“In Frances Ha, Scene 63 is 28 seconds long. We did 42 takes in total, two hours of shooting in a bathroom with no breaks or pauses other than for direction and blocking. In 50 days of shooting, we averaged around 35 takes per scene. Most independent films shoot in 25 days with, at most, 10 takes per scene. A take in this case is the scene — the entirety of the above printed text, acted from beginning to end. Meaning that Mickey Sumner, playing Sophie, and I, playing Frances, said those words and performed those actions 42 times in a row.
“The scene had to play ‘in one,’ a take in its entirety, with no edits. Noah Baumbach, the director and my co-writer, was going to have to pick only one of those 42 takes for the final film.” — Frances Ha star Greta Gerwig in a N.Y. Times Magazine piece called “One Scene, 42 Takes and 2 Hours in a Bathroom Stall.”
35 takes per scene? That gets my respect. The demanding exactitude of Baumbach’s is one reason why Frances Ha feels exceptionally strong, sharp and clean.
For the 11th or 12th time, my Telluride 2012 comments: “Frances Ha is a much faster, sharper and more high-end Girls without the male-hate factor. There’s a difference between a highly sophisticated ‘film’ and a rich, well-written, highly respectable HBO series, and Frances Ha is evidence of that. It has a buoyant Brooklynesque spirit, principally embodied in Greta Gerwig‘s open, vulnerable lead performance. It captures the under-30 thing with exactitude and panache and heart.
“And it’s probably the most beautifully photographed black-and-white film of the 21st Century (cheers to dp Sam Levy). I’m not exaggerating. Frances Ha was captured with a modest digital camera, and it looks an awful lot like Gordon Willis‘s legendary b & w lensing in Manhattan. Really. I honestly found it more transporting than the cinematography in Michael Haneke‘s The White Ribbon.”
By the way: Zach Baron’s profile of Baumbach and Gerwig, due to appear in Sunday 5.12 print edition of the N.Y. Times, tells me that Baron is an exceptional writer. An excerpt:
“An address on Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn. An F train that never comes. Unfinished on-spec scripts for Saturday Night Live. The artistically inclined friend of yours who, incongruously, is dating a man who works at Goldman Sachs. That exorbitant $3 fee at the Bank of America A.T.M. — and the long unpalatable walk to the next deli, to find a cheaper option.
“Such are the totems of young life in New York City, the visual and emotional shorthand that anyone who has lived and struggled here in their underfinanced 20s will immediately recognize. This period of time — the years of going to adult dinner parties without anything adult to relate; the friendships that end over trivial matters of geography and relationship status; the afternoons of waking up at 2 p.m., and starting to drink at 3 — is the subject, loosely, of a heartfelt new film from Noah Baumbach, Frances Ha.”