Friday, December 16, 2011

Blog Homework 5 12/15/11

Analysis of Fran├žois Truffaut's "Les Quatre Cents Coups"

In a sense, Truffaut's "Les Quatre Cents Coups", which roughly translates into English as "The 400 Blows", is to La Nouvelle Vague, the French New Wave, like bacon is to a BLT; it is an essential part of any definition of La Nouvelle Vague. The film and its genre are inseparable. You simply cannot have one without the other. Truffaut, along with Jean-Luc Godard, both of whom are the founders of the French New Wave Movement in the cinema, are arguably two of the most iconic French filmmakers of all time.

"The 400 Blows" is a traditional film from the French New Wave movement in the cinema- it follows all its traditional conventions, or it at leasts creates them in a sense. In the French New Wave Movement, there is a heightened importance put upon the idea of "auteur theory", which basically is the idea that the director of the film should be the one that truly creates it. The director should write the piece, direct it, and edit it. He should have complete artistic control over the film, and the film itself should convey the auteur's artistic message.

One of the most distinguishing aspects of the French New Wave is its beautiful cinematography. The French New Wave Movement contains a lot of free flowing shots. The cinematography also had its impressionistic roots. This is especially noticeable in Truffaut's "The 400 Blows". For example, the last shot of the film is a very poetic tracking shot in which the camera follows the boy as he runs towards the sea. This helps highlight the importance of this moment and shows the magnificent scope of the sea in the boy's eyes. There is so much anticipation as the audience waits to see him finally get to the ocean. This is a prime example of cinematography in a film adding to the story as well as being aesthetically beautiful.

The story itself is a very personal tale, which is very like the French New Wave Movement. The story follows a recalcitrant child and the troubles he faces inside and outside his family. The directing and story design in itself is a reflection upon this. We see this world through the boy's eyes in a sense. We see the volatility of his family, which helps justifies why he lashes out. In one scene, the father is the boy's best friend and helps protect him against his mother; whereas, in what seems like a scene later, the father cannot stand the boy and the mom is the only one there to protect him. This story also provides a nice juxtaposition between the boy's family life and his school life. In his family, everything is cramped and compact. There are few additional characters and the set is very small and clustered; whereas, in the classroom, there are a lot of children packed into a moderately opened and heavily structured room.

Through all these tools and many more, Truffaut created a beautiful and smart independent film, which ultimately, helped pioneer the French New Wave Movement in the cinema. He crafted these styles alongside other influential filmmakers, which clearly added to the type of stories he wished to create.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blog Homework 4 11/11/11

Critical Analysis of Hitchcock's "The Thirty-Nine Steps"

Hitchcock masterfully creates a fast paced spy thriller, which holds the audience's attention throughout. He accomplishes this through his heightened editing along with other various narrative devices. The editing for the film is surprisingly fast for a film from that time period. This was very helpful in many of the standard spy thriller moments, but it also took away from the film at other times. For example, Mr. Jordan, one of the king pins of the 39 steps spy organization, has a confrontation with the protagonist Hannay which seems to only last for a couple of minutes and doesn't do justice to all the potential tension the scene could hold. Also, some moments dragged on too long still and became somewhat cliched in retrospect, which allowed them to be parodied in the stage play of the same name. An example of this is when Hannay is looking at the map, and the spy, who recently got assassinated, becomes superimposed on the image of the map saying "these men will stop at nothing", or something along those lines. However, this also brings up a plot hole; if these men murdered her in his house, why didn't they just kill Hannay as well?

Also, some of the sound cues of the piece didn't really add much to the piece, because they seemed rushed and forced onto the film. An example of this is when Hannay's maid cleans up his apartment and sees the dead spy and screams. This then becomes a slight sound bridge transforming into the sound of a train leading the audience into the next scene.

It is noticeable how much Hitchcock developed his own style throughout his career. This is by no means saying that this film was bad or unenjoyable; it just wasn't up to par with some of his later greats such as "Psycho", "Vertigo", "North by Northwest", "Rear Window", or "The Birds". This film served as a stepping stone for his future career in the cinematic arts.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Blog Homework 3 10/28/11

Film Analysis Assignment
Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc
A still from the film of one of Jeanne's tormentors

Dreyer's chief opus La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is the epitome of the style encapsulated in French filmmaking during the silent era. It contains simply breathtakingly beautiful cinematography, which is all supplementary to the story in an attempt to delve the audience into the mindset of the title character Jeannette d'Arc.  Every aspect of the film, cinematography, editing, lighting, and set, work together to achieve this impressionist goal set out by Dreyer.

Despite Dreyer originally hoping for the film not to have any accompaniment, the later added musical accompaniment greatly adds to the piece. Without it, it holds truer to Jeanne's world- making it utterly painful to watch this masterfully done film. However, this is a double sided sword, because this also makes it so painful to watch that very few people would be able to even sit through the first thirty minutes. Essentially, nobody wants to be in Jeanette's situation; the music just makes it tolerable for the audience to watch it by adding a thin layer of distance between the viewer and the pain of her world.

Another still showing the odd visuals 
The cinematography is one of the most used tools in Dreyer's arsenal for La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc. He brilliantly utilizes the photography of the film in accordance with the set to really hit all the emotional beats of the film leaving the audience with a huge weight in the pit of their stomachs by the end of the film. The film contains many tight shot- there are almost no very wide or establishing shots. All these tight shots help drive us into Jeanne's character- she is trapped just like we are while watching these images. The images are also very subjective. Her tormentors are often shown in a low angle with wide lens giving us a frightening and ugly figure of a man. The power dynamic for the film is all too clear. We, the audience, just like her, are constantly reminded of this power dynamic, and because of it, we genuinely are empathetic for her throughout the film. We do not see the world like it is that would be too mundane; instead, we are immersed into Jeanne's inner life seeing her grotesque and painful version of reality, which is in turn more realistic and much more effective for the film.
A still of Jeanne from the film

First and foremost, the set in this film is very bare bone, especially for a film with as comparatively high of a budget during this era as this one. Inasmuch as a lavish set would add to the beauty of the film, Dreyer rightfully consciously chose his set to have a lot of negative space. The story is not one filled with gaiety; it is a dark and hollow tale, which is why the very minimalistic and borderline abstract set really adds to the flavor of the film. In the film, Jeanne d'Arc is at her absolutely lowest point and the set reflects that. Also, this allows for selective contrast for certain moments, such as the moment right beforeJeanne falsifies her confession, she sees the beautiful outside world adding even more of a punch to the story- Jeanne's time is this world is short lived, so the beautiful outside world is very bitter sweet for her, and we can feel that. Furthermore, the minimalistic set also adds to the uncertainty of the location of the film, along with the absence of establishing shots. We know not where we are; all we know is that the danger is entirely too real. This traps us with Jeanne d'Arc in her trial making every moment ever the more painful. Also, this ambiguous set highlights the emotions of the actors, because it becomes one of the only tangible things for us, the audience, to hold onto throughout the film. This is especially important for Jeanne d'Arc because her emotions throughout the film are very repressed; all these terrible things befall her, but she must maintain keep herself in check and behave in a stoic and above all prophetic fashion.

The editing is very jagged throughout the film. This also helps immerse us into Jeanne's life- she is destitute. Essentially, every aspect of the film was incorporated with the sole goal of pushing the boundaries of the story and bringing us into Jeanne's world, which is why the film is so powerful and even still considered a masterpiece today.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Blog Homework 2 9/30/11

Film History:

Part 1:
Attention fellow colleagues, I have just seen a breakthrough piece of technology- the cinematographe and it's product. I do not; however, know what actual purposes this machine can hold in the future. But, Edison's shorts were rather astounding. How was he able to make those actions come to life in front of us? I look forward to seeing Edison's future works, those movements are so vivid, full, and captivating. I am sure that there must be some use for this. It truly is magical. Only time will tell.
Part 2:
I wrote about that way for various reasons. First, I keep the ambiguity in the author's position towards the invention, because that parallels Edison's early attitude. Clearly, he was astonished; however, he was also trying to look at it objectively for the article. I chose that film to write about, because it was the very first ones, so the impact and novelty of this invention and shorts were most prominent at this time- leaving me with many different emotions and tones to explore. I think he would react that way because it is just so mind shattering to be able to see these actions- a narrative that engaged, however, would have had an even more noticeable effect. He could have instantly noticed that the cinema is going to be a great form of entertainment; however, Edison's first shorts were presented more as a showcase for the new invention he had created.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blog Homework 1 9/15/11

The Meta-assignment
Analysis of different film analysis:

A Beautiful Mind Review:
Overall rating: 8

Is there a thesis?: Yes. The review is trying to prove and show the ways that Howard conveys aspects of John's mind such as his schizophrenia and genius throughout the film. 
Are there in depth examples of specific film style?: There is some- the reference of seeing John through shards of broken glass in one scene; however, most of the critique is in the form of the story and directing overall in regards to the thesis.

Are there in depth explorations of film content?: Yes. Most of the article pertains to the specific plot, characters, and theme of the piece over an in depth analysis of the technical sides of the film.

Is the piece exploring how those aspects function in the film?: Yes. The review does heavily praise Howard's directing; however, it is only at the beginning of the article. For most of the review, it focuses on the specific examples from the film in accordance with the thesis of the article.

Black Swan Review:
Overall rating: 2

Is there a thesis?: Not particularly in a critical way. The main focus of this article is to review and praise Aronofsky's Black Swan NOT to analyze it. 

Are there in depth analysis of specific film style?: Very little in a critical sense. The deepest this article gets into analyzing Black Swan is stating that it is rife with Aronofsky's camera movements as well as a dark musical accompaniment to the film.

Are there in depth analysis of film content?: Very little in a critical sense. The analysis of content pretty much ends with the statement that the film is dark thematically. 

Is the piece exploring how those aspects function in the film?: No. The review is focused with reviewing the film in general. It is too opinionated to be a critical analysis aside from the fact that it doesn't contain much substance other than what is typically found in a review.

Deconstructing Sucker Punch:
Overall rating: 5

Is there a thesis?: Yes. The thesis; however, doesn't go into many critical aspects of the film or filmmaking other than the story of the piece and some minor aesthetics.

Are there in depth analysis of specific film style?: A very small amount. The only analysis of specific film style comes in the form of a review of the cinematography of the film's stylization in directly through referencing different looks amongst the layers of realities which form the film.

Are there in depth analysis of film content?: A fair amount. Once again, much like Black Swan, this article is mostly a review of the film. However, unlike Black Swan, this review goes into the specifics of the story and slightly analyzes them- such as determining the film's protagonist.

Is the piece exploring how those aspects function in the film?: Moderately. The film does do this to a slight extent; however, most of the focus is once again on the story and not the technical aspects of filmmaking in a critical and in depth sense. 

Bicycle Thief:
Overall rating: 4.5

Is there a thesis?: There really isn't much of a thesis in the review other than to prove that the film is good.

Are there in depth analysis of specific film style?: Not particularly. Most of this article is a general review of the movie. The article even concludes with a list of films the author relates to this particular film.  It does go briefly into the use of a 360* view provided in the final scene of the film, however.

Are there in depth analysis of film content?: Somewhat. The review does go into more specifics of the film's content than its technical aspects; however, when it does get into a minor analysis of the content of the piece, it is only at a surface level for only a sentence or two.

Is the piece exploring how those aspects function in the film?: Slightly. The review does go into some aspects of the whole film; however, the review does not really do so in a contrite and objective fashion. Aspects of the film do come up and are briefly reviewed; however, it is not done with a critical eye and is rather opinionated.