Academic journal article CineAction

The City & Film

Academic journal article CineAction

The City & Film

Article excerpt

This issue is devoted to the significance of the city to film culture, an area rich in possibilities, particularly in the way identity is connected to place. As an illustration of its continuing relevance, we offer as an example the Noah Baumbach/Greta Gerwig collaboration, Frances Ha, a film that intelligently employs New York in a way that is central to what Frances wants.

Frances Ha is a coming of age story that positions the woman in a location that has come to represent creative self-realization. Despite the film's acknowledgement of the difficulties of survival in a highly competitive and expensive 21C world, it celebrates Frances' unwillingness to accept defeat or redirect her energies to more acceptable, conservative or 'realistic' choices. The film celebrates a utopian vision of New York without losing the parameters of Frances' struggle and personal vision, and to the film's credit, Gerwig delivers a performance that sustains its tone with charm and a unique grace. One of the film's highlights, Frances dancing and running through the streets of New York to the accompaniment of David Bowie's Modern Love, captures the sensibility of the film that is both delightful and liberating, integrating character and place. This interaction is consistent throughout the film. The city becomes a public shared space that, in addition to containing the apartment where one sleeps, becomes a place where one lives.

Critic Amy Taubin ("Emotional Pratfalls", Film Comment May/June 2013 vol. 49, no. 3 has noted the film's homages to New Wave directors including Truffaut with the Delerue inflected score and Godard, in the fascination with the woman's face. It is a tradition that can be connected to Renoir (for example, Le Crime de M. Lange) in its acknowledgment and celebration of the humanity found in a shared city space.

Interestingly, another film released this past year, the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, set in the New York of the 60's, also explores the pursuit of self-realization and displays an awareness of the relationship between characters and urban space. …

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