Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Secret worlds in Frances Ha.

More than any of the films or kinds of films it references — Woody Allen at his most romantic, Truffaut and the like — seeing Frances Ha for me was like seeing Ghost World. A girl watches her best friend wade into mediocrity embodied by a bro banker boyfriend in Frances Ha and an apartment and adult job in their sad town in Ghost World. Ghost World's Enid thinks there maybe is a place for her in hoarder-shut-in-jazz-fan Seymour's life, but she likes herself better, in the end, nowhere. Frances Ha is also preoccupied with place, where Frances can afford to be literally and figuratively. Even though money squeezes her out of the apartment she shares with two guys, I love her rejection of the brief and perfect nouvelle vague tableau they have. I love the interplay between the very real-world condition of not being able to afford a place in these tableaux and their resemblance to entrenched cinematic fantasies!

My favorite scene in the whole film that felt like a moment in the secret world Frances describes is when she is offered an office job in the dance company for which she apprentices and she turns it down. She was not accepted onto the touring company and the consolation prize the office job represents hurts her all over again. After the movie, my significant otter said that part made him feel terrible; he wanted to scream at her and make her take the job, to respect herself and do herself a favor. When I was between jobs, turning down offers — as unreasonable as that activity is — was one of the only things that made me feel like I had any power. I cheered for her in that moment that I would always and forever experience as a fantasy.

Subjectively, I love Frances Ha more than almost any other film I've ever seen. I love it as much as Ghost World, which has long been the sole occupant of a part of my heart otherwise dedicated to real people. So it is not fair to count it alongside other films at all. "So many honorary degrees!" — I'm fortunate to enjoy a best-friendship of that romantic, mythical intensity that isn't borne of a fear of the future, like Enid and Rebecca in Ghost World, or the us-against-the-world-ness of Frances and Sophie. But Ghost World was instrumental to my high school experience, and Frances Ha is really overdue. I need a lot of comforting knowing my best friend and I are on separate paths that might not converge again like they did when we were teenagers. Some days I really need fantasy.

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