brenes, Carmen Sofía; Cattrysse, Patrick & McVeigh, Margaret. Transcultural screenwriting: telling stories for a global world (pp. -). England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017
In studying the film Wendy and Lucy, this chapter examines the cinematic footprint as a specific form of cultural transfer. The heritage of a certain tradition in European film will be analyzed through Kelly Reichardt’s film, widely known as one of the milestones of current American indie filmmaking. In 2009, film critic A.O. Scott effectively coined the term “Neo-Neo Realism.” The New York Times reviewer thus verified the appearance of a current of American films conceived under the influence of Neorealism and placed Wendy and Lucy at the forefront of this tendency. Reichardt herself has also recognized this influence in several occasions, among others that will also be considered in this text. From this starting point on, this chapter intends to carry out a narrative analysis of Wendy and Lucy so as to illustrate its continuity with the ethical and aesthetical tenets of the celebrated European film movement that opened the gates of modern cinematic times. This transcultural dialogue finds its most obvious evidence in the film’s narrative structure —a lonely young woman strives to find the only being for whom she feels a genuine affection: her dog— that recalls films such as Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief (1948) or Umberto D (1952). As in those, Reichardt —in collaboration with her usual co-writer, Jonathan Raymond— gives voice and dignity to an outsider character, who suffers the effects of the severe social and economic crisis around him/her, and then puts forth a humanistic discourse fully engaged with the ordinary man and woman of its times. Ultimately, this study attempts to shed light on a promising line of work for transnational productions by observing how the presence of certain foreign cultural elements can enrich a film through explorations of the human condition. In the case of Wendy and Lucy, the heritage of a certain classical European cinema contributes to make this a remarkable film, with which Reichardt reinforces her status as one of the most important voices in contemporary American independent filmmaking.

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