Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Whoa! and Beeswax

I changed the layout of this blog after six years of the same damn thing. What do you think?

A few weeks ago, I watched Beeswax (which is currently streaming on Netflix, fyi) - a very cinema verite film about identical twin sisters floating through life in Austin, Texas. A.O. Scott had some very lovely things to say about the film when it was in theaters last year. When I say "real-life cinema" I mean it: the twins are played by actual identical twins. They, and all the other actors in this movie are "unprofessional actors." Watching Beeswax is like watching your friends talk in front of a video camera. As time (and the internet) marches on, I suspect we'll see more films like this one: unscripted and amateurish, uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo. Making movies is expensive and getting an independent film distributed is near to impossible.

Andrew Bujalski, the director of Beeswax, has been called the "Godfather of Mumblecore," and with no-name, non-professional actors, he's creating movies closest to the original meaning of Mumblecore in comparison to some of his compatriots who have gone off for more mainstream success. However, according to his wikipedia entry, Bujalski is now at work on a screen-adaptation of Benjamin Kunkel's novel, Indecision, for Paramount pictures.

Mumblecore is an American independent film movement that arose in the early 2000s. It is primarily characterized by ultra-low budget production (often employing digital video cameras), focus on personal relationships between twenty-somethings, improvised scripts, and non-professional actors.

Beeswax tells the story of twins Jeannie and Lauren, who, after a relatively lazy and comfortable life, have to come to terms with some major changes. Jeannie, who is wheelchair-bound, finds herself in a legal dispute over the ownership of her vintage store with her absentee partner. Lauren is smugly unemployed, going through the motions of trying to find a job but unsure of what she wants to do. Merrill is Jeannie's former-boyfriend - she brings him back into her life under the guise of needing legal advice as he's studying for the Bar. To say that anything really happens in this film would be to misunderstand it, but in the vein of Sherman's March, it is deeply enjoyable. It's refreshing to see young people struggling for stability and meaning in their lives - real young people, who aren't inexplicably wealthy or attractive like 20somethings in Hollywood movies. The actresses who play Jeannie and Lauren are strikingly beautiful in a unique way, very muscular, Amazonian women. Beeswax feels almost New Wave in its reluctance to offer us anything more than a splice of life permeated by mood and sideways glances. It's the ripple-effect from these subtle details that makes Beeswax truly compelling.

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