Filminism is a bi-weekly column dedicated to representations of women in cinema. It runs every other Friday.
Ugh, “Frances Ha.”
That’s not an “ugh” of derision or exasperation, but a sympathetic groan recalled from the corner of my memory where old friendships have gone to die. If there were a cutesy portmanteau for the deep platonic love between women — and thank God there isn’t — every review of “Frances Ha” would have it in the headline.
Although the plot of the movie is about Frances trying to figure out how not to be a screw-up, its backbone is the crushing break-up between Frances (co-writer Greta Gerwig) and her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). One of the best scenes is their play-fighting in the park, something Frances tries to recreate later with another young woman to no avail. Their weird but awesome vibe is almost pre-pubescent in its intensity, or like house pets who cuddle and groom each other. But then Sophie commits the ultimate betrayal: She grows up. It’s like aliens replaced Frances’ best friend with some broad who’s dating a preppy financial dude and they start shopping at Pottery Barn or wherever it is that real adults buy plate-ware.
I don’t have to tell you that growing up can suck. Sometimes. I mean, driving is cool, and so is having whatever you want for dinner, but you’ve also got to do things like figure out why the toilet starts flushing itself in the middle of the night or how to find a stud in a wall. Frances has, in some ways, purposefully sabotaged herself from growing up. She’s sort of interested in becoming “a real person” but she can’t figure out how, and instead she keeps falling deeper and deeper into this rabbit hole of feeling like a loser. Honestly, you can’t fault Sophie for wanting things in her life like a good job and a serious boyfriend and a nice place to live. And yet, you can’t quite free yourself from the nagging desire to shake Frances by the shoulders.
Claude Lelouch, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Louis Malle and Roman Polanski during a press conference at Cannes Film Festival, 1968.
FILM SCHOOL WITH R.A. THE RUGGED MAN
“Seeing RAMBO on Family Movie Night”
the cinephile rapper reflects on the time he picked an unusual film for a family outing.
One morning, David Lynch awoke to hear his intercom buzzing. A man’s voice on the other end spoke, referring to him as “Dave.” Lynch answered, “Yeah?” and the man said, “Dick Laurent is dead.” Lynch said, “What?” but there was no one at the door. And he’d never heard of a Dick Laurent. He looked out to the large window on the other side of his house by the door, but again, no one there.
A typical morning for the man who has provided us with some of the most powerfully psychological fright and pleasure? Maybe. An inspiration for one of his greatest films? Definitely. If a Lynchian universe all exists within the mind, somewhere between waking and consciousness, Lost Highway is that moment in a nightmare where your body begins to panic, knowing this is not quite reality but you’re stuck, you cannot wake yourself up and in dreams you must visualize physically prying your eyes open and screaming aloud in order to escape.
Unused Taxi Driver poster made months ago for SpokeArt’s Scorsese tribute show. The decaying mental state of a New York cabbie seen through his operator’s license.
Rotary phones. Turn dial TV sets. Card catalogs. I’m old enough to have been on the receiving end of some humanity’s more antiquated technological innovations, and their growing pains. Most generations go through this. Just ask that slowly decaying relative of yours that preaches incessantly about how things were when they were young. Past all of their tales of snow-covered soleless shoe adversity often lies a yearning for the past, something tangible and real but also betraying of memory. Suddenly we’re older, nestled in our elder’s recliner, looking back through rose colored glasses and pining for the way things used to be, not fully understanding the way things are or remembering how they were. Thing’s aren’t the same, but what’s really changed?
Star Trek has, and the best of both worlds scenario you dreamt of as a kid seems to have taken place: what you enjoyed is shared and liked seemingly by everyone, rather than being the thing that gets your school books knocked to the floor. Friday sees the second installment of J.J. Abrams’ popular space faring franchise opening in theatres after months of intense marketing, which kicked off with a poster that drew more than a few comparisons to that of a previous summer blockbusters. Originality aside, a mangled Starfleet insignia managed to convey more thought and elicit more emotion than the work that followed. Unfortunate, sure, but disappointment is often felt when reflecting on the state of modern movie posters. What puts Star Trek in a unique position is that its long history within cinema has brought a host of admirable work from a few of the industry’s more gifted craftsmen. Higher expectations are unsurprising. But like anything else, though, the franchise has showcased some particularly unfortunate instances of poster abuse. The past is rarely as clear cut and beautiful as we remember it being.
THE CRITERION COLLECTION’S AUGUST 2013 RELEASE SLATE
(not pictured: ECLIPSE SERIES 39: EARLY FASSBENDER)
(also not pictured: me screaming with joy)
This is an impossible undertaking. Since 1955, when the Palme d’Or was introduced, there have been 66 feature winners. Many of them, if not most of them, are worthy of rising to the top of any list. This isn’t the Best Picture Oscar winners list, where there are a bunch of almost universally agreed-upon duds. This is the cream of the crop of international cinema, going back more than five decades. These rankings are somewhat meaningless, every film from about #30 on down to #1 can probably be considered a masterpiece, and most of the ones behind in the ranking are pretty darn excellent in their own way. Take this with a grain of salt.
The experience of watching all of these films was like a spiritual marathon on a couch (“The Palme D’Chore”). Many of them are quite long, too. There were the obvious films I had somehow missed in school, and then there were the obscure classics that are in great need of rediscovery. I stumbled upon stunning work and squirmed through one or two disasters that somehow found their way to the Palme. Mostly I learned an awful lot, in particular about the landscape of international cinema in the 1960s and 1970s that we have mostly forgotten about.