Monday, May 21, 2007

FUNNY HA HA - sweet, lo-fi romantic drama

Before the self-indulgent stylings of MUTUAL APPRECIATION came writer-director-actor Andrew Bujalski's critically acclaimed debut feature FUNNY HA HA.

The movie is shot badly on 16mm with a notable absence of deliberate sound design or clear visual style, although there is a certain reverse snobbery to the hand-written closing credits. To its champions, the lo-fi look of the movie cements its indie credentials. To detractors, this simply shows lack of technical accomplishment. (If you want to see how lo-fi can still look great, look at Lars von Trier's work or the astoundingly good

The characters are a bunch of aimless, socially retarded post-grads. They go on awkward dates and have meandering, half-assed conversations about nothing. Central to the group is Marnie (Kate Dollenmayer). She's blown about by life - working as a temp, attracted to her friend Alex who isn't interested in her, and vaguely unnerved by the geeky but somehow charming Mitchell (Bujalski) who clearly adores her.

The unpolished and meandering nature of this conversation-driven film has been embraced by its champions as truthful and well-observed. And I certainly admire Bujalski's intent to tell real stories about the sort of people he knows. But to my mind, the dialogue lacks the emotional hook or clear structure of a film like BEFORE SUNSRISE. As such, it is, as Paul Varjack said in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, "that dirtiest of all dirty words - promising." That is, until you see MUTUAL APPRECIATION.

FUNNY HA HA was originally screened in 2002 and eventually got a limited release in the US in 2005. It went on super-limited release in the UK in March 2007 shortly before the release of follow up movie, FUNNY HA HA. It is available on DVD.

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