Lena Dunhamís Tiny Furniture comes to Blu-ray from Criterion, presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc. The transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.
The film was shot on a Canon 5D digital camera, shot in 1080p and, after some colour correction, has been pretty much slapped on here. Iím actually impressed at how good the film does look (and Iím sure it makes for a great ad opportunity for Canon) but there are some minor limitations, almost certainly due to the technology.
Since the film was shot on digital and the feature was transferred onto here directly from the digital source thereís no damage of any kind. Colours look great, coming off bright, and whites look stunning. Blacks on the other hand are a bit weak and murky, probably a limitation of the digital photography.
Still the image isnít all that sharp surprisingly, and details donít come off as strong as they could; some shots present some decent details while others have a slight haze. I also noticed some edges present some aliasing and a couple of patterns present some minor moirť noise. Noise can also be apparent in some of the filmís darker sequences. I suspect this is all more than likely inherent to the original source and not a flaw in the transfer itself.
. It doesnít present any noticeable motion artifacts, and is generally pleasing, looking about as good as it probably can. 7/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
I usually (though admittedly not always) try to hide my opinions of the film at hand but I realized while writing my original draft here for the supplements it wasnít going to be easy, especially when I got to the Schrader interview. So because of this I donít see the point in dancing around the subject and Iíll just come out and say it: Though I think Dunham shows some skill and has the potential to make a really good film (I canít quite say great yet) I found Tiny Furniture a bland experience with only a few shining moments. Its characters are uninteresting, its wandering and aimlessness is borderline maddening, and the film is so detached from its subjects to such an extreme degree the film comes off incredibly dull. The experience was even more frustrating because it actually looks pretty good and during the few moments where the film seems to be firing on all cylinders, like when Dunhamís character loses it and starts screaming at her mother and sister, I got a sense that Dunham could do so much better if she could just get her narrative going. Oddly, even if the film did little for me I actually rather enjoyed going through most of the supplements on here.
The first supplement, an interview between Lena Dunham and Nora Ephron, has the two talk about the autobiographical elements in their films, with Ephronís Heartburn, which she wrote, coming up. The two also talk about Tiny Furniture, Ephron noting things she liked about the film, and they also cover the limited budget and its release. Dunham also talks to a great extent about Woody Allen, his work, and how she was influenced by him, and they talk about the filmís premiere at SXSW. I was actually surprised by the interview, expecting some painful experience, but I must admit I liked Dunham and found her actually charming here. I probably could have done without Ephronís fawning over the film, which Iíll probably never understand, but I was pleasantly surprised by the interview since it gets into some interesting, if not too in-depth topics like women directing in Hollywood.
So I was expecting to not like that interview but was surprised to find I did. Yet, ironically, the one I was looking most forward to, Paul Schraderís, turned out to be the worst item on here. This one I was actually looking forward to because I was hoping Schrader would offer some defining observation which would turn my opinion of the film completely around, or at least make me appreciate it a bit more, but instead this 8-minute interview is one of the most superficial, infuriating interviews Iíve seen in a while. Schrader offers a defense of the film against its detractors but it basically comes down to this: all the people that dislike or hate the film are jealous of Dunhamís success. I nearly took a spit-take. He goes on about how she made this little film for next to nothing, got it picked up by IFC, and then now has a show on HBO apparently (Iíve only heard about this recently) and all of this is fueling peopleís jealousy. Apparently, according to him, there is no other reason for the detractors to dislike this film. I was rather stunned Schrader went this route and he offers very little as to why he finds the film so wonderful other than his admiration that Dunham went out and made this little movie, which I also admire; I admire what sheís done and good for her if she found success. If there was one thing I enjoyed about going through this Blu-ray it was watching someone build their style and voice and going out there and making movies, even if I didnít care for most of what I saw, but itís great just seeing someone do this. But the argument we get here is such a lazy one, with Schrader ultimately going the Homer Simpsons route of ďeveryone is stupid except for meĒ and Iím so stunned that this was the best he could do. Really, his reasoning that the film is great is because the people who donít like it are jealous. Thatís his argument. I think itís great Schrader felt obliged to defend it and do it as a supplement for a DVD/Blu-ray release, but this is one of the most thoughtless ďcriticalĒ analysisí Iíve yet seen as a Criterion feature. And the fact that itís Schrader makes it even more absurd.
At any rate, moving on, we get to the stuff I was actually dreading, which is Dunhamís previous work, but surprisingly even if I didnít care for much of it I actually enjoyed going through it. The first is her 58-minute first feature Creative Nonfiction. The film follows a film student working on her screenplay about a young girl and her escape from a professor that abducted her (as I understood it.) This aspiring screenwriter is also dealing with her feelings for a boy who has moved in with her because his room is covered in mold. This is another case where I appreciate what Dunham has done, making a film in her off hours over a long period of time, which is no small task, but again I didnít care much for it. Similar to Tiny Furniture thereís no narrative thrust, thereís nothing much to care about, and this one, unlike Tiny Furniture, which had a director of photography that knew what he was doing, is ugly to look at, shot in standard definition digital (though the clips from her movie/screenplay within the movie look to have been shot on 16mm.) But despite this, as I said before, I liked seeing Dunham build up her skills and experiment. Plus it was interesting to see what a big leap she took from this to Tiny Furniture; at least on a technical level Tiny Furniture is a huge improvement.
The film also comes with a short 8-minute introduction by Dunham where she talks about the film, her shorts, and Mumblecore.
We then get 4 short films by Dunham, which I believe appeared on YouTube. These worked a little better for me than her features probably because theyíre so short (no more than 6-minutes) and are actually funny to a degree. Pressure, from 2006, is a 4-minute short focusing on three girls (including Dunham) talking about one of the girlís night with a boy that leads, actually rather amusingly, to a comparison between sneezing and orgasms. Rough, very amateurish, but I admit it got the better of me and I laughed at its climax. The other three come from 2007, starting with Open the Door, which features a frustrated Dunham trying to get her parents to help her with her film through a door intercom, which in turn frustrates them since they just want her to let them in. Hooker on Campus is an odd one and Iím not completely sure what to make of it. Dunham dresses like a hooker and then offers herself to students on campus. Thereís some laughs here but Iím unsure if itís scripted or if itís a ďcandid cameraĒ type situation because some situations feel unscripted, like the one odd person who goes on some weird rant about food to a confused Dunham, but then other segments do, like a moment where she offers to do a threesome with a young couple, where the guy seems almost too eager. Those two run 5-minutes each. The last one, The Fountain, runs 6-minutes and is the one featured in Tiny Furniture (itís presented as the main characterís claim to fame on YouTube.) In it Dunham goes to a school fountain and basically bathes in it until security removes her.
The disc then closes with the filmís theatrical trailer.
The insert includes a decent essay by Phillip Lopate, which I thought was well-written and presents far better arguments about the values of the film in comparison to Schraderís ďyouíre a jealous idiot if you donít like thisĒ hogwash (yes, I said ďhogwash.Ē) Yet my opinion of the film doesnít change.
I enjoyed going through the supplements for the most part (I obviously hated one feature) and was actually surprised by this aspect since I wasnít looking forward to going through the supplements after viewing the film. I was disappointed that there wasnít more on the technical aspects of the film, like the use of the Canon camera, but in general the material is suiting and for those that love the film theyíll more than likely get a lot out of it. 7/10