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Monday, December 9, 2019
'THAT'S BRIAN'S OBSERVATION' - BAUMBACH IN PEAK FORM
"DIRECTING IS VERY PHYSICAL - CONCENTRATION-WISE, IT'S EXHAUSTING"
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/marriagestory1.jpg

Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story is getting raves and topping lists all over the place. Dazed's Nick Chen spoke with Baumbach last week, and, amidst discussion of the new film, asked him about a Brian De Palma quote from Baumbach and Jake Paltrow's De Palma documentary:
Baumbach is in the middle of a jet-setting tour. The previous day, he flew in from Paris and delivered a BAFTA Screenwriting Lecture. (“Greta Gerwig pointed out to me that my movies tend to tell you what they’re about at the very beginning,” he said at the event. “I wasn’t aware of this, but it’s embarrassing when you go back and look.”) Earlier in the week, in New York, Marriage Story won so many prizes at the Gotham Awards that Baumbach took to the podium four times, eventually deadpanning, “I hope you remember what I said in the last speech, because it’s still relevant.”

Compare it to early 2018, a few months after the release of The Meyerowitz Stories, when Baumbach was a regular at awards shows – but as a plus-one on the Lady Bird table. (InStyle ran an article titled “Who Is Greta Gerwig’s Boyfriend?”) However, several pundits are predicting that Marriage Story will be the first Netflix film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. So what about the rumours that Marriage Story was originally set up at Amazon?

“That wasn’t true,” Baumbach says. “We had talked to Amazon about it, but I already had a relationship with Netflix.” Was he impressed, then, with the creative freedom a streaming service offered on The Meyerowitz Stories? “Netflix is a movie company run by people who really love movies. A few years ago, there was a legitimate distinction between what Netflix is doing and what other companies are doing. But now the movie business is moving that direction. Netflix adjusted on their part, too. We had a month in the United States exclusively in theatres before it went on Netflix, and they’ll keep it in theatres for people who want to have that choice.

“I talked to Scorsese about it. The King of Comedy was pulled after two weeks in theatres. It’s a complex discussion and in flux. In two years, it’s going to be something else. To me, Netflix is just a great place to make movies.”

Unlike Baumbach’s earlier features where scripts were written then sent out to potential actors (Greenberg was nearly shot with Mark Ruffalo and Amy Adams, not Ben Stiller and Gerwig – a real Sliding Doors moment), Marriage Story was conceived specifically for the leads. “Adam’s an actor I’ve continued to work with since Frances Ha,” Baumbach says. “Knowing Scarlett and Laura was invaluable and helped me visualise the scenes. There are sequences written in the movie because I’m motivated by knowing that actor is playing that part. Laura’s monologue came from Laura. We talked about it while I was writing it.”

As Nora, Nicole’s lawyer, Dern delivers a fiery speech about how society accepts imperfect fathers but not imperfect mothers. Fathers are already expected to be absent, Nora explains, but mothers are chastised if they drink too much wine. “We were saying that Nora got into the business for moral reasons. Nora wanted to stand up for people, and women particularly, who she feels the system is rigged against, and she wants to be their crusader.”

Early on, the camera regularly hovers over the shoulder of Charlie or Nicole, depending on narrative momentum. The legal scenes, though, are blocked and framed as if the bickering pair are helpless children in the room. Occasionally, it’s like the lawyers are in cahoots. Dern and Liotta’s characters are arch enemies who socialise at charity dinners and drive up each other’s business. It’s an emotionally cold war: when Nicole hires Nora, Charlie reluctantly directs “two shitty plays” to afford an expensive equivalent. (Incidentally, Baumbach wrote Madagascar 3 and nearly directed Mr Popper’s Penguins around 2011.) In the courts, it’s like we’re witnessing a different film – or what Baumbach describes to me as “various genres that are hidden and that reveal themselves in the movie”.

One of those hidden genres is a musical. At rock bottom, Charlie belts out Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive”, a song that appeared for five seconds in Lady Bird. The sight of Driver’s gigantic face on a gigantic screen as he splutters Sondheim’s lyrics (“Make me confused, mock me with praise/Let me be used, vary my days/But alone is alone, not alive!”) is reason enough to catch Marriage Story in a theatre. That Driver is initially too tall for the microphone is the cue to laugh or cry.

“Charlie clearly knows the song very well,” Baumbach explains. “He’s doing all the other parts. We all have that experience where there’s a song we’ve heard a million times, and suddenly you hear it in a different way.” When performing Sondheim, Charlie is able to reveal his deepest, innermost emotions. Did Baumbach find something similar with Marriage Story – that screenwriting unlocks a certain kind of honesty and catharsis?

“It’s through art that Charlie can express himself in a way that he can’t, or hasn’t been able to, in life,” Baumbach says, slightly avoiding the question. “That was very moving to me. There’s something true of many artists, that they can be smarter and wiser and more profound in their work than perhaps in regular conversation.”

Through Robbie Ryan’s cinematography, the film depicts the visual contrast between New York, where Charlie directs his plays, and LA, where Nicole lands a role in a TV pilot. Often, Charlie is like Stiller in Greenberg: a New Yorker resentfully residing in the open spaces of LA. “We thought about that with the wardrobe,” Baumbach explains. “When Charlie’s in Los Angeles, he’s still wearing an overcoat and sweater. He’s dressed for the past.”

Does Baumbach, a New York resident, consider LA to be his Bergman Island? There are, after all, numerous references to Ingmar Bergman in Marriage Story – including a magazine profile titled “Scenes from a Marriage” and close-ups that pay homage to Persona. “I find LA so strange,” the director says. “Every time I go there, I need to adjust. The car culture and the light is so different from New York. The movie was an opportunity to have these radically different-looking environments: LA for her, New York for him. But it’s a stand-in for a more abstract idea of what home is, and identity.”

As for why there are so few divorce movies, Baumbach doesn’t have an answer. ABBA, I mention, sang about divorce, had two divorces within the band, yet the blockbuster celebrating their music revolved around a wedding. “There are a lot of breakup songs,” he says. “But many love songs are actually about breakups. There’s a movie genre, even, of the love that can’t be: Casablanca and Brief Encounter. I thought about this movie in that context as much as any ‘divorce movie’ context.”

Baumbach, it must be said, speaks carefully and considerately, often starting sentences again, as if punching up his own responses. But he does answer a few quick-fire questions, such as the status of the stalled Barbie movie he’s writing with Gerwig (“It’s happening, but we haven’t started it yet”), and if the “you should see the other dog” line that appears in both Meyerowitz Stories and Isle of Dogs is an in-joke between him and Wes Anderson (“Really? We’ve never discussed it – I’ll ask Wes”).

But the longer answers are, understandably, reserved for Marriage Story, which could have premiered at the 2018 film festivals, but the director opted to spend a few more months perfecting it in the editing room. All of which is to say, catch it in a theatre if you can. There’s a misnomer that talky dramas don’t require the cinema treatment. (A headline from The Onion: “You Haven’t Seen Frances Ha Until You’ve Seen It In IMAX.”) But it was shot on 35mm, the cinematography is thoughtful and elegant, and the collective discomfort can only be experienced with a crowd – unless you watch it at home with a resentful partner, that is.

Many critics have called it Baumbach’s best film. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it’s certainly up there. It’s definitely his most mature, in that it’s the only one in which a character would apologise for screaming, “Every day, I wake up and hope you’re dead!” The richness of the material – feeling like a criminal who hasn’t committed a crime; the irony that Charlie is a better husband in divorce; that loving someone generates a deeper potential for hatred; that Nicole thrives by dumping her controlling partner – wasn’t there in Baumbach’s first few movies. Which brings to mind a quote from Brian De Palma at the end of the 2015 documentary De Palma, co-directed by Baumbach. De Palma claims that filmmakers peak in their 30s, 40s and 50s – then go downhill. Does Baumbach, aged 50, have 10 years left at his peak?

“That’s Brian’s observation,” he says, chuckling. “But what Brian also says, which I think is very true, is that directing is very physical. Concentration-wise, it’s exhausting. It’s a challenge. I’m really impressed with directors like John Huston and Robert Altman who work to the end of their lives. It’s so tiring and gruelling, getting up and shooting nights, and under stress and parameters.”

So it’s fortunate Marriage Story turned out the way it did? “It’s a crazy art form when you think about it. I don’t know if there’s any other art form where you have to get it right this one time – and that’s it.”


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 10, 2019 1:18 AM CST
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Thursday, August 29, 2019
VENICE - DE PALMA & LEHMAN AT BAUMBACH PREMIERE
REVIEW - 'MARRIAGE STORY' IS "A KIND OF SCREWBALL KRAMER VS. KRAMER"
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/briansigns1.jpg

Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman attended the world premiere today of Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story at the Venice Film Festival. After pre-movie drinks at the Hotel Excelsior (where De Palma will participate in a Mastercard conversation event tomorrow), De Palma and Lehman arrived on the red carpet, where they posed for photographs, and De Palma signed autographs (as in the photo above, taken by Alberto Pizzoli). See below for a few more pics, a YouTube video from the Red Carpet, and a few links to early reviews of the well-received Marriage Story, which stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in what Telegraph critic Robbie Collin describes as "a thinly veiled cine-memoir about the filmmaker’s recent divorce from the actress Jennifer Jason Leigh."

 

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

One of the strangest and most beautiful paradoxes of cinema is this: the more needlingly specific it gets, the more sweepingly inclusive it feels. At the Venice Film Festival earlier today, the multi-national audience in the Sala Grande winced and hooted as one at Noah Baumbach’s tremendous Marriage Story, a thinly veiled cine-memoir about the filmmaker’s recent divorce from the actress Jennifer Jason Leigh.

It is Baumbach’s funniest, most fine-grained picture since 2012’s Frances Ha – a kind of screwball Kramer vs. Kramer, full of laser-targeted telling comic detail, both about the divorce process itself and the couple’s split existence between the New York arts scene and upper middle class Los Angeles. There is a subtly brilliant running joke in which the film’s LA residents keep gushing over their city’s “sense of space” – invariably from inside some poky air-conditioned office.


Jon Frosch, The Hollywood Reporter
Marriage Story begins with a fake-out. Via voiceover, spouses Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) enumerate the things, big and small, that they adore about each other: she’s an unparalleled listener, an expert gift giver, an "infectious" dancer; he’s a natural with their young son, a surprisingly great dresser, cries at movies. Glimpses of their shabby-chic domestic contentment are shown as a bittersweet Randy Newman score swells. It’s all warmly romantic in a grounded, adult way.

Alas, those lists aren’t Valentine’s Day cards Charlie and Nicole have written for one another, or an intimacy exercise meant to draw them closer. They’re something a mediator has asked the pair to cobble together to kick off their separation in good faith. On the surface, this is indeed not a tale of love, but of mounting mutual hostility — though as Noah Baumbach’s wounding, masterly new film argues, the line between those sentiments can be agonizingly blurry.

Viewers who dug the relative mellowness of Baumbach’s last effort, 2017’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), should brace themselves: Like Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage — an inevitable influence — this is a tough piece of work, steeped in pain that feels wincingly immediate (it’s based on Baumbach’s own divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh) and unsparing in its willingness to observe, at sometimes startling emotional proximity, good people at their worst.

It’s also funny and, when you least expect it (and most need it), almost unbearably tender, thanks in large part to the sensational leads, who deliver the deepest, most alive and attuned performances of their careers. Marriage Story puts you through the wringer, but leaves you exhilarated at having witnessed a filmmaker and his actors surpass themselves.


Owen Gleiberman, Variety
Marriage Story” is the Noah Baumbach movie we’ve been waiting for. It’s better than good; it’s more than just accomplished. After 10 features, released over a quarter century of filmmaking (his debut, “Kicking and Screaming,” came out in 1995; his other films include “The Squid and the Whale,” “Greenberg,” and “Frances Ha”), this, at long last, is Baumbach’s breakthrough into the dramatic stratosphere. At once funny, scalding, and stirring, built around two bravura performances of incredible sharpness and humanity, it’s the work of a major film artist, one who shows that he can capture life in all its emotional detail and complexity — and, in the process, make a piercing statement about how our society now works.

The movie is a drama of divorce, and when it’s over you may feel like you know the lives it’s about as well as you know your own. Yet “Marriage Story” isn’t just the tale of a marital breakdown and its aftermath. It’s a film about divorce: how it operates, what it means, its larger consequences. Television periodically confronts this kind of thing (on “Big Little Lies,” say), but if you’re wondering when it was that a movie last dealt with the subject of separation on such a big-picture scale, you might have to go back 40 years — to the era of “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Scenes from a Marriage,” and “Shoot the Moon.” “Marriage Story” makes a worthy addition to that canon, though so much has changed. Divorce was commonplace back then, but this is the first film set inside what might be called the divorce-industrial complex. It’s about two people coming to terms with a process that, however necessary, is more wounding at times than their heartbreak.



Posted by Geoff at 8:48 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2019 11:19 PM CDT
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Saturday, November 4, 2017
SATURDAY TWEET - DE PALMA / BAUMBACH
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/tweetdivorce.jpg

Posted by Geoff at 9:36 PM CDT
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Friday, November 3, 2017
PODCAST - DE PALMA INTERVIEWS BAUMBACH
ASKS ABOUT HIS TITLES, HIS 'VERTIGO' MOMENT, TURNING DOWN A PART IN BAUMBACH FILM, MORE
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/2017depalmabaumbachpodcast.jpg

In Episode 101 of The Director's Cut podcast, posted on SoundCloud two days ago, Brian De Palma interviews his friend Noah Baumbach. De Palma kicks things off by asking Baumbach about the titles of his films, and how he came up with them. Together, they go movie-by-movie through Baumbach's titles. De Palma then asks if he'd ever had a "Vertigo moment," (a movie that made him want to make movies), and Baumbach mentions Steve Martin in The Jerk. "Yes, you keep on referring to that," responds De Palma, "and I'm trying to get my head around it."

The conversation keeps flowing from there, with De Palma comfortably asking his friend questions about how he developed as a filmmaker (Baumbach eventually says his "Vertigo moment" might have been Truffaut's Jules And Jim). At one point, Baumbach recalls first meeting De Palma at Paul Schrader's 50th birthday party, and offering De Palma a part as a therapist in his new (at that time) movie. "And you said no," Baumbach recalls, "but you said, 'Don't worry, I turn everybody down. I turned Woody Allen down.' So I felt in good company."

That's all in the first 13 minutes-- listen to the full 39-minute podcast for much more.


Posted by Geoff at 3:08 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, November 3, 2017 3:11 AM CDT
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