Tag Archives: Art Film

Frances Ha (2012)

“Frances Ha” is admittedly not normally my type of movie, but I was sporadically entertained by its down-to-earth charm. Filmmaker Noah Baumbach, who skyrocketed to indie fame after acquainting us with a cast of outrageously cruel, petty, narcissistic characters in “The Squid and the Whale” (I guess I’ve made my stance clear on that movie,) squares in on the lifestyle of the big-city intellectual again in “Frances Ha,” but at least now the characters are tolerable.

Greta Gerwig gives a amiable performance as well-meaning, somewhat ditzy college grad Frances Halladay, who aspires to make it as a dancer. Her BFF is the bespectacled and kind of bitchy Sophie (Mickey Sumner,) and and two are as devoted as two friends ever were. When Sophie prepares to move to Japan with her boyfriend who she doesn’t really love, ‘Patch’ (Patrick Heusinger,) Frances feels lost without her best friend, and her life starts to veer off the the tracks.

Not a lot happens in this film. What’s special about it is the real-life quality of the acting and dialogue. However, I did not like this as much as similarly naturalistic “Wendy and Lucy” because there was no high drama. I know, not every life contains a lot of intense drama. But in that movie Michelle Williams was struggling to keep her head above water financially and her fight to provide for her and her dog. She has a goal. Live. Or starve. We can’t look away.

Frances simply flounders. She complains about money, but scrounges up enough to take a trip to Paris where she never leaves her apartment. She lives with two hipsters for a while and it seems like something romantic is going to happen with one of them, but nothing ever does. She wants to dance, but lacks the talent to make it happen. Frances is a nice girl, but the film lacks immediacy.

However, there are pleasures to be had from watching this movie. There is something to be said for getting entangled in a characters life, uneventful as it might be. Frances is a well-written character, and all the side characters seemed real. The down side- the astonishingly tasteless moment when drunken Sophie *SPOILER WARNING* stoically describes the miscarrying of her unwanted baby as ‘cool’ *END OF SPOILER*. Ouch. It’s hard to have sympathy for her after that.

I like the way this movie deals with the everyday awkwardness of relationships. The social difficulties Frances faces never seem forced or exaggerated. Anyone who has said something they later wish they hadn’t (that’s everybody,) drunk or sober, can relate to Frances. The film chronicles little moments on Frances’ journey to become a self-made woman. I’m down with that. I just wish the story had been a little more arresting.

Note- This film is in black and white. Resident whiners and trolls beware. No it is not in color. No we do not need to hear how ‘behind-the-times’ or ‘pretentious’ the filmmaker is. You have been warned.

An Infinite Tenderness (1972)

“An Infinite Tenderness” is a beautiful piece of fiction, disguising itself as a documentary, exploring the world of brain-damaged children. It has no A-listers and no dialogue, but is probably more moving than any other film you’ll see this year.


Hollywood is full of saccharine, off-putting, and thoroughly uninspiring films about the mentally disabled. This French experiment challenges preconceptions of a group of people viewed alternately with pity and mocking derision.

Simon is a boy confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, who spends his lonely and monotonous days in a white-washed children’s home, cared for with a grim sense of duty by a black nurse.

The beginning of the film is reminiscent of the first 20 minutes of Mark Hanlon’s 1999 indie thriller “Buddy Boy” in its sense of gloom and repetition, but unlike Hanlon’s abused stuttering protagonist Francis, Simon keeps a positive attitude for a while, until he too loses his thunder and begins to look at each new day with apprehension and low spirits.

That is, until he meets Emmanuele, who, contrary to the Netflix description, is quite male. Emmanuelle, who has a very similar disability to Simon, communicates through dog-like barks and howls. They begin to connect through touch, art, and music, and open a door inside themselves they didn’t know existed.

Now this all sounds very Hollywood, with big-name actors hammily trying to get in touch with their inner spastic, but these kids have an inherent lovability that makes you sympathize with their plight.

They are resilient, without self-pity, even as life takes a s**t in their face. I felt a connection with Simon within the first five minutes. How often can you say that about a character, even one who does speak?

The film is tough going at first, with nothing happening within the first 45 minutes or so, but hang in there, because at about that point it picks up its pace. There’s even a death.

Moreover, this movie changed the way I looked at the severely retarded. Previously I saw these people as having little to offer anyone, almost parasitic in their dependance. When I watched this movie, I saw how much these two had to offer each other, in comfort, in affection. I know pretty, sappy, right? The child actors are physically disabled and mute but intellectually unimpaired, and Pierre Jallaud, directs them with finesse.

“An Infinite Tenderness” is for the patient only. But if you are one of those patient few, looking for that obscure film to move and wow you, I have one thing to say — watch this movie. Because if you are patient, chances are you won’t be disappointed.

An Infinite Tenderness