Not sure why you are bringing up Hopkins, Nelson, Hitchcock, who don’t relate to the topic in anyway, nor am I a fan of any. What depth is there in these films? If I want to hear hipsters converse and rant about their petty problems I could just go to a coffee shop or record store. Great films are made outside of the Hollywood system all the time. I’m not saying films need “pretty photography” and oscar “winning acting”, but they do need adequate camera work, some skilled compositions would be nice, and even adequate acting would suffice. The dialogue often tries to seem so improvised and awkward that is comes across as forced instead of achieving its intent. Bujalski is an amateur.
“The dialogue often tries to seem so improvised and awkward that is comes across as forced instead of achieving its intent”
The problem for a lot of these films is that they’re about the characters inability to express themselves. In this situation, it’s a bit of a cop-out to have a Woody Allen “uh-ooh-gee-ah” character who’s clumsy but charming.
I’d recommend Frownland, a movie where it’s VERY obvious that the characters are meant to be as awkward as they appear. Though if you didn’t like “Funny Ha Ha”, it’ll probably give you an epileptic and/or apoplectic fit.
“If I want to hear hipsters converse and rant about their petty problems I could just go to a coffee shop or record store.”
Okay, I hear what you are saying but I think you’re simply too close to the subject to be objective. Your use of the term hipster tells me this. As i said, Chekov and James wrote about people’s “petty problems” as well. I think you and many others have some aversion to real “hipsters” and cofffee shops that prevents you from seeing how their onscreen equivalents relate to your life. I’m not sure how you feel about Paul Morrissey but his films don’t usually get your kind of criticism because they are somewhat removed from today’s youth scene.
Whether or not you’re a fan of the people I mentioned I brought them up because you seem to be most put off by messiness, which for me implies that you have a fondness for perfection. I don’t. I think dialogue in real life, yours, mine and everyone’s, often comes across as improvised and awkward. I think you have simply become used to the phony polished dialogue in whatever films you like and this prevents you from seeing that Bujalski is brilliant precisely because of what you find amateurish in his work. May he never become professional.
And i second Fraser’s Frownland recommendation.
I third recommendations for “Frownland”, but I think it’s wrong to diminish it by labeling it as “mumblecore”.
Fair enough…You make a great point about the Paul Morrissey films. I probably haven’t seen enough films to judge it so harshly, but what I’ve seen really turned me off. (The Puffy Chair, Mutual Appreciation, Quiet City) I just don’t think it’s for me, but I suppose some people can connect with it like anything else.
Maybe perfection has its place considering Kubrick mechanically programmed me to be a weeping-machine during EYES WIDE SHUT while Bujalski humanely guided me into being an I’d-rather-be-sleeping-machine with FUNNY HA HA. “I just don’t think it’s for me, but I suppose some people can connect with it like anything else.” Ditto.
I haven’t seen The Puffy Chair yet and Quiet City, while excellent, is a bit too simplistic in it’s interactions to be completely successful. Mutual Appreciation, for me, is another story.
Regardless of the lack of a clearly ambition theme in MA, what interests me about it is what interests me in the films of certifiable geniuses such as Dreyer, Tarkovksy or Bresson, an attention to the subtle nuances of interaction. Bujalski, like all the greats, understands the important meanings that are made when what we say clashes against what we feel, and he avoids showing either in too clear a fashion. Look at the two scenes in MA in which the musician and his buddy’s girlfriend interact with each other while sitting on a bed. The awkwardness and hesitations emphasize the fact that both characters are struggling to understand what they are feeling inside as well as the “intentions” of the other. Bujalski is also a master of knowing when to cut away from a close shot just when the character speaking believes they are truly expressing themselves. This technique forces the viewer to question to possibility of a fixed truth or emotion and to continuously adjust their judgements. By frustrating our need for closure and clarity, as well as through the purposeful and effective use of 90 degree shot perspectives, Bujalski makes us as aware and attentive to the shifting flowing "meanings behind each gesture, facial expression, or body adjustment as the characters themselves struggle to be. His style is effortless, but not meaningless.
Love it or hate it, here is a list of “Mumblecore” films: http://mubi.com/lists/8224 I definitely do not like all of these films, yet there is something interesting here which centers around making our humanity more poignant, similar to Cassavetes – without all the shouting – but definitely not on the same level as Cassavetes, who was truly a genius.
If Ray Carney hadn’t gone to bat for Andrew Bujalski and the Duplass Brothers, this thread and a much of the “hype” surrounding these films wouldn’t exist.
I was at the Minneapolis premieres of both Mutual Appreciation and Funny Ha Ha, and while at the time they seemed okay, in retrospect they’ve been unduly lionized, and it’s kind of an embarrassment.
Oh, but Bujalski studied with Chantal Akerman at Harvard and he’s a unerringly polite, so I guess that means he’s the “Renoir of his generation”.
Maybe compared to Aaron Katz he is!
(Dance Party U.S.A. is a piece of garbage.)
ARE YOU KIDDING?
Joe Swanberg is to American filmmaking what Heino is to German music—I don’t know anyone whose taste I respect who takes him seriously… It would take quite a fool to call that guy an artist.
And if you think Yeast is a “good” movie, you probably need to move out of your mom’s basement.
“Mumblecore” is not the stuff of great art.
It’s funny yet worrying that apparently knowledgeable film-goers are doing exactly the same to these films as the critics from the 60s and 70s did to Cassavetes. Didn’t any of you learn the lesson from the last time? Do you really despise people in their twenties that much? Being in my twenties, I’m quite disturbed by the arrogance and contempt shown for these young filmmakers; I know they don’t provide you with the comfort and ‘deep’ meanings that a nice foreign language film will, but if you watch a film to feel smarter than the average person, you’re never going to understand these.
Carney said that the next great American independents were going to be ignored by arrogant ‘cinephiles’, and he seems to be right on the money.
Give me a break, strawman.
I’m a young filmmaker myself, but that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned common sense.
To compare this lot to someone like Cassavetes is the height of stupidity – their dull vanity projects play it safe and have none of the emotional depth, insightfulness, or aesthetic vigor of a film like Faces.
They made a bunch of trivial home movies and have gotten quite a lot of mileage out of them – you’re defending a group of hacks who got lucky. (I’m willing to give Bujalski the benefit of the doubt but the rest of them are a joke.)
Perhaps I’m arrogant but I know lousy art when I see it.
If you think something like Dance Party U.S.A. is good cinema your bullshit detector isn’t working.
Dogme95 or cinema verite are equally “bad cinema” at their worst if by cinema you mean studio productions. Pretty much everything is bad when taken to extreme but mumblecore has evolved quite a lot since 2006. Dance Party USA might be far from what you consider good cinema, but it’s also quite far from Quiet City by the same director (when you get over the opening scene with hundreds of “it’s like you know like like like like”-lines). Or from Medicine for Melancholy which is one of my favorite movies of the past decade.
I don’t know why I bothered replying to that though since I prefer to avoid aggressive types and your attitude seems to be that cinema is primarily tool for feeling superior to tastes not supported by masses(/generic arthouse crowd) rather than artform to form your own opinion on… Criticize the movies all you want but there’s no need to “spice up” your posts with bunch of sentences that are there solely to bash fans of certain movements.
Dave A – One thing you need to understand is that I never compared their films to Cassavetes in my post; I merely compared the treatment they have received from certain critics and arrogant boys like yourself to the treatment Cassavetes received when Faces first came out. Admittedly, I do see similarities in the better works of the ‘movement’ to the works of Cassavetes, but they’re only similarities.
Somehow, it seems to have slipped your mind that Cassavetes was thirty-nine when Faces was released, therefore he had attained a lot more life experience than the Harvard graduate Bujalski who was twenty-five when Funny Ha Ha was released. You must appreciate that most twenty-five year old Harvard graduates are simply not capable of creating a film like Faces — a work that was influenced by years surrounded by Hollywood producers, businessmen, and various other unsavoury characters.
You say that Bujalski and others have played it safe but maybe they just haven’t attained enough life experience to reach the depths that Faces managed to? Maybe you need to give them time to attain this life experience before dismissing them so quickly; if they pass forty and don’t develop then your criticism will be justified and I will pop back here in fifteen years to apologise.
One more thing: I never mentioned Dance Party USA and I have in fact not watched it. I never said there aren’t bad films made by these filmmakers who have been unfortunately grouped together; I said that dismissing all of them with remarks like ‘trivial home-movies’ and the shockingly conceited ‘if you think Yeast is a “good” movie, you probably need to move out of your mom’s basement’ prove to me that you think too much of yourself to even attempt to take these films seriously.
Dance Party USA is an interesting project. Katz uses for his clay a dull and speechless tribe of teens so coarse, so void of all vocabulary, that any out of ordinary topic strikes them all but mute. I admire the discipline with which he never permits his characters to be smart, or eloquent, or even just to the point. The dvidends are small, but I feel he’s onto something. I don’t know — the Poetry of Stupid Talk.
Quiet City is pretty, and likable.
This style of filmmaking was unavoidable once the technology became more accessible. There are those who understand it and those who don’t. Cinematography isn’t at the focus of this style (though some films in this style do have interesting visuals for sure) but rather story and character- whether or not they succeed in that regard, well, that’s ultimately up to the view, but we certainly have no right to hold our noses at it simply because of what other’s say in favor or against it, we have to make our own choices. I, for one, LOVED “The Puffy Chair”.
I also loved ‘The Puffy Chair’; I don’t think it played on the awkwardness of the characters like certain other American independent films of the last ten years have, and even though I think the female lead went a bit over the top with the Gena Rowlands imitation sometimes, some of the exchanges between the two leads were incredible (when you realise that they are married, you understand why there was so much chemistry between them).
Seeing as this thread has been bumped, I may as well weigh in with two recommendations:
Nick Peterson’s lusciously shot musical ‘Yellow’ and Ronald Bronstein’s unclassifiable ‘Frownland’
While Peterson’s work is very easy on the eye, the Bronstein work is the complete opposite and should only be viewed by people with a strong stomach and a tough temperament. There has not been an American film since Faces that has battered me emotionally like ‘Frownland’ did and, unsurprisingly, it provoked strong reactions from critics and members of the audience who loved and hated it with equal fervour.
Peterson’s work is available from www.sampofilms.com while Bronstein’s work can be found on Amazon. I recommend you check both of them out if you get the chance.
I also recommend Frownland and Yellow. Here’s the trailer for Nick Peterson’s latest film:
I’ve stayed away from Puffy Chair because the trailer made it look like indie-quirk. Then again, Funny Ha Ha is amusingly misrepresented by its trailer, so perhaps I should give Puffy Chair the benefit of the doubt.
But it’s not just the trailer — I seem to remember the cover design of the DVD reinforcing my misgivings.
These are the films I’ve seen: Funny Ha Ha, Mutual Appreciation and Quiet City. I liked all of them (especially the latter), and I wondering what you guys think I should see next. (I do have Dance Party USA and I might watch that soon.)
Bees wax $ frownland
wow singmason really dug deep:
“a bunch of boring, ultimately meaningless movies?”
i love the puffy chair, but thats where it ends. i can only watch so many movies about people in their mid 20’s going through relationship drama with their boyfriends or girlfriends. like, you know?
Frownland wasn’t boring, was it?
Frownland is a must.
I havent seen anything else of Aaron Katz who directed Quiet City, but I imagine (and from what I’ve heard), his other films are pretty good.
As suggested, if you liked the other Bujalski films, Beeswax follows along the same lines.
Try a Duplass brothers film, Cyrus came out in the cinema in 2010 and is very good, though The Puffy Chair is in my opinion their best work so far, although Baghead is fun.
Joe Swanberg is another big player, not my favourite however, but you might want to look into his work.
Tiny Furniture by Lena Dunham got good reviews this year, but again I havent seen.
http://mubi.com/lists/19031 Self promotion…my list of Mumblecore films that I have seen…
although, this… http://mubi.com/lists/8224 … is by far a more complete list if you want to have a broader look.
Now…back to writing my essay on Mumblecore…
Celeryfc my essay on Mumblecore…
Would like to see that…
I havent seen the Duplass Brothers’ “Humpday” mentioned yet. I adored it…did it fly under the radar?
@Qiydaar Foster – Not to sound bitchy, but Lynn Shelton directed it, Mark Duplass starred in it. Though Humpday is very good!
@Robert W Peadbody III – The essay is 3000 words about the representation of race (I was going to focus on disability as well, looking at Frownland and Beeswax, but I seem to have enough on race) of white and non-white people in Mumblecore, in comparison with mainstream Hollywood. Its part of the module I took that focused on Alternative American Cinema, with one lecture focusing on Mumblecore.
@Celeryfc: oops, thanks for the correction. no bitchiness at all, I do the same to other people.
I think I’m coming to the end of my exploration of the “genre.” I just watched Hannah Takes the Stairs and The Puffy Chair. Each had their moments, but I didn’t think they were especially terrific.
I will continue to watch Bujalski and Katz.
Also, I haven’t checked out Frownland yet, (I had to return it. Arggh!), but I plan to.