Ava Changnon Intro to Film Studies Blog

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Beach House (Screen Society screening)

December 6th, 2018

On November 1st, I went the screening of Beach House directed Jason Saltiel and written/produced by Matt Simon both Duke alumni. The movie was about a college aged girl who was a writer. She complained to her parents about having nothing to write about because her life was boring. She spends her summer at her family’s beach. Her mom invites a edgy photographer man who was her friend earlier in life. The college aged girl and this photographer begin to form a suspicious relationship and then things turn dangerous. Without completely explaining the plot, I can conclude that this movie is supposed to be a thriller but misses the mark. Instead the movie is filled with cliches and awkward moments. As a college age girl, I felt misrepresented by the movie as the girl is reckless and doesn’t think before she acts. The girl is mindless as she wanders through her very privileged life and that depiction of a young female has been overplayed. I found it hard to fathom that two men had decided to create a movie and decided to tell a story about a young woman. I feel like the portrayal of the main character alone made the movie unsuccessful in its attempt to create a murder mystery type movie.

Technical Ideologies

November 29th, 2018

The technical way a film is produced effects the way an audience perceives that presumed message of the film. Whether it be the type of film, camera or other technical aspect, a film can alter the perception and experience of a viewer. In Russian Ark, one long shot is used in order for the audience to gain sense of completely being in the mind of the narrator and person who the camera is representing.

Rope by Alfred Hitchcock attempted to create the illusion of one long shot while it actually uses hidden ways to cut the shot and change the film in the camera. The technique is successful as it creates an uncut story that is full of tracking shots and close ups. I think that this technique was used by Hitchcock to create something unordinary. There is dialogue between Brandon and Phillip, two of the key characters in the film, that highlights this point:

”Brandon,” says Philip, ”you don’t think the party is a mistake, do you?”

”Being weak is a mistake,” says Brandon.

”Because it’s human?” says Philip.

”Because it’s ordinary,” says Brandon

(New York Times 1984)

I think Hitchcock embraced this dialogue and decided that using a regular film technique would be weak and ordinary. He wished to prove that his film making skill were the contrary: strong and innovative. In no way am I comparing Hitchcock to the cold blooded killer that is Brandon, but I think that Hitchcock’s ideas about pushing the envelope and doing some drastically different that he had previously done was motivate by his desire to be unordinary. I also think that the technique creates a flawless film, with no obvious cuts and fluidity, the story never stops.

Political Cinema

November 27th, 2018

Political cinema seems to be a blanket term for many of the movies we have watched over the course of class. From Killer of Sheep to A Single Man to The Conversation to Hail, Caesar, there was always a political or social message that the filmmakers wanted to the viewers to receive from the movie. The goal of these movies is to bring awareness of different political issue to viewers that have never been exposed to the specific issue or just interested viewers that wants to learn more. I find myself as a viewer learning so much from movies about political issues that I am already interested in but also am pleasantly surprised when I watch a movie with a political message that I haven’t been exposed to. Hunger by Steve McQueen was one of the ladder. The political messages of Northern Ireland is nothing I have ever come across. In some ways this hurt my viewing because the importance of it was lost but after the screening I did research in order to put it into perspective.

Moments of Silence is a beautiful film in the way it portrays the inaction of the US House of Representatives. However, I question the effectiveness of the film without the description. Although when I saw it I hypothesized that is was about gun control, there is an audience that might not and the political message could go unheard. I think that the film is a perfect example of the idea of filmmakers not hiding their political views and ideas. Film, and art in general, is one of the modes of communication that can show a political idea and be extremely effective as it touches many people.

Neorealism

November 15th, 2018

In Killer of Sheep by Charles Burnett, the viewer is taken into a realm of life that is unfamiliar to some. The late 70’s in LA with a Black family is foreign but what creates the compelling story is the clips of children playing in the streets. This is a universal activity for children no matter what decade or race. What makes the film real is that these scenes mirror those in In The Street, a documentary film by Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb, and James Agee about life on the street. Because of the documentary style of In the Street and the almost identical shots in Killer of Sheep, there is feeling of real children playing within the streets and not just actors playing the part. This makes Killer of Sheep authentic as it is a movie about seemingly real people in real situations. That is what makes it a neorealism film.

Killer of Sheep comments on the nature of jobs within the market. The main character works at a slaughter house and contrasting images of everyday life and his work, their are comparisons the reader of the film can make. I think this images are meant to conjure feelings of inequality within the main characters community. The constant unease and worrying about money and violence. The images of the slaughter house are sometimes to tough to watch and this is a comment on how easily we can watch images of poverty and low income homes and not be disgusted enough to look away. The movie is a commentary on the problems society has with addressing income inequality in society as the viewer of the film does not flinch at the desperation of the characters besides the sheep.

French New Wave

November 8th, 2018

In Cleo from 5 to 7, directed by Agnes Varda, gives a unique take on the perception and purpose of women, specifically the internalization of these messages by women. Cleo is a self obsessed, narcissistic women who is charmed by her own beauty. Although she is ill, she claims that her beauty is her health. Due to society’s constant pressure on women to look good and serve the purpose of men, Cleo has completely taken this perception into herself and embodies the idea of a perfect women. However she longs for more. She wishes that men would pay more attention the her and care about her rather that just looking. When she plays her song at the bar and no one pays attention to it, she is crushed because she really only has her beauty. The filmmakers choice to show person after person looking at her on the streets of Paris is fascinating because it gives us a point of view of Cleo and the amount of eyes that look at her, admiring her beauty. A turning point in the film occurs when she is singing a new song and completely loses herself. She begins to cry and the viewer gets a glimpse of her vulnerability: feeling empty and without a meaningful purpose. As she perceives her life as being in danger of cancer, she reflects on her life and is not satisfied. Inside she is empty. This speaks to the existentialism of the film as it explores the things that matter in life and the meaning of the world. As this movie appears simple, it speaks to the concept of finding a purpose to make life meaningful and what happens when illness threatens to take away that same life.

Radical Adaptations

November 1st, 2018

As a fan of the graphic novel Persepolis, the movie adaptation does not disappoint. Everything down to the illustrations are identical and nothing is lost in the movie. I think this speaks to the importance of having the creator of the source material being involved in the making of the adaptation. This insures that the essence of the novel is not forgotten and when making something with such a meaningful story that is based on the creator’s life, it is necessary to have that person involved. Persepolis is successful because of the deep connection that the viewer has with the antagonist. Radical adaptation in Persepolis creates a world that many have either forgotten about or never been exposed to. While it has common themes like a young girl trying to find herself, it also struggles with the ideas of political oppression, war and death. Marjane’s story portrayed through her own animation is powerful as she explores her childhood. As one of the first animation movies we have viewed in the class, I think Persepolis tackles ideas about animation being for children and open the art form up for deeper consideration and importance.

As for A Single Man, I have never read the source material but I think that its flashbacks and time shifts speak to the nature of adaptations. In a novel with background and context, it is important to represent those aspects in the movie as to provide the necessary frame of reference. The movie use of these conventions creates a story that is not hard follow but rather a layered plot.

Documentary Film

October 25th, 2018

The medium of documentary is something that I thought I was very familiar with. However, the exploration of films like In The Streets and Citizenfour represent a new aspect of documentaries. The poetic nature of In The Street created a similar feeling to an avant-garde piece in that there is no clear plot or narrative but rather an exploration and case study of a topics. The reflexive natural In The Street and Citizenfour was also something that I had never noticed before that proved to be a compelling as it draws attention to the objectivity and purpose of the filmmakers. In In the Street, the filmmaker shows the streets of a city. Every aspect of the movie is meant to give attention to a part of the world that isn’t often explored. Due to the subjects addressing the camera, the filmmaker does not take theirselves out of the movie. Rather, shows the reaction of the people of the street to the camera and filmmaker. In Citizenfour, the filmmaker is essentially a character in the narrative. Her voice is heard throughout the film and is dressed by other people in the movie. Her objectivity is also very prominent. She disclaimers at the beginning her position within the story and her history with the United States and national security. As a previous target of the United States because of her films, she has some hostility towards the bureaucracy and in the film, you can obviously see the depiction of the government as somewhat evil. Not to say that this depiction is totally false because of her experiences, but it influences it in some way.

Avant-garde Films

October 18th, 2018

While experimental films are meant to not be categorized into genres, having sub-genres of the larger avant-garde genre makes it easier to grasp the purpose of each film.

Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon creates an impossible and frustrating portrayal of a dream, fitting it in to the surrealist sub-genre. The repetition of scenes and motifs creates a scary dark hole of dreaming in which there doesn’t seem to be a way out. The mirror is used a lot to block faces as well as create faces to be destroyed. The eye is also a motif that is shown several times in an extreme close up in order to cast a light on the disorient nature of the circumstances. As the women falls asleep from one dream like reality she is met with other versions of herself doing the exact same thing, only this time, the image of her sleeping is also in the dream. I think this is very relatable to dreams because of the uncontrollable aspect and the weird things that happen.

Talena Sander’s Liahona fits into the category of essay film seamlessly. While it has aspects of other types of genres, it so clearly proves the authors point of why she is leaving the Mormon church. I think her story compelling is very compelling. Her use of what I came to believe is found film and other found items like letters or stories creates a story that is so clear and interesting. The section of facts about Utahans made the point she was trying to make very clear. The correlation between problems in Utah to the Mormon church made it that essay film that she aimed to make.

The Conversation

October 11th, 2018

The Conversation provokes feelings of guilt and paranoia that are only enhanced by the sounds the movie is set too. The most interesting aspect of sound in the film is the diegetic sound. The tapes played over and over again, the tv, the jazz music and so much more add to Harry Cauls impending sense of regret and remorse. Specifically, the tapes are haunting as their scratchy audio illustrates a reality in which someone is going to be killed. Caul plays the tapes and rewinds them trying to scrape out what he can from the conversation. The background sounds of the square drowns out parts of the conversation and add to this trilling exchange. Ultimately, the tapes are stuck in his brain as he struggles with the consequences of his work. The tv in the hotel room next to the scene of the crime is also very intriguing as it adds to his mania in the moment. He is feeling immense responsibility for what he thinks is the women death. The static sounds create disorientation and mayhem as he wrestles with the bed sheets. And finally the jazz music in the last scene as he plays along on the saxophone. This scene is the height of his anxiety and the music provides a juxtaposition to his internal feelings. As he tears apart his apartment in efforts to find the bug that is recording him, the music goes on, perpetuating this disposition. The diegetic sounds in The Conversation are not only haunting but also construct a feeling of anxiety and calmness.

Altered States

October 3rd, 2018

In La Jetée, the illusions of memories are captured with the use of only still images edited together to create a narrative. The way to images create a story portray the idea of memories in a way in which everyone can relate. Memories come back in the way of still images with no context and the way the movie provokes that is genius.

 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotlesss Mind also provokes the idea of memories by conflicting them with current happenings in order to create a world in which the past and present are hard to distinguish. The editing of the two times establish a sense of dream within the movie. I think the perception of reality and memories is really intriguing because it is really disorienting. The way the memories within Joel’s dreams are construct to slip into on another. The sequences of memories are confusing but are familiar to the viewer. The moment where Joel hears the world outside his dreaming creates depth within his memories. Patrick calls Clementine and refers to her as Tangerine and that sequenced with Joel calling her tangerine in his memories and him wondering how he knows complicates the dream/memory/reality complex. In conclusion, memories can be so powerful that they transcend reality and create a new reality.

Furthermore, what I believe to be most powerful about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the stance it takes on the complexity of memories and how you can change them to benefit yourself. Clementine and Joel highjack that system in order to meet each other again without knowing each other in reality. Also the power that memories have over the choices you make. You can not learn from you memories if you don’t remember them. Joel and Clementine have a relationship that eclipses the power the erasers have. The reality is that you cannot learn from memories you do not have and that is shown through the end of the movie.

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