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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

The Squid finds its Voice: A Whale of a Tale

In the Voice, a week after a cover package touting David Cronenberg as the paper’s historically best-reviewed auteur father, Noam Baumbach, son of former Village Voice reviewer Georgia Brown (and Mr. Jennifer Jason Leigh) is anointed as the best kid on the block for his magnificent short story The Squid and the Whale. Former Voice intern Rob Nelson makes a case for mom’s critical savvy;
Jim Hoberman offers a long caveat on
why he’s even reviewing the film: “Full disclosure: If I hadn’t liked The Squid and the Whale so much, I might have begged off reviewing. For, while I have only the slightest personal acquaintance with the filmmaker, I do know his brother, his father, and particularly, his mother, former Voice movie critic Georgia Brown. From this privileged position, the movie is, of course, additionally fascinating—albeit not so much for what the filmmaker reveals about his family but how he chooses to represent them. Janet Malcolm opened her infamous screed “The Journalist and the Murderer “by observing that “every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.” But isn’t this true of any writer who takes people’s lives as grist for her mill? I don’t necessarily recognize Baumbach’s actual family in [his movie] but I do recognize the artist’s ruthlessness—and the degree to which he’s been true to their aesthetic family values.” And Jessica Winter listens to Baumbach: “The director grew up in a household of voluble cinephiles. “My dad [Jonathan Baumbach] had been a film critic for the Partisan Review, but when I was younger and not aware of those kinds of things. Then my mom started reviewing around the time I was finishing high school and starting college, and I was so excited—I felt like the family finally had a mouthpiece, that she could write about all the stuff we’d been discussing for all these years. What interested me about my mom’s film criticism was that she really valued an emotional reaction to a movie… I feel that with this movie I learned the value of an emotional approach to filmmaking. I made an emotional movie about intellectuals.”

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“I remember very much the iconography and the images and the statues in church were very emotional for me. Just the power of that, and even still — just seeing prayer card, what that image can evoke. I have a lot of friends that are involved in the esoteric, and I know some girls in New York that are also into the supernatural. I don’t feel that I have that gift. But I am leaning towards mysticism… Maybe men are more practical, maybe they don’t give into that as much… And then also, they don’t convene in the same way that women do. But I don’t know, I am not a man, I don’t want to speak for men. For me, I tend to gravitate towards people who are open to those kinds of things. And the idea for my film, White Echo, I guess stemmed from that — I find that the girls in New York are more credible. What is it about the way that they communicate their ideas with the supernatural that I find more credible? And that is where it began. All the characters are also based on friends of mine. I worked with Refinery29 on that film, and found that they really invest in you which is so rare in this industry.”
Chloë Sevigny

“The word I have fallen in love with lately is ‘Hellenic.’ Greek in its mythology. So while everyone is skewing towards the YouTube generation, here we are making two-and-a-half-hour movies and trying to buck the system. It’s become clear to me that we are never going to be a perfect fit with Hollywood; we will always be the renegade Texans running around trying to stir the pot. Really it’s not provocation for the sake of being provocative, but trying to make something that people fall in love with and has staying power. I think people are going to remember Dragged Across Concrete and these other movies decades from now. I do not believe that they will remember some of the stuff that big Hollywood has put out in the last couple of years. You’ve got to look at the independent space to find the movies that have been really special recently. Even though I don’t share the same world-view as some of my colleagues, I certainly respect the hell out of their movies which are way more fascinating than the stuff coming out of the studio system.”
~ Dallas Sonnier