I wonder if they saw each other from across the room while looking for a fun-house reflection of themselves. I wonder if they found in each other a secret little world. Regardless, Greta Gerwig and Mickey Sumner met at a party where Gerwig hustled Sumner in a round of Bananagrams, a game that foregrounded their complementary vibrations. Gerwig later claimed that she had “engineered” the moment, pretending she was a novice but knowing full well that she was good at it—and Sumner was happy to play along. Gerwig’s euphoric gamesmanship can be found in her performance in the title role of Frances Ha, a film she cowrote with director Noah Baumbach. Sumner, who auditioned and won the role of Frances’s friend Sophie, functions as something like a straight man to the lead’s hurricane of unpredictability: she’s the necessary play pal, and just like in that game of Bananagrams, she needs Gerwig
Even as Sophie serves as a foil, she is also a mirror, one in which Frances can see herself as she was, as she is now, and as she would like to be. The mirror concept is introduced in the film’s opening shot, which shows the two friends in a park, facing one another. Sophie’s hands are up, maybe in offense or maybe in defense, while Frances’s arms are momentarily slack at her side before she raises her fists to eye level. Both stances suggest a kind of looseness and playfulness; the women are clearly more invested in their bodies being in motion than in anyone winning or losing. It’s difficult to discern who makes the first move; maybe they’re moving together, at the same time. And as the film unfolds, with each passing activity they share (dancing in the park, reading and crocheting, smoking on the fire escape, playing backgammon, doing laundry, falling asleep while watching a movie), Frances’s and Sophie’s distinct personalities often seem to dissolve into one.
How to Stay, When to Vanish
The author of the novel Fiona and Jane looks back on a relationship that never quite solidified—and a future that never quite arrived—through the prism of Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey into Night.
The Velvet and the Worms: Ester Krumbachová’s Unsung Legacy
Primarily known as a costume and production designer, this multitalented visionary deserves to be more widely recognized as one of the most important creative forces behind the Czechoslovak New Wave.
The Monkees Set Fire to Their Pop Image in Head
On the verge of implosion, the band rages through a performance of their song “Circle Sky” in a psychedelic, politically trenchant sequence from director Bob Rafelson’s debut feature.
Finding a Home in the Avant-Garde
Desperately seeking community in her college years, the writer discovered the world of experimental cinema when she stumbled on a short-film program at an art-house in Manchester, England.