Written on the Wind

May 21, 2010

Written on th Wind, Douglas Sirk’s masterpiece directed and premiered in 1956, is the story of an extremely rich and powerful family, so powerful and wealthy where the town Hadley gets its namesake. Starring Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall and Robert Stack of Unsolved Mysteries fame, is an extremely well directed film in which the viewer must infer from the settings in the film, as to a greater meaning as a whole.

The use of colors and phallic devices in this movie are paramount as to decrypting the underlying theme that is happening within the film. Kyle Hadley, played by Robert Stack, is an alcoholic ‘playboy’ if you will, who falls in love with and marries his best friend Mitch’s wanna-be flame Lucy, while Kyle’s sister MaryLee is insatiably tries to woo Mitch who has been like an older brother to her while growing up. This becomes more and more volatile as the film goes on, as Kyle thinks that Mitch is trying to woo his wife, which he kind of does. But the film takes a twisted turn when the Hadley patriarch has a presumed heart attack due to MaryLee’s continued ‘man-izing’ which proves to be too much for him to handle anymore. That was my favorite part of the film because of the way MaryLee dances to the music and the choreographing is excellent. Just the way the whole scene pans out is extremely memorable. 

I think what Sirk says about the main characters in Written on the Wind in his interview is extremely true, in how they all balanced each other out, with Stack and Malone being ‘split within themselves’, while Hudson and Bacall being normal and it all balancing out. This equilibrium, is what Sirk sought from most of his films like the Tarnished Angels which starred the trio of Hudson, Stack and Malone. But I also find what Sirk says interesting when he says ‘to start a movie with an end situation’, because the film starts off with a flashback. It shifts the viewers focus of attention. Sirk says, “it makes the viewer force the attention from the ‘what’ into the ‘how'”. That is genius because he wanted the spectator to think, and what better way to do that than to deviate from the norm.


Indian Cinema: From Bollywood to Hollywood

May 20, 2010

One of the most, if not the biggest types of cinema is Bollywood. For those who don’t know what Bollywood is, its the Indian version of Hollywood, which is to my knowledge the biggest film industry in the world. It stretches across all of Asia parts of Europe and is extremely prevalent in the middle East. This type of cinema is extremely popular on the other side of the globe, and is starting to become a phenomenon here in the United States. There is just so much of it being produced in comparison to Hollywood, that it has grown immense popularity not just amongst those who are of Indian descent, but the likes of all cinema lovers.

If I were to describe Indian cinema, I would have to say that there is a lot of singing and dancing, with an intense focus on the choreography. This was discussed in the reading, and was witnessed while watching the likes of Charulata, and more recently Slumdog Millionaire, which was adapted from Bollywood, and made the transition to Hollywood. It won Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, and more importantly, Best Adapted Screenplay from a work previously produced or published. In Charulata, I thought the ‘swing scene’ was a perfect sample to discuss. While India was under cultural imperialism (forced to accept another culture) from the British, sex and sexuality was extremely frowned upon, and still is in some parts. But this scene was figurative in the sense that they were having sex without even taking their clothes off. It should be pointed out that the translation of Charulata is “Lonely Wife”. Now I know, its crazy, but we can allude to this during the film because the two main women are vying for the attention of Amal, who they shower with aphrodisiacs and affection. After awhile we can connect the dots, especially when Amal leaves and Charulata is heartbroken. But this scene is central to Indian cinema in the fact they use song and dance to portray and tell the story.

But singing and dancing are central to Indian cinema. In the reading, it says “from ancient India to the present, music, dance, and drama have been regarded as interrelated and inseperable, in both classical and folk traditions.” I must agree with this because all the Indian cinema I have ever watched has proven this statement to be true. While most of it is extremely long, it can educate those in the sense of what was going on in India during the time under British rule, especially in Charulata. Many people seem to be ignorant when talking or writing about Indian cinema, saying that they don’t understand why there is so much singing and dancing. I try to educate people in the fact that this is what Indian cinema is all about. Sprinkle in some mythological narratives, political events current to the time, and that is Indian cinema for the most part.


Umberto D.

May 17, 2010

Umberto D. directed by Vittorio DeSica in 1952, was a big part of the Italian Neorealism movement during the mid 1940’s through the mid 1950’s. It portrays a realistic picture of the state of Italy during this time period, while also establishing a clear motive to its objective, which is speaking for the masses. This film is very real, showing human emotion. In the opening scene, we see a huge mass of citizens, who are striking for their pensions. Most of them are old and struggling to get by. This really sets the tone for the main character Umberto’s strife. Struggling to get by and about to get evicted by his unsympathetic landlady for back rent, Umberto’s only hope to stay is getting his pension to pay her. And sadly, we learn eventually things didn’t work out for him in that sense. But he does come to a self-realization at the end when he almost jumps in front of train with his dog Flike in his arms.

Neorealist films generally tend to focus on the poor, working class, which is exactly what is being portrayed. Professional actors/actresses weren’t used because they didn’t portray the realness that this type of cinema was trying to establish. It makes perfect sense if you really think about too because a good looking person wouldn’t send the same message. I think the mass also being allegorical to Italy in a sense, and the police represent the fascist government. The reading  states that under fascism, “allowed for the existence of artistic pluralism”. And, the government even provided studios as long as they weren’t melodramas. But if this was Germany or Russia, these films would have a much harder time being made. The political implications were probably too strong for those respective countries to handle and allow. Which is why I laud the Italian government and the fine films they allowed to be produced. And directors like DeSica wanted to put it out there as real as possible. The reading also states this, and alludes to the fact Italian cinema was concerned with real and “day-to-day” events. Words like ‘actuality’ and ‘revolutionary humanism’ were also used in the reading, which are synonymous when talking about neorealist films.


M

May 13, 2010

M a German film by German director Fritz Lang is still a classic to this day. I have watched this movie countless number of times, and it never gets old. The film centers on a killer/kidnapper of children, who is sought by German authorities and vigilantes of the town in which it takes place. This film is extremely important because it was the first German film which used sound. The way in which sound was used was equally important. None more important than the opening scene in which silence and the appearance of empty open space while tracking through the building gives us the exactly what it is: an empty feeling of tragedy and despair for Ellsie’s mother, who soon realizes that her daughter has been another victim of the killer.I think the use of sound or lack of sound in this scene is paramount to the film as a whole. Non-diegetic music was avoided, while soundbridges and sound effects were experimented with instead  by Lang in M. This is the groundwork that Lang has used in order to tell his story. We feel emptiness, much like the families whose children have been abducted. The way in which the German vigilantes speak with such authority, gives us the notion of everyone’s desire to catch the killer whether alive or dead. While being one of the earlier sound films, it can and will never be forgotten due to its use of sound to portray what is going to happen. The killer’s whistle is extremely important because in the end, thats how he is caught by a BLIND merchant. Even though he was blind, his hearing is what ultimately nabbed the killer, which is extremely ironic because how often is a blind person the one who can point the finger at a criminal or solve any crime for that matter? And as crazy as it sounds, this is the turning point of the film, because we soon realize who the killer is and see him in action soon after.But this film all in all is still an excellent film,  even with all the advancements in film technology up to this point. Sound opened up new oppurtunities for filmmakers everywhere including Hitchcock. Hitchcock was extremely interested in sound in film up to this point. According to the reading, sound in film didnt make its debut until 1927 with “The Jazz Singer”, starring Al Jolson, but was intermediately available prior to this, with the U.S., Germany and Russia the 3 that dominated the conversion to sound in film. Germany however, created the ‘Tri-ergon’ sound-on-film system, which according to the reading, did not turn out to be too successful due to the economic woes of the company Ufa, which took an option on this process. But later on, Tobis and Klangfield merged to become the most powerful firm outside the U.S. to experiment with sound. While this became a ‘war’ between countries, sound became a stylistic approach in which all countries were trying to perfect.


Double Indemnity

May 7, 2010

Double Indemnity I thought was an excellent movie. It kept me wondering what was going to happen next at almost all times. Between Walter’s affair with Mrs.Dietrichson, and his friend/co-worker Barton’s unquestionable detective work, Walter quickly learns that there is no margin for error in his plot of claiming Mr. Dietrichson’s insurance policy. I thought it was really slick of Walter to get him to sign his insurance policy without him even knowing what it was he was actually signing. This is a perfect example of film noir, in the fact that a serious crime is going to be committed and with the shadows and nighttime film shoots. And the twists this film takes are more than memorable, none more than the scene in which Walter goes to the Dietrichson house to confront Mrs.Dietrichson, and winds up killing her. Little did we know she had her own motive going, and was just using Walt to get what she needed. But this is what film noir is. Shadyness, double-crossing betrayal and murder. The existentiality of what film-noir is or can be defined as is not easy. While it is a mix between a genre and a filmmaking technique, film-noir and movies like Double Indemnity are important to the history of cinema and very influential on current filmmakers today.

What I gather is that film noir is intended to keep you paranoid and always thinking. Low key lighting is also very crucial to this, creating an atmosphere of deceit and darkness along with shadows, smoke, and fog. Corruption, murder and sex are all at the root of this film, which are also central to film noir. This enables the viewer to feel paranoid into thinking of what is going to happen next. I feel that it is an excellent technique in filmmaking because it gives the viewer the element of surprise and suspense, which draws us closer to the film.

But film noir, as said in the reading, “is not a genre; it is also not defined by conventions as setting or conflict, but by subtle qualities such as tone and mood.” It also states that it is defined by a specific period of film history, such as German Expressionism and French New Wave. I agree with this because most of these films were made and connected with the 1940’s and 1950’s. Not necessarily confounded to these time periods, but usually correlated to this period within film. The reading also states that every film critic/historian has a different meaning of film noir, and I agree 100% because film noir isn’t definite. It cannot and will never be defined as a certain type or a genre of film.


French New Wave Cinema

May 6, 2010

During the 1950’s, a new type of cinema was born called the French New Wave. The FNW was bred by the philosophical and political concerns of France during the late 1950’s. Influenced by Hollywood films, Cahiers du Cinema, and the likes of French poetic realist filmmaker Jean Renoir, FNW was a completely new and innovative, while at the same time dysfunctional and quirky, sometimes breaking all the rules of traditional filmmaking. The main objective of FNW, was to speak a language of pure cinema, as was the Cahiers du Cinema, for which Godard was a big part of. Cahiers du Cinema was extremely important to the new wave, which most of its members went on to become famous directors. This was a French cinema journal, that was comprised of many famous critics, including Jean-Luc Godard, who directed Breathless, and is probably the most famous of the FNW directors. The techniques in which he used in his films, were most noticably jump cuts, handheld cameras and shooting on location instead of using sets. The reason for this being that they had absolutely no means of funding to be able to afford such needs. Also though, Godard is an extremely gifted director, with a vision that supercedes the norm. In his interview in the reading, Godard states,”there is a clear continuity between all forms of expression. The important thing is to approach it from which side suits you best”. And clearly, his form was filmmaking, as we see in Breathless which is a must see classic, and possibly the best FNW film ever made. It is one of my favorite films because of the way Belmondo’s character carries himself throughout the film. He’s really cool and calm, while the whole country of Paris is on the hunt for him. This is also a staple of FNW, while also glorifying Hollywood, and stars like Humphrey Bogart. He also states in his interview, that “there are 2 types of directors: one’s like Hitchcock and Eisenstein that fully prepare everything, and know what they want, and the others, that don’t know exactly what they’re going to do, but search for it”. This is extremely artistic and creative to do, and I think Godard fits into the ‘others’ category, being able to shoot on the fly.

Breathless is a classic.


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