The first days at the Independent Film Festival Boston ‘15 gave us a look at films opening throughout summer. Among them was Eden, at the Brattle last Thursday: We land in France, in the early 90s, bopping along with garage-ravers as they invent a new musical form. Two of these kids would go on to become Daft Punk. Their electronic euphoria overwhelms the early scenes, where the camera jukes to the beats. The lights flash, the dancers bounce, the energy amps—this is our cinematic summer jam! But then we stick around with the kids who stay behind while Thomas and Guy make their millions. This is the other side of a rags-to-riches story. It’s about the people left in the rags. The summer jam becomes an autumn sleep.
Mia Hansen-Løve directs, selecting Paul Vallee (Felix de Givry) as her subject. We meet him in November of 1992, as a coked-out kid tooling around with records in his garage. She follows along on his nightly pilgrimage: Out of the bourgeoisie darkness of his bedroom, and into the neon lights of underground rave clubs. His youthful years get aestheticized with ecstatic aplomb: Images dissolve on top of one another, each cut comes with a jagged quickness, and drug hazes are represented with trippy—sometimes animated—flourishes. When the camera does stop to linger, it tends to be on a text—a seminal novel, record, or comic book. The narrative is loose, but the aim is clear: Hansen-Løve’s prodding sense memories.
1992 becomes 1995, which becomes 1998, which becomes the 2000s. Paul holds parties for the sake of providing his original compositions with a forum, but they never provide him with a living that can support his cocaine-and-champagne habits—much less with any fame. When “One More Time” sweeps the airwaves, he starts thinking about taking the kind of job where he’d sweep floors. Hansen-Løve’s direction grows calmer as he grows up: The shots last longer, the pace slows down, the images begin to lead to one another in a more linear—and less hazy—fashion. The movie itself seems to mature. The high wears off.
Paul’s relationship with Daft Punk is aspirational, not antagonistic. But the relationship dramatized in IFFB’s opening night film, The End of the Tour, is both. Jesse Eisenberg plays Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky, in an adaptation of an interview Lipsky conducted with David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) shortly after the release of Infinite Jest. The dynamic is ultra-specific: Lipsky’s job is to unravel the guarded author’s sense of mystique, while Wallace has to protect it. Resting below their verbal duel is barely-repressed professional resentment—what author wouldn’t halfway-hate the man who wrote a Great American Novel? Near the film’s start, Lipsky calls Wallace from the outskirts of town, looking for further directions. Wallace asks how he got the number. He says the publicist gave it to him. “Well,” Wallace says, in the midst of a long sigh, “I’d appreciate it if you lost it.”
Mostly aided by the eloquent words Wallace lent to Lipsky during their five-day conversation (the interview became a book, published only after Wallace’s death,) there’s great nuance to the verbal dueling. Lipsky tries and fails to stay a step ahead, with Wallace stopping and reorienting the conversation every single time he can sense a turn towards a direction he doesn’t want to delve down.
One beautiful moment ensues: Wallace, Lipsky, and two lady-friends all go to see John Woo’s Broken Arrow at the multiplex. Director James Ponsoldt keeps his camera back to leave them all in the frame, and it gives us the story of the entire movie in one moment: Wallace looking forward, his strange psyche entirely engaged; while the befuddled journalist can’t help but keep his gaze set to the side, directly at his peer. But mostly the camera is as lost as Lipsky. It pans and moves and searches for a way of telling this talky story in a visual manner, and never finds one. We don’t even watch this movie—we just listen to it.
Both Eden and Tour enjoy the luxury of celebrity: It’s not hard to pull an audience into a movie about someone they’ve known about for 20 years. But the latest from Boston-born filmmaker Andrew Bujalski, Results, rejects the very idea of giving the audience an easy entrance into the movie. His films—from the Allston-set Funny Ha Ha to the avant-garde whatsit comedy Computer Chess—refuse to ingratiate us with familiarity. They give us eccentrics and dare us to connect. Who is this disconcerting millionaire (Kevin Corrigan) who spends his time smoking bowls in an empty mansion? Who is this new-age gym owner (Guy Pearce) so dedicated to his health-hippie philosophies? Why is his favorite employee (Cobie Smulders) so fucking angry? And why are they all entranced with each other?
Most will probably end up writing off Results as yet another competently-filmed indie dramedy, beyond the eccentricity of its script and performances. But Bujalski’s use of screen-space is eloquent. The film opens with these faraway shots of the characters inhabiting their homes and workplaces, with swaths of space separating them. We see Corrigan and Smulders on opposite sides of a room; or Pearce and Smulders arguing outside with a car in-between them. By the time we’ve reached the third act, Bujalski has subtly moved into compositions that more closely resemble close-up’s—he’s brought us nearer to these weirdos while these weirdos grow nearer to each other. Tour let us know what it sounds like when two people come to love each other. Results lets us see it.