Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Frances Ha

“This apartment is very aware of itself,” comments one of the characters in Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, the director’s love song to his co-writer and leading lady, Greta Gerwig (Frances). Greta is a dancer and the movie which employs a great deal of jump cuts also lingers on Gerwig in motion whether she is philosophizing about the virtues of reading Proust in Paris which she calls doing “what your supposed to be doing when your supposed to be doing it,”falling on her way back from finding an ATM machine (a shot that moviegoers are likely to remember the film by) or merely standing in the elevator of Moishe’s self storage. About her choreography Frances says, “I like things that look like they’re mistakes,” and that is source of the love that Baumbach lavishes on his character, a poor little poor girl who looks like a poor little rich girl, a dance major from Vassar by way of Sacramento who won’t take avocation for an answer. But what might be said about the apartment could also be iterated about the movie which being shot in black and white immediately cites all your favorite French New Wave films starting with The Four Hundred Blows, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, John Cassavetes’ Faces (both shot in b&w) along with a host of earlier b&wAmerican classics that are filmic versions of the Bildungsroman, or coming of age novel. Frances even misses the opportunity of meeting a Leaud look a like on brief trip to Paris. But as much as we may admire the low definition of b&w which by failing to fill in the blanks, leaves the imagination unfettered, it’s a big leap to sit down and make your your 2013 version of Little Fugitive about a Vassar girl on the run, as it were, without invidiously comparing the film to the masterpieces it cites. You might say that there’s something contrived about the film, right down to its earnestness, minimalism and seeming lack of contrivance. Like a lot of Vassar grads, Frances gets on her feet. The chances that the character takes are like that of the filmmaker who is more calling attention to, than actually opting for, the kind of risks he would have you believe he is taking.

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