Decisions to Be Made, Developments to Come: Beeswax and The Glass House at BAMcinemaFEST
There’s a haziness to Beewswax, Andrew Bujalski’s third and most recent feature, which appeared in this year’s BAMcinemaFEST and had its North American premiere at SXSW in March. But haziness and languor are the pervasive feelings in Bujalski’s distinctively diminutive on-screen universe, a place that schleps awkwardness and twenty-something listlessness toward an unusual level of palbability. Like director Hamid Rahmanian’s The Glass House, also included alongside the nearly twenty features selected for this year’s festival, Beeswax is a film about young people in limbo, about decision-making when the idea of having to make decisions carries with it all kinds of unwanted anxieties and implications.
Unlike Bujalski’s film, however, the people of The Glass House are all young women – most of them from broken homes, some of them runaways – enrolled in an experimental Iranian rehabilitation center that encourages, rather than disciplines, their creativity. Moving between the stories and situation of a handful of these girls, following them through their homes and streets in working-class Tehran, Rahmanian’s documentary is a refreshingly non-partisan portrait of inner lives desperately trying to develop under pressure.
Compare again to Bujalski’s film, which feels ardently partisan, hopelessly romantic in its endearing evocations of Texas hipsters under duress. Twin sisters Jeannie and Lauren (Tilly and Maggie Hatcher) bemoan their professional and sexual relationships, their career misgivings, their friendships and their family obligations while mutual friend Merrill (Alex Karpovsky) uses his expertise as an aspiring lawyer to help Lauren, his love interest, escape a legal fiasco instigated by her business partner. The Hatcher sisters are expectantly charismatic personalities; Bujalski – a filmmaker whose naive fetishization of the quirks and mannerisms of generation raised on late Eighties pop cultural residue helps to secure his spot in the leagues of Swanbergian mumblecore – would have nothing less.
However, charisma is what keeps mumblecore away from the honesty and relevance of more provocative – and ultimtely more serious- films about men and women navigating the contestory zones of young adulthood (think of Nanni Moretti’s Ecce Bombo, for example). The Glass House is, perhaps, an appropriate counterpoint to Bujalski, a film more alert to the nuance and features of a group of young people in need of guidance. And yet, Bujalski’s voice has matured since the days of Funny Ha Ha, he’s become more assured and comfortable behind the camera (unlike his previous two films, he’s nowhere to be found in front of the camera this time). He shares with Rahmanian an interest in the shifts and shuffles of personal lives, and the tensions they leave behind.
-Ricky D’Ambrosefestival dispatches comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.