Part One and Part Three
TDF Really Works…well, they include it in Aster’s filmography on Wikipedia, and it has its own entry on Letterboxd. This feels like something inspired by Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job. This is another example of Aster’s sense of humor which hasn’t been quite as prominent in his two feature films. Beau Is Afraid looks like it might be going there, though.
Next, we have Beau, the basis of the soon-to-be-released Beau Is Afraid. Aster recasts Billy Mayo, who had played the lead in The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. Here he’s in the title role of Beau, a man trying to go somewhere but having a series of obstacles thrown in his way. The theme of anxiety is incredibly strong here, which I felt the trailer for Beau Is Afraid communicated very clearly. Where this short ends cynically, I get the sense that the feature-length version will inevitably have more substance and pathos. If things don’t make complete sense while watching this short, that’s the point. It’s the type of incoherence that foments anxiety and builds up into something all-encompassing and exhausting.
Now the only way to watch the short, as A24 seems to have scrubbed it from the internet, is by watching this YouTuber’s reaction video to the film. If it doesn’t annoy you too much to hear some guy exclaiming that he doesn’t get what happens every few minutes, watch away.
Finally, for this part, we have Munchausen. This short film made for Vice is a very impressive work. Aster employs zero dialogue in this movie, just an original score. This means the weight of the narrative weighs mainly on his choices of how to use the camera and the direction of the actors to react. This is most similar to The Strange Thing About the Johnsons in the level of production put into it. Again, you can see the professional filmmaker coming out as Aster refines his technique.
Thematically, it is another picture of dysfunctional, co-dependent people. The mother-son relationship is at the center, reflected in Beau’s trailer. I also see threads to the mass family death in Midsommar and the toxic mothers in Hereditary. Aster’s mother is a poet, Bobbie Lurie, and has a website featuring much of her work. While I think the director has drawn from his own life, I would be willing to bet it is not quite as extreme as his films portray; at least, let’s hope it isn’t.
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