‘Tiny Furniture’ By Lena Dunham

After I reviewed Lena Dunham’s first film ‘Creative Nonfiction‘ (2009), I knew I wanted to review Lena Dunham’s break out film ‘Tiny Furniture’ (2010). It has been said that the high praise received for ‘Tiny Furniture’, led the Creative Writing graduate to receive the notoriety needed to grab the attention of HBO (producer of GIRLS). The film premiered at South by Southwest, which led to it being awarded Best Narrative Feature.

The bildungsroman follows twenty-two-year-old Aura during her ‘post graduate delirium’. Aura returns after studying film studies at a Midwest liberal arts college to her New York family home.

The film shows considerable growth from ‘Creative Nonfiction’, released only one year earlier. Many similarities, as with lots of Dunham’s work, arise. Again Dunham includes a great deal of nudity, a central character who is (we can only assume) similar to Dunham, a focus on sexual relationships and ‘coming of age’ themes. Many of these factors are present in  ‘GIRLS’, ‘Tiny Furniture’ and ‘Creative Nonfiction’.

‘Tiny Furniture’ illustrates considerable finesse in the cinematography. No longer are we subjected to bad lighting and the wavy hand held camera of ‘Creative Nonfiction’. The shots are often wide and there is impressive framing of interior space. Scenes within Aura’s slick TriBeCa apartment are powerful. The costuming emphasizes Auras black sheep status within her household. The mis-en-scene places Aura, often shown without pants and with unkempt hair, against a slick, white, modernist apartment. This juxtaposition of clean and derelict, demonstrates how Aura is seen in the household; as disruption of order and bringer of chaos to an otherwise idyllic household.

Tiny Furniture is filmed in a mumble core style. Dunham often chooses to cast from her inner circle and use non-actors. Within this film it definitely works. There are strong performances made by both Aura’s sister and mother, played by Dunham’s real life sister (Grace Dunham) and mother (Laurie Simmons). The scenes between the family are natural and organic. Their lack of acting training is unnoticeable, which is either a testament to their innate acting abilities or Dunham’s directing prowess. The ability to get great, natural performances out of non-actors is no feat to be laughed at. Additionally, the physical resemblance of both Grace Dunham and Laurie Dunham (they are both tall, thin and clean) in comparison to Aura further reifies Aura’s otherness in the family context.

Alex Karpovsky and Jemima Kirke from GIRLS are featured in the film. Karpovsky (Ray Ploshansky in GIRLS) plays Jed, a YouTube celebrity called the ‘Nietzchian Cowboy’ who stays with Aura. Jemima Kirke (Jessa from GIRLS) plays Charlotte, plays Aura’s friend since birth. Charlotte is a very similar character and displays very similar mannerisms to Jessa. Interestingly however Charlotte is portrayed as an annoying overbearingly friend, while Jessa is more of an aloof flaneur.

In terms of storytelling, I feel what really ties the movie together thematically is Dunham’s discovery and reading of her mothers diaries, written at the same age. It is through these diaries that we see that no matter what generation, the twenties are somewhat lost, meaningless and yet meaningful discovery years.

The films ending is poignant and solidifies an otherwise character driven narrative. Aura and her mother lie in her mother’s bed, a contested space that symbolizes her mothers approval.

Aura recants the tale of how she has earlier had unprotected sex with a man in a pipe on the street. Aura’s mother shows concern about her lifestyle choices. Aura questions her mother about the people who she wrote about in her diaries. The mother, who has often been shown as harsh and unsympathetic to Auras choices, hardly remembers them but when provoked begins to tell of strange encounters with sometimes toxic friends.

What I suppose I’m most attracted to in Dunham’s work is her complete lack of vanity in her storytelling. Every character is both glamourized and reduced to there most annoying trivial form. Although her characters are clearly self-obsessed, there self-obsession isn’t exaggerated and they make no apologies for it. What comes through in all Dunham’s films is a lively mind and a great creative capacity.

Tiny Furniture is a film that is well worth a watch.

Have you seen Tiny Furniture? What did you think? How do you see it in the larger context of her other work?

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March Opportunities

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There are lots of opportunities for emerging writers and theatre makers at the moment. Playwriting Australia has made a callout for Dramaturgy Interns. These interns will recieve ‘access to training and mentoring by industry professionals, and get to develop their practical skills in script assessment and explore the process of giving dramaturgical feedback.’

The internship is available to Sydney and Melbourne based playwrights, directors or dramaturgs. Applications close Monday the 24th of March, 5pm.

Additionally, there has been a call out for applications for the Monash Undergraduate Prize for Creative Writing. The award is open to emerging writers enrolled in either an undergraduate or honours degree. For the first year ever, the award is open to both students from Australia and New Zealand.

First prize is $4000. The highest placed student from Monash University will receive $1000. Both winners will be published in Verge, Monash University’s student publication. Entries have to be 1500–3000 words. Applications close Thursday the 17th of April.

May Day Playwrights’ Festival Opening Night

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Wednesday marked the opening night of the May Day Playwrights’ Festival held at Tap Gallery. Over the next two weeks the exciting new festival will showcase the writing of Australian playwrights.

Last week, the festival presented the work of the 7-ON Playwrights with performances of monologues from their published collection: ‘No Nudity, Weapons or Naked Flames’. The monologues were directed by festival co-director Augusta Supple.

The opening night was a lively event with many of the Sydney scene’s movers and shakers, and theatre makers, in attendance. Delicious rolls were on offer from new franchise Mr Crackles. The five spiced pork belly with crispy crackling and Vietnamese salad proved to be a favourite among the theatre goers.

This week will showcase a collection of nine monologues and duologues titled ‘The Solitudes’, directed by nine directors and performed by nine actors. Little God, directed and written by AFI -Award winning actor Nicholas Hope, will finish off the exciting festival with a performance from festival co-producer Jeremy Waters.

To purchase tickets:

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Festival Producers Augusta Supple and Jeremy Waters.

The Season

Three x 1 Week Seasons: 8th- 25th May 2013

Performing Wednesdays – Saturdays,  8pm
The Tap Gallery Theatre, 278 Palmer St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
75 Minutes (No Interval)
TICKETS: $20/ $15
PLAYWRIGHTS BONUS: Receive a concession priced ticket if you provide the Mayday Box Office Staff with a new play to read.
To purchase tickets:

Neighbours

When a home depot mistake breaks the separation between neighbours Sal and Ally, they are confronted anew by their co-existence. How far can neighbourly duty be pushed?

 

 

I’ve written and directed a short play called ‘Neighbours’ with Olivia Mayberry. The play is being presented by Backstage: University of Technology’s Theatre and Film Society. It will be performed on the 7th and 8th of September along with several other short plays. Come on down and check it out!

‘Neighbours’ will star Madeline Wilson and Margot Kelly. Here are some pictures of one of the rehearsals to inspire you to come.

Alongside ‘Neighbours’ you can see my talented fellow UTS Writers! Here are the rest of the shows.

Snappy Jaws
Written and Directed by Emma Smith
Three young women are getting ready together for a party. They have red wine, chapped lips, and cheap red lipstick. The party theme is also red (like, Ronald McfuckenDonald red. Like, menstrual blood red). They have snappy jaws. Throats sliding with cold wet flavours teeth grinding out shapes of lasers lips swollen with what is still to say and then…

Character 1: Tess Barber
Character 2: Millie Hauritz
Character 3: Ariella Stoian

The General’s Tea Party
Written and Directed by Rachel Sandeman

An Australian and a British soldier discuss the futility of life within the trenches of World War One. Tea always solves an international crisis.

Digger: Scott Leek
Tommy: Patrick Griffiths

The Critics
Written and Directed by Lonie Pizarro

The audience is seated. The popcorn vendors are gone. The lights have dimmed. But the play has yet to commence. Renowned theatre critics Klaus Astor and Johann Von Mises are not amused.

Klaus: Christopher Comerford
Johann: Brendan Missio

Woman Kind
Written, Directed and Performed By Michelle McCowage

Is it possible that we’re all a multitude of various characters hiding within one body? This short play explores the complexity of the human condition, revealing we have more in common then we most likely realise.

Exhibit
Written and Directed by Louise Jaques

Lottie, a cynic, and Simon, a romantic, are two strangers who begin talking at the latest exhibtion of Zurich Barber; acclaimed abstract artist.

Lottie: Claudia Coy
Simon: Liam Egan

What the cat dragged in
Written by Cindy Dang
Directed by Stephen Godfrey

Three roommates are sharing a dark secret. Everything falls apart when Tim Tam the cat brings in a deadly reminder.

A- Melisa Bactol
B- Patrick Ta
C- Miki Takahashi

Waiting
Written and Directed by Liam EganWhen the world is about to end, all Craig wants to do is take care of his sister, read the paper and hassle the people panicking all around.Craig: Che Fisher
Amelia: Danni Robertson
Patricia: Sabeth Kastanias
Daniel: Andrew SalinasCheerleaders
Written & Directed by Justin Wolfers
Performed by Clare CholertonA monologue in which a woman spends time revisiting her childhood. She liked ice cream and running in the sunshine and wearing pigtails. She lived in an endless summer and her mother spoiled her. She was oblivious.

Bleeps
Written and Directed by Chris Mckay

‘I get knocked down. I mash the A-Button till I get back up again’

Gamer 1: Melisa Bactol
Gamer 2: Tasia Bafatakis
Player 1: Andrew Salinas
Player 2: Michael Truong

Bath Salts
Written and Directed by Jake Nielsen

One man tries to warn his friend of the impending zombie apocalypse.

Dude 1: Callum Braithwaite
Dude 2: Chris Mckay

Reset
Written and Directed By Ariella Stoian

Stef and Jay wait for Daniel to come home. They have a conversation about Stef’s day. Words little matter to meaning.

Stef: Dylan Pope
Jay: Marcus Higgins
Daniel: Chris Mckay