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A Few Words About Nora Ephron

In early April, I saw the late Nora Ephron in conversation with Lena Dunham at BAM, part of a Dunham-curated film series (which Nona Willis Aronowitz also reflected on) that took place in the immediate pre-Girls madness. Ephron’s 1992 film, This is My Life, was screened at the event, but that’s not what we were there for. Something about the confluence of the two women–one of whom so perfectly understood and depicted our most profound, if subtle, cultural moments and the other endlessly touted as either about to do just that or entirely the opposite–was almost dizzyingly appealing.

Dunham, who seemed somewhat in awe of Ephron at the event (as all of us in the audience undoubtedly were), mentioned the screening in a New Yorker blog post today about Ephron, who died Tuesday of complications from leukemia:

The last time I saw her was in April, for a screening of “This Is My Life” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Delia and the writer Meg Wolitzer, whose book the movie was based on. We did a long Q. & A. in which she was so generous with an audience of hungry young people that I still get thankful e-mails about it. She discussed directing for the first time, learning to shot list and talk to a crew. The idea that it had taken her a moment to settle into filmmaking was so deeply comforting.

Gaby Hoffman, who played Julie Kavner’s youngest daughter in the film (and later, and perhaps more memorably, Samantha in Now and Then), joined the conversation, and when Dunham lamented the film not being available on Netflix, Hoffman suggested wryly that Dunham, of all people, should be able to do something about it. She said something vaguely along the lines of, ‘Aren’t you the president, or something?’

Watching the women sitting casually on stage, I couldn’t help but feel as though this event marked some kind of passing of the cultural chronicler’s torch, or at the very least signified Ephron’s wholehearted approval of the young filmmaker (Dunham’s New Yorker piece all but confirms this fact, and for that will likely rile up haters) and her much-discussed HBO series, Girls–which Ephron enthusiastically endorsed, having already seen the entire first season.

As Rachel Shukert noted in Tablet Magazine, “If a flash mob of middle-aged women formed tonight to fake an enormous collective orgasm at Katz’s Deli, there would be no more fitting tribute.” Your move, Dunham.

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