Maestro: Andrew Bujalski
Known For: Super-independent movies about aimless ordinary people.
Influences: Cassavetes is a big one. Jarmusch and Linklater too.
Masterpieces: I'm not dumb enough to suggest that Bujalski's had a masterpiece when a while back I declared that Christopher Nolan didn't.
Better than you remember: Probably all of them if, like many you're not a fan.
Box Office: Mutual Appreciation actually made more than $100 thousand
Favorite Actor: With three movies under his belt he's got a couple actors like Justin Rice and Kate Dollenmayer who've been in two. And himself, whose starred in two.
There is a belief that the purpose of art is to reveal some truth, intellectual or emotional, about the world. Many different kinds of film can do this. A bombastic musical like Moulin Rouge can do it. A dramatic Douglas Sirk weepie can do it. An epic like Doctor Zhivago can do it. Naturally, it follows that a film whose ambition is to replicate reality as closely as possible can stumble up on truth (though it's not a guarantee). Historically many directors from Rossellini to Cassavetes to Kiarostami have had, as their goal, the replication of ordinary reality. It's in that school where Bujalski falls. The difference is that the aforementioned directors usually feature ordinary reality running up against extraordinary circumstances (a rebellion, a breakdown, a suicide). Bujalski's films are more subtle, let's say. His protagonists, if you can call them even that, meander through post-college indecision and indirection in search of some elusive neo-Bohemian existence. It may not be particularly exciting, but it's reality.
Digging his friend's wife and doing nothing about it.
Another frequent criticism of Bujalski is his dialogue; like nails on a chalkboard it is to some people. If you're not familiar with it, it's intentionally plagued by the same indirection as the action in his films. Characters' conversations are often pointless and the actors themselves commonly (what's the right word...) mumble and stutter and trip over their own words. Unsurprisingly I'd suggest that this more closely represents how people actually talk, a fact we don't often recognize because most of the conversations we observe take place in highly structured, rehearsed TV shows and movies (and we're too busy participating in our own conversations to really observe their qualities and cadences). That this style of dialogue is grating to many viewers is understandable but to me it's also a bit admirable. It reminds me of a time when indie cinema wasn't as confined to formula as it is today (the quirky comedy, the gritty crime film, the miserablist drama). It was a time when independent filmmakers believed that their films should be daring, not because of content (sex, violence, of which Bujalski films have little) but because of form. The meandering plots and scripts of Bujalski films are so dedicated to recreating the painful flatness of reality it leaves some viewers viscerally frustrated.
Beeswax is perhaps his best, presenting it's characters with some real, yet dependably subtle, life-changing circumstances. It's a progression that's welcome for Bujalski (I say comforted that he'll probably never come close to a traditional dramatic conflict) and I eagerly anticipate his next film and his next and a career that's shaping up to be very promising indeed.