All posts by NotesonFilm1

Oblako-ray/ Cloud Happiness (Nicolay Dostal, 1990)

Oblako-ray is amongst my favourites of the films I saw at Bologna this year. It is on youtube with sub-titles and you can see it above. The recording below is a  post screening discussion with Richard Layne on the film, one of the great discoveries of this year´s Cinema Ritrovato, which I hope will demonstrate why the film is so very much worth seeing. This was a film I couldn´t stop talking about and so I´ve added a few snippets of conversations on the film with other friends at the end of the recording.

José Arroyo

 

Gary Indiana, I Can Give You Anything But Love

gary indiana

Gary Indiana goes to Havana in 2012 to write his memoirs. In between sex with hustlers, he tries to remember what it was like to be part of the LA political underground that gathered around various communes, the punk movement around the Mudd Club, the intellectual circles of the Reagan years, etc. It´s beautifully written and very entertaining but leaves a sour note. He admits to a lack of empathy and the book does indeed demonstrate the extent of it. He´s gallant about the personal cost of growing up in a homophobic culture — the bullying, the abuse, the breakdowns, the rapes — the need to invent oneself, to imagine a way of existing whilst every experience chips away at expectations of romantic love, to find community and survive the pandemic raging around. He´s clear-eyed, unsentimental and dispassionate about this. But it is disconcerting that every Cuban is depicted as a hustler on the make, out to get something from him, each is dehumanised in some way, even as he gallivants around Havana flashing his dollars and expecting the whole culture to bend its knee. It´s a quite extraordinary example of sexual tourism , American entitlement, and white privilege. And yet….it´s also a portrait of how a homophobic culture turns a sensitive young boy into an embittered old queen, and ends up being both illuminating and moving.

 

José Arroyo

One of the most striking images from Ritrovato: Deauville, Trouville

Deuville, Trouville, La plage, et le front de mer is an early Gaumont short that contains one of the most memorable images of the whole of the festival, made more so by seeing that red sail on a huge screen in the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna. One of the earliest colour films. It reminds us that cinema is not just about telling stories, evoking meanings or inciting feelings but also simply as a social document of how things once looked….or almost (was that red on the sail painted in manually, was the colour dreamed up to make the image more striking, were the different tints of red on the sails deliberate or accidental? So many questions, so beautiful.

José Arroyo

 

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Processing Ritrovato 2: Podcast on Faubourg Montmartre and High and Low

A discussion of Raymond Bernard´s Faubourg Montmartre and G.W. Pabst´s High and Low between Richard Layne and I that took place immediately after the films were screened at Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna. We were so busy digesting our responses to the film that we forgot to mention Antonin Artaud appears in Bernard´s film.

José Arroyo

 

high and low

 

 

Martin Roumagnac (George Lacombe, 1946)

 

 

 

 

Friends have been grumbling about this year´s programme at Ritrovatto. Did Musidora warrant so much attention? Did Henry King? Personally, I didn´t have any problem with any of that but I do have questions. The two images that represented the festival this year were those of Musidora, which was on the tote bags, and the image you can see above of Dietrich and Gabin which is the cover shot of this year´s programme. It´s a very striking image, beautifully designed, with the blue of Dietrich´s eyes overlaid onto the black and white image, along with the red of the rose which was made to match the lettering of ‘Il Cinema Ritrovatto (see pictures above).

Why an image of Gabin should represent the festival is understandable. Gabin is arguably the greatest French film star in history with more great films to his name than almost anybody. There was an interesting mini-retrospective of fascinating but lesser known Gabin films curated by Edouard Waintrop titled ‘Jean Gabin, the Man with Blue Eyes’: Coeur de Lilas (Anatole Litvak, 19319, De Haut en bas/ High and Low (G.W. Pabst, 1933), Pépé le Moko (Julien Duvivier, 1936), Au-delà des grilles – Le Mura di Malapaga (René Clement, 1948), La Marie du port (Marcel Carné, 1949), Le Plaisir (Max Ophuls, 1951), Maigret tend un piège (Jean Delannoy, 1957), En Cas de malheur (Claude-Autant-Laura, 1957), Le Chat (Pierre Granier-Deferre, 1970), plus a documentary on the life and career of the star: Un Français nommé Gabin (Yves Jeuland, 2017)

But why put Dietrich in the picture? She was only represented by one film in the festival, Destry Rides Again, George Marshall, 1939).  Did the programmers not think Gabin´s  image alone was enough of an attraction? Also since the retrospective is ´The Man With the Blue Eyes,´ why highlight hers?

The choice seems to be purely aesthetic. And there´s nothing wrong with that. It´s a great image. And the designer has done a wonderful job of turning it into a magnificent poster for this year´s Ritrovato. However, if you are going to choose that image, why not programme the film it´s from. As you can see above, the central image is also that of one of the posters for Gabin´s only on-screen pairing with Dietrich, Martin Roumagnac.

Jean-Jacques Jelot-Blanc´s in his biography of Gabin, Jean Gabin Inconnu (Flammarion, 2014) calls Martin Roumagnac, le plus gros échec de la carrière de Gabin/ the worst failure of Gabin´s career (loc 2457 Kindle edition), which I suppose is a reason not to screen the film. But in that case why not choose another image of Gabin, and highlight his blue-eyes?

And Martin Roumagnac being the worst failure of Gabin´s career is as much a reason to include the film in the retrospective as not. The film tries to adapt both Dietrich´s and Gabin´s personas to a post-war world. He´s still a man of the people, Martin Roumagnac is a builder, something of an entrepreneur and integral part of the community he lives in. Dietrich is Blanche Ferrand, only in town for a few years but long enough to have had affairs with the mayor, inspired devotion in the schoolteacher (a very young Daniel Gélin), and cast her eye over a consul whilst being entirely devoted to Gabin, i.e. vintage Dietrich.

 

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The film has some wonderful scenes. Dietrich´s star entrance, which you can see below: the first sight is her legs coming down the stairs, then her voice, then the dialogue ‘vous desiré monsieur´? And you can see from Gélin´s look that he definitely desires and what he desires is her.

 

 

Maria Riva in her biography of her mother writes that part of the problem with the film is the incongruity of Marlene as a provincial French adventurous. But  it´s no more incongruous than Dietrich as a provincial Spanish adventuress in The Devil is a Woman. And indeed the film gives Dietrich enough of a backstory, a woman of education and breeding descended through circumstances to the depths of Montmartre and Montparnasse but speaking several languages, unlike Gabin, knowing exactly how to behave at table and on the dance-floors of the chicest Parisian nightclubs, and wearing an eye-watering array of Jean Dessez couture with aplomb. She´s in the provinces not of them.

 

 

The film´s score almost ruins many scenes. It´s too loud, almost intransigent, and often mickey mousing scenes to Godzilla levels. But even that doesn´t ruin the great moment above: ´What did you say?’ Dietrich asks undressing. ‘Nothing. I wanted….’ says Gabin as he looks her over. ‘What did you want’ she says as she unbuttons her blouse.

 

 

Marlene met Gabin during his sojourn in Hollywood during the occupation and was so in love with him, that when he joined the forces, she followed him, first to North Africa, then to Paris immediately after the Liberation. Jacques Prévert and Marcel Carné had worked on the script initially but Dietrich demanded so many changes they bowed out and Georges Lacombe took over. It´s a pity. The film is overly symbolic in the ways of seriously bad drama. Here Dietrich sells birds, imprisoned in the shop front window or in cages, some of them, like Martin Roumagnac and Blanche Ferrand, need to be together as they can´t survive apart. But better to set the birds free as Blanche does later in the film knowing that they will die rather than to keep them in cages. At least they will die free. The film is full of such heavy handed quasi literary symbolising.

And yet it has great moments such as the scene above: ´Each day I don´t see you I´m lost´’ Roumagnac tells Blanche. ‘You are so much better than all the others’ she tells him. ‘I love you, I love you, I love you’. Gabin as Roumagnac says it three times. I wonder if those were lines each insisted on in the script? They certainly feed the legend of each, together and apart.

So the worst disaster of Gabin´s career, definitely not a good film, but an interesting post-war noir, enticingly fatalistic, with great use of the personas of Dietrich and Gabin and with a wonderful death scene for the latter where, like Bette Davis in The Letter he tacitly consents to be killed, we see him waiting for death, and then the death itself becomes a dramatic set-piece, richly visualised. There are many reasons why Martin Roumagnac deserved a place in the program. And really, if you don´t want to program it, why not choose another image to brand the festival? It would make it seem a little less like false advertising.

José Arroyo

Ritrovato Recap 1: Abbas Kiarostami’s ‘Ghazieh Shekle Aval Shekle Dovom’ or ‘First Case, Second Case’.

The best instance I´ve ever seen of film as philosophy. The set up is  simple: whilst a teacher draws an ear on a board, a student in the back row drown him out drumming up noise with a pencil on a desk. Each time the teacher turns around to face the students the noise stops only to returns as soon as he turns his back. Exasperated, he asks who did it. Faced with silence, he tells the seven students in the two back rows that unless someone turns in the culprit, they will all be suspended for a week.

The fact that it is an ear the teacher is drawing is, as Ehsan Khoshbakht writes in the catalogue for Ritrovato 2019, significant in that it introduces the theme of listening/surveillance.

In the first case students express solidarity and no one denounces anyone. The film then goes on to ask each of the parents of the children whether they think their child did it; if so, whether they should turn themselves in; and if not, whether they should denounce their colleague or express solidarity. As each of the parents answers, the plot thickens, class allegiances are teased out, the moral dilemmas become denser, more complex. In this first section some politicians, artists, writers –even the leaders of Jewish and Christian communities also weigh in.

In the second case, one of the accused names the culprit and is allowed to return to the classroom. And in this section, along with the parents, educational experts, ministers, and celebrities from the first section, Kiorastami also includes the opinions of members of the new regime. Was it right for the student to break solidarity with his colleagues and inform? What is the price of having done so for him and for his colleagues. What is the price of solidarity and what is the price of informing? Is the teacher to blame for having set up a situation in which no one can possibly benefit?

The film was made in the mids of the Iranian revolution for the Institution for the Educational and Intellectual Development of Youth and Children.  Filming started whilst the Shah was in power and ended after  the Ayatollah Khomeini declared an Islamic Republic. The film was banned immediately after its premiere only to resurface almost thirty years later online and at the Toronto Film Festival in 2009. Upon seeing it there Mehrzad Bakhtiar wrote that:

In addition to still-popular celebrities like Iranian actor Ezzatolah Entezami and filmmaker Masoud Kimiai, First Case, Second Case includes a cast of important political figures: Ebrahim Yazdi, for example, was an active member of the National Resistance Movement as well as the Freedom Movement of Iran. He became Foreign Minister after the revolution, only to step down in less than a year in opposition to the hostage crisis. Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, then director of the Islamic Republic’s Radio and Television Network, would replace Yazdi, only to be executed in less than a year for allegedly plotting to assassinate Khomeini. Other figures include Kamal Kharazi, who would become Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Khatami administration, and Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, the notorious Revolutionary Court magistrate who sentenced a great number of former government officials to execution.

…The obvious, retrospective irony, of course — the element that makes this film even more compelling now than when it was made — is the sight of so many important figures supporting a revolution that would come to embody a totalitarian government, itself completely intolerant of the very same rebellion and resistance they promote in their films.´

Azin Feizabadi has written of how the film is a time capsule of the 1979 Iranian Revoultion and remains a pivotal political work:

‘The pedagogic problem which the film proposes had a strong symbolic value for the political circumstances of that time; namely a filtering program by a fraction of the Islamic Republic under the name of ‘Cultural Revolution’.

This filtering program consisted of purge, crackdown and arrests of members from other political groups in the chaos that followed the 1979 revolution. Their methods – similar to the disastrous pedagogic method of the teacher in the classroom scene of the film – were snitching, forced treason, forced confessions and forced whistle-blowing of targeted members from opposition parties against their own friends, family and comrades. By complying, they would receive lower prison sentences and reduced punishment. By refusing they were guaranteed life long prison sentences or the death penalty’

I did not know any of these experts or celebrities whilst watching the film. Or even much about the Iranian Revolution. And whilst such a knowledge certainly adds a layer of complexity to the film, it is not necessary to understanding the full moral force of the ideas being explored. A 46 minute film that gets richer, more complex, as it unfurls. A film rich in ideas whose viewing feels morally enriching. A great film.

José Arroyo

 

Richard Layne and Nicky Smith on Under Capricorn, Destry Rides Again and the first few days of Cinema Ritrovato 2019

Richard Layne, Nicky Smith and myself in a post-screening discussion of a 1968 print of Under Capricorn screened at Bologna´s Cinema Ritrovato that ranges from the impact of the colour to  the length of the shots, Bergman’s performance, the appeal of Michael Wilding, wether Joseph Cotten´s hair was a wig, the film´s connection to Hitchcock´s earlier Rebecca, and whether the character played by Margaret Leighton is Mrs. Danvers in Australia. The discussion then moves on to some commentary on Destry Rides Again, Jean Gabin, and how there´s no hope for cinema if even a Ritrovato audience is piggy about using their phones during screenings. It was recorded during lunch so there´s quite a bit of background noise which in my view adds ambience without detracting from the conversation itself.

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José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 155 – Diego Maradona

Following his critically acclaimed documentaries about Formula One legend Aryton Senna and troubled jazz singer Amy Winehouse, Asif Kapadia turns his inquisitive lens to Diego Maradona, arguably the greatest footballer of all time, and a man who moved rapidly from the slums of Buenos Aires to worldwide fame, winning the World Cup with Argentina and leading declining Italian club Napoli to two league championships. Kapadia’s film beautifully and economically tells his story, making understandable and human the dark side that accompanies the success, including an illegitimate son, his infamous addiction to cocaine, and perhaps less well-known, his association with the Camorra, the Neapolitan crime syndicate.

Mike has never really “got” these kinds of documentaries, and José is more than happy to oblige him with his impressions of what they do, and in particular what this one does so well. It is not just about the man but about the times, places, people and cultures that were the environment of his life. Maradona is rendered deeply human as the film details the grip that not only the Camorra held on him but also his football team, Napoli’s president refusing to sell him at his request, a capitalist demand for the value he holds, and then, when he is used up, this once-idolised, deified icon of Napoli is unceremoniously discarded, left to quietly slink away as his former worshippers turn on him – and all the while, the human cost to Maradona is incalculable, his extraordinary level of fame extraordinarily difficult to cope with, his descent into deeper drug dependence tragic and his punishment for beating Italy at the World Cup brutal. The film draws an important and poetic distinction between Diego and Maradona, as described by Fernando Signorini, his former fitness coach at Napoli: Diego is the youngster from the slum who loves to play, has insecurities and worries, and is, as Signorini says, “a wonderful boy”; Maradona is the star, the mask that cannot show any weakness, and an unpleasant counterpart to Diego – but without Maradona, Diego would still be in those slums. What the world has always seen is Maradona. What Kapadia shows us is Diego, hidden away, a victim of his own success, further and further buried but, nonetheless, always present.

We also talk a little about Amy, Kapadia’s 2015 documentary, which Mike has watched recently as José’s suggestion and truly loathed, finding it as exploitative and demon-feeding as the media frenzy it depicts and decries. José believes that Mike is too moralistic, but Mike disagrees, and that’s where we leave it.

But! Diego Maradona. It’s a truly great documentary, complex and rich, subtle and tragic, beautifully, smoothly edited, and featuring plenty of thrilling footage of one of the greatest footballers of all time doing the things that gave him that reputation. It’s fantastic. Don’t miss it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Sara Wilkinson: The Extensively Colourful World of Wes Anderson´s ‘Isle of Dogs’

The Extensively Colourful world of Wes Anderson in: ‘Isle of Dogs’ (2018)

This video essay delves deep into the colourful world of Andersons set designs and characters discussing the emotional (and general) effects that his extensive colour palettes are able to elicit focusing on Anderson’s second animated feature film, ‘Isle of Dogs’ (Wes Anderson, 2018). Set in a dystopian near future Japan in a city called ‘Megasaki’ , it is a moving tale about responsibility and sense of belonging in which we follow a young boy (Atari) who is in search for his dog (Spots) after the species is banished to ‘Trash island’ following the outbreak of a ‘canine flu’. Colours effect on us is a psychological anomaly, we may not know exactly why they affect us in these ways, but they do, and we continue to read the scene and tone through the film’s palette.

Wes Anderson has become one of the most beloved filmmakers of today known for his very distinctive visual and narrative styles. His incomparable aesthetic vision has given him his reputation of a modern-day auteur creating fantasy worlds which we become warped into through many elements and techniques of filmmaking. Most noticeably, he has created these bittersweet narratives with fine detail paid to his composition and precise colouration. Colour is the most fundamental element of any film and yet falls second to last in many directors’ final cuts, it can be used to elicit emotions in the audience psychologically whilst connoting certain ideas and moods through complex yet simple colour palettes.

The films colour choices subvert Andersons traditional washed out, pale toned palettes of his previous work taking to a darker more monochromatic tone with hints of pastel pinks and blues used to accentuate the grittier, gloomier themes of the film. There is an acute relationship between the colours used and emotion(s) with an ironic play between bright colours and hollow sadness (themes involving violence, death and suicide). The film is renowned for creating these distinctive emotional effects or cues in particular moments. The essay goes into detail regarding how colour is chosen in films and how this can affect the way in which we watch them and perceive the events within them.

There are 3 factors which determine colour, these are the hue, saturation and brightness. The hue is the colour itself i.e. red or blue, the saturation refers to the intensity of that colour, when the saturation is increased the purer the form of the colour, as it decreases the colour becomes more washed out. Wes tends to use quite highly saturated colours in his animated features to make the main characters and their environments stand out (however he does still incorporate de saturated and washed out colours in particular scene but only in a way to accentuate both the brighter (radioactive) and darker colours of  Trash island). And finally, the brightness which refers to how light or dark that colour is. These colour choices are based on schemes which favour colours that harmonise together to create and communicate an appropriate tone for a film. These include the Triadic, which uses three colours evenly spaced out within the colour wheel often used in animations such as ‘Isle of Dogs’ as it is exciting and striking. And Complimentary colour schemes, which create less tension using colours opposite to each other on the wheel i.e. red and green, high contrasts of complimentary colours create vibrant looks especially when used at full saturation (also appears common to the palette of the film).  By utilising these elements and properties, we can precisely identify the right colour to convey certain emotions to audiences.  We find throughout the essay that the best way to control colour is to limit it. Wes is known for his limited colour choice with recurring images of red and yellow, the essay dives deeper into the meaning of these two colours for both the auteur as well as its implications in the film in relation to the colour meanings in Japan as the interpretations of colour are multifarious, and can be influenced by culture. Japan is steeped in tradition and they use the language of colours in their art, dresses, phrases and rituals. Red and white are prominent traditional colours in Japan, both used in decorations at events which represent happiness and joy. However, as Anderson has created a niche which holds high standards on his colour decisions as well as composition, I find that he attempts to place a western meaning onto the traditional cultural aspects of Japan used in the film,  utilising the artwork and robes as props rather than communicating through them.

Particular colours are used sequentially throughout with the introduction of brighter colours seeping throughout the narrative with browns, greys and white the most predominantly used. The darker and more monochromatic palette allows for other complimentary colours to pop out more, guiding our attention towards them.

The aim of this essay was to explore the psychology behind colour in film and how it is utilised to portray sentiments throughout the narrative, referring to different theories of colours presented by theorists such as Vaughn Vreeland and Greg Smith. Smith argues colour is the most fundamental aspect of a film and is needed to fulfil a successful structure which aims to increase probabilities of evoking emotions (this is the ‘Mood Cue Approach’). Colour is widely agreed to be an integral element when creating cinematic worlds like ‘Megasaki’ and ‘Trash Island’. This essay aims to link these theories to Andersons ‘Isle of Dogs’, with textual analysis of scenes which portray the ideas conveyed throughout this statement.

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Bibliography:

  1. Block, B. (2008). Colour. In: Actipis, E. Anderson, C the Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV, and Digital Media. 2nd ed. UK: Focal Press. 136-166.
  2. Cherry, K. (2019). Colour Psychology: Does It Affect How You Feel? How Colours Impact Moods, Feelings, and Behaviours. Available: https://www.verywellmind.com/color-psychology-2795824. Last accessed 20th April 2019.
  3. Criswell (2015). Colour in Storytelling | CRISWELL | Cinema Cartography. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXgFcNUWqX0 Last Accessed: 25th April 2019
  4. CW Contributor. (2017). Ten things we love about Wes: a guide to Wes Anderson. Available:https://www.culturewhisper.com/r/things_to_do/preview/752. Last accessed 20th April 2019.
  5. Harding, M. (2017). Colour and mood in Wes Anderson’s films. Available: https://www.tcs.cam.ac.uk/colour-and-mood-in-wes-anderson-s-films/. Last accessed 21st April 2019.
  6. Hardy, J. (2016). Colour Theory in Moving Image. Available:https://jhardysite.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/wes-andersons-use-of-colour/. Last accessed 23rd April 2019.
  7. Havlin, L. (2014). Wes Anderson’s Colour Palettes. Available:http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/3586/wes-andersons-colour-palettes. Last accessed 21st April 2019.
  8. Heckman, H. (2009). Colour and the Moving Image. Available: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/scope/documents/2010/february-2010/conf-rep-feb-2010.pdf. Last accessed 24th April 2019.
  9. Javier Pacheco (2014) A Montage of Wes Anderson’s Films. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yma4g3l0ZU Last accessed: 29th April 2019
  10. N/a. (2014). 25 Things We Learned from Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ Commentary. Available: https://filmschoolrejects.com/25-things-we-learned-from-wes-andersons-fantastic-mr-fox-commentary-5af385cfae54/. Last accessed 21st April 2019.
  11. N/a. (2018). Wes Anderson’s unique approach to the art of visual storytelling. Available:https://www.theguardian.com/20th-century-fox-isle-of-dogs/2018/mar/26/wes-andersons-unique-approach-to-mise-en-scene-and-the-delicate-art-of-visual-storytelling. Last accessed 24th April 2019.
  12. Olesen, J. (2019). Colour Meanings in Japan. Available: https://www.color-meanings.com/color-meanings-japan/. Last accessed 20th April 2019.
  13. Risk, M. (2019). How to Use Colour in Film: 50+ Examples of Movie Colour Palettes. Available:https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/how-to-use-color-in-film-50-examples-of-movie-color-palettes/. Last accessed 20th April 2019.
  14. Sarah W & Fiona. (2013). The Traditional Colour of Japan: Everything Is Better in Colour. Available: https://www.tofugu.com/japan/color-in-japan/. Last accessed 21st April 2019.
  15. Studio Binder (2018). Colour Theory in Film — Colour Psychology for Directors: Ep5. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lINVnA3rVIE Last accessed: 20th April 2019
  16. Sunhee Lee (2016) Wes Anderson’s ambivalent film style: the relation between Mise en scène and emotion, New Review of Film and Television Studies, 14:4, 409-439, DOI: 10.1080/17400309.2016.1172858
  17. Technicality (2017). Why Do Wes Anderson Films Look So Good? (feat. PlayTheMind). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EocXrcNfmns Last Accessed: 25th April 2019
  18. Vaughn Vreeland, A. (2015). Colour Theory and Social Structure in the Films of Wes Anderson. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 6 (2), 35-39

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Filmography:

  1. ‘Bottle Rocket’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Gracie Films, USA, 1996
  2. Fantastic Mr. Fox’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, UK, 2009
  3. ‘Hotel Chevalier’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Premiere Heure, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, USA, 2007
  4. Isle of Dogs’. Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Indian Paintbrush, 3 Mills Studio, Studio Babelsberg. USA, 2018, Main Cast: Jess Goldblum (Duke), Bill Murray (Boss), Bryan Cranston (Chief), Edward Norton (Rex), Scarlett Johansson (Nutmeg), Live Schreiber (Spots), Koyu Rankin (Atari), Kunichi Nomura (Mayor Kobayashi)
  5. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Indian Paintbrush, Scott Rudin Productions, American Empirical Pictures, Moonrise. USA, 2012
  6. ‘Rushmore’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Touchstone Pictures, USA, 1998
  7. ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, RatPac Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, USA, 2007
  8. ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Studio Babelsberg, TSG Entertainment, Indian Paintbrush, USA, 2014
  9. ‘The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Touchstone Pictures, USA, 2004
  10. ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Touchstone Pictures, USA, 2001

TRIO – The Intimate Friendship of Oona Chaplin, Carol Matthau and Gloria Vanderbilt by Aram Saroyan

Trio

An enchanging book about the lifelong friendship of three fascinating women who met as tweens. Oona was the daughter of Eugene O´Neill and married Chaplin whilst barely legal. Gloria Vanderbilt was the famous ´Poor Little Rich Girl´of 1930s tabloids. She married a gangster agent at the age of 17, quickly divorced, married Stokowski when he was in his 60s, then married Sidney Lumet, before divorcing him and founding the jean empire that made her another fortune. She´s also famous as the mother of Anderson Cooper,. Carol also married an older man, William Saroyan. Kenneth Anger was so smitten by her he chased her across Spain and America and their letters are so striking they´ve been published. Some say Capote´s Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany´s is based on her. After twice divorcing Saroyan, Carol married Walter Matthau in the 50s, and the particular spotlight that come from being the spouse of a star for the rest of Matthau´s life probably obscured her very real accomplishments as a writer. Her Among the Porcupines is particularly memorable. What´s interesting about this book is that it´s written almost like a novel by Aram Saroyan, Carol´s son. He must have had access to all the letters, notes, and people, as he captures their individual voices and writes convincingly and with authority of what they´re thinking, feeling, desiring. It´s a beautifully written book and an absorbing read, Going very cheap on amazon.

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 154 – Ma

A horror movie that cleverly inverts one or two tropes of the genre, we ultimately feel Ma is less than the sum of its parts, but worth a look nonetheless.

Director Tate Taylor is clearly very good with actors, and every performance here is pitched well, but he doesn’t have such an aptitude for building tension or developing psychological creepiness. The writing doesn’t help him – while Mike insists that the film’s premise is full of potential, it’s not built upon very successfully. But Octavia Spencer is brilliant as the central villain, eliciting laughs and jumps at will, and her Ma is an engrossing character, if a bit reliant on cliché.

José points out the film’s concentration on women, male characters being secondary, and its interesting inversions of gender tropes, in particular a very male gaze: the objects of desire, men are disrobed and splayed out for Ma’s pleasure, and the camera doesn’t shy away from displaying them. Unfortunately, the film seems to have aimed for its 15 rating, sometimes appearing to edit around gore and explicit imagery rather than indulge in it, resulting in a somewhat disappointing feeling that it wants to be more graphic than it’s willing to be, to its detriment. One can’t shake the feeling that, for all Ma‘s boldness, there’s still a more visually expressive, confident film in here, itching to get out.

So it’s worth a look for the interesting way it deploys gender representation, and some wonderfully entertaining performances. Just don’t be disappointed if you’re a bit disappointed.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Hal Young: ‘Yi Yi and the Power of Long Fixed Shots´

Creator’s Statement

For my video essay, I wanted to illuminate the mastery of Edward Yang’s Yi Yi. While this film had a significant emotional impact upon my first viewing- and, seemingly, on others too, garnering critical acclaim and winning festival award upon its release- I soon realised that there isn’t a particularly large body of reflective critical writing on it. Further driving me to base my essay around Yang’s film were my memories of a movie we previously studied during the first year of the degree: Dust in the Wind, by Hou Hsiao-hsien, a filmmaker, who, like Yang, was part of the New Taiwan Cinema Movement, which began in the 1980s. To an even greater degree than Yang’s work, Dust in the Wind contains numerous long takes and static shots, which led several classmates to deem it as dull, with some even noting it to be their least favourite film from the Film History module that year. Therefore, I wanted to draw attention to the possible strengths of this aesthetic, and hopefully, convert those who had once been dismissive of it. Yi Yi, I believe, is a good entry point into an appreciation of this style of movie. Containing universal themes on existentialism and loneliness, and appealing, relatable characters, Yi Yi is an accessible film, regardless of one’s knowledge of Taiwan.

Running to almost three hours and being a multifaceted film, which can be approached from numerous angles, one of the challenges I faced when planning out my video essay was in attempting to keep a tight focus only on certain aspects of Yi Yi. Initially, my plan was to focus solely on the way in which the environments of the film reflect the characters. However, I soon discovered that another video essay had already been done on that. Though disheartened at first, I eventually noticed that, while excellent in discussing the framing of Yi Yi, the video had neglected to properly explore the length of its shots, something which I believed was central to appreciating the cinematography of the film. Therefore, I decided to use the notion of the long, static take, as a way in which to explore, and appreciate, Yi Yi’s aesthetic and narrative components, splitting my exploration into separate sections to give it a tighter structure. I wanted the editing style of my own video essay to be reflective of this, leaving shots from Yang’s film onscreen for as long as possible, in order to further elucidate, and be accurate of, the length of the shots used. Yet, working within time constraints meant it was difficult to fully articulate the tension and length of Yi Yi’s shots. So, I used my introduction, which explored both how cutting, and long-takes, are often used in popular and modern cinema, as a device to create a greater contrast when I began to discuss Yi Yi; its stillness being more discernible when sequenced after a hectic series of clips. For this introduction, my editing style was inspired by popular Youtube video essayists, like ‘Nerdwriter’, and ‘Every Frame a Painting’, whose videos are energetic, engaging, and, importantly, accessible. I hoped that, by beginning in a similar style to their videos, I would draw in viewers, who would then remain engaged through the more complex arguments made when I eventually begin discussing Yi Yi.

On a final note, it is perhaps worth mentioning that a common trait I have noticed amongst video essayists online is that, when praising a certain work, it will often come at the expense of another work. I find this to be unfortunate, as I believe a work can be praised on its own, singular terms. Though I draw an initial contrast between Yi Yi and the editing style in other films, I use my conclusion to stress that no one method of filmmaking is better than another, as I did not want my argument to be viewed as an ‘either/or’ type. Though the prior mention of other styles of filmmaking was necessary in elaborating the ‘slowness’ of Yi Yiwithin my time constraints, I wanted to communicate my appreciation of its aesthetic primarily through its own merits and achievements.

Hal Young

Natalia Goncharova at Tate Modern

The Natalia Goncharova show at the Tate is only the second retrospective of her work ever outside of Russia and it is amazing. It reminded me a little bit of the Sonia Delauny at the Thyseen of a few years back in that both are women from Eastern Europe married to artists whose art included not only painting but also designing textiles, wall-paper, costumes, theatre sets etc. Goncharova´s work is more impressive even then Delauny´s. I learned about ‘Everythingism´and ‘Rayonism’. She was a key figure in Futurism in pre-Soviet Russia and Cubism later in Paris, and she collaborated with Diaghilev, Mayakovsky, Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and a whole host of key figures across the arts in the early part of the twentieth century. Plus the range and then the quality of the works themselves. It´s something to see. As a sidenote, Pushkin was married to her aunt and namesake, Natalia Goncharova.

Stefano Dunne: The Filmmaking Style of Andrew Haigh

The Filmmaking Style of Andrew Haigh

 

What is the filmmaking style of Andrew Haigh and what makes it so unique? By analysing Weekend, 45 Years and Lean on Pete, I’ve attempted to unpick the formal and stylistic elements that define these films.

 

All of Andrew Haigh’s films take some influence from the social-realist films of the early 1960s, with Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings (Reisz, 1960), The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (Richardson, 1962) and Kes (Loach, 1969) serving as key examples. Haigh’s films all adopt the same aesthetic whilst appearing more deliberate and subtly stylised. That style in particular, is the focus of my video essay.

 

I’ve attempted to analyse the films simultaneously, often overlapping their footage to show the visual symmetry and harmony between them. With only three feature-length films under his belt, my bold opinion that Haigh must be regarded as an auteur does require significant evidence, which I believe the overlapping footage helps to shape. Furthermore, it aids in demonstrating how his style has grown more and more sophisticated with each film. The decision to analyse the films at the same time also helped me break-up my essay into different segments without letting it feel too fragmented. I wanted to explore both the broad narrative style of his films – chiefly their social realist aesthetic – and then move onto the film form and comprehensive utilization of micro-elements.

 

By starting with a wide-ranging discussion on what social realism is, I believe its most important that we establish its history and heritage – which I quickly outline. Following on from that, I dive into how Haigh crafts characters, and the observational and objective approach he takes to films, something very much influenced by the kitchen-sink dramas of the 1960s. I then move on to discuss his protagonists, particularly Haigh’s use of passive characters – something most screenwriting books warn against. I’m fascinated by this narrow notion that passive characters are regarded as screenwriting problems, therefore I pose a convincing argument that the use of passive characters has helped keep Haigh’s narratives fresh and exciting. Taking traditional stories and subverting them through the choice of protagonist, an active decision that simultaneously brings his films closer to the social realist tradition.

 

Due to time-restrictions, the second act of my video essay isn’t quite as expansive as I’d like but nevertheless I choose a number of formal elements of Haigh’s style and analyse how he uses them. Namely, the zoom, the two-shot and his use of natural light. On the surface these are simplistic methods, but I argue that Haigh shows an incredibly sophisticated and subtle use of them. Furthermore, the former two are often regarded as outdated – replaced by modern technology (steady-cam/dolly) and a more rapid editing style – which is something I touch upon, arguing that Haigh understands the nuances in which these stylistic techniques help to accommodate. Ultimately, by bringing attention to these elements, I communicate the extent to which they are threaded throughout Haigh’s work, further exemplifying a consistent style to his narrative-features. Unfortunately, I was unable to keep in references to both Haigh’s docu-drama Greek Pete and American TV Show Looking, simply due to the fact neither are narrative-feature films and the latter wasn’t exclusively written by Haigh. It also added too much breadth to my topic, which couldn’t be sufficiently covered within the constraints of the project.

 

Whilst I have done extensive reading around the history of British social realism, most of my research on Haigh comes from interviews and film commentaries. My video essay is unique in that it’s the first to cover Haigh’s filmography, which seems somewhat outrageous when you consider the wide-ranging critical acclaim his films have achieved. Nevertheless, this means that my video essay is both extensive and wholly original in its content.

 

My essay attempts to convey the tone and atmosphere of Haigh’s films through the means of its audio-visual presentation. With the use of a melancholy soundtrack and a delicate voiceover, I’m attempting to reflect upon the meaning and themes of his film through the production and construction of my piece. I believe a number of videos have accomplished this and thus served as my inspiration. These include Sight & Sound’s What is Neorealism? and Crisswell’s Her: Needs and Desires. Of course, it goes without saying that I’m attempting to interrogate and subsequently educate with this essay, however, I believe the medium offers up far greater emotional capital than a more traditional written approach, and therefore I’ve made it my objective to exploit that.

 

I hope that you enjoy my video essay and find it to be an insightful and poignant reflection on the work of this truly wonderful filmmaker.

 

Link: https://vimeo.com/333909759/e47002d37f

 

Bibliography

 

Hallam, Julia, & Marshment, Margaret, Realism and Popular Cinema (UK, Manchester University Press, 2000).

 

Hill, John, Ken Loach: The Politics of Film and Television (UK, BFI, 2011).

 

Kolker, Robert, A Cinema of Loneliness (USA, Oxford University Press, 2000).

 

Murphy, Robert, Sixties British Cinema (UK, BFI, 1992).

 

Murphy, Robert, The British Cinema Book (UK, BFI, 2009).

 

Powell, Danny, Studying British Cinema: The 1960s (UK, Auteur Publishing, 2009).

 

Seino, Takano, Realism and Representations of the Working Class in Contemporary British Cinema (UK, De Montfort University, 2010).

 

Armstrong, Richard, ‘Social Realism’, Screen Online, <http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/1037898/> accessed 26th April 2019.

 

Bloomer, Jeffrey, ‘Lean on Pete is a Trojan Horse’ in The Slate < https://slate.com/culture/2018/04/lean-on-pete-andrew-haighs-new-movie-reviewed.html> accessed 21st April 2019.

 

Bordwell, David, ‘Where did the two-shot go? Here.’ Observations on film art, < http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2013/10/07/where-did-the-two-shot-go-here/> accessed 25th April 2019.

 

Dallas, Paul, ‘Interview: Andrew Haigh’ in Film Comment < https://www.filmcomment.com/blog/interview-andrew-haigh-45-years/> accessed 31st March 2019.

 

Heeney, Alex, ‘Andrew Haigh: “Blocking is everything”’ in Seventh-row < https://seventh-row.com/2018/04/16/andrew-haigh-lean-on-pete/> accessed 24th April 2019.

 

Laffly, Tomris, ‘A sense of Kindness: Andrew Haigh on Lean on Pete’ in RogerEbert.com < https://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/a-sense-of-kindness-andrew-haigh-on-lean-on-pete> accessed 28th April 2019.

 

Lee, Benjamin, ‘Andrew Haigh Interview’ in The Guardian < https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/dec/18/andrew-haigh-45-years-interview> accessed 20th April 2019.

 

O’Callaghan, Paul, ‘Lean on Pete Review’ in Sight & Sound < https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/reviews-recommendations/lean-on-pete-andrew-haigh-low-key-horse-road-movie> accessed 20th April 2019.

 

Shetty, Sharan, ‘It Could All Break Down in a Week” in The Slate < https://slate.com/culture/2015/12/interview-with-45-years-writer-director-andrew-haigh.html> Accessed 29th April 2019.

 

Sight and Sound, ‘What Is Neorealism?’ < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odJxAd4WU8Y> accessed April 25th 2019.

 

Crisswell, ‘Her: Needs and Desires’ < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RISgjGPkA0&t=704s> accessed April 25th 2019.

 

Filmography

 

45 Years, dir. Andrew Haigh, Prod. Film4, BFI, 2015.

 

The Dark Knight, dir. Christopher Nolan, Prod. Warner Bros, 2008.

 

Kes, dir. Ken Loach, Prod. Woodfall Film Prod, 1969.

 

Lean on Pete, dir. Andrew Haigh, Prod. A24, 2018.

 

Raiders of the Lost Ark, dir. Steven Spielberg, Prod. Lucasfilm, 1981.

 

Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, dir. Karel Reisz, Prod. Woodfall Film Prod, 1960.

 

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, dir. Tony Richardson, Prod. Woodfall Film Prod, 1962.

 

A Taste of Honey, dir. Tony Richardson, Prod. Woodfall Film Prod, 1961.

 

Weekend, dir. Andrew Haigh, Prod. Peccadillo, 2011.

José´s Week in Culture:

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‘Edvard Munch: Love and Angst,´ British Museum

 

The exhibition of Edvard Munch´s printmaking at the British Museum is easy to poke fun at but very much worth seeing. It´s organised too like Bergman themes in a Scandi noir and makes one wonder if the categorisation of the work comes from the work itself or from a received understanding that renders for easy if a bit clichéd structuration, The show is titled Love and Angst with subcategories such as ´Free Love´, ´Despair´, ‘Jealousy’, ´’Loneliness´, ‘Love and Torment’, ´’God and Humanity’ ‘Anguish and Isolation,´ ‘Sickness and Death’ etc. It is ripe for satire: ‘Laugh Along with Munch’! Luckily there are forays to Paris and Berlin. The prints are very striking, there are a few paintings as well and his work as a designer for theatre (for works by Strindberg, Ibsen, Gunnar Heiberg) is well documented.

Ive been going through the publication for the manga exhibit and it is truly excellent. One of the things that fascinates me is all the ´boy love´ manga, written by women for women, a bit like those Kirk/Spock drawings Constance Penley used to write about, though even more fragile and more delicately drawn. There are also various types of manga explicitly addressed to gay men, including a series where a Japanese man falls in love with his Canadian brother in law. And of course a very long tradition of cross-dressing heroes and heroines. For those of you interested i´m posting images from the exhibition and from the catalogue here:´

 

Kiss My Genders at the Hawyard Gallery: a series of extraordinary images, all of which have the effect of interrogating binary discourses of gender whilst nonetheless often juxtaposing elements associated with binary discussions of masculinity and femininity to demonstrate and argue for a more fluid and more inclusive discourse.

light at the piazza

Light at the Piazza at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ciinephiles might have heard of this as a 1963 film, one of Arthur Freed´s few forays into drama, the very last film produced by the very greatest producer of musical films. Yvette Mimieux played the young girl who´d been kicked in the head by horse and rendered ´backward´’, George Hamilton is the Italian who falls in love with her, Rosanno Brazzi is the father of the boy who initially sees an opportunity but backtracks. Olivia de Havilland starred as the mother who wants to give her daughter a chance to love. It was not a big hit in 1963. And it´s not been a big hit as a musical remake. Which is a pity. Adam Guettell´s score, particularly when played by a large-ish orchestra is simply gorgeous. And the singing, by Renée Fleming, Dove Cameron, Rob Houchen, Alex Jennings and Celine Shoemaker, is wondrous. A subline evening of musical theatre.

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A further note on Sauvage:

I was watching some of the extras of Camille Vidal-Naquet´s ´Sauvage´. There´s joint interviews with the director, cinematographer and editor where they speak about cuts, choices of lenses, filters etc. And there was a moment where the director is discussing the first scene of the film and says ‘we wanted the moment where Léo opens his eyes and looks up to be a moment akin to the the curtain going up in the theatre´, the beginning of the drama after the overture. And it struck me that part of the problem with current criticism is that filmmakers themselves offer analysis of their own work that are considerably more complex than most film criticism now offers. They also do a fantastic analysis of how they tried to symbolise freedom through money in Leo´s pocket, a moving zoom shot, and Félix Maritaud´s walk. To generalise, when film criticism seeks to unpack complexity they go to theory or philosophy (particular works of cinema don´t seem worthy enough) whereas filmmakers have no problem articulating the dense, the complex, the symbolic, the poetic…at least on the level of intentions. #ducks

 

amazing

Amazing Grace:

The Midlands Arts Centre has the best projection system in town and one of the best sound systems. It was mostly full and the audience was mostly black. Seeing the film was akin to a religious revival. Aretha´s voice would soar, and the audience couldn´t restrain themselves from whooping and clapping. In a cinema. Lots of Wows were heard throughout. That voice, that singer, singing those songs. It´s like all pain and sadness is transmuted into joy and hope. And one really is left agog that a person can do that, with such freedom and such control. Even her father was rolling in his chair in amazement. See it in a cinema if you get a chance. It was a form of communion.

medici

Medici: Master of Florence is the kind of EU transnational production we may not see much more of in the future. The majority of key actors are British; most of the rest of the production people Italian. It´s quite trashy but also sumptuous and glamorous. Richard Madden is very pretty in it. And it was lovely to see Steve Waddington as a horny bishop, Frances Berber, Brian Cox and even Dusting Hoffman in smaller roles. Ostensibly a huge hit in Italy.

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Late Night

It was amateurish and inept. All good intentions, feminist rah rah, but terribly done. Not a good laugh in it, and overly sentimental. Worth seeing only for Emma Thompson, who is fabulousl.

black dhalia

I didn´t even know this graphic novel existed. It´s fab.

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Everyone´s been saying Dark Phoenix is terrible but I wanted to see for myself. Everyone is right. A director who gets this budget and this cast and comes out with only this movie doesn´t deserve to make another one. Jessica Chastain is the only actor who makes an impression.

 

José Arroyo

 

 

 

Lucy Calderbank: Boundary and Division in ‘Paris, Texas’

Creator’s Statement

 

Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984) is by far one of my favourite films. The emotional depth is deeply interrelated with its unique use of space, which creates distance between the characters. The film delivers a portrait of 1908s Western America from the perspective of a foreigner, Wenders being a German filmmaker. His European approach is interesting as he combines both cultures in his cinematic language. His attitude towards America is both critical and compassionate. He has described television, a major symbol of American modernism and technological innovation, as a source of ‘optical toxins’[1], but he also honours those landscapes by magnifying their strange beauty.

The video essay is concerned with the themes of boundary of division in relation to space in Paris, Texas. Roger Bromley in From Alice to Buena Vista: The Films of Wim Wenders (2001), writes: « The title of the film announces boundary and division, a seemingly contradictory state, an entre-deux-never reducible to the differences it joins and separates (bonding and separation are themes which recur throughout.) »[2]. I looked at three main points: Travis as the aimless wanderer, the failure of the ‘American Dream’ and the confined spaces. They map out a journey of the film, with its different movements across America, the changes of dynamics between the characters and how the space affects them psychologically and emotionally. The locations vary from vast open spaces like the desert to small confined spaces like the peepshow club where Jane works. The protagonist Travis has been in a state of transit since he has lost his wife and child, and the film can be seen as his quest to reunite his family as well as his return to civilisation. The desolate landscapes reflect Travis’s loneliness and pain as well as his desire for freedom and escape. Travis embodies the division between the desert and the city, the urban and the rural. I chose to use a split screen showing on the left side Travis entering the peepshow club and on the right side the Texas desert in order to contrast the city to the desert. Indeed, these two locations differ hugely in what they represent, as the peepshow is associated with greens and reds and confined spaces, whereas the desert looks more natural looking with its sandy colours and vast open space. The film establishes and compares different worlds, the desert and the home, the father and the mother, exile VS the return. Travis is put in contrast with his brother Walter, who is introduced to us in a shot against an oppressive building, directly associating him with capitalism and the modern life. The video essay compares and contrasts the different ways the characters exist in the world Paris, Texas sets up for them.

 

 The characters always seem to be torn apart between their desires and the reality they have to face. They chose a path that perhaps wasn’t right for them at first, and they are now dealing with the consequences of their actions. Travis and Jane seem to be lost as if their lives had been put on pause since the tragic incident. They both inhabit surreal spaces, Travis the empty desert, Jane the dehumanised and lonely peepshow.

 

I chose to let the images speak for themselves at times, without putting voice-over everywhere. I left the soundtrack of the film to emphasise the poetry and loneliness of the shots. I tried to create a similar in the video essay to the film itself, a slow, steady rhythm, which allows the actors to experience deeply every moment. The opening is a close-up on Hunter holding a picture of Paris, Texas, the land Travis purchased many years ago, whilst Hunter asks: “Where’s Paris Texas?”. Paris, Texas appears to be a foreign promised land, a utopia, and the audience is made to question if such a place really does exist, or if it is the fruit of Travis’s imagination. The point of the video essay was also to emphasise the surreal nature of the spaces in the film, as they seem to be disconnected from any point of logic and time, but are more a psychological and emotional extension of the characters. I chose to end on the scenes in the peepshow club, which separates and finally reunites the long-lost lover, Jane and Travis. There are boundaries between them that the past has built forever.

 

Lucy Calderbank

[1] Alexander Graf, The Cinema of Wim Wenders : The Celluloid HighwayWallflower Press, 2002

 

[2] Roger Bromley, From Alice to Buena Vista : The Films of Wim Wenders Praeger, 2001

Carlo Anghel- Haltrich: New York, Capitalism, and ‘Lost Book Found’

The purpose of New York, Capitalism, and Lost Book Found is to elucidate how Walter Benjamin’s Marxist political theories inform Jem Cohen’s Lost Book Found (1996). There are four different voices in the video essay in the form of voice-over, including the narrative voice of the original film. I chose this diversity of voice-overs with the intention of distancing the work from mainstream video essay practice, which can tend to be problematic insofar as there are only a couple of dominant voices in the field – most of which are male, American, and white. This issue has been discussed in one of the seminars. The original voice-over is indeed American-sounding – and this isn’t an issue because the film is set in New York. However, the other three voices are differentiated through accent – two of them are Romanian (mine and Tudor Mihai Popescu’s) and the other is French (Lucy Calderbank). Each of the accents is an idiosyncratic alteration of British Received Pronunciation.

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Once again, the intention was to offset the dominance of the singular authorial voice which can tend to acquire a dictatorial quality in video essays. I tried to further undermine the authorial voice (which is mine) by maintaining its presence to a minimum, and mainly using it to frame other citations Each separate voice in the film corresponds to a different source which has been cited, such that an impression is created that there are many different authors speaking. I avoided having my authorial voice draw direct conclusions from these citations. Instead, the they are punctuated by clips from the original film which instantiate the ideas which are put forth. I did not want to dictate their meanings and connections myself. Instead, I tried to show, rather than tell (or dictate).

The reason for sticking to few sources is so that the engagement with the theory would remain focused. The main text which is cited is a chapter from Walter Benjamin’s Selected Writings, Vol. 4. I chose this text because it features extended commentary on the idea of the flâneur, which is cited by Jem Cohen as an important influence on his film. My endeavour was to foreground the connection between this theoretical material and the film. The way I went about doing it is by juxtaposing selected ideas from Benjamin’s work with ideas expressed by the narrator of the film, in conjunction with clips from Lost Book Found which support this connection.

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The video essay doesn’t consistently fit into one genre. While it contains elements which would make it a straight-forward argumentative or informative essay, it can also be classified as a rather artistic or poetic work. This is because it re-arranges segments of the film in keeping with its original style, in a certain sense enhancing its mysterious aura. This is illustrated by the introduction and conclusion of the video essay. The pace of the introduction is slow, mimicking Lost Book Found’s lingering and oftentimes hypnotic aesthetic. The voice of the in-film narrator opens the video essay, in a certain sense misleading the audience into thinking that this is the authorial voice. It then reveals a different female voice, which also turns out not to be a permanent authorial voice, but which serves to introduce the content and production context of the film, and then segment into the section on Walter Benjamin and Marxism.

Finally, the video essay does not establish a conclusion at the end, but instead uses an unedited montage from the film. This montage serves to underscore the Marxist ideas presented previously by depicting the excesses of production which accompany New York’s Capitalist economy of the 1990s. The images are allowed to speak for themselves, which is very much the case in the original film, despite the presence of the narrator. This once again reflects and builds upon the style of the work on which the video essay comments.

Filmography:

Cohen Jem, director. Lost Book Found. Jem Cohen, 1996.

Bibliography:

Benjamin, Walter. Walter Benjamin: selected writings. Vol. 4, 1938-1940 / translated by Edmund Jephcott and others; edited by Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings.Cambridge, Mass; London: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2003.

Engels, Friedrich. Die Lage der arbeiten Klasse in England. Berlin: Dietz, 1947.

Lost Book Found (1996).” Lost Book Found (1996) Directed by Jem Cohen. Reviews, Film + Cast – Letterboxd, 1 Jan. 1996, letterboxd.com/film/lost-book-found/.

Rosenheim, Jeff. Diane Arbus: in the beginning. Copyright 2016 New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 153 – Godzilla: King of the Monsters

But for its astonishing visuals, we don’t have much time for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a rather boring, incoherent film with an aspect that is at best lazy and at worst offensive. But it does look pretty! Wait, as Mike says, for its home media release, and capture yourself some lovely screenshots.

Mike’s review of 2014’s Godzilla

José’s review of 2014’s Godzilla

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Josh Bullin: ´Eighth Grade – The Contemporary Teen Film’

Creators Statement – ‘Eighth Grade: The Contemporary Teen Film’

This video essay explores Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018, USA), a recent example of the ‘teen film’ genre that has received critical acclaim since its release last year. The film follows Kayla (Elsie Fisher), a thirteen-year-old girl in her final days of eighth grade, before she will make the difficult transition to high school. Through contextualising the film within the context of the recent history and writings on the teen film, the essay seeks to illustrate how its portrayal of social anxiety in Kayla, as well as how the ubiquity of social media and the internet in today’s teen lives, reflects our current culture – consequently becoming a defining film of the genre for the 2010s.

 

The critical writings that surround the teen film genre generally consolidate around several ideas. While several aren’t directly cited in the video essay for reasons of time and fluidity, their ideas greatly influenced the script by bringing me greater clarity of the context of the genre. For example, the assertion established by Timothy Shary and reiterated by multiple critics, regarding the age range and subject of the teen film[1] is alluded to in order to establish the genre in the essay quickly. The most significant idea to the essay is that the most defining teen films reflect the culture in which they are set and were made in. As cited in the video essay, Shary writes that “Teen films, like successive generations of teenagers themselves, have grown up and changed with the times, testing their boundaries, exploring their potential and seeking new identities.”[2] Eighth Grade does exactly this, testing the boundaries of the teen genre by genuinely exploring contemporary issues for teenagers, which have gone unexplored in recent years due to the generally lower profile of the teen film in Hollywood. In her book, Betty Kaklamanidou suggests that the end of the studio-era ‘teen comedy’ came in 2010 with Easy A (Will Gluck, USA, 2010), and that this has given rise to more mature indie content[3], like Eighth Grade could be attributed too. However, the crucial themes and motifs of the teen film have now continued to resonate despite this movement.

 

Recurring themes, plots and motifs have been identified by critics, as laid out in the video essay through a variety of films that stretch back to the 1980s, where the genre boomed and many of the key themes were widely established in the cinematic and public sphere. Catherine Driscoll lays out three key themes in her overview: “the rite of passage to social independence; the bodily and social trauma of developing a coherent individual identity; and the interplay between developing agency and social alienation.”[4] As illustrated in the later sections of the video essay, these themes appear in Eighth Grade through its contemporary viewpoint, displaying how identity has been complicated by social media and the internet as well as the rise in acknowledged anxiety and depression in teenagers.

 

Contributing to the film’s overall impact is the contemporary realism it achieves through the character of Kayla. The overly matured or idealised appearances and/or dialogue of many iconic teen film characters and actors, as observed by Roz Kaveney in her book, Teen Dreams to embody “an adolescence that has nothing in common with anything we actually experienced,”[5] are not seen in Kayla’s appearance. As shown in the video essay, her acne and body is highlighted throughout the film to resemble an actual teenage girl of her age, with little attempt made to look ‘prettier’ unless the character consciously does so herself. Additionally, the true inarticulacy of teenagers is shown through her and the other teen characters’ dialogue, which incorporates vocal tics and mannerisms – such as an overreliance on the word “like” as a connector in sentences.

 

The essay goes onto examine the frank portrayal of social anxiety in the film, which is pointedly relevant to today where reported cases of teenagers suffering from mental health issues has risen substantially in the last fifteen years alone. The discussion is based around the ‘Pool Party’ sequence, where the heightened sense of stakes inherent to the narrative conflicts in teen films manifests by the event becoming a social minefield for Kayla. The sequence first depicts her candidly experiencing a panic attack before rendering the scene of the party to be horrifying through her gaze. By rendering these experiences, the film illustrates its exploration of the genre and strong relation to today’s social issues.

 

Tied into her anxiety is the question of identity, a pivotal theme to the teen film considering these are the ages that are most formative to the development of people’s identity. As referred to earlier, the prevalence of social media and the internet amongst adolescents further adds to the complexity of identity. From an early age, youths are consciously constructing identities through social media platforms as a form of self-actualisation, while the way they interact has directly informed the way they interact. The film reflects this in Kayla, who makes vlogs on YouTube giving advice, as a method of creating her ideal self. The reality is her quiet and anxious demeanour, demonstrating that the advice is really addressed to herself. These personas are both made visible within clips highlighted in the essay.

 

The reliance and importance of social media and the internet is not heavily critiqued by Burnham in the film, who has stated in interviews that instead the general “living with (the internet) is what I was trying to visualise” and that “it’s not some giant crisis.”[6] Most significantly, this is vital to the current youth generation, where the apps displayed in the film, such as Instagram and Tumblr, are increasingly popular platforms in the real world. By non-judgmentally displaying these social trends that define childhoods in the twenty-first century, the film again reflects today’s culture and thus matches the significant feature of the teen film as written by Shary.

 

These illustrations of contemporary culture are indeed what make Eighth Grade the defining teen film of our current generation. Like how the films of John Hughes define the youth culture of the 1980s, the video essay asserts that the film is firmly marked as a powerful indicator of this period for generations to come.

 

 

 

Filmography:

 

American Pie. Dir. Paul and Chris Weitz, Prod. Universal, 1999. Main cast: Jason Biggs (Jim), Alyson Hannigan (Michelle), Chris Klein (Oz).

 

Bring It On. Dir. Peyton Reed, Prod. Universal, USA, 2000. Main cast: Kirsten Dunst (Torrance), Gabrielle Union (Isis), Eliza Dushku (Missy).

 

Clueless. Dir. Amy Heckerling, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1995. Main cast: Alicia Silverstone (Cher), Brittany Murphy (Tai).

 

Easy A. Dir. Will Gluck, Prod. Screen Gems, USA, 2010. Main cast: Emma Stone (Olive), Patricia Clarkson (Rosemary), Aly Michalka (Rhiannon).

 

Eighth Grade. Dir. Bo Burnham, Prod. A24, USA, 2018. Main cast: Elsie Fisher (Kayla), Josh Hamilton (Dad).

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Dir. John Hughes, USA, 1986. Main cast: Matthew Broderick (Ferris), Alan Ruck (Cameron).

 

Grease. Dir. Randal Kleiser, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1978. Main cast: John Travolta (Danny), Olivia Newton-John (Sandy).

 

Heathers. Dir. Michael Lehmann, Prod. New World Pictures, USA, 1989. Main cast: Winona Ryder (Veronica), Christian Slater (JD), Shannen Doherty (Heather).

 

High School Musical: Senior Year. Dir. Kenny Ortega, Prod. Walt Disney, USA, 2008. Main cast: Zac Efron (Troy), Vanessa Hudgens (Gabriella), Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay).

 

Juno. Dir. Jason Reitman, Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, USA, 2007. Main cast: Ellen Page (Juno), Michael Cera (Paulie).

 

Love, Simon. Dir. Greg Berlanti, Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, USA, 2018. Main cast: Nick Robinson (Simon), Katherine Langford (Leah).

 

Mean Girls. Dir. Mark Waters, Prod. Paramount, USA, 2004. Main cast: Lindsay Lohan (Cady), Rachel McAdams (Regina).

 

Pretty in Pink. Dir. Howard Deutch, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1986. Main cast: Molly Ringwald (Andie), Jon Cryer (Duckie).

 

Risky Business. Dir. Paul Brickman, Prod. Warner Bros, USA, 1983. Main cast: Tom Cruise (Joel), Rebecca De Mornay (Lana).

 

Riverdale, second series, USA, The CW, 2017-2019. Main cast: Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl), Madchen Ameck (Alice).

 

Scream. Dir. Wes Craven, Prod. Dimension, USA, 1996. Main cast: Neve Campbell (Sidney), Courteney Cox (Gale).

 

Sierra Burgess is a Loser. Dir. Ian Samuels, Prod. Netflix, USA, 2018. Main cast: Shannon Purser (Sierra), Noah Centineo (Jamey), Kristine Froseth (Veronica).

 

Sixteen Candles. Dir. John Hughes, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1984. Main cast: Molly Ringwald (Sam), Michael Schoeffling (Jake).

 

Superbad. Dir. Greg Mottola, Prod. Columbia, USA, 2007. Main cast: Michael Cera (Evan), Jonah Hill (Seth).

 

The Breakfast Club. Dir. John Hughes, Prod. Universal, USA, 1985. Main cast: Molly Ringwald (Claire), Emilio Estevez (Andrew), Judd Nelson (Bender).

 

The DUFF. Dir. Ari Sandel, Prod. Lionsgate, CBS Films, USA, 2015. Main cast: Mae Whitman (Bianca), Robbie Amell (Wes).

 

The Fault in Our Stars. Dir. Josh Boone, Prod. 20th Century Fox, USA, 2014. Main cast: Shailene Woodley (Hazel), Ansel Elgort (Augustus).

 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Dir. Francis Lawrence, Prod. Lionsgate, USA, 2013. Main cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta).

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Dir. Stephen Chbosky, Prod. Summit, USA, 2012. Main cast: Logan Lerman (Charlie), Emma Watson (Sam).

 

Thirteen. Dir. Catherine Hardwicke, Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, USA, 2003. Main cast: Evan Rachel Wood (Tracy), Nikki Reed (Evie).

 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Dir. Susan Johnson, Prod. Netflix, USA, 2018. Main cast: Lana Condor (Lara Jean), Noah Centineo (Peter).

 

Twilight. Dir. Catherine Hardwicke, Prod. Summit, USA, 2008. Main cast: Kristen Stewart (Bella), Robert Pattinson (Edward).

 

Bibliography:

 

BUILD series, ‘Bo Burnham and the Cast of “Eighth Grade” discuss their new film’ (20 July 2018), online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUzFkqby6-c.

 

Colling, Samantha, The Aesthetic Pleasures of Girl Teen Film (London & New York: Bloomsbury, 2017).

 

Driscoll, Catherine, Teen film: A critical introduction (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2011).

 

Hill, Logan, ‘Bo Burnham on ‘Eighth Grade,’ Anxiety and Why Social Media Is a Curse’, Rolling Stone (2018), online: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-features/bo-burnham-eighth-grade-interview-700514/

 

Kaklamanidou, Betty, Easy A: The End of the High-School Teen Comedy? (London: Taylor and Francis, 2018).

 

Kaveney, Roz, Teen Dreams: Reading Teen Film and Television from Heathers to Veronica Mars (London & New York: I.B. Taurus, 2006).

 

Murray, Iana, ‘Bo Burnham and the Changing Face of Internet Comedy’, The Skinny (21 Feb 2019), online: https://www.theskinny.co.uk/film/opinion/eighth-grade-bo-burnham-and-dissecting-the-internet.

 

Oscars (Youtube), ‘Academy Conversations: Eighth Grade’ (19 July 2018), online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJmunVzdvLY.

 

Sandberg, Bryn Elise, ‘Making of ‘Eighth Grade’: How Bo Burnham Brought His Anxiety to Screen in the Form of a 13-Year-Old Girl’, The Hollywood Reporter (21 November 2018), online: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/making-eighth-grade-how-bo-burnham-brought-his-anxiety-screen-1162239.

 

Shary, Timothy, ‘Teen Films: The Cinematic Image of Youth’, in Grant, Barry Keith (ed.), Film Genre Reader IV (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2012).

 

Shary, Timothy, Teen movies: American youth on screen (London: Wallflower, 2005).

 

Slater-Williams, Josh, ‘Bo Burnham on Eighth Grade, teens and the internet’, The Skinny (14 Feb 2019), online: https://www.theskinny.co.uk/festivals/uk-festivals/film/bo-burnham-on-eighth-grade-internet-social-media.

 

Music used:

 

Meredith, Anna, Eighth Grade (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Columbia Records, 2018. Simple Minds, ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’, The Breakfast Club (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Virgin/A&M,

 


 

[1] Timothy Shary, ‘Teen Films: The Cinematic Image of Youth’, in Barry Keith Grant (ed.), Film Genre Reader IV (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2012), p. 581.

 

[2] Timothy Shary, Teen movies: American youth on screen (London: Wallflower, 2005), p. 3.

 

[3] Betty Kaklamanidou, Easy A: The End of the High-School Teen Comedy? (London: Taylor and Francis, 2018), p. 25-28.

 

[4] Catherine Driscoll, Teen film: A critical introduction (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2011), p. 6.

 

[5] Roz Kaveney, Teen Dreams: Reading Teen Film and Television from Heathers to Veronica Mars (London & New York: I.B. Taurus, 2006), p. 1-2.

 

[6] Josh Slater-Williams, ‘Bo Burnham on Eighth Grade, teens and the internet’, The Skinny (14 Feb 2019), online: https://www.theskinny.co.uk/festivals/uk-festivals/film/bo-burnham-on-eighth-grade-internet-social-media

Gloria Bell (Sebastián Lelio, USA, 2019)

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A film to see in the cinema. Gloria Bell has an odd distancing effect. The  shots are beautifully composed but sparsely peopled. And the depiction of Gloria´s routine and her loneliness initially seem repetitive and rather boring. I was tempted to walk out. But I´m glad I didn´t.

Gloria goes about her life, driving to work each day, finding release singing along to songs she identifies with, dealing with difficult neighbours. She´s lonely, goes out dancing, has sex with men when she can and when it suits her. We see this routine with slight variations several times. And cumulatively, their effect is to make us understand Gloria. We get that Gloria is a nice woman, divorced for twelve years. She hasn´t hasn’t given up on love but she´s not finding it either.

She does find comfort in the yoga classes,  laughter therapy, the going out, the work, the friends, her children. But none of that alleviates her loneliness. Then she meets Arnold  (John Turturro) , nice but weak, and, nice as he is, instead of making her life better, he makes it worse; and much as she want a relationship, she stands up for herself and chooses to remain alone. Her dancing is a greater joy to her than her man.

As many critics have already remarked, Gloria Bell is an almost too-close remake of Sebastián Lelio´s  earlier Gloria (2013). ´Why bother to remake it at all,’ some ask? Well, duh: to allow Julianne Moore to play the part, obviously. And Gloria Bell might well be be her greatest performance. Moore is mistress of the constellation of emotions that revolve around ´niceness´. Anthony Lane´s review of the film in The New Yorker has two lines that have stayed with me: his opening one: ´The smile of Julianne Moore is one of the delights of modern cinema. It is the smile of someone who knows, all to well, that you can´t rely on life to be delightful;´  and,  ´the genius of Moore…is how plausibly, and how patiently she fills the spaces of ordinary living.´

The film is not without faults. Some elements don´t work as well as they did in the original. The boyfriend having been in the military has a different resonance in Chile, as do his obligations to his family and former wife. But this version looks better. Every shot is interesting and expressive. And by the end Gloria Bell becomes something quite extraordinary, and rarely seen in American cinema: a middle-aged woman looking for love, being sexual, being disappointed, taking pleasure in what there is. The last shot is extraordinary. There is indeed something heroic about Gloria accepting her present, taking joy in it, and letting that joy in her body and in the music carry her onto a future which is certain for none of us.

I´m glad I didn´t walk out;  and I think audiences who are not just there to be superficially pleasured will find the film  rewarding. Gloria Bell lingers in the mind. Like Gloria, you go about your routine, maybe wash some dishes, and then find your thoughts drifting on to her and to the film: how does one live one´s best life? How does one deal with disappointment? How does one acknowledge need and desire but maintain dignity? Will we be as heroic as Gloria when confronted with similar choices? The experience of watching the film is somewhat dull and demanding. The experience of having seen it, is rewarding indeed. Gloria Bell ends up being a fascinating film with one of the very greatest central performances in recent cinema.

Also worth noting that Lelio being the director of A Fantastic Woman and Disobedience are reasons enough to see Gloria Bell. 

José Arroyo