The Harvard Film Archive is pleased to welcome back independent filmmaker Andrew Bujalski (b. 1977), ten years after the making of his celebrated debut feature, Funny Ha Ha. A refreshingly honest and authentic portrait of vulnerable young love among the recent college grad set, Funny Ha Ha introduced Bujalski as a major voice in American indie filmmaking, equally talented as a director, writer and actor. Although a recent film, few prints survived from Funny Ha Ha after its initial release. Committed to the archiving and preservation of Bujalski's films, the Harvard Film Archive worked closely with Bujalski to complete the recent preservation of Funny Ha Ha which is presented here in a new 35mm print.
The four years I spent immersed in the VES program—stooped over a Steenbeck in the basement of Sever Hall, or my head tilted ever so slightly to try to accommodate the peculiar angle of the HFA screen – were so massively influential on my relationship to cinema that it would be pointless for me to try to untangle what of my aesthetic is “my own” and what is just the proverbial Kool-Aid that I happily drank here. I’ll follow the gentlemanly custom then, crediting VES for whatever works in my films and welcoming blame for the rest. Funny Ha Ha was written in Austin, Texas, and for a brief period I attempted to mount the production in Los Angeles. It was only by odd vagaries of circumstance that we ended up shooting back in Boston, and if my VES training wasn’t still fresh enough in my mind, returning to the cradle made it visceral. About a third of the cast and crew were fellow Harvard grads, and it feels very much like the film is my (unofficial) post-grad thesis. It could never be more at home than it is on the HFA screen. Besides the repertory programming of the HFA, which introduced me to so many of my favorite films, this was also the screen where, at the end of each semester, I’d encounter all my classmates’ work. The experience was never less than exhilarating. We were all reinventing the wheel every time – certainly, some of these wouldn’t roll at all – but for an unpredictable evening of entertainment it sure seemed to beat whatever might have been playing over at the Loews. Against better professional judgment (and perhaps the aging process itself) my highest aspiration remains to retain that spirit of invention in my work. On the inside of my right pinky is the starkest scar on my body, a vertical white line up the center, incurred by too hastily reaching over a film splicer’s razor blade during my senior year. I consider this to be the closest thing I have to a tattoo. To me, it says, 'Student filmmaker 4eva.'
Featuring a cast and crew of Harvard grads, Andrew Bujalski’s debut feature provides an insightful look at contemporary relationships that falls outside the sugary optimism of Hollywood romance. Marnie is a 23-year-old office temp struggling to maintain her dignity and sense of humor—amidst mundane tasks at work for which she is clearly overqualified—and several ill-advised romantic situations. Bujalski moves his cadre of characters beyond the guarded wisecracking of so many young indies and pushes them toward a more vulnerable, and sometimes painful, truthfulness. Filmed in 2002 but released theatrically two years later, Bujalski’s work was selected by New York Times critic A.O. Scott as one of the ten best films of 2005.