The Cinema Guild
The "mumblecore" label—used to describe crude-looking improvisation- and hesitation-heavy American independent productions populated almost exclusively by underemployed white creative types—has been applied so often to the films of Andrew Bujalski that it's become all too easy to forget what makes them exceptional. That term was even coined five years ago by one of Bujalski's sound editors, or so the story goes.
But first and foremost, Bujalski has shot each of his three features on grainy film instead of topsy-turvy digital video, the medium of choice for almost all of his alleged mumblecohorts. This gives his casual examinations of early adulthood an appealing throwback quality; they feel more lovingly rough-hewn than hectically slapdash. And Bujalski's scenes also maintain a rough spatial continuity, making them a good deal less disorienting than, say, anything from Joe Swanberg .
Bujalski's first two features, Funny Ha Ha (2002) and Mutual Appreciation (2005), both shot on 16 mm, were good-humored character studies about relationships and (the lack of) communication during periods of quarter-life crisis. And while those films certainly had their nebbishy charms, Bujalski's third, Beeswax, out this week on DVD (and also available to stream on Netflix), is something altogether more ambitious. The cast is still stocked exclusively with non-professionals, and an easygoing improvisational air carries over. But Beeswax is shot on higher-fi Super 16 and it takes as its primary concern something more substantial than just a painstaking naturalism: the uncomfortable intermingling of personal matters with business concerns.