I Found It At the Movies: 2002—Funny Ha Ha (Andrew Bujalski)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

“It’s so easy to laugh. It’s so easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind.” — The Smiths

I first heard about Bujalski after reading a great Amy Taubin piece in Film Comment. When I tracked down Funny Ha Ha shortly thereafter, it really took me by surprise. It was so different from anything else coming out of the indie scene.

Bujalski’s film is natural and real, but not at all in the way that someone like Harmony Korine might take on naturalism. There’s very little irony here, and the style is unabrasive, observational and remarkably restrained. The camera is often handheld, but it’s always moved in a fluid manner, rather than a shaky, aggressive one. Korine and many of his generation wanted to bring the Dogma aesthetic to the states. Bujalski, meanwhile, seems more to be channeling Rohmer and Jean Eustache.

Bujalski’s casualness can be deceiving, sometimes creating the impression that his cinema is unambitious. However, I think the way that his writing and direction of actors strips away most of what we think of as “actorly” is not only incredibly ambitious, but also incredibly successful. Bujalski inspires and excites me, and this is my favorite of his films so far.

What moviemakers can learn: Bujalski’s lack of commercial success says a great deal about this day and age in moviemaking. 35 years ago, he would have found much more significant backing and been able to carve out a niche in Hollywood, much like Bob Rafelson (Five Easy Pieces ) did.

Other contenders for 2002: From this year, I really like Spike Lee’s 25th Hour, David Lynch’s short The Cowboy and the Frenchman, Claire Denis’ Friday Night (Vendredi soir) and Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s The Son (Le fils). I love Jim Sheridan’s In America, Todd Haynes’ Far from Heaven and Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her. And my closest runner-up is Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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