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Avant Garde films- Review

So this is my last blog post for the semester. I found the class to be interesting and we saw a lot of fascinating films and a few not so fascinating. I really learned a lot about different genre’s of film that I wouldn’t even bother watching on a regular basis. Anyways, on to my review…

Three of the experimental films really stood out to me were Go, Go, Go by Marie Menken, Mothlight by Stan Brakhage, and Kustom Kar Kommandos by Kenneth Anger. All three were the most memorable in their unique ways. Go, Go, Go was a film about NYC and the way it was filmed really exemplified the constant “on the go” feeling of city life. Mothlight was the most unique out of all the films we watched because it wasn’t filmed with a camera at all! Brakhage carefully created each frame of the film by hand with pieces of burnt moth wings and pieces of grass and flowers. The film goes by so quickly so it’s pretty hard to get a clear image of what is on the film. Overall, it was mind blowing how much work was put in to make the film as long as it was by hand! Lastly, I found Kustom Kar Kommandos to be absolutely hilarious. The music just made the whole film very queer along with the special care the young teen was giving to his car.

I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of Avant Garde films but I was pleasantly surprised by some of the films we saw in class. I thought I should end my post with an example of a graphic montage I did with a partner in my Medst200 class. Hope you enjoy! Circles, Circles!

Bonnie and Clyde- Analysis #2

Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, Warner Bros., 1967) was considered a landmark film during its time because it broke all the rules that were set previously by the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930. Bonnie and Clyde was about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow and how they became known as the notorious bank robbers who operated in the Midwest of the United States during the Great Depression. This film was released into a media environment saturated with reel after reel of video footage of the Vietnam War. The ending scene of the film is most significant because it became one of film history’s bloodiest death scenes and it became most appropriate for this time period because this is when Americans were getting more and more exposed to the violence of the Vietnam War through the use of the media and television.

The last few minutes of this pivotal scene begins with a wide shot of Ivan Moss, C.W. Moss’s father, trying to fix a tire on his truck. At this point he knows what he’s done and quickly looks up as the camera cuts away to a wide shot of the long dirt road where we can see far into the distance. Ivan Moss is looking for Bonnie and Clyde’s car, hoping his son followed his orders to not get in the car with the couple. The camera then cuts back to Ivan as he gets back to fixing his tire. The next shot is a medium shot of Bonnie and Clyde in the car discussing when they would go back to pick up C.W. because they were currently escaping from the police. The camera then cuts to another medium shot, a shot from the front of the car, showing Bonnie reaching for a pear in the backseat of the car. The camera then focuses on the couple as they share a bite of the pear. It was a tender moment between the two and the last moment they would share with each other that made them wholly human and not just cold blooded gangsters. The next shot goes back to a medium shot of Ivan Moss, working on his truck as he looks over his shoulder and the camera cuts away to the road. We see Bonnie and Clyde’s car driving up in the distance. The camera again goes back to focusing on the couple when Bonnie notices C.W.’s father. The camera cuts back and forth between Bonnie and Clyde in the car and Ivan waving them over to help him with his truck. The car slowly pulls over to the side of the road and Clyde comes out of the car. It was a seemingly normal day but little did the couple know they would soon meet their demise.  The next shot shows Bonnie, who is watching Clyde through the front window, in the foreground and Clyde and C.W.’s father are in the background in a frame within a frame. The camera then cuts to a close up of Bonnie’s face as she watches the men. Suddenly, in the next shot, C.W.’s father looks off into the distance as the camera follow his train of vision to an oncoming truck and the nearby bushes. The next series of shots flew by as the scene’s momentum and sound erupted with birds shooting out of the bushes and C.W.’s father quickly covering himself underneath his truck. Clyde quickly realizes what is about to happen and when the camera cuts back to Bonnie; she realizes her fate as well. The camera cuts back and forth between the two as they share their final moment of happiness that was ended abruptly by a hailstorm of bullets. The shooting continues for what feels like an eternity as the couple’s bodies writhe and convulse, their clothing being stained by their blood. When the shooting finally stops, the camera focuses on Clyde’s lifeless body rolling over in slow motion and Bonnie’s lifeless body hanging out of the car. The last shot is a long shot of Bonnie and Clyde’s motionless bodies. As they are bombarded with bullets in this final scene, it is as if in that instant, every bullet they had shot through their time together, returned to kill them, resulting in their brutal death.

Bonnie and Clyde was released during a volatile time that was marked by the Vietnam War and a movement away from film production norms. This stray from the production code was a reaction to this time where people began to express themselves in ways that would have been deemed deviant by the standards of the time. The graphic death of Bonnie and Clyde was the director’s response to what had become the norm in the media, the depiction of violence during wartime. Violence was seeping into American society during this period and there was no stopping it. In such a radical period where violence was making its home in televisions all across the country and where the audience was growing more rebellious, violence became a truth. The deaths of Bonnie and Clyde became a symbol of this truth that reality was violent; that this era was in a state of turmoil and revelation.

La Jetée and Breathless – Review

I wasn’t too interested in the topic of French New Wave honestly, so I pretty much dreaded going to class. But fortunately I was pleasantly surprised by the films we watched in class. First off, I want to mention that La Jetée really creeped me out. The film was very eerie due to its spine-chilling music and imagery. Don’t get me wrong though. I thought the film was brilliant in its use of still photography and narration. Secondly, Breathless became one of my favorite films after watching it in class. A few students told me about how boring they thought Breathless was, but now I can officially call them crazy! I really enjoyed how unconventional Godard’s style of film making was and the jump-cuts really didn’t bother me at all. The acting was unique and  I was very amused by the weirdness of Michel. One thing I’d like to mention is the closing dialogue. There seems to be some confusion as to what it all really means. There are many translations of the dialogue which also adds to the confusion. It is unclear whether Michel is condemning Patricia, or alternatively condemning the world in general. I honestly think Godard left it up to the viewers to arrive at their own conclusions about the ending of the film.

Early Summer- Review

When I learned that we were dedicating a whole class to discussing Japanese history of film I was ecstatic! Japanese culture, film, and television have always sparked my interests so I was happy we were going to discuss the subject. I, unfortunately, was very disappointed in the film choice.

Early Summer, directed by Yasujirô Ozu, is about a close knit extended family that lived together at the beginning of the film and by the end of the film they all went their separate ways in order to fulfill their life duties. The main focus of the film dealt with the family trying to choose a match for their daughter/sister, Noriko, and have her get married as soon as possible. She ends up having her own plans to marry a man who lost his wife and already has a little daughter. The family does not approve of her decision but Noriko sticks by it and marries the man, even though we do not see her get married. A lot of events in the movie were implied and were never shown on screen.

I couldn’t stay focused during the film because to be quite honest, the film was very boring with a very small plot. There were times where scenes were unnecessarily dragged out to the point where I was sitting at the edge of my seat, hoping something interesting would happen but it never did. I really wish little Isamu had more screen time because he was my favorite character throughout the entire film.

On a side note, being that I’m a huge anime fan, I looked up some series that were created in the later 1960’s- early 1970’s. Japanese anime didn’t become popular with the mainstream until the 1970’s, however animated films were created as far back as 1907, the oldest being a very short piece depicting  a young boy wearing a sailor suit writing “katsudou shashin” on a blackboard, turning around to face the audience and saluting. At 16 frames per second, the animation only lasts 3 seconds.[1]

Some of the later, more popular Japanese anime include: [2]

  • Otogi Manga Calendar (first anime series and the first to ever be televised) 1961-1964
  • Rupan Sansei (Lupin the 3rd) Original run- 1967-1972
  • Majingā Zetto( Mazinger Z) Original run- 1972-1974

[1] http://www.otakunews.com/article.php?story=546

[2] http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php

Citizen Kane- Analysis #1

Citizen Kane, (Orson Welles, RKO Studios, 1941), goes down in history as being one of the greatest films of all time. One of the reasons Citizen Kane is so highly praised is that it used the full extent of montage and mise-en-scène. The film is about the rise and fall of a very wealthy newspaper mogul named Charles Foster Kane. We witness a good portion of his life in this film, from the time he is signed away by his parents, to his lonely death. The film presents the events of Kane’s life through the use of flashback by various characters throughout. Each of the flashbacks has something to say about the central character, and they all have to be put together in order for the audience to understand the life story of Kane. One flashback in particular that I would like to discuss is the very first flashback scene in which we see Kane’s parents and Thatcher discussing the future of little Charles. The scene utilized deep focus and mise-en-scène to an excellent degree. These particular conventions are seen throughout the entire film, immersing the audience into the scene as if they were there and could see the actions unfold clearly right before their eyes. This particular scene is significant because it is when we first see Kane being stripped of his childhood, taken away from his parents, and thrown into a life of affluence and prosperity. As we all know that does not end well because money does not buy happiness.

The scene begins with a non-diegetic score that sounds soft and a bit sad. We see Kane as a little boy playing in the snow outside of his home. This happiness and innocence is what Kane, in his later years, longed for but was not able to achieve it through any means.  Soon we realize that we are actually watching Kane from the window as the camera pans backward to reveal the interior of the house. Kane is now in the background in a frame within a frame. Throughout most of the scene we clearly see Kane continuing to play outside of the window while Thatcher and Kane’s parents are near the table. Being able to continually see Kane while his parents discuss his departure, evokes a sense of sadness and pity for the boy because we know he is being taken away from his childhood where he will never experience true happiness again. This style of deep focus allows the audience to pay attention to young Kane as well as the conversation that is happening indoors.

In the next part of the scene, dialogue begins with Mrs. and Mr. Kane and Thatcher about the money they inherited and the discussion of Charles’ departure. The camera focuses on the three adults as well as keeping Charles in focus in the background. Mrs. Kane continued throughout the whole scene, expressionless while her husband was distraught and wanted his wife to reconsider sending Charles away. The issue of money is ironic because even though Mr. and Mrs. Kane were getting a lot of money, they were still sending Charles away which created uneasiness between his parents even though Mrs. Kane thought that it was the best choice to send Charles away. She was wrong to think that sending Charles away would create a better life for him. Sure he may have had some good moments in his life while growing up and becoming head of his newspaper company, but he still experienced his life crumble before him, losing everything and inevitably dying alone.

One particular part of the dialogue  towards the end of the scene when Kane’s parents and Thatcher are outside speaking to him that struck me as ironic was the line in which Kane’s mother tells Charles that he won’t be lonely when he leaves. Thatcher quickly assured him that he would be traveling a lot and never be lonely. We obviously know that Kane dies alone because he never truly had anyone to be by his side. The final part of the scene shows Charles attacking Thatcher with “Rosebud”, his sled, and the non-diegetic sound becomes more desperate and ominous. The camera became focused on the sled and remained stationary on it while it got covered with snow. At this point we know that Kane left his childhood behind and at the end of the film we finally know what “Rosebud” really meant. Not only did it represent the sled but also his home back in Colorado and the innocence and simple happiness he lost.

The Great Depression became a huge factor as to why Citizen Kane did not do so well initially in the box office. People wanted films to help escape the harsh reality not one that reminds the audience of how sad reality is. The scene discussed shows how something that makes you happy and allows you to live comfortably can be so easily stripped from you, making it very difficult for you to achieve once more. Families during the Great Depression found their lives turned upside down and many of them were unable to bounce back up. Although Kane had a lot of money, he was never able to find true happiness. The film is not only about the rise and fall of a wealthy man but also the longing for true happiness and comfort.

Citizen Kane –Review

To be quite honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing Citizen Kane in class because in one of my previous Media Studies classes, Citizen Kane became the example for almost everything that we were learning.  I already knew the entire story, key scenes, and what exactly “Rosebud” was without seeing the film in its entirety. When we got around to seeing it in class, however, I was pleasantly surprised that I actually enjoyed watching it. I was able to integrate everything that I learned about the film from my previous class while watching it.

Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles, is about the rise and fall of a newspaper mogul named Charles Foster Kane. The film begins with Kane on his death bed and uttering the word “Rosebud” before allowing the snow globe in his hand to shatter on the floor. The next scene we see is his funeral and a news reel depicting Kane’s humble origins, a summary of the growth of his power, growth of his political ambitions, failed marriages, etc… I really enjoyed the way the film was presented to the audience. It wasn’t filmed in the conventional style of chronological order like most films are today. It was filmed in a jumbled order, told by the people that were involved in Kane’s life.

I really enjoyed the way the film was presented to the audience. I wouldn’t say that it was the best film ever made but I did enjoy the fact that the film exploited the full resources of both montage (flashbacks) and mise-en-scène. One thing that I noticed in the film was that the director liked to film Kane, along with many of the other male characters, from a very low angle, making them seem very dominant and powerful. When it came to Susan, the director would film her at a very high angle, depicting her as weak and subordinate to Kane. She was also shown to be more of an object in Kane’s collection of statues and décor. In one scene (our favorite scene where she is sitting on the floor questioning and complaining to Kane with the voice that made our ears bleed) she is sitting on the floor amongst the flower bouquets making her out to be a piece of decoration rather than a person. Overall, I was impressed by the cinematography of the film and thoroughly enjoyed the deep focus photography. Cinematographer Gregg Toland kept foreground, middleground, and background objects in clear focus, creating a richly composed mise-en-scène.

As a side note, I thought this quote summed up the entire movie perfectly.

–“That’s all he ever wanted out of life… was love. That’s the tragedy of Charles Foster Kane. You see, he just didn’t have any to give.” –Jedediah Leland

Hello everybody :]

Hey everybody! My name is Megan Janczewski (Yan-chef-ski) 🙂 and I’m a Junior at QC and a Media Studies major with a minor in Sociology. I’m taking this class because I’d like to open my horizons to the film world. Hope to hear from you all soon!

 

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