Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut

Un condamné à mort s'est échappé, which I will now refer to as "A Man Escaped" in order to avoid any unwanted pretentiousness, is a film by French director Robert Bresson. It is a more comparatively narrative movie than most of the films we have seen thus far in the class. This is not to say it is any less effective. On the contrary, these more narrative transcendental films have affected me much more than the more artistic/experimental ones. With this film, it is all about living in the normal life of a man held captive during WWII. The fact that it is WWII is even nonessential to the film. It is truly just about life on the inside. 

Such a visceral image. It spotlights the door- bringing out your primal urge to escape.

The film does a great job at reflecting the memoirs of a jailed man, which it is in turn based off of. The character doesn't really have any characterizations other than that he is the physical manifestation of man's primal urge for freedom and to escape. This to me makes it all the more transcendental. Due to this lack of character, I was allowed to toss myself onto him. He became a part of me- my desire to escape with him in the movie from his cell. I became fully enamored in all the minor things he kept on doing, which we would continually cut back to. I lived the life of a man trapped in a cell for the duration of the film. The film was able to have an almost meditative quality over me, which I found myself consciously aware of while watching it. By being so much with myself, I was able to explore my own inner thoughts and transcend through them through the invocation called about by the movie. 
I am doing these things with you as an audience member

It held my attention and even more than that- it held my heart. I was connected to the character and situation on a personal level. All the inserts of him doing things really helped me get into it- it was almost as if those were all POV shots, because of how drawn in it took me into the story. It was even more capable of doing so than normal POVs would be. Overall, it is safe to say that the film and style were fairly successful to me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Some Like it- What?!

               Some like Screwball Musical Gangster Comedies? Now, that's just absurd!

Who would in their right mind think to watch or even less likely make that? Well, Wilder's now very successful and critically-acclaimed opus "Some Like it Hot", starring the famed Marilyn Monroe, simply as 'Candy', alongside funny man Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, is exactly that! It is a film that yearns for a simpler time. It's a Screwball Comedy created after the prime of the genre itself was had. It sees the conventions of the genre and romantically recreates strong elements from it into the film.

The story follows two musicians, Joe and Jerry, who have to dress up in drag in order to avoid the gangsters hunting them down for witnessing The Valentine's Day Massacre. It's set during the Prohibition era, which lends itself heavily to the story and the gangster aspects of it. All these characters have their hidden sides of themselves- such as Candy's vice, drinking. There are even homages to various gangster bits such as characters themselves and even the bit where an actor is seen flipping a coin, which he did in a previous gangster film.

The film plays heavily on the idea of gender roles and identity. These men, who can be seen as womanizers, have to experience things from a woman's perspective as they attempt to pass a women in an all-girl's band. It's full of sexual puns and innuendoes like many Screwball Comedies. These characters at times, well mostly Jerry, almost get lost comedically in their assumed identities or lack thereof with a running motif of repeating to oneself "I'm a girl. I'm a girl" or conversely "I'm a boy. I'm a boy".

"This may even turn out to be a surprise party"
There is a tangible sense of sexual tension between the two genders in the film, which both of the guys experience first hand. This can be largely seen when Candy sneaks into Jerry's bed for a late night party to which he responds "This may even turn out to be a surprise party". The two boys need to maintain their assumed identities at all cost lest they want to be killed- once they arrive in Florida, the gangsters hunting them down coincidentally show up. This whole coincidental method of maintaing stakes melodramatically is very indicative of the genre itself.  The boys face a challenge as they struggle to keep up their facade.  Candy's character serves as a chief seductress to the boys. Jerry struggles very much not to identify himself to her because she, in a very stylistic way of the genre, relates onto him her struggle with saxophone players- like himself. He even uses his insight gained from her to create an almost perfect 'wealthy' man in a veiled attempt to sleep with her.

Overall, Wilder creates a beautiful post-Screwball-era Screwball Comedy. He is able to brilliantly identify the conventions of the genre and uses them in a way that makes coherent sense to his story and tone without being at the mercy of the genre. Everything feels natural and light. The audience is truly in for a ride up until the last moment of the film, when after being informed that the girl he is in love with is actually a man, Osgood Fielding III, played by famous character actor Joe E. Brown, replies, "Well nobody's perfect"!

Roll Credits.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bears. Beats. Battlestar Galattica.

Firefly. Firefly. Firefly.

The Firefly in Space
Joss Whedon carefully blends together the Western and Sci-Fi genre in his tv series, Firefly. One of the very first scenes of the series is a heist. Right away, we get this idea that these characters are bandits trying to make a living outside of civilization. Firefly's opening sequence (ignore the music- there isn't any version faithful on youtube) feels directly out of a Sergio Leone film. It takes its time, is bold, and has a strong musical theme underneath it all. This makes it very clear for the audience to understand what to expect with the show, since they are already pretty clear with the Western genre itself.

Specifically, the crew themselves are prime examples of members of the Western genre. They are entirely a group of outlaws on the edge of civilization. All the characters are pretty much directly taken out of the genre. There's the doctor, the prostitute, the brawn, the child, the preacher but more specifically, their leader Malcolm Reynolds is a prime example of a Western archetype. He is a member of a dying breed. He is a soldier from a fallen cause- just like Josey and Ethan. However, instead of being an exConfederate, he is an exRebel, which is also what the Confederates were- rebels. He has a strong sense of pride and isn't afraid of confrontation. He sees the glory in battle. Compared to Ethan and Josey, he is, however, more talkative as a character. He is a little hard to identify than either of them; however, he does share a strong sense of loyalty to those he cares about much like the other Western heroes. Similarly like Ethan, Malcolm Reynolds feels more comfortable 'in the woods'- that is to say that his only true place in society where he belongs is no on the outskirts of it. He is a reminder of the old ways. 

Space- the new Desert?
First of all, the setting and issues are all very futuristic. It is a much more dystopian view than any Western could yield. There is a secret organization- or part of the government- which voluntarily commits horrors against its people who have been deemed as gifted. Due to all the technical progress, society has been able to decay much more than before. Everyone is able to spread out across the universe thus giving an endlessly vast outland. The more dystopian tropes of the series makes the Western elements all the more complex and layered. The society truly is faulted- like how Malcolm sees it- and because of it, it is much easier for Malcolm to become a straight hero- one that the audience roots for and believes in the same principles as. 

The reference in the title:

Black and White New York Vignettes

Simply put, this is art. It is art in its purest form.

The screen shows various shots of and around New York City for around 10 minutes. The narrative is loose if even existent at all. All the shots stand by themselves and are connected solely by their location as well as some moods or tones.

We open with a long wide shot of a group playing a game on a square. It is from overhead slightly. This helped set up my expectation for the piece. I struggled at first to get a better understanding of what was going on and to try to piece a story together, but after a while of nothing happening expect some movement within the frame, I allowed myself to lose this thought.

I tried my best to just appreciate the moments for what they were- well composed shots with various moods and aesthetics. The silence amplified them. It was all very minimal.

In between each shot, there is a segment of slug. This allowed me personally to reflect and just enjoy this silence. To me, it was a very zen filled piece. I could easily imagine this as something being played in an art gallery.

The audience loses their hold onto narrative and life by surrounding themselves onto these images of stark black and white contrast. It is very poetic in a way to think of such. However, I did not really feel much for the piece. I might have lost my hold onto such a structure, but I didn't have anything to replace it with no matter how hard I tried to take something from the short. A lot of the time without a solid narrative, I am not able to connect deeply to what is going on, which is why I suspect Tokyo Story to be my favorite screened film thus far- I'll make sure to cover that in more depth in my later post on such.

I was brought back to my memories while watching the shots. It was introspective, which is often nice, but my qualm with it afterwards is that it didn't leave me with anything new- any experience really attained other than what I had within myself, which I am more than capable to do on my own without the need of a piece like this. If anything stood out to me such much as to make an impact it would probably have to be the visual of the vortex along with the black slug. There was a constant motion- a force and then it was gone. I feel like that in itself may have influenced my mood subconsciously in a very zen way.

The lack of pictures is to play with the idea of a minimalistic pairing of the black upon white with the text.