Tao Lin’s New Film = The Notebook + Eraserhead
Novelist and internet provocateur Tao Lin and I shared a dwelling from November 2007 to some time in 2009. I didn’t see much of him during that period, but he was a model housemate. You know, the kind you catch a glimpse of once a week. Bits of dried up kale and empty bottles of various natural juices were the only thing that marked his presence.
There were some memorable moments. New York magazine ran a piece about him in January of 2009, and the accompanying photo showed him eating seaweed out of a bag while sitting in our refrigerator. Afterward, we all nervously joked about someone should maybe disinfect it, but never did. Another time, he decided that it would be a good idea to have a large piano moved up two flights of stairs and put into the middle of our living room. It was in desperate need of tuning, so the piano quickly saw its main function go from musical instrument to foundation for various tent structures that Tao would, when the indoor camping mood struck him, occasionally erect.
This monotone author of several novels, a story collection, two books of poetry, and a successful blog was a good housemate. But he’s divisive figure in literary circles. Opinions seem to be about roughly split on whether he is a complete charlatan or a certified genius. Gawker issued an official pardon to Tao at the end of their extremely low-intensity war of stickers and words, and more recently Charles Bock, in a self-damning review for the New York Times, wrote “By the time I reached the last 50 pages [of Lin's most recent novel, Richard Yates], each time the characters said they wanted to kill themselves, I knew exactly how they felt.” Tao’s army of once and future interns was incensed. My own opinion is that we’re all just part of some elaborate personal game of his to somehow make the world seem less depressed.
One of Tao’s finest moments came this past Fall, when Seattle’s The Stranger published a parody of the Time magazine story that proclaimed Jonathan Franzen “The Great American Novelist.” From the cover, which shows a self-important Tao Lin in Franzen-esque solemnity, to the piece itself, which he wrote from the perspective of a journalist covering Tao Lin, it’s a masterpiece of satire. It was all the more impressive because the entire thing is written in a style completely unrecognizable from his usual stripped down, mumbly prose. Tao is a writer who wears many hats, and his latest is that of filmmaker.
Tao has recently teamed up with his wife and collaborator Megan Boyle to start MDMAfilms. Their last feature, Bebe Zeva, consisted of the pair following around the young fashion blogger Bebe Zeva for an evening, filming directly from a MacBook their ‘crazy’ night in Las Vegas. The Hangover it was not, but this style of laptop filming translates surprisingly well to the screen and seems consistent with Tao’s internet-obsessive aesthetic. According to a recent piece for the New York Times by writer Christian Lorentzen, MDMAfilms has cast Bebe for a role in an upcoming film adaptation of Tao’s novella, Shoplifting From American Apparel.
More immediately, MDMAfilms has just released Mumblecore, a rambling, documentary-style film charting the development of Tao and Megan’s relationship since November 2010. While parts of the completely subtitled hour and twenty-five minute feature are nearly unwatchable—a never ending Waka Flocka nightmare, to paraphrase a scene from the movie—some stretches are amazing. Tao occasionally turns off his “seems depressed” switch and you can see some deep reserves of hilarity. For instance, Tao and Megan discuss books, and Tao claims to actually be romance writer Jenny Brown, author of the undoubtedly steamy and loin-filled Lord Lightning.
Tao loses $20 at a casino. There is an altercation with a guy in a wheelchair. There is lots of talk about previous relationships. They get married. It’s a love story for the modern age, sort of The Notebook meets Eraserhead. Charles Bock may want to pass.
Watch Mumblecore Trailer #1: