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Mumblecore: Cinema of the Amateur

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Rationalization doesn’t bring significance. A group of filmmakers got together, gave their movement a name and decided to set some rules, be they ever so arbitrary and, bingo, significance is born. Writing quality is negotiable because we have a gimmick. That gimmick is to be natural. It’s one of the simplest and cheapest gimmicks.

This group, we shall name them Mumblecore. Why, I’m not sure, but it works so let’s go with it. We shall gather together a group of filmmakers group, Andrew Bujalski, Lynn Shelton, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Aaron Katz, Joe Swanberg, and Ry Russo-Young.  Their figurehead shall be a cute blonde girl named Greta  Gerwig. She shall help us save money by doing double duty as a screenwriter and actress.

The problem is that it is all one big gimmick and not a very good one at that. Mumblecore stresses the natural—naturalistic conversation in real places featuring amateur actors. The characters are in their twenties and early thirties, clear narrative is sometimes negotiable, as is affectatious acting. Stripping down, getting to the core of the human condition, is commendable, but how Mumblecore survived this long is a question in and of itself. All the rules that make Mumblecore what it is also make it a passing fad. Directionless, amateurish and insignificant. The strength of Mumblecore is supposed to be its characters. They, and the lives that the late 20s and 30s people inhabit, are supposed to be intriguing enough to make us subscribe to their cause. Mumblecore can trace its roots back to the French New Wave and likes to hang their hat on the cinema of Eric Rohmer, but the New Wave’s class, and most of all their ability to write, put them in a class above Mumblecore.

Joe Swanberg, the Francois Truffaut of Mumblecore. has offered us what? Not a whole lot. Truffaut offered a manifesto. Sure, he cribbed it from Andre Bazin, but it was a guide post. Joe Swanberg has 0ffered us what? Greta Gerwig nude? I didn’t find that in the Mumblecore credo, but it happens frequently in their films, many of which Gerwig helps to write.

Basically, in time, they will fade away. Fade into the sunset and people will be asked, “Do you remember Mumblecore?”

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Tags: Greta Gerwig Joe Swanberg Mumblecore

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