[8 May 2013]
Some of the most powerful films making the rounds at festivals this year elevate everyday experience to the level of art. Reminiscent of the driving philosophy behind happenings, these films allow viewers to see themselves reflected on the big screen and to value the craft of their everyday lives.
When done well, these films can be more touching than even the most weighty, deftly plotted dramas and thrillers. Among the most anticipated of these ‘mundane’ movies at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival are Frances Ha and Everyday Objects. These films celebrate daily life and the process of finding one’s self with varied levels of success.
Director Nicolas Wackerbarth’s film about Merle, a young German woman planning to meet her lover at his vacation home on the hills of Nice, is an interesting look at the absolute dullness of so many romantic struggles. Devoid of emotional fights and drawn-out relationship negotiations, the film reminds us that love is generally a lot more boring than the big movie studios would have us believe.
We watch Merle as she awaits the arrival of her lover, Romuald. His two children, Felix and Emma, have already arrived at the vacation villa. The relationship between the mistress and the kids is full of tense complexity and is no doubt the film’s grounding strength. As Merle works to find her place with the kids, she comes to realize that her relationship may not be what it seems.
A lot happens in Everyday Objects, even as nothing much seems to be happening. The audience at the screening I attended responded to the film either very positively or very negatively. It’s not a film that one will think is just okay or decent; it’s a film to love or hate. This, too, is part of its beauty.
Noah Baumbach’s latest movie is described in SFIFF’s festival programming as somewhat akin to Woody Allen. Frances Ha is simply the story of a young woman (played by Greta Gerwig) who doesn’t really have a career or an apartment or any particular drive in life. The story, which is set primarily in New York City, has shades of Girls but doesn’t approach either the comedy or art of Woody Allen.
Like Everday Objects, this is a love-it-or-hate-it movie. Either you’ll fall in love with the protagonist or you’ll feel, as I do, that her ineptness and self pity is not worth your time. Though Baumbach co-wrote the script with Gerwig, it still has the distinct flavor of a man’s imagining of what it is like to be an irresponsible, somewhat dumb twenty-something woman. The character of Frances is dull and intolerable, as is (unintentionally) reflected in the film’s all black and white composition.