There's been a very interesting discussion over at Glenn Kenny's blog for the past week. It's centered on the work of Joe Swanberg, but really uses that work to explore larger arguments about aesthetics, realism, reception and other issues central to what we in this business of academic show might call "cinema studies."

I have not seen Swanberg's films, so I can't weigh in one way or another on their merits, but I wanted to pull this quote from the comments section of one post, because it nicely examines a key question that I encounter a lot in class discussion: why the fascination with 'realism' in the first place?:

My feeling has always been that real is in the eye of the beholder. I often feel much critical analysis gets bogged down in different people arguing whether a movie captures truth. As an editor, I am constantly aware that anything I watch is manipulated to get a certain reaction even if it doesn't seem like it was. I always feel movies are the reflection of mostly the director's (but also writers, actors, editors, cinematographers) sensibilities. Whether that actually reflects one perceives to be realistic is what each individual brings to it.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for the interesting post and link to Kenny's blog. I don't really know Swanberg's work very well, so I can't comment on it. In fact, the only "mumblecore" filmmaker I know is Andrew Bujalski, and I like his stuff a lot. _Funny Ha Ha_ has some wonderful scenes (one of the single most awkward dates ever captured on film), and _Mutual Appreciation_ I like very much too. I think in Bujalski's films there's a sense of "yeah, some of these people are kind of ridiculous and privileged and whatever else, but they also may have stories worth telling." Not every story--nor character, nor scene--works equally well. But cumulatively, both of the films are very interesting. I'm particularly fond of the characters that he himself plays, as well as the leads in both films (neither of whose names I know, but a young woman in Funny Ha Ha and a young guy in Mutual Appreciation).
Brian Doan said…
Yeah, Mutual Appreciation is one of the films Kenny cites as liking, too. I have not seen any of the "mumblecore" films, but for all the problems Kenny raises in his critique, I'm kind of curious to, mostly because the antecedents folks cite (Linklater, Hartley, Ozu) are filmmakers I really enjoy. And i liked the larger questions of reception/auteurism/the ideology of framing (i.e., "Here's why you should like this film if you want to be in the know") that the back-and-forth on Kenny's blog got into. Whether the films are good or not, I think those larger issues are always worth talking about.
Anonymous said…
Very true. And I think Bujalski's films tend to be the most well regarded across the board.

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