Friday, March 8, 2013

Apple is for Apple

by Drew Martin
When Chip Kidd discusses design in front of an audience, he usually recalls a priceless lesson he learned in art school. His graphic arts teacher drew an apple on the board and then wrote the word apple. He vehemently told his students that you can either show the apple or use the word apple but never do both, never combine them. This lesson goes a long way, and should be grasped by filmmakers as well. I started watching a low budget film the other day but had to turn it off because of this problem. The narrator would say “My husband’s friends did not like me,” and the scene would show a group of people frowning at her. Redundancy works really well if the reiteration is ironic and the director has fun with it, but unfortunately this was more the case of someone who was glued to the screenplay and lacked imagination.

Recently, I was convinced by the DVD cover of Sleepwalk with Me to check this movie out of my local New York Public Library. “From the producers of This American Life” crowns the title. It has endorsements from Judd Apatow and Robert Ebert, and the jacket is decorated with laurel leaves from seven film festivals including Sundance where it was a winner of the Best of NEXT Audience Award. Lauren Ambrose, who I really liked in Starting Out in the Evening, played one of the lead roles. The clincher was, this is “the first movie from Ira Glass,” What could go wrong? Glass is such a talented radio personality and Mike Birbiglia, the lead actor works as a standup comic. The problem is that the visual narrative of the film never takes more than baby steps from the script. That being said, there is a poignant monologue in the end when Birbiglia concludes his tale of his decade-long relationship that was rattled by his fear of getting hitched. He explains that he and his girlfriend almost made a life-long commitment of marriage simply because they were afraid of hurting each other's feeling by splitting.

It is interesting to note that the last three films I watched over the past week were independent films with performances by Alex Karpovsky. This week’s New Yorker devotes nearly a full page to him. Tad Friend writes, “Yet, even as he shows promise of becoming his generation’s Woody Allen, a deadpan notice of indignity, Karpovsky remains in the milk-crate-d├ęcor stage of his life.” Karpovsky is certainly jockeying to be the next Allen-type man-child. This actually set off my redundancy alarm in Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture. In a couple scenes Karpovsky is shown reading from a book of short stories by Allen.