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Greenberg and Other Character Studies

Updated March 08, 2010

Noah Baumbach’s comedy Greenberg probes the psyche of a man in search of himself. We consider other films that study character.

Slide 1: Introduction
Slide 2: Citizen Kane - Character as perception
Slide 3: Sunset Boulevard - Character as reflection
Slide 4: The Searchers - Character as manifest destiny
Slide 5: Taxi Driver - character as psychosis
Slide 6: The Entertainer - Character as characters
Slide 7: The Motorcycle Diaries - Character as destiny
Slide 8: Le Samouraï - Character as style
Slide 9: Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles - Character as surface
Slide 10: The Ice Storm - Character as cultural confusion
Slide 11: All That Jazz - Character study as musical
Slide 12: The Graduate - Character as ambivalence
Slide 13: Sweet Smell of Success - Character as calculation
Slide 14: What is yours?
Slide 1: Introduction

Slide 1: Introduction

It’s hard to define exactly what makes a film a character study, since nearly every film has a character or two in it. And yet it’s easy to identify different films as character studies, that is, filmic explorations that illuminate the complexity of the human psyche. Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, for example, is a comedy that gets much of its humor from the way character keeps colliding with reality. The poor guy can’t help but get in his on way. When writing the screenplay, Baumbach set out to bring a literary focus to the character. “I wanted to do a real character piece and I wanted to do something I associate more with American novels,” explained Baumbach. It is perhaps that depth, that empathy with and appreciation of the complexity and contradictory nature of human beings that makes a character study. To coincide with Greenberg coming to the screen, we lined up a few other character studies to think about.