Featured in the ‘American Dreams’ section of the 66th annual Edinburgh Film Festival, Frances Ha is a story of the ‘in between’- that oh so commonly explored grey area between student life and adulthood.
The quarter-life crisis of the mid-twenties appears to be a theme commonly explored in 2013 with the recent success of the likes of HBO’s Girls. However, it is belittling to define this film simply as a generational portraiture. It is moreso about the individual experience of its heroine, Frances, a 27 year old dancer suffering from a late twenties crisis, and the nature of youth.
Actually, you could describe this film as a more charming and less grungy film version of Girls. The film even stars Adam Driver from the Girls cast. It is the exploration of a reality that is familiar for graduates, especially those who majored in the humanities or went to small liberal arts colleges. These post-collegiate New Yorkers of the film are vaguely artistic, clever, but are also drifters through internships and relationships.
Filmed in black and white, Frances Ha evokes the style of Truffaut and the great auteurs of the French New Wave along with a Woody Allenesque love of New York City. It is a generation-specific film with a beautiful New Wave edge provided by Sam Levy’s monochrome cinematography and a soundtrack borrowed from French film composer Georges Delerue. Homages to modern French classics and musical cues from Trauffaut interlink New York independent filmmaking with moods of the New Wave. Perhaps this film suggests we are another lost youth, like the generation depicted in the synonymously fast paced films of post-WWII and the French New Wave. With no real revolutions to fight we seem to have encountered yet another era in which its youth live in unending disillusionment and confusion. Yet the famous bedroom scene of endless confusion and words leading to nowhere in Godard’s Á Bout de Souffle made this crisis more fulfilling, beautiful, and about exploration, whereas Frances Ha feels a bit anxious at moments and more so about the desperation to find oneself and the anxiety we have about the future. Frances Ha conversely gives audiences an anxious view on post-collegiate life that resonates all too familiarly with our generation. The cinematography and soundtrack attempt to make youth appear beautiful once again, but the dialogue and plot suggest otherwise.
The most charming part of the film is the fact that Frances likes to imagine a lifelong love story with her best friend Sophie. It is technically chaste but always passionate. There is none of the romantic neediness that Girls consistently delves into. There is the mention of an insignificant breakup at the start of the film but Frances truly becomes heartbroken by her female best friend choosing a man and a more expensive Tribeca apartment over her. This plot addition gives a unique look at the depiction of our lost generation.
In the film a character states that twenty- seven is in fact old; but is twenty-seven actually that old? In generations past, at twenty-seven one would be expected to have a career, a spouse, at least one child unless they were rockstars -in which case they might be dead already. However, twenty-seven is young and Frances will have the last laugh as is suggested by the title of the film; only fully understood with the final shot. As the French New Wave suggests, la portrait de la jeunesse is beautiful.
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