Dec 08 2010

Woodstock…

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Hey! Did anyone watch Taking Woodstock? It is a film by Ang Lee and he is one of my favourite directors!

What I know about Woodstock is all from this film.

I always think it is kind of weird that a Chinese who makes films which are about American culture…but anyway, I like Brokeback Mountain and his early works- Punshing Hands, The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman.

Anyone who is interested in Chinese film should watch them, I think.

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Dec 05 2010

Film analysis #2- À bout de souffle/ Breathless

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     À bout de souffle/Breathless (1960) is a New Wave film. It is directed by Jean-Luc Godard and is distributed by Films Around the World, Inc. It is a story about a young French gangster, Michel Poiccard, who steals a car and kills a policeman. He then runs away and meets Patricia Franchini, who is a newspaper salesperson and an American who tries to be a writer. Michel falls in love with Patricia and frequently tries to persuade her to go to Italy with him while the policemen are chasing him; but Patricia doesn’t know whether she is in love with Michel or not and that is what we see in the film- her hesitation towards her career and the relationship with Michel. 
 
    Miles Davis’s “All Blues”, song plays in the background, giving the audience a playful and gangster-like vibe. In the first scene, Godard used jump cut to draw people’s attention: Michel is reading a newspaper in the street and suddenly, the movie shows audience a girl’s face. This makes the audience feel confused and thus pay more attention to the movie. However, this scene is more like an introduction or a foreshadowing. The real beginning to the film is the scene in which Michel drives the stolen car, talking to both himself and the audiences (direct address) and running across the meadow after he has murdered a policeman.

Direct address

     The scene, in which Patricia is sitting aside the street and waiting for Michel to go get “his” car is what I will analyze. Due to the small filming budget and the idea of representing real life, mise-en-scene, natural lighting and direct sound are found in this scene and Godard didn’t even clear the shooting area up, so there are many people looking at the protagonists in this scene. Direct sound is sound that is recorded on location and that is why audience would hear cars and children in this scene. Non-diegetic sound is also found in this scene that Godard used music for describing the electricity or atmosphere between Michel and Patricia. To emphasize this atmosphere, he also used medium shot and let them be the focus of the moment. Elliptical editing in this scene: the owner of an American car sees Michel is trying to steal his car and then the next shot is he crossing the street and trying to steal another car. That jumping from this shot to another unrelated shot is also known as jump cut. Without mentioning the consequence of the act of Michel, the effect of elliptical editing is obvious: audience are forced to think about the plot instead of following it blindly and it also leaves audience surprise and freshness. This scene is very important for the film because it depicts how Michel acts and thus indicates his personality. The rudeness and impulsivity he has is like a trademark of this film. Plus, it shows the relationship and atmosphere between Michel and Patricia which is one of the important elements in this film.

Mise-en-scene and natural lighting

Atmosphere between Michel and Patricia and medium shot

Elliptical editing and jump cut

     À bout de souffle is very different from the movies I have ever seen. Godard used a lot of time to describe protagonists’ personalities and the ways they have relationships with people and the way they live in the film. With Michel sexually harrassing girls and him stealing people’s money, audience can tell what a rogue he is. Plus, with the way Patricia dresses, lives and talks to men, audience can also tell that she is independent financially, socially, mentally and sexually. In À bout de souffle , Godard seems to insert a lot of his comments on new female generation, those comments are obvious in the scene that Parvulesco, a novelis,t is being interviewed by journalists. Parvulesco, or Godard, thinks that American women are different from French women that they dominate men. He thinks that women are more sentimental than men and there is no difference between eroticism and love because eroticism is a form of love, and vice versa. He also thinks that new female generation can have countless men if they want. In Parvulesco’s interview, Godard also seems to express his philosophy of life – “…there are two things matter in life. For men, it‘s women, and for women, it‘s money.” and “to become immortal and then die.”

 Michel sexual harassing girl in the street
 “More than that…” 
  Stealing money from his friend

     Godard is similar to other New Wave filmmakers. Many of the New Wave filmmakers first worked as film critics and started making films when they were unsatisfied with “cinema de papa“ in France in the 1960s. They wanted to make films in a different way and that way needed to be fresh. Since those New Wave filmmakers were critics at first, they lack practical skills and that is why there would be jump cuts and elliptical editing in New Wave cinema. New Wave filmmakers were self-conscious about filmmaking – the material of the film which is sounds and images. They were also conscious about the art of cinema and would keep thinking cinema as a medium of art. As a result, there would be differences between “cinema de papa” and New Wave cinema. “Cinema de papa” is purely a copy of a novel and then film the “revised script” without thinking how ridiculous and dramatic the plot actually is. Therefore, “cinema de papa” is lifeless and maybe even hilarious. On the other hand, New Wave cinema focuses on real life. This is what New Wave filmmakers want – cinema or an art form that represents people’s real lives and so mise-en-scene, natural lighting and direct sound are commonly found in New Wave cinema. This kind of cinematography also leads to small filming budgets and unique cinematic style.

     À bout de souffle is a New Wave film and cinematograph, like mise-en-scene and natural lighting, is used for indicating the idea of a medium of art which represents people’s real lives; this is totally different from “cinema de papa”. À bout de souffle gives audience freshness and surprises; it also forces people to be aware of the filmic progress rather than only focusing on the plot.

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Nov 20 2010

Comments on Indian cinema

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When I was reading A Brief History Of Bollywood “Film Songs” by Nasreen Munni Kabir, I was thinking whether I had watched any Indian movie before. And at that time, Slumdog Millionaire and The Darjeeling Limited (I personally love Adrian Brody!!!) came up in my mind because these are the only movies that I have watched and could be related to India.

*** Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is directed by Danny Boyie and Loveleen Tandan.

***The Darjeeling Limited (2007) is directed by Wes Anderson.

Honestly, I had a discussion with my classmate and we expressed our thoughts about how one should define film in term of its nationality.

1. Can we say Slumdog Millionaire is an Indian film based on Loveleen Tandan is an Indian (while Danny Boyie is not)?

2. Or should we define a film in term of its nationality by where the shooting takes place? (But I think this is less important.)

3. Should we think about where the financial support for the film comes from?

4. Should we think what the style of the film is? ( “Bollywood Style”? “Hollywood style”?)

 

Slumdog Millionaire takes place in India and it has dance and songs in the film; it also used Bollywood dancers. In A Brief History Of Bollywood “Film Songs” ,“ [Indian romantic movie] often follows a set pattern in which young lovers cannot be united until they overcome various obstacles” (41). I think this is one of the styles of Indian cinema. I don’t know if there is such thing as “happy ending” in Indian cinema but I think a “Hollywood style” film would definitely have a happy ending and no matter what happen, the bad guys would be punished eventually in the end of the film. In Slumdog Millionaire , Jamal and Latika are lovers and they are eventually united after they have escaped from gangsters and Jamal’s brother, who is one of the gangsters, is dead at the end of the film. I really find difficulty in defining whether Slumdog Millionaire is a Hollywood film or Bollywood film.
 

I am really surprised that playback singers are popular and respected in India because I think the situations in the United States or Hong Kong or any other places are different. Playback singers in those places would be unknown.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfjnEqMbBpg

Based on the clips that showed in the class, for me, I don’t really like Indian music style and I totally don’t get it despite the fact that I don’t know Indian… Its rhythm is very different from American pop songs’ and its tempo is very fast. Certainly, the dance in the clip is good and successfully draws people attention but at the same time, I wonder what the style of Indian cinema could be if we ignore those dance and songs. I also want to talk about the other clip in which people singing in the field, I think we have something similar in Chinese cinema:

People in the film sing their thoughts and love out to each other.

The film we watched in the class is so boring…(Sorry but it‘s true for me.) I almost fell alseeeep! And I don’t even know the name of it. Although I like the documentary-like style of it but it is toooooo long!!! I thought it would be ended finally after the good news have some from the father but it wasn’t! I think it’s great to show Durga’s mother tries to do everything to avoid Durga catching another cold, but I think the scene overemphasizing too many details and thus makes the scene too long and also the tempo of it too slow. I feel lost when the daughter is dead because the way it shows her death is implicit.

I think the best scene of the film would be the mother biting the fabric because I think Indian traditional women are just like Chinese traditional women in a way that their emotions cannot be so obvious in old days and at the same time, I think the sadness of losing the one you love is something cannot be verbalized and thus through biting the fabric, the mother expresses her sadness of losing her daughter.

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Nov 12 2010

Horror but fun

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Psycho is a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Though I have heard him since I was a kid, I have never really had a chance to watch his movies until the media class.

At the beginning of the film, the camera shows us the city where the story takes place and the music gives me a feeling that everything is possible in this seem-like-normal city.

It is no doubt that there are different kinds of gazes in this film, but sometime I find it difficult to define whether it is “spectator‘s gaze” or just a normal angle. The most obvious scene for me that it is “spectator‘s gaze” is that the camera is focusing on the money in the bed while Marion is changing her clothes and then she put the money in the suitcase. Shooting what Marion is doing from her back is like we are gazing at her secretly from behind and she doesn’t know that she is being watched.

“Eye scenes”

In the film, there are two “eye scenes”. One is when Norman peeking Marion from a small hole and the other one is when Marion is dead and her face falls on the ground.

Both of the “eye scenes” gives me a sense of time is condensed and so is the atmosphere. It is like everything beside what Norman is doing has stopped, even the time and I think that would be a feeling when a person who is fascinated with his/her hobby. Then when Marion is dead and she falls on the ground. It really makes me feel like “Oh! This is how a life ends…” and life is so fragile and short. I was not even breathing when these “eye scenes” were screened.

How “M” is related to “Psycho”?

I remember that Prof. Herzog mentioned that Hitchcock was influenced deeply by Fritz Lang and so when I was watching “Psycho”, I tried to link “Psycho” and “M” together if there was any evidences in film that could be able to show Lang’s influence to Hitchcock and I found something! I noted that they both use music to show a character’s inside and his/her dark and ugly desire. A series of medium long shot, medium shot and medium close-up is used for indicating that a character is getting closer to some event or the truth.

 

This is when Lila is getting close to the house and the truth.

Pictures:

 

I don’t think this is low-key lighting, but I don’t know what I can use for describing it. But this scene shows the darkness of Norman!

 

The difference between the reactions towards fear of men and women for me is that when men are scared in the film, they are not able to scream and maybe it has something to do with masculinity and men’s image.

 

Women scream when they are scared.

 

Everything is all happened in the blink of an eye.

 

Both of them have intensive facial expression in this scene. I like how they look like…

I found many mysteries in this film. For example, when the officer first shows up, I thought he would be one of the key character in the film since there were many close-ups of his face and his sunglasses but turns out he’s not! It doesn’t make sense for me when there are many close-ups for a guy who is not a key character in the film! And I don’t know why the film keeps shooting the shower head when Marion is enjoying the shower. It made me think that there would be blood come from the shower head instead of water later, but at the same when I was watching the film I kept reminding myself it was not a ghost film!

I still don’t see how voyeurism is related to femininity. From the small hole, I can see that Marion is taking off her clothes. So does it mean that Hitchcock tries to show that women are born to be watched?

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Oct 21 2010

Film Analysis – Out of The Past

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Out of The Past (1947) is directed by Jacques Tourneur and is released by RKO Radio Pictures. It describes Jeff Bailey (Jeff Markham) comes to Tahoe and runs a gas station in order to escape from his awful past. In Tahoe, he meets Ann Miller, who is his fiance. Everything is fine until Joe Stephanos shows up. Jeff then decides to tell Ann his story. With he driving his car, the story of his past, which is a story about he, Kathie Moffat and Whit Sterling, is being told.

At the beginning of Out of The Past, a car is driving in the small town, Tahoe. This draws us attention to the film and gives us a sense that story is about to be told. With Jeff driving his car and his voice as a narration, his awful and unstable past is fading in, just like the memory comes up in his head. In my opinion, the use of Barley’s voice as a narration in this scene has certain advantages. For example, it can introduce how Jeff and Kathie met in the past and it can also show audiences how Jeff feels towards some moments, people and issues in his life. For example, when Kathie finally shows up after Jeff has been waiting for her at the cafe few days, he feels relief that his plan of getting Whit’s money back can finally start. At the same time, the narration keeps reminding the audiences that Jeff and Ann are still in the car, and what the film is showing is just his memory of the past.

The scene, in which Kathie, Jeff and Jack Fisher are in the house, is important because many film techniques are used. When Jack walks into the house and sits down, there is a medium close-up of him and this can help audiences to focus on what he is going to do, say or have. His sly smile and the way he looks at Kathie and Jeff informs audiences that a negotiation or a bad thing is going to happen. Shot/Reverse shot is used when three of them are negotiating. This technique allows audiences to see that the three actors are talking simultaneously. Diegetic sound and non-diegetic sound are also found in this scene. Diegetic sound of this scene would be the punching sound generated by the gentlemen when they are fighting. It makes the fighting more realistic and intensive. Non-diegetic sound would be the heavy and fast paced music played after Kathie shot Jack. The non-diegetic sound gives the audiences a sense of suspiciousness and therefore, it makes the plot more dangerous and intensive. Besides, the lighting in this film reflects the influence of German cinematography: this scene lacks brightness because the use of low-key lighting is applied. Low-key lighting is used because the plot of this scene is tragic that Jeff and Jack are fighting and Kathie murders Jack by shooting him. Using low-key lighting allows the audiences to sense the darkness of humanity.

Medium close-up:

Shot/Reverse Shot:

Low-key lighting:

 Light only comes from one way.

Out of The Past is a noir film, there is usually at least one femme fatale in this kind of film and so the figures of the “spider lady” and the “good lady” in this film must be noted. Kathie is a female con and a spider lady. She is very different from Ann, who is a local girl and a good lady. The differences between them can be identified in numerous elements of them which are their appearances, the way they talk with men, their behaviors, personalities and environments they are in.

For their appearances, Kathie has very nice hair style and wears fancy clothes. She is pretty, of course, otherwise she can not be a female con and can not seduce men in order to steal something from or take advantages of them. She is confident to show her body because she always wears tight clothes. On the other hand, Ann is less atrractive than Kathie is. She does not wear glamours clothes and her style is “the girl next door”, a plain jane.

We can also define their differeces in their dialogues. Kathie is a woman who argues with men and questions about what they say, For example, when Jeff says “You don‘t have to kill him.” Kathie responds immediately, “Yes, I did”. From this conversation, it is obvious that Kathie does not want to be controlled. She always thinks she is the smartest one among Jeff and Whit and so she thinks she should be the one who is in charge. Kathie is also good at confusing men and convincing them with words. For example, asking “What else can I do?” to Jeff and thus she is able to emphasize how powerless she is. Plus, she would say “Miss you” and any other sweet words to cajole men. Unlike Kathie, Ann never speaks aggressively and cajoles men. Instead, she speaks softly and honestly. She also easily believes Jeff and listens to him very carefully.

For their behaviors, unlike Ann, Kathie uses violence. She also smokes and gambles. She is used to use weapon, mostly a gun, to kill people whenever she thinks “it is necessary“. For example, when Jeff and Fisher are fighting, instead of screaming and being scared, she seems hostile that she steps backwards. She slightly smiles when she see two men are fighting for her and all of a sudden, she takes out a gun and shoot Jack to death.

Kathie and Ann have different personalities. Kathie is active and sly while Ann is passive, naïve and more reasonable because when she is with Jeff, she says “it‘s alright. I understand.” after Jeff has told her his awful past.

The environments where Kathie and Ann are in are dramatically different. Where Kathie is in is always lack of light and mostly is in indoor and she is more likely involved with night activities such as clubbing. Where Ann is in, on the other hand, has bunch of brightness and other natural elements such as grass and water. The brightness really reflects their images.

Femme fatale is an important role in a noir film because the appearance of her in a noir film is related to postwar historical issues.With portraying a femme fatale,  movie is then filled with a dangerous and dark atmosphere. This point of view represents the atmosphere of American society in the postwar period. During the war, men were in battlefields and women thus were encouraged to go to work. As a result, women no longer only stayed at home, did housework and took care of children. After the war, the returning soldiers found that there was a change in gender role, women became more and more powerful and independent. This contributed the growth of cynicism and dissatisfaction. With the depiction of Kathie’s appearance, dialogue, behavior, personality and where she is in in the film, the fear and anxiety of men towards the changes of women in the postwar period are presented implicitly. In order to show the fear men had for these changes, they depicted women as evil, sly and dangerous and would seduce men in order to get what they want in the film. At the end of this kind of film, those femme fatales must be punished in order to show men were still in charge of the society and were still more superior than women. For example, Kathie is slapped by Whit after Whit has realized that she has been lying to him all the time.

Out of The Past is one of the noir films and it shows the darkness of humanity and how dark the atmosphere was in postwar period due to the changes of gender role and the resentment of unemployed returning soldiers towards women.

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Sep 29 2010

Comments on ‘Citizen Kane’

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I have watched ‘Citizen Kane’ for two times. At the first time, I didn’t really like the movie at all because of those people talking in high pitch, they were talking so loudly and made me feeling sick…But today, after I followed what Prof. Herzog had asked me to do – be aware of the overlapping dialogue, deep focus, unreliable narrators, temporal jumps and why call Citizen Kane as American Baroque, I watched it in a different way.

It started with a morose sense. Things around the Xanadu were creepy and dark, like hell.

Talking about overlapping dialogue, most of it was used when people were arguing. I think with using it, it can show whose speech is most important in a scene and who is in charge of that situation, so it can also show how important one is during the arguing/ in a scene.

For deep focus, I did found a lot of it, but almost every scenes in the movie was ‘deep focus‘… In one of the interviews we were assigned to read before the movie, Welles said he used to talk a lot about ‘giving the audience the choice’, but when he made the movie, he didn’t talk much. He used it a lot but he also used something else to make certain actor be a focus: lighting, hair style, color of clothes and position. Honestly, I am very impressed by the use of the color of clothes. I mean, when there were many people in a scene, usually the protagonist was in white clothes or the lighting mainly focused on him/her.

And I think at the beginning of and at the end of the movie, it showed the Xanadu (the castle). I think it’s kind of like ‘we exit where we enter’.

For Kane’s dying word – ‘rosebud’, I don’t really get it. Maybe he was missing how innocent he used to be before he left his parent or something, I don’t know.

Didn’t it first show a newsreel about Kane? I think showing how generally Kane’s life was is a good arrangement so when people are watching, they may not be confused by the time order – ‘temporal jumps’.

Scene with using the color of clothes:

Baroque style:

 I am not sure if they are in Baroque style.

 

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Sep 26 2010

‘Leaving Barstow’. Feeling lost.

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So I was watching ‘Leaving Barstow’ few days ago.
Trailer:

 

‘Growing up in Barstow, CA, high school senior Andrew hopes for a bigger world — but his devotion to his mother, Sandra, and his awakening attraction to newcomer Jenny, combine to keep him tied to home. Andrew’s loyalties become confused and his prior ambitions begin to fade as he realizes he must make the most difficult of all decisions — choosing between himself and the people he loves.’ – imdb.com

‘Leaving Barstow’ is about a teenager named as Andrew. Andrew has a lot of problems – family problem, girl problem and school problem. I mean, ‘teenager’ is always one of my favourite topics of films. Because I can always feel the same way they did in the films – feeling lost.

At the beginning of the movie, a girl keeps singing ‘…nobody knows me at all…’, and I was thinking what if I could go somewhere else and start all over again, I bet it would be very great. Maybe it is one of the ideas that the film tried to express.

At first, Andrew decided not to go to college until his teacher has come talk to him in the bookstore. I think this scene is kind of showing an adult trying to pull a kid from his fancy world and forcing him to face the reality or life which is ‘suck’. ‘…sometime we are happy, but mostly, it’s suck…’, though this line didn’t come from Andrew’s mouth but I could see that Peter Paige, the director of this film, was trying to bring messages out from every single actors’ mouths in the film.

‘Leaving Barstow’ is just more than talking about teenage problems. It also talks about adult problems and discusses about ‘life’. A single mum falling in love with a young country singer who is only older than her son 4 years old. A girl used to want to go to Los Angelus and used to have dream to become whatever but somehow, don’t know why, she has still never been to that place and leaves her dream incomplete. And a broadcaster always complaining about not getting promotion and no one talking to him during the show blablabla…

Of course, every problem has its solution, and in the film, it doesn’t matter what the solution Andrew has got, it’s about how happy he was when he figured it out and it’s just like seeing the light in the dark. In fact, when Andrew got the letter from the college, he was smiling and his back was facing the sunset. I really like that scene!

This movie is absolutely an encouragement and stated how people start chasing their dreams though they are not sure if their decisions are right or not. I mean, everyone must has sometime felt lost. But that’s okay, that’s life.
 
 For more details, please go to: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1093374/

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Sep 25 2010

‘M’ by Fritz Lang

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After I have watched ‘M’, I could read a lot of messages from this film.

At the beginning of ‘M’ , children were singing song which contains the idea of racial superiority and complexion. It is obviously that in the period of Second World War, German children were implanted some awful ideas, maybe through education (which was controlled by Nazi government )and they even didn’t realize how awful they were. ‘M’ has shoot many street scenes and I could barely see women on streets. As a result, I think the social status of women in that period are shown through these shots which women were mainly responsible for taking care of children. The scene in which the mother waiting for her child, I was getting more and more nervous, and was drawn more attention, since the mother kept wandering in the house and kept asking people if they had seen her child for several times.

My favorite part of the movie is about the detective thinking what the workers ( or labor union) were doing in the building where the murderer hided. I like that scene because Fritz Lang used long shot, medium shot and close-up and music to indicate the thinking process of the detective and to show how close the detective to the answer that is those workers was trying to catch the murderer who had already interrupted their working routine for a long time. I also really like the scenes that the music was played every time when the murderer was trying to find the next victim. The music is showing something ‘invisible’ !

In the scene of the murderer being caught and justified by the people. He was saying something like ‘…in present, it is so hard to be myself…’. Since Frtiz Lang fled to America during the Second World War, I think that Lang might be trying to show his opinion through the murderer‘s mouth. He wanted to show that , at that time, being himself and opposing to Nazi government were as guilty as the murderer. And through the plot of the murderer killing those children, he might be trying to represent that he wanted to ‘kill’ those nasty ideas about racial superiority just like the murderer killing those children.

And I do have a question about the beggars in ‘M’. I don’t understand why they could walk around the street without being suspected in the film?

5 responses so far

Sep 17 2010

Hi

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Hi, I am Cindy and I am from Hong Kong. I really like the media class because I have never had a class like this which we can watch movie every class and discuss about it. But what I don’t like about it is that there are too many people in it! Anyway, forget it! I still like the class!

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