I live in Washington, D.C., where I first came to work as a writer and producer for The Atlantic in 2010 and then covered D.C. transportation for TBD On Foot. Now I report on Congress for Communications Daily.
Before “Frances Ha,” this seemed to be Baumbach’s fate: to pursue a literary career through the medium of film, while ruefully noting that, in the nineteen-seventies, someone who had made work like this might have had a reputation as a mainstream director. “Greenberg” is an explicit attempt to channel the work of Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. “With the title, I was thinking of Portnoy or Herzog,” he told me. “I can’t say this well, but I felt I could do cinematically what I loved about those writers and those books.”
Gerwig noted that Roth and Bellow often told a story “relentlessly from one point of view.” In film, though, “when you put a camera on something, you’re here and that’s there.” Instead of inhabiting a man’s psyche, you had to put up with it, across the room. “Greenberg” is a good and funny film, but one wonders if Baumbach has always fully recognized the cinematic challenge of presenting difficult people, even as he meets the literary challenge of acute, merciless portraiture.
Via a Noah Baumbach profile in The New Yorker from earlier this year
This may well be why I like Greenberg as much as I do. The main character’s obnoxious but I can’t look away. And I do find the dilemmas in that movie far more painfully real than what I found in Frances Ha. I also am a total sucker for the novels of both Roth and Bellow, whatever that says about me. I rewatched most of the Greenberg in spare moments from the last 24 hours, not that there’s been all that many spare moments. Tonight I went to Politics & Prose and saw George Packer read, which was excellent.
Now I remember why I never felt interested in being part of the riot grrrl scene. The film shows snippets of footage of young white women in that era, saying that the riot grrrl was a scene in which they didn’t have to fight in the mosh pit, or have men sexualize them for being at a show. For me, I was in the mosh pit, getting bruised and punched because as an individual, not as a woman, I wanted to be where the action was and even back then I knew that allies, regardless of gender, were few and far between. So I was just me. I also remembered being more fearful of being assaulted because I was black than because I was a young woman. I would have almost begged to be seen as a woman back then, but my ethnicity trumped my gender.