A quick refresher for the six of you who need it: “Mumblecore” (c. 2005 – 2007?) is the hastily designated catch-all for a loosely allied circle of young American filmmakers utilizing a low-budget, documentary-esque shooting style for their talky DIY indies. Regardless of whether you like any of the individual films, odds are you’re either (a) tired of hearing that overhyped word, (b) have never heard it before now, or (c) one of the Duplass brothers. Actor/filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass — whose witty road-trip dramedy “The Puffy Chair” became one of the first m-word successes — are quite comfortable with their association to that so-called movement/genre/clique, and why shouldn’t they be, considering Sony Pictures Classics has released their follow-up feature? (Talk about mumble-score, har har!)
“Baghead” stars Steve Zissis, Ross Partridge, Greta Gerwig and Elise Muller as four friends and wannabe thespians who hole up in a cabin for a weekend of collaborative screenwriting on their dream project… until a mysterious stalker with a paper bag on his head shows up. Reminiscent of the Duplasses’ inventive shorts about relationships, their unusual new genre mash-up is prankish one moment, scary and suspenseful the next, and it’s for the best to give nothing else away. Mark and Jay occasionally finished each other’s sentences while yakking about lovable losers and the meta-aspects of promoting their film, but let’s get down to brass tacks:
How do we destroy the word “mumblecore?”
Mark Duplass: With the movie “Baghead?” We’ll smoke it with a simple bag. [laughs] I don’t know. We’ll keep saying “mumblecore” as long as the New York Times writes about it. We don’t really care if people call us mumblecore. Little films need attention. If people want to write about it, that’s totally fine. We don’t necessarily feel like [we’re making] mumblecore movies. They share some aesthetic traits of what people call the movement, but our movies are mainstream movies that look like independent films.
Jay Duplass: We don’t feel particularly pigeonholed by it, although we might be crying in a year or two with the backlash. We’re just continually making the movies we want to make, and whatever people want to call them, that’s fine — as long as they don’t call them a big piece of poo.
Did you intend “Baghead” as a spoof of mumblecore, as some journalists have suggested?
MD: We certainly don’t like the word “spoof” because that implies making fun of someone. We’ve made a career out of making fun of ourselves. We see “Baghead” as more of a love song to the life of a desperate actor, as opposed to, “look how stupid these people are, so let’s make fun of them.”
There is, however, one character you rightfully tease in the beginning: the pretentious indie filmmaker at a post-screening Q&A.
MD: The film festival Q&A is so ripe for the picking because they’re these giant circle jerks where the filmmakers are basically bragging about themselves, and people are trying to come up with the most interesting, poignant questions…
JD: …to show how brilliant they are that they truly understand a director’s vision. But we’re not trying to make a scathing satire. It’s funny, but we love it, too. We’re aware that we’re going up there to get worshipped, and we try to elicit that worship as much as possible. [laughs] It’s ridiculous, but at the same time, it’s great.
MD: We’re doing it right now.
That explains why I’m only asking you brilliant questions. Seriously though, have you had any weird occurrences while standing on stage after a screening?
MD: When we were at Sundance with “The Puffy Chair,” we had an 8 a.m. screening, and a lot of the local Salt Lake population came out. I think they felt that the movie was more real than it was. They started attacking me and the lead actress, Katie Aselton, because they thought we were actually dating when we shot the movie. They were wondering why we hadn’t yet gotten married in real life.