Great moment in pedogogy? That remains to be seen. But the cinetrix is awfully pleased with the thesis she helped a student come up with this afternoon. The kid was two-thirds of the way there: writing about the opening tennis game sequence in The Squid and the Whale using Bordwell's article about the art cinema. But what she had was description, not an argument. Yeah, Baumbach uses the art cinema styles and themes Bordwell identifies. So what? Or as the cinetrix's own undergraduate adviser so felicitously put it, "Why do we care?"
Here's what we came up with. Bernard conducts himself as though he'd read the Bordwell piece and models his behavior after that of every drifting, aimless, reactive art house anti-hero. Case in point:
Bernard Berkman: [Waiting to be taken away in an ambulance after having a heart attack] Degolas.
Joan Berkman: What?
Bernard Berkman: It means "bitch." Don't you remember?
Joan Berkman: You're calling me a bitch?
Bernard Berkman: No, don't you remember the last line of Godard's "A Bout De Souffle"? Belmondo calls Seberg a bitch. "Degolas." We saw it at the Thalia with the Dicksteins. I got you in for the children's price. You were pregnant with Walt.
Joan Berkman: Like six weeks.
Bernard Berkman: I still got you in for a children's ticket. You told me you didn't like Godard. You thought the jump-cuts were -
[He is loaded into the ambulance]
He even does the Belmondo lip-smearing move.
What the mixed doubles opening sequence establishes so economically is a fluid family power dynamic that deftly undercuts Bernard's bids to be the sole auteur/protagonist of the narrative.
I think it's going to be a good paper. Now if only I could have an epiphany like that about my own presentation....