Posts Tagged ‘ guatelmalan handshake ’

andrew bujalski

mutalappreciationFinally got around to seeing Funny Ha Ha the other night. It’s the first feature work of director Andrew Bujalski, a Boston-native and Harvard grad whose latest film, Beeswax, will make its U.S. theatrical debut this month (limited release, I’m sure). Bujalski is considered by some to be the leading light of the ‘Mumblecore’ film movement; the term refers the super-low-fi production style of a number of independent films released starting at the beginning of the decade (think: LOL, The Guatemalan Handshake, Hannah Takes The Stairs) many of which were shot with handheld digital video cameras and employed non-professional actors. The term was apparently coined by a friend of Bujalski’s; he himself has said he doesn’t feel the movement ever really even existed.

Bujalski’s two films to see U.S. release thus far, Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation, both highlight the post-collegiate lives of a trio of friends. Neither one sounds particularly interesting on paper: in Funny Ha Ha, a twenty-something woman loses her job, drinks too much, has trouble communicating her feelings, finds another job, and has relationship problems; in Mutual Appreciation, a twenty-something man trying to make it as a musician has trouble communicating his feelings, doesn’t making enough money to support himself, and deals with relationship problems. Malaise, ennui, and snarkiness reign throughout; the characters’ defining trait is their near-total inability to say anything sincerely. And this is really what makes both films so interesting and yet so frustrating at the same time: that the main characters can be so annoying, so pathetic, and yet so dishearteningly familiar. I found both films maddening – I hated how gutless the characters were, but I thought their depiction was fair and true. What I wonder is, even if it’s true that this is what a lot of young people today sound like, does simply portraying that on film make for a good movie?

Worth noting, however, is Kate Dollenmayer’s stellar performance in Funny Ha Ha, and the nicely done black and white cinematography of Mutual Appreciation. I’d be very interested to hear what other people thought of both these films.