Friday, March 30, 2007

A Master of the
Mixed Message

Here's a review I wrote for Resonance, before finding
out that another writer
beat me to it. Suffice to say,
I liked the film, he didn't.

MUTUAL APPRECIATION (Image Entertainment)

At first glance, Andrew Bujalski's post-collegiate comedy looks like prime Cassavetes or Godard. Like his esteemed predecessors, the Harvard grad shoots on film and edits by hand. But his black and white follow-up to Funny Ha Ha (2003) isn't a tribute to the art house cinema of the 1960s. Bujalski's got his own thing going on.

The loose-limbed story revolves around Alan (Bishop Allen's Justin Rice), an indie rocker who moves from Boston to New York, in the process falling for his best friend's girl (Rachel Clift). What's a stoop-shouldered, fuzzy-haired hipster to do?

In Bujalski's world, the dialogue's the thing. Alan and his pals drink and dance around their feelings. They aren't as political as Godard's people or as crazed as Cassavetes', but their shambling digressions and fumblings at intimacy make them just as funny as Woody Allen's New Yorkers—but more heartbreakingly real.

Endnote: The title of this post comes from Dennis Lim's New York Times review. After writing about Mutual Appreciation for Siffblog, I tracked down Funny Ha Ha, which I like almost as much. The two films look different, but feel similar. Bujalski next appears in Joe Swanberg's Hannah Takes the Stairs, which premiered at SXSW earlier this year. Images from the archives.

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