Thursday, April 22, 2010

Massaker, [Borgmann, Menkes, Slim, Theissen]. 2006.

Interviews with some of the mass murderers. Has to do with the 1975 Lebanese “civil war”—the circumstances and catalysts for this war is not historically clear, but the film does not really go into the political details. Rather, the film is more abstracted.. More psychological, philosophical.

The interviewees recount their experience of the “war” as perpetrators. An exploration of their mindset... The face is blacked out, but the voice and the body is there... The voices merge.. almost becoming one voice.

The viewer is enabled to perceive, by being close to the bodies physically, but not in a natural lighting. It is theatrical: Theatricality, colored lights (yellow, green, red...) The space becomes a stage. At times the interviewee re-enacts a scene... Walls of the room become walls of the houses of victims...

Nietzche quotes:

“There are no facts, only interpretations.”

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”—Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Toni , Jean Renoir. 1935.

This film is an example of the way that there is no difference between documentary and fiction.... Classified as “neorealism,” or rather a precursor to neorealist film, it portrays a reality closer to ordinary life and everyday people, and time that passes more like real-time... Other elements are that Toni is shot on location, there’s minimal editing, and not all the actors are professional.

It’s fictional because the frame makes you focus on particular characters, parts of their body, how their bodies are oriented within the space, for example on the side of the pathway, or against the tree...Theatrical body alignment and postures.

The angle of their gaze, looking at the top left corner of the frame. Marie hold up her hands in fear, elbow high up.. Toni maintains an expression of calm.

Body gestures to convey anger and frustration. Toni’s body is still kind of “opened” up to the camera, for we can see his body is aligned sideways, but his head is turned even more to the left.

A dramatic exit. Camera looks straight at the character, his body placed within the doorframe, he leaves making mocking gestures... In response, the character who lives at the house shrugs with a smile and turns to reach for a bottle of alcohol.

Note the frontal angle of the camera... and the characters’ bodies opened up to the “stage,”.. lighting to mimic light coming from the fire at night...

The construction of details: Vivid sounds from that space, that world... Like the train coming to a halt and continuing, footsteps, Baby drinking milk from a bottle, Parts of nature—

The fluttering of birds wings as they take flight from the brush, before the characters run into the frame from one side.

Splashing of water... Rustling of leaves...

What produces the mechanisms of time? Longer shots with less cuts.. Not much variation in camera angles (it’s very straight and forward-facing)..

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pour La Suite Du Monde, Michel Brault. 1965.

A film about a community of Ile-aux-Coudres, an island in Quebec. They seek to revive an old tradition of whale-trapping. Referred to as “ethnofiction” or “salvage ethnography,” because it depicts a culture.. the people as they are.. How they take up the challenge to bring together the community and take on the whale-trapping endeavor.

On musicality and dancing: They celebrate at the time of Mid-Lent, which occurs between winter and spring. They also celebrate and dance when they gather together for the blessing of the whale-trapping, on site by the water outside. Use of the accordion and some kind of tap-dancing.

I found this page that gives some background on the music and dance style of this community...
“The Quebec style features a combination of French contra dances and minuets mixed with reels, jigs, and airs from the early Anglo-Irish country-dance styles.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

L’Enfance Nue (Naked Childhood), Pialat.

Fashion: The men often are shown wearing hats. And pretty much everyone wears a coat...

Style and color palette of Paul Cezanne...Similar colors (blues, yellows, oranges), rectangles, angles, textures and shapes as the walls and interior design here, as well as the Mum’s shirt that look like brush strokes..

Cezanne, Still Life with Peppermint Bottle

(left, below) Cezanne, Houses in Provence

Cezanne’s portrait of his father:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Le Chant du Styrène, Alain Resnais. 1958.

Begins with a quote read with a voiceover. Colors and shapes... looks like plants growing. Geometric patterns. More narration in French. The making of plastic at a manufacturing site as a grand or noble undertaking, explained..

Instrumentation: Old school dramatic music (symphonic instruments).

Somehow the angles remind me of the photography of Ansel Adams...
...except Adams captures wilderness and natural landscapes;

Resnais captures plastic, synthetic materials, color... industrialization...

as seen in these stillframes of some of the opening shots:

The factory process. Towards the end of the short film, the camera is outside and shows the outside of the factory structures. They look very large, filmed from below looking up so that they look extremely tall, much larger than humans, reaching up to the sky, or the heavens.... Abstracted forms and patterns. Very vertical.

at 10:43-- Those factory structures are mountain-like... mountains made of metal.

As compared to another photograph by Ansel Adams (I can't remember the title..)

Title of film, “Le Chant du Styrène,” means the song of the Sirens... A reference to those Sirens that come from Greek mythology... and appear in Homer’s Odyssey. The Sirens are the characters that sing such a dangerously beautiful, seductive song, and Odysseus must not fall for it:

“Square in your ship's path are Sirens, crying
beauty to bewitch men coasting by;
woe to the innocent who hears that sound!” (The Odyssey, Book 12).

But Odysseus wants to hear the song to experience it..He became the first man to hear the singing, and then he tells about that moment in his journey.

Why does Resnais name the film after this? He seems to be alluding to the sublime, otherworldly, beyond humans yet holding the potential for risk.. Something out of human control?
The transformation of chemical compounds into anything imaginable. Gigantic architectural structures that make people look very small. The proportional difference between the machine and the person assisting in its operation. The machine does most of the work, while the human hand just removes the product so that it can repeat the process...etc.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ice, Robert Kramer. 1970.

Starts with revolutionary language, text with voiceover of conditions like weather. (I’ve only seen a clip of this...)

A fiction film:
Quote: We want to make films that unnerve, that shake assumptions, that threaten, that do not soft–sell, but hopefully (an impossible ideal) explode like grenades in people’s faces, or open minds up like a good can opener.
—Robert Kramer

"The National Committee of Independent Revolutionary Organizations"

"Alliances between the Black People’s army and with representatives of the Mexican Revolutionary Front"

Opposition to the Vietnam War... “Newsreel (Movement)”—political filmmaking organization. Based in New York (officially established at he end of 1967). Participated in protest against the Vietnam War in October 1967 in front of the Pentagon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

M, Fritz Lang. 1931.

The pursuit of a child murderer in 1930s Berlin, Germany.

There is a lot of sharp contrasts between dark and light... use of bright lights in dark to create it.. Use of (figures’) shadows on walls and flat spaces:

Ball bouncing, graphic sign calling for a reward of the murder, profile of a man’s shadow enters the frame, layered onto the sign.

Planning, shadow of smoke also (hard to see in the stillframe).

The depiction of space: Street spaces from an angled bird’s eye view, with people’s shadows...from the opening shot...

The “chase” scenes where you see movement of people across the space, like here.. :

We recognize the killer by his whistling... before we are ever shown his face. This is called a “leitmotif,” which is a technique that is used in Beethoven’s fifth symphony, opera, literature... The whistled tune comes from Norweigian composer Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King (a movement of music written for a play).

Techno version??

The killer’s eyes are extremely expressive and characteristic..They convey his terror... and make him look mad (the crazy way)... I find it kinda creepy....

Movies and bad dreams

Yesterday afternoon I watched Alan Clarke's "Elephant."

Today I woke up from a horrible dream about people in my family getting shot. It was like a conspiracy.. people dying one after the other. Then my brother and I were exiting the highway. Apparently it was his graduation day. We saw a man standing by the exit road. He wore a dark navy blue coat, with a graduation ribbon/sash hanging from his neck. Then he raised his arm up and started to shoot at us. My brother swerved off the road and we drove up the grass hill to the other road... I don't know why, but I knew he was aiming at my brother. It was bad.

Then I realized this man is totally like those shooters in "Elephant"... Same steady way of raising his arm and pulling the trigger... Shooting multiple times... Single target... Except the man in my dream didn't succeed. In the movie, the shooter always succeeds in killing the victim.

I wonder to what degree our dreams are informed by what we see in the world, including the movies that we watch before we go to bed.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Elephant, Allen Clark. 1989.

Topic: A conflict in Northern Ireland referred to as the Troubles. Time period- 1968-1998. More background: “The conflict was the result of discrimination against the Catholic/nationalist minority by the Protestant/unionist majority[20] and the question of Northern Ireland's status within the United Kingdom.” (wiki/The_Troubles)

Title—referring to that elephant that is so large in the room that you can’t express or talk about...

Each scene has a similar pattern: Men, walking around in fairly deserted spaces (warehouse, parking lot, empty park, open grass area, entering residences) with deliberateness, intention... Often hands are in jacket pockets. A hurry with a layer of calm. Each killer walks with a similar rhythm. When there are two guys walking side by side, they look synchronized. Tracking or just following shots of the guy walking...

The last scene strays the most from this pattern, because it is like one man is “delivered,” brought to the location inside the warehouse to be shot and killed:

Patterns: the silhouettes of the two men. The sound of their footsteps as heels on the wooden floor, rhythmic, tense, echo-y. Lights upon lights upon lights, doorway-window, window-doorway, the camera continues to follow their walk from behind.

Man on on left pulls hands out of pockets. There is a man standing there (seems like he’s waiting bc it’s random). Pocketless man leads the other man with his hand on his back to stand facing the wall. The waiting man (on the left of the frame) approaches....

They look like anonymous figures, very plain color palette, very neutral. Coordinated movements.
Cut to side shot of waiting man’s face, pocket man walks away. Single shot to head, shows blood splatters on wall and victim falls. Long echo of the shot while showing the wall. Ends from that shot:

Blood splatter... the only color in that scene... Very cold, linear.
No view of the victim and shooter after the trigger is pulled.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Uccellacci e Uccellini (The Hawks and the Sparrows). Pier Paolo Pasolini. 1966.

A film that tells some kind of philosophical fable. Key figures are the talking Crow, with older father Totò and son Ninetto, who also play figures Ciccillo and Ninetto in the story. They go on a traveling mission to preach to the hawks and the sparrows, to convert them to the doctrines of Catholicism, in specific to love each other.

Opera-like opening and closing, with text...Adds to the story-telling nature of the film.

Fashion & humor—reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin? (Chaplin’s works within the time period 1910s to 1970s).

>> On the right, Totò’s pants are too short... And he carries around an umbrella (as a cane?) >>

Comedic part of the film, marked by silent, exaggerated facial expressions.

The song that the young men dance to appears several times throughout the movie..

What is the relationship between hawks and sparrows? (Why are they chosen as allegorical figures in the film?) --Hawks are predators to rodents as well as smaller birds, including sparrows—The sparrow is the prey. When the father and the son take on different roles in the story, at one point they are the hawk-like perpetrators that take from and victimize a poor family... And then Totò is victimized in a way by his boss who claims to just be doing business, so there is no mercy for Totò’s hardships-- (“Give me the money, or you’ll end up in jail.”)

Why the angel wings/ angel in the doorways?

She explains it’s for a play... Leads to these shots, jump cuts to standing in different doorways/windows of the building.

Why the multiple shots, standing in different doorways? With violin playing in the background... Then the “angel” waves her hand, turns, and runs away.
Later (a couple shots into the next scene) the same violin melody again as Ninetto runs through the fields, slow motion:

Seems fragmented because the characters Totò and Ninetto go in and out of playing the characters in the story, other parts entering, like Mrs. Weed, Need, and Greed...

Some info on Pier Pasolini: Lifetime 1922-1975. After doing some research it seems that the parts of Pasolini’s life most relevant to this film are his politics. Marxist-- Became a member of the Partito Comunista Italiano (Italian Communist Party) around the late 1940s, but was expelled? due to being “charged with the corruption of minors and obscene acts in public places” (wikipedia). Openly gay, but I did not know or infer this before watching the film, and I don’t see any significant relevance show in the work... except that Ninetto is one of Pasolini’s former lovers.

Notable quotes by the crow/raven?: “My country is ideology. I live in the capital, the city of the future on Karl Marx Street, number seventy times seven.”

Quote from 1968 NYT interview (translated): “I suffer from the nostalgia of a peasant-type religion, and that is why I am on the side of the servant. But I do not believe in a metaphysical god. I am religious because I have a natural identification between reality and God. Reality is divine. That is why my films are never naturalistic. The motivation that unites all of my films is to give back to reality its original sacred significance.”