Analysis Assignment 2

            Jean-Luc Goddard is considered to be one of the directors that changed the face of cinema: his usage of elements from New Wave style greatly influenced filmmaking during his time, until this day. Goddard’s cinematic style breaks every rule in the book, defying conventional Hollywood. The point in making Breathless (1960) was to provoke and mystify the audience, making them think about the medium they were viewing over the narrative. The scene where Patricia is having lunch with the man who is getting her to write articles makes use of the distinct stylistic techniques of jump cuts, direct sound, and lens flares to convey the intentional action of self-reflexive cinema to focus the audience on the filmmaking process as opposed to the narrative, which was the main idea behind New Wave cinema. Breathless was the beginning of a cinematic revolution.

     This scene visually portrays what is going on in the film, rather than employing the narrative to do the job. The scene is very simple: two people are at a table, talking, overlooking a busy Paris street. It is typical of French New Wave; complicatedly detailed scenes seemed to be frowned upon by directors of the movement. The scene, which is about 24 minutes into the film, starts with Patricia’s friend standing up to greet her, then they both sit down and Patricia settles in her chair, taking off her coat. The man pushes a book that she is going to read in preparation for her interview with the author, and he expresses concern for her well being, and Patricia for her unhappiness and feelings of wanting to seclude herself. He attempts to distract her by telling a “story”.

     As he is telling the story, which is really about him wanting to sleep with Patricia, jump cuts are observed 13 times, making us conscious of the fact that the filming process is not continuous within one point in time. Goddard intentionally chooses not to edit this scene so that viewers will realize the self-reflexive style of the process in which he made the film. Within the jump cuts there are lens flares that do the same thing to the process and intention of the film. By utilizing the distinct techniques of New Wave Goddard makes the audience think about the meaning of what is going on. Goddard breaks the illusion of narrative in Breathless, preventing you from losing yourself in it and noticing the filmmaking process instead. This distances viewers from the film because we aren’t invested in the plot.

     Aside from the non-digetic music, which isn’t nearly as dramatic as in other scenes, we simply hear the traffic outside and Patricia and her friend talking. They move back and forth from French to English language, showing that they are both American. Patricia’s concern with self-seclusion is touched upon in the scene but not focused on. This shows how issues of the characters were not directly addressed in New Wave cinema, rather actions and visual elements are referenced to “dance around” these issues. There is also an intense amount of medium-close up, which allows us to focus in on the characters’ expressions rather than what is being said. The lack of attention Goddard places on the narrative and plot allow for more attention to be placed on the techniques used that Goddard wants people to notice.

     In the 1960’s there was a great deal of turmoil in Europe that influenced directors such as Jean-Luc Goddard. A lot of this chaos wasn’t happening yet during the filming of Breathless, nevertheless, he was very involved in political issues and was also influenced by film noir and mise-en-scene. These directors began to make films that defied conventional Hollywood and its glamorous and finicky sets, actors, and plots. Hollywood films of the previous decades were the complete opposite of New Wave cinema. Breathless is a series of random moments in the lives of everyday people, which creates an absence of narrative, or lack of focus thereof, forcing the audience to think critically about the meaning behind the medium.

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Dracula (Extra Credit) Clip Analysis

     The coming of sound and color occurred in the mid 1920’s, and began showing up in the films of the vertically integrated Hollywood Studio System. Lee DeForest invented the sound on film process that had a vacuum tube to amplify sound. The Studio System adopted DeForest’s idea, in addition to the sound on disc process, Warner Bros. being one of the users. Once sound and Technicolor was introduced, the Studio System began birthing all kinds of film genres, with each conglomerate specializing in a different type. More about this is in Chapter 4 of Dixon and Foster.

     Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931) was produced under Universal, giving birth to the horror film genre. Dracula was typical of the horror film genre, with fantastical plots featuring monsters and dramatic musical scores. Escapist films were popular during this time because people were affected by 1929’s Great Depression. These films, of course, weren’t realistic but allowed citizens to escape the troubles of their everyday lives. The demand for fantasy production was intense. This film was a product of the Studio System of the 1930’s. The Big Five Agreement of 1927 made the change to easier sound distribution. Sound on film and Sound on disc was adopted. Universal Studios, while considered one of the minors, operated in a similar manner, although they never owned more than a few small theatres at one time.

            The scene I found most significant is about 11 minutes into the movie, (it isn’t on Youtube, but it is on instant Netflix movies), when Dracula is coming down the stairs to greet his guest. This scene is pretty quiet except for dialogue and small noises made by animals and insects living in Dracula’s castle (solely digetic sound). It cuts back and forth from the guest to Dracula, showing the guest’s frightened face and Dracula’s creepy stare. The camera angle is looking up towards Dracula and down towards his guest, demonstrating the power Dracula has, or will have, on his new victim. Dracula says “I am Dracula. I bid you…welcome”. This is a famous line from the movie and very typical of horror films of the era, meaning that monsters created by Universal had signature lines and looks.

     Common in this film, and especially this scene, is the long shot and close-up of Dracula. When he is talking to his guest we see his whole body, allowing close attention to be paid to his cape and body movements. This scene is all about getting a close look at Dracula. Also, close-ups of his face are offered throughout the movie, although not in this scene, which lends to the creepy feeling of the movie. Shadowing is in the background when close-ups of his face are shown, as well as bright lighting on his close-up. Long shots in this scene show the camera moving towards Dracula, coming in closer and closer which each progressive second. This is characteristic of horror film genres, because it causes the scene to be all the more eerie. Although this scene doesn’t have a close-up, Dracula is still well lit in contrast to the background.

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Pather Panchali

     This movie was different from any other foreign film I have seen, as I have never seen a product of India. It was familiar to neo-realism , with the gloomy and melodramatic plot and the on scene setting. It also reminded me of Ozu’s “Early Summer” because of the slow pacing. While the slow pacing is a bit irritating, the point of it is to really see the everyday struggles of normal people. You can definitely see how Satyajit Ray was influenced by the neo-realist movement.

     The poverty in “Pather Panchali” was so depressing, even more so than in “Umberto D”, and I didn’t think I could be any more depressed by a movie. The family struggles with debt, feeding themselves, and having clothes on their backs. It is a raw look at what goes on in India within poor classes, and it surely struck a cord in me. What really annoyed me was the father, Hari. He kept promising his wife a solid life but he never lived up to his word. Then he ran off to “find work”. Although he did come back with some money, I don’t think he should be forgiven. It doesn’t seem like he deserves to be able to come back home to his wife whenever he pleases. Unfortunately, in this time and country women couldn’t just decide they didn’t want to be married anymore because they were co-dependent on their husbands. I sympathized with the mother because of this.

     Some scenes I found striking: after Durpa passes away, her little brother, who has always counted on her to help him get ready for school, is combing his hair on his own. This is something Durpa used to do. You see that life is going on without her, but more importantly that her little brother is growing up and learning to do things for himself. It was really sweet to watch him learn and grow.

     When Durpa is sick and her mother keeps applying wet cloths to her forehead, a storm is going strong. We see the camera move back and forth to the ailing mother, the sick child, and the curtain that is about to bust from the wind. This seemed to create a lot of tension in the scene; the mother’s agony is just as strong as the storm, as is Durpa’s sickness that kills her in the end.

     I also found it nice how the woman who had previously hated the family tries to help them when Durpa is ill. I hated her character up until then.

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Psycho

    Walking to my car in the dark alone gave me an uneasy feeling after watching Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960). The music is what resonated most with me, as it followed me on the walk to my car and during the drive home. I kept looking in my rearview mirror to make sure no one was following me. In any event this is one of my favorite horror flicks of all time. I first saw it when I was about 12 with my Aunt in her old, creaky house Upstate. It scared me then, but I must say that it scared me much more now that I understood it more and could apprectiate it.

     While I am tired of constant Freudian references in criticism, I must agree…there is definitely a theme of voyeurism in “Psycho”. This is why so much emphasis is put on eyes in this film; Norman Bates’ eye peeping in on Cabin 1, Marion’s eyes as she is driving and when she is being killed and after. The focus on the eyes was very creepy to me. Normans Bates’ alter ego (his mother) watches Marion not only to peep in on an undressing woman, but the power that is behind watching someone that doesn’t know they’re being watched. The alter ego wants control, which is really what the actual Norman Bates wants. He acts as his mother so he can control her, because he couldn’t when she was alive.

     The way cameras worked in this film was spectacular. I can’t believe 78 were used to film the 45 second shower scene. It was effective because I feel that this was one of the most powerful scenes. We get to see Marion being “chopped up” by the camera rather then the knife, which makes it all the more creepy because we can’t see exactly what is going on. Hitchcock left a lot to the imagination here. This was also because “Psycho” was pushing boundaries, such as in the nude (ish) shower scene as well as Marion’s whole nontraditional character.

     I still can’t understand completely Hitchcock’s views towards women. He liked to put them in roles that were totally against societal norms, I get that. But was he a feminist or an anti-feminist? He didn’t like the fussy, glamorous type of actresses, but rather women that were able to have their psychological boundaries pushed. The way he worked was surely different, and I can relate to his need for control! I can honestly say that he is one of my favorite directors.

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Umberto D

     The Italian neo-realist film Umberto D (DeSica, Dear Films, 1952) follows an old man and his everyday tribulations with his only true friend, his dog Flick. Umberto struggles financially and is peeved by his spiteful landlord on a daily basis. Umberto is very depressed but somehow gets through every day with the help of his dog’s loyal companionship and conversations with his landlord’s maid, Maria. The scene where Umberto tries to work up the courage to beg in the street uses low key lighting, non-digetic musical score, and medium close-up to convey the harsh reality of his poverty and the shame he faces because of it. This scene makes use of these formal elements to show one individuals anguish as an example of what the people of Italy were dealing with after WWII. Umberto D is a realist look at the poverty and fate of working people.

     The scene opens up with Umberto making his way towards where he is going to try begging with his dog. The musical score lets us know that this is going to be another heartbreaking scene where we will continue to feel sorry for Umberto. The loud violins included in the non-digetic sound lend a dramatic tension to the scene. The music goes with Umberto’s internal struggle to keep his pride during his struggle to obtain enough money to keep him in his apartment. The sad sound of the music is meant to contribute to the melodramatic nature of the film to show Umberto’s gloomy situation.

     The scene makes use of medium close-up to let us see the troubled facial expression of Umberto. Umberto removes his hat with his eyes pointed downward towards the ground because he is embarrassed of what he is trying to do. We never get to see the look in Umberto’s eyes in this scene but the tension in his face shows how pained he is. He reluctantly holds out a cupped hand for people to put money in, but turns it over when a man is about to because he changes his mind about begging. Umberto wipes the sweat off of his brow and tugs on his jacket at this point; showing his discomfort. He also looks up when he un-cups his hand to pretend he wasn’t trying to beg, which also shows his shame.

     The natural, low-key lighting allows the scene to be simplistic in that it solely illustrates emotions of the main character. There is no digetic sound in this scene because what DeSica wants to portray is easily done without the use of speech. The facial expression of Umberto shown with medium close-up are all the scene needs to portray his poignant struggle. Italian neo-realist films were shot on location using natural, available light. These films were very dark to show the struggles of working class people like Umberto. The storyline in films like Umberto D weren’t dramatic, but the way they were portrayed seemed so because it was a detailed look at one person’s unfortunate situation. These films meant to be melodramatic to show us what is was really like, unlike “white telephone” films of the past that focused on spectacle in order to let the audience escape from the realities of their life.

     While the neo-realist genre sought to de-dramatize Italian films, dramatic score was sometimes necessary in certain neo-realist films to demonstrate the individual situations of everyday people. These characteristics are evident in Umberto D. Vittorio DeSica does a wonderful job with this melodrama by using medium close-up, non-digetic sound, and low-key lighting to focus on the affect this poverty stricken Italian society has on his main character. DeSica also switches off the camera angle from either side of Umberto to add to the effect of the medium close-up. With this 1:06 scene DeSica’s intent was to give us an unromantic look at life during wartime.

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Extra Credit

     Professor Herzog’s mention of the film “Rebel Without a Cause” inspired me to analyze a clip from this “teen movie” from 1955. It was directed by Nicholas Ray out of the production company Warner Bros. During the mid-1950’s the rise of novelty in the film world was evident in “teenage exploitation” films. These films were about teens for teens, with the intention of attracting a lot of box office attention and making a lot of money. The birth of rock and roll led to an increase in these films, mainly because rock and roll and delinquency seemed to be interlinked. Also, teens identified with rock and roll because artists seemed to be going against the norms of the past.

     This film was made quite a while after WWII, but still before the Production Code was lifted, so there were still limitations to artistic representations in films. A lot of things still had to be left to the imagination.  The director did a wonderful job of working with such limitations, even though teen movies didn’t show as much creativity during that time. “Rebel Without a Cause” depicted troubles that teens dealt with during the time and still today. It was also very characteristic of film noir, which fell between the years 1941-1958. I must also mention that James Dean is quite a heart throb!

      The clip I am going to analyze is when James Dean comes home from the “chicken run” and is arguing with his parents in the living room. It is a 4:31 scene that serves as a moment of high tension and climax in the film. The formal elements I noticed were lighting, sound, and especially compositional tension. First, there is no sound in this scene, which allows you to focus on the characters’ argument. There are no distractions and you can feel their anxiety. The lack of sound lets you notice the dramatic facial expressions of Jim and his parents; the characters’ feelings are what make the scene special.

     The placement of Jim above his parents shows how they are helpless in what to do with their problem child. I feel like the composition was the most significant formal element in this whole film. That is why this scene is so famous. When Jim is starting to tell them what happened at the “chicken run” he slowly stands up, so that he is higher up in the composition. The parents are meant to feel helpless and inferior. They know that what their son is saying is true, and they don’t know how to handle it. Throughout the whole scene Jim’s parents are looking up at him, creating tension and a feeling that they are “small”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqM_UneXk2M

     When Jim and his mother end up on the stairs, with the father right below, a diagonal line is created, along with the same line seen in the stairs. This creates a “compositional tension”. Shadow is seen in the backround and the characters’ faces are illuminated. Chiaroscuro is the play on dark and light. Stylized lighting effects in this movie lend a special aspect to its artistic intent. Dark is around the characters, while light is saved for them. After the staircase argument Jim starts a physical fight with his father…but you’ll have to watch more of the movie then this short clip to see that!

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Written on the Wind

     This film by Douglas Sirk is a melodrama indeed! The scenes were so dramatic that they made me sit on the edge of my seat. One scene in particular that made me feel this way was when Kyle’s sister comes home from yet another rendezvous and starts dancing maniacally in her room while her father is falling down the stairs. The tension was so high here. When she was shaking her hips it makes it seem like that was the force that made her father fall. Of course this isn’t true, but the parallel action wants to draw this comparison and make us feel this tension.

      The director pays special attention to human emotion. He shows the characters at times of realization or trauma in mirrors. For example, when Kyle’s sister alludes to an affair between Mitch and Lucy Kyle looks into a mirror and if I remember correctly smashes a glass on it. The dramatic effect of the reactions of the characters’ emotions is important to pay attention to because it shows the way melodrama operates. I also found that this helped character development.

     The music also lent a dramatic effect to the film; like when a character felt uneasy eerie music would come on, etc. It demonstrates the high anxiety of the situations. Now another note on character development. Mitch is the real stand up guy here; he comes to the rescue when Lucy, Kyle or his sister are in danger. He is the character I found my sympathies leaning towards the most. Although his personality is the driest I found him the most real with others and himself. The fact that Mitch acts like this is a threat to Kyle.

    In Kyle’s fathers eyes Mitch has always been the better man, being mature unlike his son with his alcoholic episodes. In the end this is what almost gets Mitch killed. Mitch demonstrates a mature masculinity that Kyle doesn’t possess and subconciously Kyle knows this. I felt bad for him because he was so sick but I still found him quite pathetic. He wasn’t trying to better himself; he kept wallowing in his depression and resentment towards his best friend.

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Film Analysis

     The thriller M (Lang, Nero Film, 1931) is a film about a child murderer and the police and townspeople’s’ efforts to track him down and punish him. It follows the struggles of the police in finding the murderer, and the murderer living in fear of being caught and dealing with his psychological issue: the uncontrollable urge to kill little girls. In M, the scene in the beginning of the film where an innocent civilian is accused of being the murderer makes use of synchronous sound and medium close-up to convey the element of paranoia and the lack of privacy in Germany during this time. The idea of a murderer living amongst everyday folk is enough to turn people against one another. Trauma from WWI, along with Germany’s problems such as hyperinflation, political violence and hostility led citizens feeling vulnerable and paranoid, with the feeling like they had to keep themselves safe by limiting others’ privacy.
     Twelve minutes in, the scene starts off with an older man in glasses walking in the street. He passes a little girl and advises her to hurry home, and asks her where she lives. A tall man and two women watch him doing this. The tall man confronts the older man once the girl leaves, asking him what he wants knowing where the child lives. The tall man accuses him of being a child murderer, and the older man insists that it isn’t him, shouting “This is an outrage!” Other people are drawn to the spectacle and support the tall man. The police show up, the people continue to shout, and finally everyone is led away.
     As the tall man is questioning the suspect Lang uses medium close-up to create tension between the characters. Medium close-ups show the characters’ emotions and let the audience know that this town has limited privacy because the murderer is being looked for: nobody is left unsearched. The hostility amongst the townspeople is evident in this scene. Nobody trusts anybody else, leading to extreme paranoia. The angle of the camera during the questioning of the older man illustrates a power dynamic. The camera is angled downward toward the older man and upward toward the tall man. This shows that the tall man is trying to scare the older man and get him to confess using his large stature and powerful attitude. The child murderer is disrupting peace and harmony, and people are frantic to find him so that everyone can feel safe again. Synchronous sound is also used in this scene, that being simply the voices and shouting of the people. It creates a very realistic feel, making it seem that you are witnessing this event happen.
     Turmoil followed WWI in Europe, particularly in Germany. Hostility towards Germany after the war led to political violence between right and left wing groups. The film M was made during the Weimar Period (1917-1933), which was after the war and during all of this upheaval. Hyperinflation was another thing that happened after WWI, followed by a communist uprising and the rise of Nazi power. People were left traumatized after the war, leading them to feel paranoid and not able to trust fellow German citizens (historylearningsite.co.uk). During this time there was also a serial killer, dubbed the Vampire of Dusseldorf, which left people petrified for their safety, as well as not trusting people as easily as they had in the past (cyberroach).
     M is an example of the disruption of peace and harmony in society, and the scene analyzed reflects peoples’ paranoia. It is also an example of how people couldn’t trust anyone and felt the need to keep a close eye out on others’ actions. By watching fellow citizens’ every move people felt that they had a lack of privacy. The older man in the scene couldn’t even make innocent conversation with a child without being attacked. It takes seconds for the people to pounce on him with accusations. This film is a battle between social order and outsiders, just like it was during the Weimar Period. Outsiders, such as the Vampire of Dusseldorf, threatened social order. The political problems of Germany also threatened this after WWI. The attacks on children in Fritz Lang’s M deals with the same battle, and the feelings of paranoia that go along with it.

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“Public Enemy”

     This movie was so much fun to watch, as it was so different from the gangster films of today. When I heard the title of this film I immediately thought of Johnny Depp’s “Public Enemies”, which wasn’t much like the one from 1931. “Public Enemies” was long and drawn out, paying too much attention to lengthy shooting scenes and especially Jonny Depp’s love interest. Nowadays it seems that movies are all about how many special features you can fit into it. “Public Enemy” in contrast spent more time developing the main character and the background of the time period.

     This film used a lot of digetic sound that could be seen and not: gunshots could be seen being shot, only heard, or you could see it but not hear it going off. This lent a suspense to the film because you didn’t know where the shooter was or when he was going to shoot. The film also uses exaggerated gesture, for example, how Tom nudges his loved ones on the chin constantly, sometimes 3 times in a row. Something about this felt awkward but I suppose the director was trying to make Tom’s character more quirky and possibly dramatic. While this was a film about a serious topic, Wellman includes a lot of comic relief throughout, making it lighter.

      The women characters in the film were quite different from the men and even the women in today’s movies. Tom’s two love interests in the movie don’t serve a leading role, and their relationship with Tom never goes much further than I love you, you ignore me, your job makes me feel unsafe but I know you don’t care. All of the women in this film are passive. Tom’s mother is the worst of the bunch, with her son’s every move dictating her moods. These women are co-dependent, but I am not blaming the women. The time period is to blame.

     Tom started out as bully from the time he was a young boy up until the time he died. I remember from the readings that during the time of censorship in Hollywood, villains in films had to be punished. Tom was definitely punished for his actions. In “Public Enemy” it is a battle between “good” and “bad”: the good wins. People are labeled “good” or “bad”. Tom is the “bad” brother and Mike the “good”, trying to lead an honest life for the sake of his family. Tom is “bad”, letting himself get mixed up with other “bad” people, which leads to his demise.

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“M” by Fritz Lang

     I am German, and although I don’t speak the language, I always enjoy hearing it whether it be in music, movies, or from my relatives. I feel that German films are very rich and dramatic in their acting, storylines, and directing. They are dramatic without being too over the top. “M” uses exaggerated facial expressions and body movements from its characters, especially the murderer when he is being chased around.

     The film had a sad storyline, but Lang managed to lend some lightheartedness to it by the comedic actions of its characters. For instance, when the policemen are around the table from time to time discussing the child murderer case they begin to disagree with each other and a hilarious fight breaks out. Or when the murderer thinks he has escaped the men chasing him, only to hear that they are trying to open the door he is behind, he gets this look of dread on his face, which is so dramatic it couldn’t be anything else other than funny. Lang uses a multitude of close-ups to stress the emotions of the characters in his film. While the murderer doesn’t voice his emotions until the end of the film when he is finally caught, through his body language you are painted a vivid picture of what his life is like. Not that a child murderer is ever justified, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him, being that he had a mental illness that he couldn’t control.

     The whistling in the film added a creepy aura to it. You would hear whistling when the murder was about to do something bad, or when him or someone else was feeling anxious. Most of the time you couldn’t see the whistler, but the one time you could was when the murder feels like he has been found out, and starts whistling it seems out of nervous habit. There is also whistling when he is buying Elsie a balloon. Letting his inner demon go that wants to kill Elsie is making the murderer anxious, therefore he starts to whistle because it might comfort him for some reason or another.

     I found the theme of social order v. outsiders very interesting. When the police are out of ideas they hire the beggars to help with the case. The underworld has collaborated with the “normal” people here. The murderer is considered an outsider because he is going against social order. The outsiders wreak havoc on the community and make them turn against each other. In the end of the film the police have turned savage and start taunting the murderer because they are so fed up with chasing him. It is a switching of roles, and now the hunter has become the hunted. Everyone has become ultimately the same because of these awful crimes that have shook the neighborhood. “M” reminded me of a German foreign film called “The Secret Lives of Others”. In the film everyone was being watched by the secret police and no one could trust anyone else.

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