Anthony Kaufman claims to admire young "filmmaker" filmmaker Lena Dunham and her work, but he and the Village Voice certainly didn't do her any favors by allowing her to hold forth on Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life in an interview published in the paper yesterday. Although Kaufman's question to Dunham is not "Could you redefine the word 'vapid'?" Dunham takes that as her challenge anyway, and says "I'm a total movie geek, but I can't get into movies like Nicholas Ray's. I'll go with my friends and they'll say, 'Bigger Than Life—that was incredible.' And I was so distracted the entire time by watching James Mason act in that fashion." There's no particularly kind way of putting this, so I'll just let fly: anybody who can't glom that Mason's presence in the film functions as a sort of pre-existing alienation effect has no business ever watching a movie that isn't Marmaduke. Let alone making one. (By the way, roll that phrase "I'm a total movie geek" around in your mind a few times, until it starts to hurt. Doesn't take that many, does it?) (And yes, I am disappointed that Aaron Katz, a co-interviewee of Dunham's and a filmmaker I admire, felt compelled to concur with her somewhat, saying he was "off-put" by Life, but you know, Aaron's an agreeable fellow who can be overly polite in certain company. By the same token, his new film, Cold Weather, better be Christ coming down from the cross.) And while Kaufman doesn't follow up that answer with a request that Dunham go even more vapid, she nevertheless insists, continuing, "I was watching it with a boy who I wanted very much to think I was cool and have a crush on me, but the whole time I was like, ugh, yawn, bring a book, I can't deal with this..." Wow. Doncha love grown women who talk like they're 12, and refer to the poor unfortunate fellows who have to go out on dates with them as "boys?" Yeah, me too.
So, um, yeah, sure...so, Anthony Kaufman, why is it that I should go check out Dunham's film Tiny Furniture at BAM this week? "Dunham, who just turned 24, casts herself as a confused post-grad, who moves in with her mother and sister in their Tribeca apartment (where she lives in real life)—a minimalist white loft and and studio space captured in sharp angles by up-and-coming ace cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes." No, no, you're right, that doesn't sound at all circle-jerkish and inconsequential and absolutely hatefully solipsistic, not in the least. Of this and the other films he champions, Kaufman says, "Mumblecore, these aren't." Because as it turns out, there are worse things than mumblecore after all. Is that what you're saying? No?
Of course that's not fair of me—I haven't seen Dunham's film. And I have to admit, I sure am in less of a hurry to right now. And you should have seen just what a hurry I was in before...
The above image, by the way, is of Ray in WIm Wenders The American Friend. Just think—if Ray had managed to hold on to the piece of Tribeca real estate he inhabits in that film, and if he wasn't like, you know, dead, he might be almost as rich as Lena Dunham's mom today!
UPDATE: A concerned friend who would prefer not to chime in on the comments thread (and for intriguing and fascinating reasons, at that) points out that my putting the word "filmmaker" in quotes, as I initially did above, is rather jumping the gun, as I admittedly have not yet seen the work of the artiste in question, and could in fact be perceived as me showing my hand both o'ermuch and cheaply. I could try the old "it's an oblique Citizen Kane reference" defense but the fact is that the fellow is absolutely right. I have made the necessary amendment above.
FURTHER UPDATE: Over at Twitter, a social medium I have forsaken but find useful to check into (or would you call it "lurk around?") from time to time, a friend Dunham and myself have in common protests that Dunham is among the most self-deprecating persons he knows, and that the comments that I have taken such umbrage at were quite possibly offered in that very same spirit, and that this spirit failed to translate in the Voice interview, which he describes as "poorly directed," full of "feeble" questions, and "a waste all around." So there's that to consider, if one wants to be super fair, and I do, damn it. By the same token, some others have directed me toward Dunham's writings on the film site Hammer To Nail, and I have to tell you that I'm extremely glad not to have had discovered them before I started doing some serious exploration of my anger issues. Let's just say that Dunham, who is clearly attempting to "rock" a "persona" in her missives (God, I hope that's the case) definitely needs to work on making the whole ostensible self-deprecation thing register a little better. And be mindful of the fact that "gauge" doesn't mean the same thing as "gouge." See, I'm trying to be helpful here. Really.