Category Archives: Video Essay

Burt Lancaster 1946-1956, The Man Girls Whistle At.

 

In the early phase of his career, Burt Lancaster is not only there to be looked at and seen, as all actors are, particularly stars; nor is he just — albeit significantly – characterised by ‘to-be-looked-at-ness,’ something that is seen to be the exclusive and particular lot of women in cinema; and nor is this ‘to-be-looked-at-ness,’ always deflected by action and violence, as is often argued by theorists like Steve Neale. Burt is dressed and undress for the audience’s pleasure. That is true of other stars of the era, one thinks of Rock Hudson, for example, although Burt seems to enjoy it more than Rock. The reason for making this particular video was simply to show how often Burt is propositioned by women, and how that is acknowledged and deflected; how that often sees the characters he plays acknowledge it as an objectifying ploy…one which places him in a position where he has his price and can be bought well….like patriarchal notions of ‘woman’ from the period. He is desirable; can almost always be had on his terms; and can sometimes be bought on others. It’s part of a locus of meanings and actions associated with his star persona at this period that contribute to his representing a particular type of man but one that evokes a certain kind of masculinity in crisis in the post-war period.

 

José Arroyo

Burt Lancaster’s star persona, 1946-1949

An illustration of Burt Lancaster’s star persona from 1946-1949, as if dreamed by Steve Thompson in Criss Cross: a man back from war and traumatised, desiring and doomed, imprisoned by the past and also because he did something wrong once; physically powerful but none too smart; beaten, manipulated, masochistic, punished, on the run; in a world he can’t understand; delirious and raging.

This is a continuation of my attempts to learn video editing and was a means through which I learned about zooms, blurring and waves. The parameters were that I would use no voice-over, insert clips from all his late forties films (though they only get named, upon their first appearance) and re-anchor periodically to Steve Thompson in the hospital scene from Criss Cross. Some of the transitions are still too rough, and I would have fixed them had I had more time, but cumulatively I think the video presents a vivid picture of Burt Lancaster’s star persona in the late forties and offers a variegated depiction of masculinity in crisis,

 

José Arroyo

Desert Fury: Making Things Perfectly Queer

When Desert Fury was released in the UK , the Monthly Film Bulletin of Jan 1st 1947 labelled it a Western Drama, praised the colour for adding a ´certain air of  reality to the film´(!) but remarked on the sharply defined but extremely unnatural characters. The film was badly reviewed, made money, and then was largely forgotten for many years. David Ehrenstein, in ‘Desert Fury, Mon Amour’, an important piece for Film Quarterly in 1988, significantly dedicated to Vito Russo and Richard Dyer, wrote: ´You aren´t likely to find Desert Fury listed on a revival or repertory house schedule. It isn´t avaiable on home video. at best you might be able to catch it in some 3.am slot on local television, or unspooled some afternoon when rain cancels a baseball game. And why not? It´s ´just a movie´– produced, consumed, forgotten. Not good. Not bad. Medicore. In fact, one might even go so far as to call it quintessentially mediocre’.  And yet, Ehrenstein argues, the film ´speaks to cinematic desires barely formed and only half-uttered´.

 

What once couldn´t be uttered now seems obvious to all. By 1998 Eddie Muller in Dark City, The Lost World of Film Noir, would write, ‘Desert Fury is the gayest movie ever produced in Hollywood’s golden era. The film is saturated – with incredibly lush color, fast and furious dialogue dripping with innuendo, double entendres, dark secrets, outraged face-slappings, overwrought Miklos Rosza violins. How has this film escaped revival or cult status? It’s Hollywood at its most gloriously berserk’ (p.183)´By 2008, Foster Hirsch in The Dark Side of The Screen: Film Noir, was writing ´In a truly subversive move the film jettisons the characters’ criminal activities to concentrate on two homosexual couples: the mannish mother who treats her daughter like a lover, and the gangster and his devoted possessive sidekick'(p.224). By 2014, Ronald Bergan in Film Comment, would argue that´Since Vito Russo’s 1981 book The Celluloid Closet, we have grown accustomed to reading cryptic messages of homosexuality in pre-Sixties Hollywood movies. But the Eddie-Johnny relationship is too overt to be intentionally gay in the Hollywood of the Forties’. The film offers an interesting critical trajectory: What was unnatural if invisible or unutterable, merely ‘bad’, in 1947, now seems too excessively obvious.

I’ve been trying to practice my video skills, playing with dissolves and titles, still terrible at both, but I have put together clips from the film, edited down but in chronological order, that create such a vivid queer triangle that it does make one wonder what was going on in people’s minds and make one wish someone had interviewed all involved on this issue.  I think you’ll find that the power of this vividly queer narrative will override the evidence of my relative lack of editing skills. There´s another, similar exercise, to be made on lesbianism in the same film.

 

José Arroyo

Polina Zelmanova — ‘Horrible Bodies: The (new) Politics of Horror’

A video essay that is densely textured visually and aurally, intellectually sophisticated, in dialogue with a rich body of feminist theory that leads to a brilliant analysis of Julia Ducournau´s Raw

 

Horrible Bodies: The (new) body politics of horror

In an interview, Tom Sherak once said, “Film is a reflection of society, both present and past.”[1] Indeed, by watching a film one can gauge a lot about its time – current events, social relations, structures, but also anxieties. This video essay focuses on the latter by looking at the horror genre which has been discussed as a metaphorization for social fears, permeating through its literal and metaphorical monsters.[2] While the cause of fears evolves as seen in some of the opening examples in the video, death and the human condition is always at the forefront. However, as Cruz convincingly writes, even more than death horror evokes anxieties surrounding the body.[3] Its autonomous, uncontrollable nature evokes fear, furthered by how much of our identity is associated with our body and what consequently happens to our understanding of who we are when our bodies are compromised. Despite this fear being common amongst all humans, when it comes to the representation of the bodies in horror the potential unity and identification with different bodies, evoked by the genre’s physical nature,[4] is replaced by the prominence of their difference. It controls who we can identify with, and ultimately reflects which bodies are socially positioned as the ideal human subject.[5]

The essay focuses on the female body as an example of a body that is othered in horror. The example is particularly interesting in that in film men are seen and heard twice as often as women with the exception of horror,[6] demonstrating their strong presence in the genre. Ironically, it is also the genre that has been most cruel to them. The history of women in horror has had an increasing interest amongst feminist academics in film and there have been several key texts published on the various tropes.[7] The essay narrows down the focus by concentrating on the female monster, due to the double-othering she experiences. While most postmodern horror explores the body as monstrous, tapping into aforementioned anxieties, feminist critique suggests that there is “a tendency…to generate paranoia about the social world around constructions of monstrous women”.[8] This is charted in the video-essay through the ways her body is presented as horrifically different in opposition to the white heterosexual male subject considered to be the ideal.[9] The video-essay concludes with a case study of a feminist horror film Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2016) as an example of a film that draws on the history of representation in horror to offer a progressive take on body politics, paving a way to enforcing identification with the female body.

The first section of the video-essay is divided into three parts, demonstrating the othering at play in the female monster. It draws on Laura Mulvey’s male gaze theory[10] to explain the emphasis on difference. This concept is first applied to female victims in slasher films, one of the most literal examples of disavowal. It then draws a comparison of the female’s difference to the monster who is equally responsible for castration anxiety in horror in that he is “a biological freak with the impossible and threatening appetites that suggest a frightening potency”.[11] However, while the male perceives a threat of difference, as Linda Williams argues, “the female look…shares the male fear of the monster’s freakishness but also recognises the sense in which this freakishness is similar to her own difference.”[12] In the Phantom of the Opera (Chaney, 1925) example, the first mid-shot demonstrates Christine’s active look. This look is then punished through the horror she faces when the Phantom is unmasked, revealing his ‘freakishness’. The example emphasises their mirroring facial expressions which underlines their similarity within the genre.

The third part brings the two together in the ultimate iteration of castration anxiety seen in the female monster, or what Barbara Creed famously calls the monstrous feminine.[13] The term implies “the importance of gender in the construction of her monstrosity”[14] seen in the examples demonstrating a link of monstrosity to her sex difference through puberty, sexuality or the female sex organ.

The essay goes on to use Kristeva’s theory of abjection as another way of othering the female body. She characterizes the abject as that which “disturbs identity, system, order […and] does not respect borders, positions, rules.”[15] It works within patriarchal structures to separate the human from the other, the fully constituted subject from the partially formed one.[16] The essay draws on Creed’s application of abjection to monsters showing their disturbance of social systems through transforming monsters which are both man and beast, non-human monsters[17] or have a non-heteronormative identity.[18] The culmination of the two shows the monstrous feminine as doubly abject and therefore doubly other. The essay uses Carrie (De Palma, 1976) as a key example to demonstrate the connection. It begins with a strong male gaze embodied by the camera; however, with the sign of menstruation (a sign of abjection and difference) the tone shifts. The violence that erupts, evoked in the hand-held shaking camera, frames both Carrie and the previously sexualized girls as monstrous revealing “the horror of what might be seen when the penetrative camera glimpses the sight of sexual difference the male voyeur can’t acknowledge”[19] further distancing the female body. The video essay parallels Carrie’s realization of her monstrosity to the shower scene in Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) emphasizing the parallel of the two monsters – a literal one (Psycho) versus the woman’s body (Carrie).

The emphasis on the female sex as a cause or link to her monstrosity others her, making her unrelatable for any audience: for men she is the threatening Other, and for women she is distanced by the male gaze. What Raw does then is use narrative and visual strategies to enable a female gaze, creating audience identification with the woman and monster, simultaneously shifting horror’s body politics as seen in the second part of the video essay.

The film follows Justine, an aspiring vet struggling to fit in to her new environment. After being force-fed a raw rabbit kidney during an aggressive hazing ritual, the life-long vegetarian awakens to unknowingly suppressed desires for human flesh. The film does several things to de-other the female protagonist’s body and re-instate her as an identifiable subject, challenging horror traditions shown in the first half of the video-essay. This is particularly done by taking the female body out of the patriarchal context, transforming it into a universally human one. The first is Ducournau’s choice of monstrosity as cannibal rather than anything supernatural, grounding her as a human. The essay shows several comparative examples of the othering of cannibals in films such as presenting them as scientific experiments (Rabid[20]), non-human (grandfather or distancing mask in Texas Chainsaw Massacre[21]) or primitive savages (Cannibal Holocaust[22]). As evident in the latter two examples, the shots frame them as a group whom which the human is pitted against.[23] In opposition, Justine’s cannibalism is presented as more natural – a biological reaction to meat consumption and unlike the traditional monstrous feminine not linked to her female difference.[24]

Identification with her body is furthered by Justine’s positioning as a victim of injustice and a violent environment, echoed in Rappis’s commentary on the film: “[its] absurdity is not found in a woman discovering she has an appetite for flesh, but in the disorienting environment she is forced to navigate before she can begin to understand what is happening to her”.[25] Additionally, Raw eliminates the male gaze by making the male protagonist a homosexual. The examples of his point of view shots demonstrate a neutral gaze, lacking Mulvey’s characteristics of the male gaze.

This close identification means that when Justine’s ‘transformation’ occurs, her body becomes relatable despite it being a female one and can consequently be used as a ground for the exploration of non-gendered bodily anxieties. This is furthered as seen in the examples of its trivial struggles which in themselves are more relatable. The video essay visually lists examples such as her rash, shivers, throwing up hair, hair pulling and need to climax, the close-ups and shallow focus of the shots enhancing the horror of the body, raising issues of anxiety of its uncontrollable nature. These images inspire “raw, unmediated reaction”[26] typical to the physicality of body horror.

By challenging traditional identification by creating a connection with a body that is other (both as monster and woman), the film questions the boundaries dominant power structures create in privileging certain bodies over others. The video-essay demonstrates parallels throughout the film between human bodies (including white, male subjects) and animal bodies, the similarities evoking abjection in the former, challenging traditions of the fully formed white, male subject. By the end of the film, Justine becomes more human than ever before, not because of her body but by placing her human identity into her moral choice of deciding not to kill, rather than relying on an uncontrollable body to justify her subjectivity. This is highlighted through one of the end images of Justine and Alexia’s faces merging in the glass between them – a symbolic crossing of the border between the abject and subject, emphasizing Creed’s point that “abjection is not something of which the subject can ever be free.”[27] The essay prompts how this progressive example necessitates a shift in the relationship of bodies with subjectivity, which can have wider implications regarding representation, identity and equality beyond the genre.

Filmography (In order of appearance)

Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)

Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931)

Ring (Hideo Nakata, 1998)

Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)

The Strangers (Bryan Bertino, 2008)

In a Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018)

The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973)

The Shining (Stanley Kubrik, 1980)

Final Destination (David R. Ellis, 2000)

Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)

The Human Centipede 3 (Tom Six, 2015)

Rabid (The Soska Sisters, 2019)

Saw (James Wan, 2004)

Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

Dracula’s Daughter (Lambert Hillyer, 1936)

Spider Baby (Jack Hill, 1967)

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Un Chien Andalou (Luis Bubuel, 1929)

The Slumber Party Massacre (Amy Holden Jones, 1982)

My Bloody Valentine (George Mihalka, 1981)

Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)

It (Andres Muschietti, 2017)

Scream (Wes Craven, 1996)

The Phantom of the Opera (Lon Chaney, 1925)

American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981)

The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1987)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Samuel Bayer, 2010)

Jennifer’s Body (Karyn Kusama, 2009)

Cat People (Paul Schrader, 1982)

Teeth (Mitchell Lichtenstein, 2007)

Alien Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997)

Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)

Contracted (Eric England, 2013)

Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)

Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)

The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014)

The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2017)

Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2016)

Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)

Rabid (David Cronenberg, 1977)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1998)

Cannibal Holocaust (Ruggero Deodato, 1980)

Thelma (Joachim Trier, 2017)

 

Bibliography:

Anon, ‘Julia Ducournau: Cannibalism, Feminism & Growing Up’, 52-Insights 30 March 2017, accessed 19/11/2019

Anne Billson, ‘Does the ‘female gaze’ make sexual violence on film any less repugnant?’, The Guardian 2 August 2019, accessed 10/11/2019

Barnes Kateryna, ‘Monsters in Modern Horror Culture Reflect Social Anxieties’, Folio 30 October 2017, accessed 6/1/2020 https://www.folio.ca/monsters-in-modern-horror-culture-reflect-social-anxieties/

Beth Younger, ‘Women in Horror: Victims no More’, The Conversation June 26 2017, accessed 10/11/2019 https://theconversation.com/women-in-horror-victims-no-more-78711

Clover Carol, Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 2015)

Cowan Gloria & O’Brien Margaret, ‘Gender and survival vs. death in slasher films: A content analysis’, Sex Roles Volume 23, Issue 3-4 pp187-196 (see also Donnerstein et al. 1987)

Cruz Ronald Allan Lopez, ‘Mutations and Metamorphoses: Body Horror is Biological Horror’, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Volume 40, 2012, Issue 4

Donnerstein, E., Linz, D., & Penrod, S. The question of pornography: Research findings and policy implications (Free Press, 1987)

Erin Harrington, Women Monstrosity and Horror Film: Gynaehorror (New York: Routledge, 2018)

GD-IQ results https://seejane.org/wp-content/uploads/geena-benchmark-report-2007-2017-2-12-19.pdf

Horeck Tanya & Kendall Tina, The new extremism in cinema: from France to Europe (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, c2011)

Jenkins David, ‘Julia Ducournau: ‘The way losing your virginity is portrayed in most movies is very outdated’’, Little White Lies 2 Apr 2017, accessed 18/11/2019 https://lwlies.com/interviews/julia-ducournau-raw/

Kristeva Julia, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (New York City: Columbia University Press, 1980)

Lindsey Shelley Stamp, ‘Horror, Femininity and Carrie’s Monstrous Puberty’, Journal of Film and Video Vol. 43, No. 4 (Winter 1991)

Kernode Mark, ‘Raw review – cannibal fantasy makes for a tender dish’, The Guardian 9 April 2017, accessed 18/11/2019 https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/apr/09/raw-julia-ducournau-cannibal-fantasy-review-kermode

Kernode Mark, ‘The female directors bringing new blood to horror films’, The Guardian 19 March 2017, accessed 20/11/2019 https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/mar/19/the-female-directors-bringing-new-blood-horror-films-babadook-raw-prevenge

David Macdougall, The corporeal image: film, ethnography, and the senses (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006)

Mulvey Laura, Visual and Other Pleasures 2nd edition (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

Grant Barry Keith (Ed.) The dread of difference: gender and the horror film (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2015)

Palmer Tim, ‘Style and Sensation in the Contemporary French Cinema of the Body’, Journal of Film and Video Vol. 58, No. 3 (FALL 2006)

Rappis Sydney, ‘’Raw’ gnaws trough expectations of female sexuality’, Washington Square News, March 6 2017, accessed 9/12/2019 https://nyunews.com/2017/03/06/raw-gnaws-through-expectations-of-female-sexuality/

Rebecca Pahle, ‘Female Sexuality Has always been monstrous at the movies’, MashablaUK June 07 2018, accessed 17/11/2019 https://mashable.com/2018/06/07/female-sexuality-horror-movies/?europe=true

Shah Mbe Vikas, ‘The Role of Film in Society’, Thought Economics 19th June 2011, accessed 6/1/2020 https://thoughteconomics.com/the-role-of-film-in-society/

 

Shepherd Jack, ‘Raw director Julia Ducournau talks cannibals, humanity, and fainting’, The Independent 30 March 2017 accessed 14/11/2019 https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/julia-ducournau-interview-raw-director-cannibalism-humanity-fainting-sick-a7658651.html

Subissati Andrea, Films of the new French extremity : visceral horror and national identity (Jefferson, North Carolina : McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2016)

Thomas Lou, ‘Raw director Julia Ducournau: ‘I’m fed up with the way women’s sexuality is portrayed on screen’’, BFI April 6 2017, accessed 15/11/2019 https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/interviews/raw-director-julia-ducournau

Thompson David, ‘Pleasures of the Flesh’, Film Comment 42(6): 42-45

Quandt, James, ‘Flesh & blood: Sex and violence in recent French cinema’, Artforum Print Issue: February 2004 https://www.artforum.com/print/200402/flesh-blood-sex-and-violence-in-recent-french-cinema-6199

Interviews:

Build Series, ‘Julia Ducournau Discusses “Raw”’, March 9 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b62YWx8xy0w

Film at Lincoln Centre, ‘’Raw’ Q&A | Julia Ducournau & Garance Marillier | Rendez-Vous with French Cinema’, 21 March 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nz-jba7x_JE

HeyUGuys, ‘Exclusive Interview: Julia Ducournau on the cinematic taboo of Raw’ April 6 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrbUcmMmDkk

Tiff Originals, ‘JULIA DUCOURNAU — Creating the disturbing world of RAW | TIFF 2016’ Oct 28 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJyXT3ArC64

[1] Vikas Shah Mbe, ‘The Role of Film in Society’, Thought Economics 19th June 2011, accessed 6/1/2020 https://thoughteconomics.com/the-role-of-film-in-society/

[2] Jason Wallin quoted in Kateryna Barnes, ‘Monsters in Modern Horror Culture Reflect Social Anxieties’, Folio 30 October 2017, accessed 6/1/2020 https://www.folio.ca/monsters-in-modern-horror-culture-reflect-social-anxieties/

[3] Ronald Allan Lopez Cruz, ‘Mutations and Metamorphoses: Body Horror is Biological Horror’, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Volume 40, 2012, Issue 4

[4] On the physicality of the genre see David Macdougall, The corporeal image : film, ethnography, and the senses (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006)

[5] Macdougall referencing Barbara Creed talks about how horror’s bodily monstrosities are “at once the threatened body of the spectator, exploded or invaded or defiled by abject substances” but depending on what kind of body it is, it could also be “a reaffirmation of the spectator’s purity and bodily integrity.” (Macdougall 2006, p16)

[6] GD-IQ results https://seejane.org/wp-content/uploads/geena-benchmark-report-2007-2017-2-12-19.pdf

[7] Examples include Clover 1992; Williams 1996; Creed 1993

[8] Lianne McLarty, ‘Beyond the veil of Flesh’ in The dread of difference : gender and the horror film (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2015) p262

[9] This stems back to ancient Western philosophy (see Plato Republic)

[10] Mulvey draws this term in her description of a phallocentric society where the man holds the plce as ‘bearer of the look’ (Hill and Gibson, 1998; p119)

[11] Linda Williams, ‘When the Woman Looks’ in The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film (Texas: Univeristy of Texas Press, 2015) p22

[12] Ibid. p22-23

[13] Barbara Creed, ‘Horror and the Monstrous Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection’ in The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2015) p65

[14] Ibid. p3

[15] Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (New York City: Columbia University Press, 1980) p4

[16] Barbara Creed, ‘Horror and the Monstrous Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection’ in The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2015) p8

[17] The example in the video essay is of the alien child which although is non human, disturbingly shares characteristics of a human creating an uncanny effect.

[18] Barbara Creed, ‘Horror and the Monstrous Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection’ in The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2015) p11

[19] Shelley Stamp Lindsey, ‘Horror, Femininity and Carrie’s Monstrous Puberty’, Journal of Film and Video

Vol. 43, No. 4 (Winter 1991), p35

[20] Cronenberg, 1977

[21] Hooper, 1974

[22] Deodato, 1980

[23] In Cannibal Holocaust an actual POV shot is used from the ‘documentarian’s’ perspective, and in Texas Chainsaw the long-shot of the cannibal family makes them the threatening force against their victim (the shot is also POV-esque as it frames them the way she sees them).

[24] Although there are two points when her cannibalism is triggered by a sexual interaction, I would argue that it is not inherently sexual. Instead the cannibalism in these incidents is merely reactionary to being so close in proximity to her hunger’s desire. Further evidence to this is Alexia’s road kill scene which has no sexual connotations.

[25] Sydney Rappis, ‘’Raw’ gnaws trough expectations of female sexuality’, Washington Square News, March 6 2017, accessed 9/12/2019 https://nyunews.com/2017/03/06/raw-gnaws-through-expectations-of-female-sexuality/

[26] Tim Palmer, ‘Style and Sensation in the Contemporary French Cinema of the Body’, Journal of Film and Video

Vol. 58, No. 3 (FALL 2006), p22

[27] Barbara Creed, ‘Horror and the Monstrous Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection’ in The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2015) p10

Jingyi Zhang on Parasite

Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about Parasite: a  video essay which succeeds in showing how camera movement and the recurrence of strongly symbolic images are deployed to demonstrate distinctions between classes in Bong Joon Ho´s Parasite. 

 

The Revelry in the Basement: Bong Joonho’s Parasite and Class discussion in films

 

With an explicit use of camera language and recurrence of strongly symbolic images, Bong has made a clear distinction between the two classes. I want to examine closely at the oriented camera angles, distinct lighting for each layer of space, meticulous design of spaces (with a reference to Bong’s previously internationally-well-known work, Snowpiercer, which has divided classes into three horizontal layers, while Parasite does the same thing vertically.)[1], and how people’s movements and interactions are limited and altered in the closed environments, leading to a discussion about the borderline between the classes, which Bong refers as smells.

Clothes, language and environment etc. are some of the more commonly used referents to iconographically denote class in film[2], since smell is a more abstract sense that cannot go through the screen for people to feel, but, in Parasite, Bong consistently brings up the discussion about smell, as a referent of the insuperable gap between the classes, and eventually, what triggers the poor to murder the rich is the simple action of the rich covering up the nose. What is the smell of the poor essentially? Are the characters aware of the smell because there is truly a smell of the damp semi-basement and the crowded subway, or their natural instincts and psychological suggestions imply so? There is more to question about.

While Snowpiercer has a more romanticized ending that a dystopia film could possibly have, in which the extremity of class struggle takes place on a train, isolated from reality, and ends with a destruction of orders, Bong pursues a more realistic and neutral approach in Parasite. Bong himself has described Parasite as “a comedy without clowns and a tragedy without villains.” The name of the film, Parasite, also indicates a more mutualistic and symbiotic relationship between the two classes, rather than an absolute predominance of one over another. There is no overthrow or elimination of any class reached upon the denouement, because the fact of class solidification remains, not just in the film, but as a continuation into the actual social status in South Korea.

Bong uses many class-specified actions to make the audience sympathetic towards the destitute Kim family: Mrs. Kim(Jang Hye-jin) folds pizza boxes for a living; Mr. Kim (Song Kang-ho) , unemployed; their daughter and son cannot afford going to university despite their intelligence; the tramp pees outside their window; the whole family scrambles around the house to find perfect spots to steal Wifi from their neighbors. It seems like the extreme of ignominy, but also the truest and simplest living condition a family in the lower class could possibly have. However, the audience are also unable to stand in total opposition to the wealthy Park family as the poor continuously take advantage of the rich’s innocence and their reliance on nepotistic relationship.

Some critics have described South Korea as a capitalist country in economy, a socialist country in social structure, and a communist country in mindsets, which might provide an explanation to the existence of the third class like the housekeeper of the rich, Moon-gwang (played by Lee Jung-eun), who has stayed in the luxurious villa even before the Park family moves in.[3] She is also the housekeeper of the previous owner, a famous architect. She stays in the house and accompanies the rich long enough to gain an illusion that she also belongs to the upper class, but her husband trapped in the basement continuously reminds her of the poverty and darkness. The sense of in-betweenness might be a more relatable feeling for most of the modern Koreans. Up until 2017, over 860000 people were still living in semi-basements in urban areas. They enjoy a little bit of sunshine from the small windows, but they also suffer from inundation when a storm comes. Shoplifters by Hirokazu Koreeda and Burning by Lee Chang-dong are usually being brought up in discussion with Parasite.[4] As the only few of the internationally recognized Asian films in recent years, these three have a realistic touch on the marginalized group without exception, and the issue of social solidification never seems to be resolved in any of them.

The film’s first significant climax takes place when the Kim eventually occupy the house for a hilarity when the Park are away, which I found an amazing resemblance in Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana, in which the beggars also makes the house a mess when Viridiana and Jorge are absent. The social phenomenon of class solidification also seems to osculate in the two cross-time films, both winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Buñuel’s rather aggressive perspective towards the upper class was due to an almost authoritarian control of the church in 1960s Europe.

It seems to be a mutual false fantasy of the poor to enjoy the transient indulgence, and it generates a sharp contract with the birthday party of the Park’s little son in the latter part of Parasite. The rich always try to remain a superficial elegance, while the lower class often do their utmost to threaten and trample on each other if possible. They mock and despise the rich, because of their impuissance to break the boundary between classes, and they pry into each other’s secrets, and treat each other with malevolence.

Regarding a more general theme that the two films share, I’d like to cite Pam Cook’s idea of gendered power relations, not just within family structures, but in a broader context.[5] Maternal figures, although seem to be apotheosized or given a priority in a societal sense, ironically still being the vulnerable ones, and this is mainly due to their disadvantage in sexual relationship. Viridiana, although being introduced as a Mother Maria-like figure, trying to bring redemption to the homeless, becomes a victim, who is almost being raped by who she offers food and job, to indicate the collapse of religion.  Mrs. Park, as the hostess of the family, is almost in charge of everything, while her husband is absent from the kids’ education and daily life or the management of different housework, but when they are having sex on the couch, she begs Mr. Park to buy her drugs. Both female figures are innocent and powerless, and unable to take part in a bigger struggle.

Last but not least, Bong uses many symbolisms throughout the film, and they further serve the idea of class struggle. The smallest son of the Park family, Park Da-song, is the first to recognize the similar smells of the Kim family and the first to decipher the Morse code from underground, and such sensibility and consciousness are attributed to his experience as a boy scout, and such experience has made him almost obsessive with the Indian icons. Ostensibly, it is Bong’s salutation to his idol, Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 film, High and Low, in which a similar Cowboy and Indian’s game is played among the kids. Being put in the content of Parasite, it seems more like a metaphor of imperialism. The process of gradually replacing ‘the natives’ is similar to colonization, and in a broader sense, capitalism and class distinction that the upper-class advocates is a result of globalization.

The rock that Ki-woo’s rich friend gives him as a gift also changes from a meaningless decoration, to a symbol of luck, to a burden that reminds them about the poverty, to a threat to their own life and eventually becomes the weapon to kill, but what it essentially means is still a question I want to explore.

 

Bibliography

Bui, Hoai-Tran, Bong Joon-Ho Breaks Down That ‘Mission Impossible’ Scene in ‘Parasite’, https://www.slashfilm.com/parasite-scene-breakdown-bong-joon-ho/?fbclid=IwAR3S6o6ALxiVacDvlNCnRtc7tjtmLGhjKnh4k4t_FSa1IwRMfixs6k8U1Jk

Chen, Brian X., ‘Parasite’ and South Korea’s Income Gap: Call It Dirt Spoon Cinema, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/18/movies/parasite-movie-south-korea.html?module=inline

Pam Cook, The Cinema Book, 1985

Hayward, Susan, Class, Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts (2017), p.85-87

Lovelace, Grace, ‘Parasite’ Is ‘Snowpiercer’ For Families Across The Economic Divide, https://www.romper.com/p/parasite-is-snowpiercer-for-families-across-the-economic-divide-19198994

O’Falt, Chris, Building the ‘Parasite’ House: How Bong Joon Ho and His Team Made the Year’s Best Set, https://www.indiewire.com/2019/10/parasite-house-set-design-bong-joon-ho-1202185829/

Seong-kon, Kim, Is Korea a capitalist country? http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20141118001115

 

Filmography

Snowpiercer. Dir. Bong Joonho. South Korea. 2013

Parasite. Dir. Bong Joonho. South Korea. 2019

Viridiana. Dir. Luis Buñuel. Spain, Mexico. 1961

Shoplifters. Dir. Hirokazu Koreeda. Japan. 2018

Burning. Dir. Lee Chang-dong. South Korea. 2018

High and Low. Dir. Akira Kurosawa. Japan. 1963

[1] Chris O’Falt, Building the ‘Parasite’ House: How Bong Joon Ho and His Team Made the Year’s Best Set, https://www.indiewire.com/2019/10/parasite-house-set-design-bong-joon-ho-1202185829/

[2] Susan Hayward, Class, Cinema Studies : the Key Concepts(2017), p.85

[3]Kim Seong-kon, Is Korea a capitalist country? http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20141118001115

[4] Brian X. Chen, ‘Parasite’ and South Korea’s Income Gap: Call It Dirt Spoon Cinema, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/18/movies/parasite-movie-south-korea.html?module=inline

[5] Pam Cook, The Cinema Book, 1985

https://vimeo.com/user70827005/review/414425105/437624ba98

Bianca Giacalone — The Erotics of 8 1/2

Lovely, observant, exuberant, and illuminating video essay by Bianca Giacalone , in an experimental vein, that deploys Sontag´s work on Interpretation to attemtt to ‘reveal the sensuous surfaces’ of the film, and with an extended Creator´s Statement whose reading is an essential component of understanding and enjoying the viewing:

 

 

THE EROTICS OF 8 1/2

 

“To enter the theatre is to enter a woman, to surrender, happily, yet with a touch of fear and the excitement of anticipation to viscosity, liquidity, milkiness”[1] writes Sam Rohdie when describing what cinema represented for the great cineaste Federico Fellini.

“To film, to look, to see are erotic acts”[2] he reiterates.

What both the writer and the filmmaker mean by “erotic” does not relate though simply to the field of the sexual, even if the imaginary of the Italian director has often been particularly suggestive in that direction. The stance on erotics is more akin to the origin of the word Eros in Ancient Greece (especially the Platonic conception of it) and Susan Sontag’s theories as delineated in her essay Against Interpretation.

 

Eros, one of the many terms used to describe the concept of love, is the type of passionate love born out of attraction, out of the appreciation of beauty (particularly of a person). As written by Plato in his Symposium, eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth.

Loyal to the heritage of the Classics, Sontag aligns with that perspective and configures Erotics as an alternative method to modern hermeneutic interpretation, which instead reappropriates the value and power of the sensory experience of the work of art.

 

Fellini’s grandest, most imaginative, allusive and vivid work of art 8 1/2 is a visual quest for the hidden essence of things, for something higher and able to purify a sick spirit from the effects of a depraved modern lifestyle. Erotics are what move the film, what fuel its soul.

This video essay attempts to “reveal the sensuous surface”[3] of the film, by slowing down key moments of the film, enabling the viewer to unashamedly lust for their undeniably voluptuous formalism and calmly absorb their epiphanic and cathartic power.

 

Lo-fi hiphop music is used in the video to reconstruct the rhythm of selected scenes, in order to recreate their emotional effect and to immerse the viewer in the aesthetic experience of the film. This contemporary and now widely popular type of music, alternatively called “chillhop”, is indeed composed “specifically to activate neurone activity associated with focus, meditation and relaxation”[4] and has also been defined “[…] like music for daydreaming”[5]. The subtle analog feel also channels a tender sense of nostalgia, fitting with the sensibility of Fellini’s cinema and the themes analysed, while at the same time using its electronic elements to re-contextualise the film in a modern key.

 

The introductory section of the video essay serves the purpose of establishing how Fellini visually translates the sensorial experience of purity, luminosity and clarity in the film through the point of view of the main character Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), once again playing the director’s alter ego after the worldwide sensation La Dolce Vita (1960). Throughout the whole video we just briefly see Guido in order to align ourselves with his perspective and with his position as external observer in his own chaotic world (while being one of the very atoms that compose and cause that confusion).

Brian Eggert, in a Deep Focus review of the film, writes that “whenever Guido’s reality becomes too much to bear, he escapes into a memory or a fantasy that eases his current predicament”,[6] a situation parallel to the director’s in his real life.

 

As a matter of fact, in the scene chosen to explain this dynamic, the nauseating confusion of his reality is interrupted by a mystical vision: Claudia Cardinale, slowly floating towards him in a candid dress and offering him sacred curing water with a soft, loving smile, like a beneficial, soothing balm.

To watch 8 1/2 is to watch this vision, again and again, appearing out of nowhere like a reassuring magician inviting you to his circus, a beautiful stranger in a hotel lobby and the ghost of a loved one. Gasping for a second, getting teary-eyed all of a sudden and then breathing out, returning to reality. Most of the times, not logically understanding what has just been witnessed. As if our mind visualised a primordial safe space.

 

Consequently, the main body of the essay depicts these poetic moments, revealing a pattern that connects them all and helps the audience associate them with purity, beauty and truth.

The Director of Photography Gianni Di Venanzo and the Art Director Piero Gherardi dressed the film in a tailored black and white, a bold and voluntary choice in a period when the technique was at its last moments. In this way, “black and white becomes its own idea”[7] and consciously dramatises contrast.

The recurrent use of white cloths, veils and other items of clothing, so starkly luminous against brooding darkness and cluttered kaleidoscopic designs, makes Fellini’s thematic obsessions visually rhyme. Childhood, religion, women and death are beautifully connected in a white fluid dance. Sensual like the body of a beautiful woman, yet tender and reassuring like a child or an old cardinal being taken care of and wrapped in warm towels. Carnal and at the same time spiritual.

This simple trope, is something the director carried with him even in his works in colour, like in the 1962 The Temptation of Dr. Antonio (in which a billboard version of Anita Ekberg holds an inviting glass of milk, both sin and salvation), or most prominently in the baroque Juliet of the Spirits (1965), with its iconic finale in which Giulietta Masina accepts the benevolent presence of spirits in her life, walking out of the gates of her house and cage in a white dress against the vastity of florid woods, expressing an incomparable sense of freedom and liberation.

For how naive and unpretentious as a filmic choice this may appear, Fellini’s genius and virtuosity consists in showing how a white veil framing a woman’s face can express a multitude of meanings and yet exude always the same particular sense of melancholy (as we see in parallels between the characters of the wife and Claudia), charging the intensity of the medium to give the viewer “not a verbal idea but an emotional-packed visual experience”.[8]

 

To quote again Sontag, these images have a “pure, untranslatable, sensuous immediacy”.[9]

Magically, it appears that the purpose of her approach to art ultimately coincides with the resolution of the film: both converge on finding acceptance of the mystery and the magic at the basis of artistic intuition, acceptance of the non-rational, of the perceptible yet inexplicable.

We must not demand more from a work of art than its sensuous momentum, just as we must not question the irrational beauty in our lives. Peter Bondanella, writing about the “Celebration of Artistic Creativity” in 8 1/2, reinforces this vision. “Fellini’s cinema in general, and 8 1/2 in particular, argue that art has its own imperatives, that it communicates a very real kind of knowledge aesthetically (and therefore emotionally) rather than logically, and that this form of knowledge has its proper and rightful place in human culture”.[10]

 

The ending sequence of the video essay marks the realisation of self-acceptance, recreating the mystic moment in Guido’s mind as he imagines the “beautiful creatures” that populate his reality and fantasy, looking even more beautiful, purified in his mind. All the people Guido “wasn’t able to love” walk together towards the sea, without a real destination but all in harmony and sheer joy.

These images are beauty, truth and soul. They feel good. All a viewer has to do is take in their curative effect.

The video ends on Anouk Aimée, whose role in the film is Guido’s wife Luisa, as she bravely walks up to the camera showing the turmoil in her expression as she elaborates her feelings, processing her forgiveness for her husband and learning with him to accept the uncertainties of a life together, both with the joys and the pain it will bring.

“Transparence means experiencing the luminousness of the thing itself, of things being what they are”.[11]

 

At the beginning and towards the end, two moments of the film are shown integral and with their original audio, not reconfigured through the use of music or editing. The first shows Guido sharing with his magician friend Maurice, a strange private thought expressed in the form of a silly phrase. “Asa Nisi Masa”, the magician assistant’s writes on the blackboard. “What does it mean?” Is the question we are left with before starting the analysis, with a tone of irony. By the end we get to see what the protagonist meant with his quirky expression, as a memory comes to life: a safe, happy childhood in the remote Italian countryside, sharing whispered jokes and tender kisses under warm white blankets.

The words come up again, through the mouth of a cousin, as a magic formula that will make everyone rich if said at the right hour. The catchy joke stands for something more: result of a word game similar to pig latin, its root is “anima”, the Italian word for soul, spirit, conscience, another wink at Fellini’s restless preoccupation with the illogical.

It is not a surprise that that thought lingers in Guido’s mind, since it represents what he yearns the most and what the film wants to achieve: a symbiosis with the magical, so strong in its ingenuity to wipe away any intellectual uncertainty. While he is asked constantly throughout the film, and not with the irreverent yet kind tone of Maurice, what his thoughts and ideas mean, to what ideologies and philosophies they adhere to, all Guido (and correspondently also Federico behind the real camera) wishes to express is “something simple and useful for everyone”, “one that can be seen and embodied on the screen but not easily explained by rational discourse”.[12]

 

Through the erotic process of watching 8 1/2, we learn “to see more, to hear more, to feel more”[13], to accept the unfathomable, the mysterious, the poetic and the beautiful. In film and in life.

That is the legacy that the magnificent Fellini has bestowed upon us, and it is imperative to cherish it now more than ever for the 100th Anniversary of his birth.

Grazie Maestro.

 

Bianca Giacalone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Bondanella, Peter (2002), The Films of Federico Fellini, Cambridge University Press Cambridge

Costello, Donald P. (1983), Fellini’s Road, University of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame, Indiana

Eggert, Brian (2015) THE DEFINITIVES: Appreciations and critical essays on great cinema – 8 1/2, Deep Focus Review, https://deepfocusreview.com/definitives/8-12/

 

Geduld, Carolyn (1978) Juliet of the Spirits: Guido’s Anima, in Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism ed. by Peter Bondanella, Oxford University Press: Oxford

 

Hyman, Timothy (1978) 8 1/2 as an Anatomy of Melancholy, in Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism ed. by Peter Bondanella, Oxford University Press: Oxford

 

Kezich, Tullio (2002) Federico Fellini: His Life and Work, translation by Minna Proctor (2006), I.B. Tauris: London and New York

 

Miller, D.A. (2008), 8 1/2, BFI Film Classics: London

Perry, Ted (1975) Filmguide to 8 1/2, Indiana University Press: Bloomington

Rohdie, Sam (2002), Fellini Lexicon, “(The) Eye”, p.54, BFI Publishing: London

 

Seppala, Timothy J. (2018) The science behind the ‘beats to study to’ craze

https://www.engadget.com/2018/07/23/the-science-behind-beats-to-study-to/?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAE8PK7_TPAqrwDmjg_T5q0F-7eTw5iytXBXulnzxBLEMZBW9DXnCfuT0Peh0TFzt60gFi88BSci5F6YGkEcn-8sfwBNsvO8fPfbM3-IzqQvs06Dx6N-jenQkXdY8MJbrx9rnNUhyOG59gj5bdpWeVmHlUpfId6obe5Dbd6BstyKa

 

Sontag, Susan (1964), Against Interpretation, p.13, Penguin Classics: London

FILMOGRAPHY

La Dolce Vita (1960)


Boccaccio ’70 (1962), dir. Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Luchino Visconti


8 1/2 (1963)


Juliet of the Spirits (1965)

 


[1] Rohdie, Sam (2002), Fellini Lexicon, “(The) Eye”, p.54, BFI Publishing: London

[2] Ibid.

[3] Sontag, Susan (1964), Against Interpretation, p.13, Penguin Classics: London

[5] Woods, Kevin in Seppala, Timothy J. (2018) The science behind the ‘beats to study to’ craze

[6] Eggert, Brian (2015) THE DEFINITIVES: Appreciations and critical essays on great cinema – 8 1/2, Deep Focus Review, https://deepfocusreview.com/definitives/8-12/

[7] Miller, D.A. (2008), 8 1/2, BFI Film Classics: London

[8] Bondanella, Peter (2002), The Films of Federico Fellini, Chapter 4 “8 1/2: The Celebration of Artistic Creativity”, p.114 Cambridge University Press Cambridge

[9] Sontag (1964), p.9

[10] Bondanella, Peter (2002) p.114

[11] Sontag (1964), p.13

[12] Bondanella (2002)

[13] Sontag (1964)

Tino Muchina – Austin Powers

A lovely appreciation of Austin Powers by Tino Muchina that very cleverly adopts and reproduces its insouciant tone: Short, sassy, cheeky, smart and delightful:

 

 

 

Creator´s Statement:

 

I am interested in the conventions of cinema and the way the parody/spoof film subvert the tropes and codes of cinema and replicate them creating new meaning. The horror genre especially uses parody with repeated cinematic codes and indicators to portray what is ‘scary’, the Scary Movie films by the Wayans brothers especially succeeded in highlighting the repetitive nature of the genre but also shed light on the humour in these conventions and found a way to entice audiences into the spoof genre over a number of years. Jay Roach’s Austin Powers is famous in spoofing the early James Bond films as well as other films of its time and the recognisability of these intertextual references have rendered the film iconic even today; nearly two decades later. The way in which the film deals with the action/spy genre in a comedic yet celebratory nature is undoubtedly reason for its success.

 

Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged me (1999) is a comedy/parody written by Mike Myers; who also stars in the film as Austin Powers and as his nemesis Dr. Evil and insider spy Fat Bastard. The film has a wide range of intertextual references modelling it as a film that is in dialogue with the history of cinema but also as one that works with and against the codes and conventions of the film form. The story follows international spy Austin Powers as he returns to 1969 where Dr. Evil prepares to destroy the world with a laser on the moon and Powers’ task is to stop him and retrieve his mojo that has been stolen. As well as the obvious homage and spoofing of the James Bond franchise, I also find it to be a commentary and celebration of society and film history. Jim Jarmusch speaks of not “concealing your thievery” but instead celebrating it which is what I feel the film especially does in terms of its parody style but also in regards to the swinging 60’s. I will also explore the female spy figure, metafiction within the film and duplicates in the film versus the originals all surrounding the issues of imitation and mimicry versus that of homage and celebration.

 

One particular strength of the film is in the way the spoof form allows it to be self-reflective of cinema and the perhaps the worn-out forms in which it tells its stories. I am especially interested in reading Austin Powers as a postmodernist film as outlined by Linda Hutcheon’s theory as opposed to that of Frederic Jameson. Specifically, in that Hutcheon suggests that postmodernism works through parody to “both legitimize and subvert that which it parodies.” In this way, the way in which Austin Powers rather ridiculously makes light of the spy film genre and the events around the time at which the film was set can be read in this postmodernist way.  In this way, it’s not within the films storyline that I find merit, I find the film especially succeeds in its humour at times and the way in which they can laugh at society and at cinema itself. The film is especially interesting in its use of duplicates throughout which can be read as being reflective of what the parody film is- the correlation between the original and the copy. The most obvious representation of this is in the cloning of Dr. Evil with Mini Mi, who have become iconic figures in popular culture today. Something can be said about the way the film especially focuses on duplicates in this way and can be highlighting the films own use of mimicry and the copying of other films and film styles.

 

The way in which the film is in dialogue with the history of cinema is ever present throughout. It effectively opens with a homage to Busby Berkeley’s ‘By a Waterfall number’ from the 1933 musical Footlight Parade. Images of Powers surrounded by synchronized swimmers are very playful yet effective in replicating that of Berkeley’s choreography. Further highlighted through the use of the bird’s eye view.

Familiar imagery such as this continues to be featured throughout the rest of the film. Perhaps the most famous, being that of Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) as she emerges from the sea in a direct mirroring of Ursula Andress’ Honey Rider in Dr No (1962). Indicative of the films spoof nature, it is at this point that the camera pans across to Austin Powers who is identically dressed in a provocative nature in the same white bikini set.

 

A particular interest of mine is the way the film represents the female spy figure, especially through their innate sexual interest in Austin Powers as though he’s irresistible. It is clear he is a heart throb which is ironic due to his appearance as he’s been deliberately made to look repulsive; especially by means of his dirty, brown and pronounced teeth, which are used as a visual gag throughout the film and his overtly hairy chest. The teeth also provoke this feeling of British-ness as it is a stereotype commonly associated with the British. This is indicative of the spoofing of male protagonist conventions. However, I am also interested in the girls overtly sexualised names suggestive of the spoofing of a number of the bond girl names. The three featured girls in the film named: Felicity Shagwell, Ivana Humpalot and Robin Swallows have perhaps taken inspiration from the girls of the James Bond franchise: Octopussy, Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead and Xenia Onatopp.

 

Although aesthetically the film does not achieve much cinematically in the traditional sense in terms of cinematography and complexity of a film plot, for me, Austin Powers succeeds as a piece of art despite lacking these qualities. Its way of using the form of parody to twist conventions but also to provide a means by which audiences do not have to take the film seriously but can instead laugh at the irony of what is being presented is integral to entertainment and to cinema. “Parody is thus effective, paradoxically wearing the mask of that which is seeks to undermine.”- Linda Hutcheon. There are a multitude of films that the film refers to and the ways in which the film employs them implies a celebration of cinema and of the tropes we have become accustomed to.

Tino Muchina

Alex Hobbs — Mandy, The Film Concert

Over the next ten days or so I shall be posting a wide range of video essays. The series begins with this superb work from Alex Hobbs

 

Mandy: The Film-Concert – Creator’s Statement

This video essay explores the use of music and sound in Mandy (2018) in order to gain a greater understanding of how modern film scoring and sound design can be used to extract and/or enhance a film’s deeper themes and meanings.

I was particularly drawn to the term ‘film-concert’ – originally coined by Laurent Jullier – after reading Emilio Audissino’s definition:

“the sound track embraces the viewer and occupies the frequency spectrum almost entirely; coming out from loudspeakers, the sound track plunges the audience into a sound atmosphere from which it is impossible to escape.”[1]

The idea of an immersive and overwhelming ‘aural experience’[2] intrigued me, and it seemed like the perfect way to approach a film as atmospheric and experiential as Mandy. Yet, upon further reading, I was surprised to see that Audissino was actually using the rise of the film-concert as an example of how contemporary film scores are lacking in complexity and originality. Although I agreed with his argument that “Film music is now more about designing soundscapes rather than composing music”,[3] I took issue with his overall attitude towards these developments, which seemed to be primarily based in a nostalgia for classical Hollywood. Additionally, his suggestion that film scores have to “cope with a thicker and louder texture of sound effects”[4] inherently implies that film music is artistically superior to other sound elements, something which I strongly disagreed with.

Consequently, even though my video essay is largely focused on the narrative themes within Mandy, I decided to begin the essay by framing it as a counter-argument to Audissino: a case study of a film-concert which utilises all elements of the soundtrack as a narrative tool. Hopefully, by starting with this context, the viewer will be encouraged to consider the wider implications of a collaborative approach to film music and sound design. This is partly why I put so much emphasis on the role of Jóhann Jóhannsson – who composed all of the original music for Mandy and spoke several times about how “this idea of a score being just an orchestra playing from notes is just very old fashioned.”[5]

I was also inspired by Phil Witmer’s article, in which he interprets Jóhannsson’s score as an expression of director Panos Cosmatos’s “anti-masculine mission”[6] at the heart of Mandy. In turn, I also chose to focus on the gender politics of the film’s narrative, which I then related to larger concepts within music theory and aspects of the sound mixing which Witmer did not cover. However, after watching other successful video essayists online such as ‘Lessons from the Screenplay’, ‘Nerdwriter’ and ‘Every Frame A Painting’, I knew that I wanted to keep my video essay as accessible and entertaining as possible. So, while I do approach the more technical aspects of music composition, I always try to pair these segments with a visual aid to keep the viewer engaged. Furthermore, although I did decide a voiceover was necessary in order to discuss my topic with the level of depth and detail I wanted, I have tried to avoid talking over a clip if I really want the viewer to listen to the sound design of a specific scene.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that I purposefully chose to structure my essay into four movements – reflecting the structure of a symphony – and named three of them after the different components of sonata form (exposition, development and recapitulation). Although this is primarily a stylistic choice, I do believe it brings a sense of cohesion to the essay by making its central purpose clear: to appreciate the role of sound and music in film.

[1] Emilio Audissino, John Williams’s film music: Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the return of the classical Hollywood music style, (Madison, Wisconsin; London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.), p. 197.

[2] Emilio Audissino, ‘John Williams and Contemporary Film Music’, in Coleman and Tillman (eds.), Contemporary film music: investigating cinema narratives and composition, p. 223.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid, p. 224.

[5] Chris O’Falt, ‘Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Fight to Be Visionary, From His Film Scores to His Directorial Debut — Interview’, IndieWire, (12 February 2018) https://www.indiewire.com/2018/02/film-composer-johann-johannsson-interview-experimental-score-music-1201927641/, accessed 1 November 2019.

[6] Phil Witmer, ‘Nicolas Cage’s Slasher Freakout “Mandy” Makes Prog Rock Kick Ass’, Vice, (11 October 2018) https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/evwk84/nicolas-cages-slasher-freakout-mandy-makes-prog-rock-kick-ass, accessed 21 January 2020.

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.

Screenshot 2019-06-21 at 06.27.46

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

Screenshot 2019-06-21 at 06.28.36

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

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

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.

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

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

Ellyse Partington: The “lived body” in contemporary horror cinema

Creator’s Statement

The “lived body” in contemporary horror cinema

The thesis for this video essay originated from an interest in the use of sound in A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018). The use of diegetic and non diegetic sound brilliantly portrayed the perspective of Reagan, the deaf daughter, and how her experience of being deaf aided in the family’s survival within the film. A Quiet Place was a success amongst critics and received a fair amount of recognition as a unique and creative horror film. Whilst previous films had experimented with sound in the past, in films such as Dawn of the Deaf (Rob Savage, 2016) and Hush (Mike Flanagan, 2016), others had not been credit for its delineation of deafness to the same extent as A Quiet Place.

Whilst debating the avenues of discussions the horror genre presents, following careful consideration of the themes of mental illness and disability, it was useful to ponder over the influx of films that explored disability such as Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez, 2016) and Bird Box(Susanne Bier, 2018). Disability became a topic that has been present within recent texts, however, deafness and the presentation of sound was a stronger area of study for this video essay to focus the trajectory of the project.

After considering the use of sound within the contemporary horror film to explore the representation of deafness, I began to consider how the use (or the lack of) sound encouraged the spectator to consciously become aware of how they use their senses in their viewing experience. In aid of this contention, Vivian Sobchack explores the notion of the “lived body”.[1] She explores the physiological responses the spectator experiences whilst watching a film. It was this theory that grounded my analysis in which I could explore the stylistic techniques of contemporary horror films, to understand how they represented deafness.

Horror is possibly the first genre to be considering to evoke a physiological response from the audience, through its ambition to insight fear within its audience. The subconscious and immediate response of the audience to the action on screen is the desired response of the filmmaker. However, the aim of this video essay is to explore how cinema can construct a sensory event for the spectator for a larger purpose than a jump scare. The primary ambition of this video essay is to execute how sound encourages the audience to utilise their senses to enjoy the tactility that the contemporary film, and horror as an extension, can present.

Through the analysis of Dawn of the Deaf, Hush and A Quiet Place, this project attempts to explore how the sensorium of the spectator, and their physiological being is called upon to experience the story of the respective deaf characters. Sobchack’s notion of the spectator subjectively experiencing the films through the objective body of the character, positions the audience to the explore a fictitious scenario that they would otherwise not experience. Through the exploration of sound, image, and theory, this video essay explores how the representation of deafness in the contemporary horror film. The provocation of the spectator’s senses through the relationship of sound and image, fabricates an immersive event for the audience to relate to a character.

Bibliography

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Walter Benjamin Illuminations: Essays and Reflections,ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: schocken, 1968), 240.

Miriam Hansen, “ ‘With Skin and Hair’: Kracauer’s Theory of fIlm, Marseilles 1940,” Critical Inquiry 19, no.3 (1993): 458.

Barker, J. 2009. The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience.Oakland: University of California Press.

Sobchack, V. 2004. Carnal thoughts: embodiment and moving image culture. Oakland: University of California Press.

Filmography

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven,1984)

A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018)

Bird Box (Susanne Bier, 2018)

Dawn of the Deaf (Rob Savage, 2016)

Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez, 2016)

Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)

Hush (Mike Flanagan, 2016)

Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz,1945)

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

The Exorcist (William Friedkin,1973)

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

The Silence (John R. Leonetti, 2019)


[1] Sobchack, V. 2004. Carnal thoughts: embodiment and moving image culture. Oakland: University of California Press.

Alfie Watson-Brown: Baths and Bathrooms as Narrative Spaces in the work of Lynne Ramsey

 

Click on the link below for the video essay:

 

 

Abstract

 

Lynne Ramsay’s tackling of social and emotional issues, particularly poverty and trauma, is frequently revered as ground-breaking- or at least expertly crafted, due to the element of artistic poeticism her films are centred around. Studying cinematography at the National Film and Television School, her films are often viewed through a cinematographic lens. However, much discussion of Ramsay’s work is so centred around cinematography and visual poeticism that it neglects the narrative, characteristic and emotional impact of said visual focus, meaning that many readings of the emotional content of her films are left underdeveloped, without sufficient focus on textual analysis. Most video essays centred around Ramsay focus purely on her visual style, with popular essays such as Tony Zhou’s (under the pseudonym ‘Every Frame a Painting’) ‘Lynne Ramsay- The Poetry of Details’, amassing almost one million views[1], focusing on tiny visual elements of Ramsay’s work without giving significant depth to the impact of this style. This is not necessarily a misdemeanour on the respective essayist’s part, merely it is a symptom of a heavy focus on as large and undefined topic as visual poetry. For this reason, my project is given more specificity, focusing in on a smaller subsection of Ramsay’s stylistic tendencies, centred around the significance of the bath and the bathroom. In this project, I first aim to give some contextualisation over the previous uses of baths and bathrooms in cinema, arriving at the conclusion that while these examples, do contain key scenes in baths, the bath is mostly used to symbolise something which is already present, namely, in these examples such as Scarface (1983) and Pretty Woman (1990), the luxury their respective characters have come into. There is a sense that while these scenes take place in a bath, much of the narrative effect could have still been achieved in a completely different setting. However, in Ramsay’s films, largely due to her incessant return to the theme of water, there is a sense that the bath is perfectly suited to the narrative and characteristic through lines she aims to explore. Through justifying these thoughts alongside a foundation of texts such as Annette Kuhn’s ‘Ratcatcher’ and Stella Hockenhull’s ‘British Women Film Directors in the New Millenium’, as well as interviews with Ramsay where she gives some background to her films, I aim to digest the emotional connections Ramsay seeks to explore through the bath and bathroom. One potential drawback of this style of analysis could be the lack of academic founding. Despite considering the two key texts listed above, this textual analysis-heavy approach to film criticism requires much of my own input, and with a lack of pre-existing, relevant research into the narratives of Ramsay’s films, the project risks being too subjective. However, I have aimed to counter-balance this, with much credit being lent to the unique format of the video essay, by justifying my points with on-screen references and backing.

 

Content Focus

Screenshot 2019-06-07 at 07.28.22.png

Ratcatcher- Ramsay’s first feature, following a guilt-ridden child, James, who finds himself responsible for the accidental manslaughter of his friend, Ryan. In this film, the bath acts as a vessel to hold the recurring theme of water, offering a place for Ryan and Margaret Ann to take some respite from their harsh surroundings, and indulge in play. However, due to its associations with water, it also acts as a merciless reminder of James’ guilt, tied strongly to the canal through Ramsay’s use of montage between the bath scenes, and scenes of James’ dad saving another child, Kenny, from the canal.

You Were Never Really Here- Following hitman Joe as he tries to save Nina from a child-exploitation ring, Ramsay here makes use of the bath to tie Joe’s work life to his home life. While he cleans up the overflown bath for his mother at home, he also cleans up the pedophile ring for Nina. This works as a tying together of Joe’s affinity for the two important women in his life, and when his mother dies, Joe transfers his emotional connections on to Nina, marked by a crucial scene in the lake. However, this connection is foreboded in the previously mentioned bath sequence.

Swimmer- Our brief relationship with a long distance swimmer becomes increasingly convoluted, and we begin to wonder what his true connection with the water is. Although there is no space for a bath scene in this short, Ramsay’s classic use of water is ever-present, and we can carry some of the ideas explored in this film in to our discussion of the bath.

Morvern Callar (2002)Holding a scene which I would argue is symbolic of Ramsay’s depiction of the bath and the bathroom, the film sees born-again Morvern take control of her life in the wake of her boyfriend’s suicide. The bath scene works as a depiction of her growing confidence, and preludes her further emotional development in the film. Before she can fully move on with her life, she has to completely end any previous connection with her deceased boyfriend, and it is no coincidence that Ramsay decides to host this scene in the bathroom.

Don’t Look Now- I argue that this self-professed influence on Ramsay carries into her use of trauma explored through water, with the opening scene, following John’s despair at watching his daughter drown, carrying particular relevance.

 

Through tying these examples together, I aim to provide a cohesive, pragmatic, and comprehensive view of Ramsay’s use of water, which is exemplified in her use of the bath.

Screenshot 2019-06-07 at 07.28.45.png

Bibliography

Kuhn, A., Ratcatcher (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

Hockenhull, S., British Women Film Directors in the New Millennium(London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

 

Filmography

Morvern Callar (2002), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK.

Seven Pounds (2008), dir. Gabriele Muccino, Overbrook, USA.

The Shining (1980), dir. Stanley Kubrick, Warner Bros, USA.

Pretty Woman (1990), Garry Marshall, Touchstone, USA.

Scarface (1983), dir. Brian de Palma, Universal, USA.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), dir. Wes Craven, New Line, USA.

American Beauty (1999), dir. Sam Mendes, Dreamworks, USA.

The Big Lebowski (1998), dir. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Working Title, USA.

Fight Club (1999), dir. David Fincher, Fox, USA.

Psycho (1960), dir. Alfred Hitchcock, Universal, Paramount, UK.

Ratcatcher (1999), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK.

You Were Never Really Here (2017), dir. Lynne Ramsay, Film4, UK.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK.

Swimmer (2012), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK..

 

 

 

 

 

[1]Every Frame a Painting, ‘Lynne Ramsay- The Poetry of Details’, published on 7/5/2015