(with occasional interjections by)
Have a character put it on at a party and insist that everybody listen to it
The world premiere of Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Frances Ha, took place on September 1, 2012 at the Telluride Film Festival. The movie, which is in black and white, opened without sound. Was the film black and white and silent?, the audience wondered. Turned out there was some kind of technical hitch in the theater due to the lightning storms that had occurred earlier that week. The film stopped and started again. After a second false start without sound, Baumbach’s voice called out from somewhere in the back of the theater: “How is everyone else’s world premiere going?,” which prompted widespread laughter. The film started again, this time with sound, and everyone settled into their seats, and no one moved for the next ninety minutes. Frances Ha rivets.
Greta Gerwig, who cowrote the script with Baumbach, plays twenty-seven-year-old Frances—half Annie Hall, half French New Wave ingenue—who is trying, mostly in vain, to become a professional dancer. Frances’s character is charming, wistful, stunted, and honest. She has a best friend, Sophie, who’s slowly starting to pull away from her, and a dance teacher who’s breaking the news to her that she’s not really dancer material. Like all twenty-seven-year-olds, she’s figuring out who she is, and the film lets us watch her both stumble and leap—but mostly stumble.
Noah Baumbach is the writer and director of Kicking and Screaming, Mr. Jealousy, The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, and Greenberg, which also featured Greta Gerwig. He cowrote the scripts for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Fantastic Mr. Fox. This conversation took place at the Telluride courthouse in front of an audience the day after the premiere. Greta Gerwig sat in the front row, and at some point the microphone was handed to her and she joined in the conversation. Frances Ha will be released this month.
THE BELIEVER: Were there any scenes that you wrote that you were confident would end up in the movie, and you were surprised to find didn’t end up in the final cut, for one reason or another?
NOAH BAUMBACH: Well, a big one was Greta wrote a [he looks at Gerwig in the front row]—I can say this, right?—a whole Sacramento section, like a “going home” section, that was great, and really funny and moving, and when we had sort of the first maybe full draft—it felt too… it was a lot to introduce in the middle of the movie—we were meeting new people—but the instinct I think was right that we wanted Frances to go home, and we wanted that to be a part of the movie, but it was probably fifteen to twenty pages or something? [Looks at Gerwig] Twenty-five pages, yeah. We were trying to add a chapter that the movie just wasn’t going to hold. We condensed Sacramento to a feeling of going home when you no longer live there. But if Greta hadn’t written that section, we wouldn’t have been able to distill it in quite the way we do in the movie.
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