Funny Ha Ha – Andrew Bujalski

Funny Ha Ha by Andrew Bujalski

This is a rare little thing. If you’re interested in formal experiments, and you expect these to be radical, but only in ways that are familiar, you will like this.

Most people think the acting has something to do with the innovation here. But this is non-acting. It is not artful at all. And that’s the point: to sort of get in through the backdoor.

In part, you will find Bresson at the opposite end of this. The similarity is that both strive for an inherent ultra-cinematic effect with the actor at the center of it: Bresson, by the suspension in the stillness, Bujalski by and through modulating a hyper-authenticity in the players’ presence.

The method should be simple enough: non-actors playing themselves in situations imagined to suit them. The drawback being that we’ll have some trite acting. But throughout that, we get small moments of splendid transcendence, as players literally find themselves in the ‘truth’ of a feeling. It is Herzogian in the way we experience it: as a movement between the unfavorable awareness of the artificiality, and the small irreproducible moments of ecstatic authenticity.

I guess there is a simple curiosity on Bujalski’s part about an audience’s relationship to the players; a curiosity about the distance between the eye and the mind. His goal is to literally place us in the actors. There’s a texture in the acting that reflects back to ourselves, something almost never seen. The result is uneven at times, but that’s part of the risk.

In terms of the story, you must disregard the expected dramaturgy of moviedom (in its varied established forms), and look towards a more naive and intuitive model. Bujalski also slips through the backdoor in this department.

We’re concerned with a young girl, fumbling with the fragility of will and commitment. Somebody like you currently are or were once. At the center we have an amourous interest almost undisclosed, followed with a tragic impossibility, and later becoming a highly ambiguous opportunity. Our heroine struggles through these movements, constantly trying to gather herself, socially and at a deeper personal level (refining her values of self-worth). All this is the small rich stuff of life. And here, structured in small episodes–the same way an essay would bring up these points: highly anti-climatic, dull.

But no worries about this: the selection is consistent. Everything is about this fragility. Things hurt but the pain is balmed with the social function of being. And this function–of being in a social context–this performance, is fragile. This fragility is in the texture of the acting.

Bergman through Bresson. We’re lucky Bujalski doesn’t get involved with the mechanical fluidity of feature narrative. We’d all be bordering suicide.

Nothing funny about that.

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Categories: Notes

2 replies »

  1. I am proud to be in your pressence when you allow it. This is a mature review from a mature writer. In your past reviews I always had the feeling that at times you would make statements that weren’t thoroughly thought through, rather attempts to grasp the film and it’s concepts, or push the discourse into new territory. It wasn’t always pretty, but because you are an artist, you have to try. However, here we see a perfect synthesis, you have matured and arrived at a very sophisticated plane of viewing and simply dispense insight upon insight, and the precision, like a Pinter play or Mamet film is something that is thoroughly enjoyable to someone like me, another artist, who is in awe of of how you made a wonderful cocktail of craft and art (entirely different from Buljalski’s perspective that is more akin to raw vodka, and it’s effects – count Cassavetes in on that tip too, two people i paradoxically love (you’ll find the source of my self-hatred contained in these very sentences)).

    Big up.

  2. Hey, thank you Kevin. I don’t like Mamet too much, I find him a bit dry, but I’m a big fan of Pinter. It’s funny you mention Cassavetes because as you may know he’s often compared to Bujalski. Frankly I think the comparison is wrong. Cassavetes’ eye is more energetic. Anyhow, if you like this sort of film I suggest you watch Bresson, especially L’Argent.

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