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In «Leave No Trace» , De­bra Gra­nik’s ex­plo­ra­tion of pre-in­dus­trial Ame­ri­ca’s le­ga­cy leaves her with the crys­tal­line me­ta­phor of the in­de­pendent film­ma­ker stan­ding against the sys­tem.

Where had De­bra Gra­nik gone? Since the hit Win­ter’s Bone in 2010, Jen­ni­fer La­wrence has ma­na­ged to star in three Hun­ger Games, three Da­vid O. Rus­sell’s, in ad­di­tion to a bunch of X-Men while al­so win­ning an Os­car. The di­rec­tor, ho­we­ver, see­med to have lost her way. But af­ter some in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we lear­ned that she was sim­ply sear­ching for a new part of Ame­ri­ca to ex­plore. That’s the way De­bra works: she iden­ti­fies a for­got­ten land, set­tles in it, be­friends the lo­cals and even­tual­ly ma­nages to blur the lines bet­ween fic­tion and do­cu­men­ta­ry. Leave No Trace thus re­veals her tra­vel­ling the length and breadth of Port­land’s thick fo­rests, through the ma­ni­fest­ly le­gen­da­ry sto­ry of a fa­ther (Ben Fos­ter) and his teen (the yet unk­nown Tho­ma­sin Har­court-McKen­zie), a re­du­ced fa­mi­ly who de­ci­ded to live in the woods, far away from mo­dern ci­vi­li­sa­tion. Ad­mit­ted­ly, there is a hint of a Mos­qui­to Coast- re­min­ding tale in the fa­ther’s slow de­cline un­der the wit­nes­sing eyes of this daugh­ter.

But here, it is trea­ted in a soft, mez­zo voce way. The ho­ri­zon is dark, La Nuit du chas­seur said go­thic fai­ry­tale style is al­ways near and yet the mo­vie gives the spec­ta­tor the im­pres­sion to be wal­king bare feet on a ground of muss. Gra­nik films the thou­sand nuances of the Pa­ci­fic Nor­th­west’s ve­ge­ta­tion, the sur­roun­ding ma­gni­fi­cence, and peeks at an al­ter­na­tive com­mu­ni­ty of the Squaw Moun­tain haun­ted by the eter­nal folk myths and the spec­ter of Tho­reau. And all that wi­thout any theo­re­ti­cal Kel­ly Rei­chardt-like stiff­ness or eco­lo­gi­cal ser­mon. The film, then, works as the self-por­trait of an in­cor­rup­tible li­ving right next to the Hol­ly­wood for­tress and fol­lo­wing her own rules. At the end the in­cre­dible Tho­ma­sin Har­court Ma­cken­zie can fly on her own, and, we hope, be­come the new J-Law, as to Gra­nik, we hope she can go back to the woods and leave not trace or ad­dress.

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