When he got hold of a copy of White Noise in late 2019, rereading it to him was like a form of communication with his father, who passed away earlier that year. “I went through my own mourning period when he died,” Baumbach said, “and then…when I found out that I was Jack Gladney’s age now and my dad was his age when the book came out. life—it’s the whole cycle of life, always a head trip. Baumbach, Sam Nivola as Heinrich, May Nivola as Steffie and Raffey Cassidy as Denise on the set of White Noise. Photo: Wilson Webb/Netflix Although Baumbach’s childhood had little in common with suburban characters including the Gladney family, he recognized in DeLillo’s enchanting worldview an aesthetic intersection. with the stylized ’80s film genres drew his teenage self into the world of filmmaking for the first time. These include outsider comedies like Stripes and Lost in America and darker, independent dramas like Blue Velvet, After Hours and Blood Simple. “[These movies] are often about people living comfortably in a yuppie lifestyle, and [then] they are transported into another world — or the underworld — and transformed in the process,” he explain. “There are a lot of movies with that theme… [and] the tension between comfort and danger.” He said he began to see in many films from this period some cinematic similarities to White Noise, which he was able to use to translate DeLillo’s cryptic language into shape. photo of yourself.
Baumbach first read White Noise as a college student a few years after it was published, encouraged to seek it out by his father, Jonathan Baumbach, a novelist, film critic and chapter director Creative Writing Program at Brooklyn College. Elder Baumbach was a peripheral figure of the New York School of the 60s, a modernist brand of artists, scholars, and writers that DeLillo would respond to a decade later as an example. epitomizes the more commercially successful postmodern movement—and in doing so, has finally achieved a level of popularity that Baumbach forebears had always shunned. Perhaps because of his family’s urban, academic background (Baumbach’s grandfather was also a professor), Baumbach says he was intrigued by DeLillo’s status as an urban note taker. typically in suburban areas of the United States. He called it “an outsider’s view of the country.” “DeLillo…is an Italian from the Bronx writing about suburban life, and I am from Brooklyn and a Jew.” He points to a genealogy of suburban “tourists” that extends from writers like Richard Yates, John Updike and Jean Baudrillard, and artists like Wim Wenders and Sophie Calle, part of a literary tradition. American culture has dispersed intellectuals (and ideas) urbanly among Central American universities. He continued: “College campuses [are] inhabited by outsiders who go there to work or study but are not from the area. “So they are also tourists in that world.” And indeed, the chorus of immigrant professors chattering across White Noise demonstrates this discursive interaction between urban America and the heartland. Baumbach’s father’s influence extends far beyond literary taste. In fact, eldest brother Baumbach revolves around themes of fatherhood and family that have always been an integral part of his son’s work, especially 2005’s The Squid and the Whale, a semi-autonomous film. Domestic stories deal with the relationship between parents and children and the trauma caused by divorce. . “The divorce theme is a way to explore the family bubble in some of my films,” he says. “The amount of time people spend protecting themselves or their families or children from perceived or unnoticed dangers from the outside while ignoring the rifts that are happening inside. in.” These allegories reappeared in many of Baumbach’s subsequent films, from Margot at the Wedding to The Meyerowitz Stories to his 2019 indie crossover hit, Marriage Story.
He also points to the ’80s childhood fantasy genre and Spielberg classics like ET the Extra-Terrestrial and The Goonies. In these movies, the child characters are often precocious, talkative and bursting with pop quotes or surrounded by countless productions and doodles. “The world of children is working under our noses—they have their own language and their own way of doing things,” says Baumbach. “And in their own way, they are wiser and ahead of adults. They can see some things that adults, because of their adulthood, cannot see or experience.” White Noise Exploiting Similar Riddles: The Gladney Children forever roam the house on fact-finding missions, recycling third-person TV excerpts and gossip in one unending loop. They constantly question the conventional wisdom of Jack and Babette, tripping them at every turn while dispelling the comforting sense of order adults use to avert crises.
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