Monthly Archives: May 2014

#GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS: Can’t Live With Them… Can’t Live Through Them. (But do we want to?)

 

Promo film poster

Promo film poster

        I met Lena Dunham at the Sarasota Film Festival when she premiered herfilm Tiny Furniture in 2011.  We talked about Oberlin College, the Canon 7D—a remarkably, reasonably well-priced DSLR camera with HD video qualities—and we took a picture “for the blog.”  I was riding the high of having thoroughly enjoyed a film for which I’d had no expectations.  We had heard more hype around The Myth of the American Sleepover than Tiny Furniture, and surprise surprise… it was indeed a myth.  The film was lackluster, with pretensions to something it was not—a chic retrospect, a nostalgic  Americana style-as-life that did not exist anywhere except in the universe of a Lana del Rey music video. Thankfully, we had decided to go see Dunham’s film afterwards.            

         Tiny Furniture was raw, yet possessed of a cinematic clarity that I hadn’t seen before. The setting was chic: a swanky Chelsea apartment with slick cabinetry and shiny floors.  But on these mirrored surfaces its protagonist appeared before the camera in all her naked honesty, her insecurity and her fumbling.  She was, in what has become a tired and tiresome description of Dunham the actress, not your typical Hollywood beauty. Neither confident in her skin nor so self-conscious as to stay in oversized, bulky clothes, the protagonist/Dunham bared almost all in her underwear. And I loved her for it.  While I hate to reiterate that old sexist type shtick, it is undeniable that cinema as a visual medium will always deal with issues of aesthetics symptomatic of the society from which they have come—the society that has produced a film and the society that receives it. 

      This is was what stuck with me from the film—a beautifully ‘normal’ character, a woman trying to fit in her skin and her society—a person beginning.  Too often these tales of transition neglect to detail the void: the in-betweens of the BIG EVENTS that you could call ‘real life’, due to some (misguided) preference for Narrative Arc and Action.  We watched Aura, an amateur filmmaker, learn to navigate anew in an old space after her return home from college, engage in awkward and degrading sex, laze around her apartment, fight with her spoiled sister, and essentially: fall and pick herself back up again… sort of.  The film took life as its subject matter and re-presented it to us as something worth taking note of—worth filming.  I personally had seen few movies like this before Tiny Furniture premiered…..

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Of Aides-Mémoire and Spring Cleaning

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—Recently—

        I spent the good part of the day going through my desk drawers at home. I sorted through papers, pens, books, posters, scraps and scraps of bits of paper marking events, places, and times that meant something at some point. So many of these things were untouched or barely used. When I was little, I thought these things recorded my life. They had this mystical quality, existing in my room and becoming a part of the environment—a space that was a sign of what I wanted to be. I defined my life by the things I saw around me, the trinkets I’d collected. I did not know the magical transmutability of things used—of journal pages filled with messy writing, of a stationary set emptied, of thank you notes sent, and a mind broadened by the book of puzzles my best friend gave me when I was eight. I preferred instead to leave them in their wrapping, perfect and pristine.  Left for the dust and roaches, until I discovered them again, only to wonder why they had been hidden.

I placed more value in looking at these things, rather than using them as a means to an end. It was a creative stoppage, a gout—a gluttony. I was a little dragon eying my treasures, hoarding shiny plastic toys lying on others people’s stories and daydreams.  I lived so much in stasis, and my body followed my thoughts.

Looking at these things, I realized that it is true; they do have a magic quality to them—they reminded me of so much I had forgotten in the past years as my mind filed away memories to make room for new adventures.  But it is a scrappy patchwork; this paraphernalia also gives false witness, imperfect testimony to the events—parties, concerts, classes, friendships—to which they are attached.  I was not always very present or happy at those moments.  The passed notes, the saved invitations, the monogrammed bags—markers of friendships I did not maintain, bits of hope I did not pursue. So much energy wasted in worry and obsession. Compulsions I had allowed to drive me, rather than learning to drive a car when I was at the ripe old age of 16.  Instead, I crossed that stretch of I-95 with my mother every day, complained about not living close enough to people, and slept when depression overcame me. It was a stagnancy that invaded my mind and arrested my reality.

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