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Sunday, August 16, 2009


I had a nice weekend in New York. As I mentioned previously, I brought my bike, which was really enjoyable -- the subway is great, and I still used it a number of times, but there's something to be said for the sense of the city you get when moving through it on a bike, as opposed to popping up in various discrete locations from holes in the ground. Kudos to Amtrak for changing their policy to allow folding bikes as carry-on luggage. (Carrying a folding bike is also a great conversation starter.)

Along with going to the PS1 Warm Up and the ritual staying out 'til 4 am with Nina and Shane, Alex and I saw Beeswax, one of those tiny indie films that won't be coming to DC. We picked it because we both count director Andrew Bujalski's other films, Funny Ha Ha and especially Mutual Appreciation, among our favorites. He's one of the originators of the "Mumblecore" genre, whose films generally don't have too much of a plot and emphasize characters and the interactions between them with realistic (some would say boring) dialogue. Beeswax branched out ever so slightly in subject matter with characters that were a bit older and less urban than those in Bujalski's previous films.

I liked it a lot. You know how when you watch a movie, even one that seeks to be true to life, the way that events unfold and the way that people talk are movie-fied? Beeswax, in contrast, feels real throughout. The film doesn't have that cinematic rhythm that seeps into even the smallest scenes of other movies, and as a result, I find it much easier to engage with the characters. To put it another way, films typically distill things a bit in order to convey characters and plot in a manageable amount of time. Bujalski still constructs the narrative for the viewer by writing a script outline (from which the actors improvise), choosing which scenes and shots to use, etc., but he leaves in a lot of the muddled stuff that would have been involved if the narrative had been unfolding with real people -- the conversations that don't really go anywhere, people not expressing exactly what they mean, the "um" between words, etc. He can't cover as much ground this way -- the plot moves very little -- but our understanding of the characters is much deeper and more nuanced. If you've got the patience for this approach, I'd recommend Beeswax and Bujalski's other films.

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