August 25, 2007
Weekend mumbles."Surveying the Mumblecore-manic media coverage of the last week or so, three features are in danger of slipping through the cracks," warns Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog. "Totally coincidentally, these are the three films of [The New Talkies: Generation DIY, through September 4] that I'm currently most interested in.... I'm crushing heavily on Team Picture (directed by Kentucker Audley, who appears to be the same person as the film's star, Andrew Nehringer), and Frank V Ross's Hohokam and Quietly on By. These are the least-known films on the schedule for sure, although all three have made appearances at Harvard Film Archive's Independents Week. Seen as a unit, the three films point in an exciting new direction: towards the suburbs." Updated through 8/28. Before carrying on with this entry, a follow-up to this one, a brief observation. Though mumblecore and the so-called Berliner Schule are dissimilar in all sorts of ways, they do share a few characteristics. First, there's the perfectly understandable reluctance of the filmmakers themselves to be seen as part of a "movement," even though the respective labels certainly haven't hurt, that is, they've brought a little free PR to some films that might have slipped by unnoticed otherwise. Second, neither of these, let's say, wavelets would be happening if it weren't now possible to make films relatively cheaply. And third, there's the "reality" factor. You can make a genre flick on the cheap, too, but that's not what we're dealing with in either case here. The headline over Steve Dollar's mumblecore piece in the New York Sun is "Reality Never Looked So... Real," while Hanns-Georg Rodek, in one of the few pieces on the Berliner Schule to appear in English, writes, "reality is the key to the Berlin School." Anyway; a line of thought to pursue some other time. Meantime, Premiere's Glenn Kenny has no problem with these filmmakers getting a little press and making a modest living: "Insofar as I understand the term, 'selling out' means betraying your own principles for profit. It does not mean betraying the untested principles of a portion of your early audience that, for some particular and likely pathological reason, believes it owns you." "Because of the speed with which such hype takes off, flies and dies with the blogosphere cinerati, the American-born movement is likely to crash and burn before it ever reaches Australia," writes Matt Riviera in Sydney. "That may not be a problem, as the hip kids down here are not necessarily film-savvy and they wouldn't know an indie film backlash if it whipped them on the backside. Harsh. But true." "Viewers' tolerance for Hannah Takes the Stairs will depend greatly on how much they can stand the characters," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "And the movie would be nothing without [Greta] Gerwig, one of the rare improvisatory actresses who cuts right to the truth of a scene, and doesn't try to feign confidence by filling her camera time with a lot of chatter." At indieWIRE, Michael Lerman reports on Hannah's premiere at the IFC Center. There was a Q&A and the Film Panel Notetaker was there. A fun one from Todd Rohal: "Google Buys Mumblecore for $1.6 Billion." Updates, 8/26: David Lowery reviews Hohokam and Team Picture, noting that "Karina cites Ray Carney's notes on Hohokam from the Harvard Film Independent Week, in which he poses the question: 'is this the future the characters in the other works have to look forward to?' Maybe, maybe not - the socio-economic disparity between the various character sets predicates a wide variety of potential downfalls - but in a less material sense it's certainly a possibility, and one that's very pointedly underscored by Joe Swanberg's cameo in the film." "Mumblecore may have aesthetic/film technique differences from mainstream American film & television, but, when it comes to not collaborating with minority talent, Mumblecore is like 1950s Hollywood or mainstream television from that era," blogs Sujewa Ekanayake. Updates, 8/27: Eugene Hernandez talks with producer Anish Savjani (Hannah, Old Joy): "Now, through his own company Film Science, he hopes to foster a "family of filmmakers" that he can work with over the longterm. To that end, Savjani is currently producing Kelly Reichardt's next film, Train Choir with Neil Kopp (it wrapped production last week) and also Joe Swanberg's next movie, Nights and Weekends." "What connects LOL to past films is that essentially the film is about the sense of connection, or lack of connection, that young people feel, to each other as well as themselves," writes Peter Nellhaus. "Aaron Katz's second feature (after last year's Dance Party USA) Quiet City evokes a memorable aesthetic to surround its minor-key maybe-romance, focusing almost as much attention on lovely, video-sculpted natural formations and cityscapes as its two main characters," writes Michael Koresky at indieWIRE. "For every overly precious moment as manufactured as anything in a studio film..., there's a corresponding instance of loveliness: Katz's aural design, with its reduced traffic noise and disconcerting urban hush, for instance; or the texture of the sunlight blazoning through a city park. One sometimes wishes Katz would weave these compellingly wrought spaces into a film devoid of people altogether." In an entry entitled "Is Mumblecore Too White? Too Straight?," AJ Schnack reminds us of where these questions have been raised and then assesses "what the debate here is all about": A feeling that a generation-defining indie film movement (a sentiment that is over-simplistic at best) has, in the Bush Aughts, shied away from the complexity and diversity of the urban lives of most Americans, backtracking on the cinematic statements of Lee, Arteta, Araki, Haynes and the rest. Making a-political films in these most political times. Yet, here are these characters. Sheltered, yes, but also taking refuge within their own interconnected groups - both real and virtual - and hoping to find a way out. In some ways, isn't that a view of America today that's all too real? Updates, 8/28: "As wonderful and mature a film as Hannah Takes the Stairs might be, I don't think it would be in the position it is right now had not Joe Swanberg's previous feature LOL provided such a shot in the arm to the festival circuit in 2006," writes David Lowery. "An exuberantly scrappy, handmade little film about being a young dude in this digital age, LOL is - even more so than Hannah - both a product of and herald to its generation." "I just got my official Mumblecore rejection letter in the mail today. The reason? Cocaine Angel had three black people in it." A nice entry from Michael Tully. Matt Dentler talks with Aaron Katz about Quiet City. Continued here.
Posted by dwhudson at August 25, 2007 8:13 AM