I’m a fan of the noir, Lynch, Cronenberg, “indy”, and obscure film. So my idea of style has a lot to do with the story being told. Not that there aren’t a lot of great Hollywood films out there, but they often aren’t as memorable to me. I love Lynch’s version of dream-like horror and complexity. I love the fact that he can take a simple story and delve into the complexity that can exist in such a simple story such as a girl who wants to make it in Hollywood. Cronenberg, on the other hand finds complexity in characters similar to novels we read. He sees the dark side of people and makes movies about that side. Crash, for example explores a side of life I wouldn’t have guessed existed but now I can imagine people who drive dangerously and then have fetish sex despite their casts and crutches. It’s awesome and different.
Tokyo Story by Yasujirô Ozu
low camera angles, time ellipses, minimalist approach, and uninflected images are among the elements that make his style unique to a westerner.
Japanese film takes a different approach to cinema than western film. Instead of being action and plot driven Japanese film focuses more on the details of the reality created in the film. This has the effect of inviting the viewer to actively engage with the images. Instead of using diologue and overt or inflected images or expression Japanese film uses a less is more approach to delivering the information. Long shots in spaces that linger on characters with silent moments where either very little dialogue is spoken and/or very little action is taking place.
The viewer is an observer. At the same time the camera does not wonder around to each individual letting us peer into their conscience the way it often does in western film. The camera is set in one place and then maybe moved to the other side of the space to give a second perspective. This means that someone may be talking without the viewer having a direct line to their face. Yet, because of the less is more approach in which the film moves slower there is no frustration on the viewer’s part.
There are quite a few scenes where time is dealt with in a much different way than it is in western film. The diologue often lets us know what is happening next but the image does not show us the inbetween steps to the next event. For example, when the grandparents go out with Noriko to visit Tokyo, there is a lapse of documentation about how they meet up with Noriko or leave their daughter’s house. We see them at their daughter’s house and then we see them on the tour bus.
There are many other treatments of time like this. For example, when the grandparents leave Tokyo on the train headed home we do not get to witness what the grandmother becoming ill. We only briefly see the son’s reaction and then the next shot is back in Tokyo when a telegram is being sent to the daughter’s house. We get all of the information in a very practical way, but without the drama and information overload of western film. This has the effect of forcing the viewer to use what they have learned about the characters and the situations to create the missing images in their head, if they are curious to see what happened. It also allows the viewer to spend more time on, in this case, the reactions of the children and observing their personalities at such a time. This latter point is more relevant to the film and the grandmother getting sick would be extra information. So, this is the less-is-more approach to story telling, case in point.
Gummo by Harmony Korine
In a typical narrative nothing is introduced that doesn’t have an effect on the narrative the director/writer wants to share with the viewer. So, having random characters introduced, such as the ADD tennis player and creepy old child molester guy as well as many of the other random introductions in Gummo would either lead to some fleshed out aspect of the narrative or would be eliminated.
A narrative brings us into the personal experience of at least one character. This film does that. It also has a theme or two. Gummo has main characters whos lives we follow for the duration of the film. The two boys and the three girls are the main characters. There are other characters we grow to understand, but those five are the most depicted. The small skinny boy is the main character out of those five. This is because we see his homelife with his mom
There is a loose cause and effect chain having to do with the cat killing, and sexuality.
Solomon and Tumbler’s life feels a bit like narrative. Also, the girl’s life feel like narrative. The androgynous bunny boy’s life also feels like narrative. Then there are the free associations I make between the bunny boy and Solomon’s older transvestite brother. The cat killing also seemed like a tornado aftermath connection to the body parts found all about the area after the storm. I think there was a development from the storm to cat killing. Then the voice over that told of child molestation stayed with me and painted a picture of the women’s lives in general. I wondered if we met that girl. That story did seem disparate from the prostitute but it made her seem not so out of context. In the end, I understood that life goes on and this is the way it does which is a narrative resolution for me.
Muholland Drive by David Lynch
I think most film artist do not value confusion as a way to get their message across, whatever it may be. However, confusion may very well be a vehicle for the tenor of a well received metaphor or other trope if you don’t lose your audience in frustration first. That is a risk. not everyone wants to take.
The film starts out making logical sense. I used to live in Hollywood so I enjoyed the courtyard apartment setting and the quirky-glam apartment manager. Betty seemed a bit too naive almost like a girl in a Jason movie. She is obviously from a small town and too eager to meet people in LA. Otherwise she would have followed her Aunt’s advice. Also, the interactions between people strike me as slowed down. This increases my impatience aka suspense level in this case.
So at the beginning I’m way more cautions about Rita than Betty is.
Then I don’t really believe Rita’s recovery. I’m suspicious of her. Especially when they go the late night Silencio gig. At this point I think black magic is involved. The slow movements and reactions Betty has serve to frustrate me a bit at her naivity and all too eager helpfulness. I see that she is changing from an ambitions actress to someonw who just wants to help Rita.
This is clear when she leaves the second audition to meet up with Rita.
I am also seeing this film as a statement about the creative control a director has over his casting. It seems that Lynch is saying that it isn’t so dreamy for the director either.
I feel bad for the director when he finds his wife with the pool guy, but realize that there is a strange disconnect between his wife and him. When she says “he will never return here” I’m thinking that doesn’t make sense. And then there is the way to calm and sober reaction of the pool guy who says “don’t you think he may be hurt?” before he punches the director.
So after that when the director’s money is cut off and his life looks about to crumble, I take that for Lynch saying that the behind the scene’s people are who really rule Hollywood. It wouldn’t be the first time an artisitc work has eluded to this possible fact about Hollywood.
Then there is Betty’s audition. I’m surprised by the change in her tone from her practice with Rita. It seems too sappy to me, and the producer’s response too staged.
As the twist starts to form, and Rita has blond hair. My first thought is that Rita is Diane, but then we find her dead. I know that Rita was close to Dian because she remembers her and if you know anything about amnesia, it makes sense that Diane was a key player in Rita’s life.
Then we start to see how Rita/Camilla flaunts her success in front of Diane knowing that it hurts Diane who is clearly obsessed with her. this obsession continues from the dream stage at the beginning when we see Betty’s ambitions shift from actress to Rita.
By the end of the film, I’m a bit confused as to exactly what thread happens. I had thought the neighbor played a larger role in Diane’s death and that Rita/Camille was less innocent than she really was.
I think my confusion was both frustrating and stimulating. Of course I did read the extra reading after watching the film, which did cut short my frustration phase so I’m not sure how long I would have been chewing on the different threads. I have seen this film before but it was a long time ago and for some reason I didn’t remember being quite as confused at the end.
There are two or more worlds here. There is a dream world where people have lives they wish they were leading. Then there is the harsh reality world where hookers and homless people exist and getting into the movies is really hard. They seem to overlap with the director and Camille, but mostly Camille who seems to walk unscathed between both worlds.
There are signs that the beginning is a dream world. One is the fact that Betty drops her luggage at the front of the apartment entrance and nothing happens to it. Then the fact that when Rita enters her life Rita seems to have several changes of cloths that fit her. Also, the key, as mentioned in the reading, is different from the dream state to the reality state. Oh, and the sudden appearance of the bos in Betty’s purse–very strange.
I think the box is the opening of pandora’s box which is a sexual box, if you will. So, if Betty had never made love to Rita, then things would have gone better for her.
Incoherent is a bad thing. It means that there was no sense of order even among the chaos. It is the feeling that the director also lost their way in telling the story and that the ties that bring about understanding were lost in production. I would not say that Muholland Drove was incoherent, just confusing.
No Country for Old Men by the Coen Brothers
I was disappointed when Llewelyn was killed. It seemed so purposeless or needless after all he had been through. It diminished his importance to the story immediately. This shifted my expectations and opened me to what the rest of the story had in store for me.
It is interesting how watching a film twice can bring about a different response each time. Plot is the driver of this story but theme and character are close seconds. I feel like there is a balance between all three. However, plot wins because we all want Llewelyn to get the money. And money is something that will get all of our attention.
However, after awhile, I was wondering if 2 million was worth all the slaughter and became suspicious that this movie had a different motive. That is when the hunter and hunted theme became more apparent and as a second sub-theme, if you will, is morality. The principles Chigurh lived by were egocentric and crazy, but principles nonetheless. He felt he was an arbiter of death that people could flip a coin to escape, but that by being in his presence had a fate of death. And the principles the Sheriff and his older friend and his brother live by are equally rigid and nonsensical in this day and age. To say that as soon as “Sir and Madam” are not used everything is going down hill. The only difference is that they don’t kill people who don’t follow their principles like Chigurh does.
Then there is the character study. Each character’s unique flaws bring them to behave in certain ways in different situations. We see them in each of these situations. I’m struck my Llewelyn’s wife, who may have been able to escape death but was too much of a character analizer herself to make the right decision and flip the damn coin. Well, she was also a bit on the dumb side. Bless her.
Ok, so who the main character is is a tough one. I’m going with the Sheriff. I appreciated how we learned that he was retiring, in the middle of the film, instead of at the beginning like in some other Hollywood films. We also are in his head quite a bit more than in Llewelyn’s, even though he would be a close second choice if he hadn’t been killed off. Chigurh could be a main character, but instead I think he was the main character we studied. He also drove the theme with his amazing tracking skills.
I think the use of diegetic sound throughout the film was an artful move that emphasized the realities of life in the desert-land of Texas. Not all of Texas is like this, or has such an emphasis on the rural life as this film depicts, but it is for real. So in some sense there is a documentary quality about this film as we enter the world of crime near the borderland in Texas.
2001 Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick did not make cuts most directors would during low action moments such as when repairing the ship. The scene took a long time and had the effect of riling my expectations because he did choose to spend so long on the scene.
The first 20 minutes of this film is about the apes’ rise of intelligence. A few things are established, such as how it takes one innovator to move along the development of the group. Also, the introduction on one unique organized construct that is different than normal can lead to religion and intelligence. The narrative arc injects a foreshadowing of something more intelligent to come because of the sudden appearance of the elegant carved monolith in the middle of the ape camp.
Kubrick begins the film with the apes discovering tools because the whole movie is about the evolution of our use of tools. Eventually we develop a tool that is too human-like and no longer serves us well. In fact HAL has a psychological breakdown whereas the humans on board the ship do not. So, the simple bone is a symbol of tools. Dave’s world circles back on him so showing how it all began in the beginning reinforces the idea of moving through time and evolution.
Kubrick’s primary interest in this film is psychological. We are shown amazing images and left to draw our own ideas about what is happening throughout the film. Then we are given dialogue and human interaction to reinforce or set us straight on where we thought we were going with the story. Then once again we are left to develop our own ideas about what happens at the ending.
At the end of the film the monolith represents a circle of life and Dave’s circle starts with his finding out the secret part of the mission, which sets him on a mental breakdown that leads to his death and birth again.
Another idea is that he somehow takes on HAL’s existence and death as he shuts down HAL.
The use of florescent lighting in the space shuttle has an interesting effect. It made the furniture practically glow and created a sterile-like environment. It also dates the film in many ways because the florescent lighting is supposed to be so “futuristic.”
Old Joy by Kelly Reichardt
This is different from a horror genre because there are no mysteriously lingering shots in the dark nooks of the woods. There is no anxiety between the two. Also, the music does not indicate anything happening beyond our expectations.– morgan jones
My feeling about these two characters is that they have been friends since before college. Kurt knows Mark’s family as evidenced by his having heard about Mark’s dad’s situation. Mark seems to have gone on to college while maybe Kurt didn’t. He seems lost and sort of looking for a map, but not really willing to read one. This is my understanding of his belief in his dreams as signs. Kind of like how he took a Physics class but felt he already understood the theory but actually spent time on his own crazy idea of a tear dropped universe that he can’t prove.
Mark hangs out with Kurt for old-times sake but when he is actually with Kurt he seems to realize that they are very different in their old age. I see this in tidbits of conversation with his wife and in his confused expressions when he is listening to curt at the camp site. He wishes the best for Kurt but can’t help but have a bit of judgment as evidenced by his comment, which he quickly withdrew, about how Kurt could also give back to the community.
I did get the idea that either Kurt was exploring homosexuality by his stories about hot tubbing and close friendships with other guys. So, when Kurt went to rub Mark’s shoulders I was confused as to what he wanted with Mark and Mark’s role. Mark seemed to relax once he realized it was just his shoulders. I figure they had explored a bit together in their past as young boys possibly growing up in the same neighborhood and Kurt never really moved past that, but Mark did. Since Mark had discovered himself to be heterosexual, he wasn’t open to anything past the shoulders. While Kurt, needed to test that because maybe he is still unsure. I’m thinking that this is what keeps him lost in life.
In the end he is looking into stores and I’m totally confused about his intentions. Is he going to rob a place or does he have another dream image or what.
This film is not about them getting lost as much as about a metaphor of their friendship. It is more an opportunity for us to observe how they act together or as individuals when they are lost.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie by Cassavetes
During this scene I am struck by wonder of how much of which Cosmos is aware. He sees the other hitman come in, or so it appears, because he seemed to be ready. Yet, I’m not sure how he would have been clued in on who the first target was going to be. It would seem that he would run for protection right away if he was aware of danger. Unless, of course Cosmos was naive to the fact they were sent there to kill him too. The unspoken leaves me wondering if this is a case of restricted narration? Does Cosmos know that he saved his life by showing his wound? Then there is the fact that he essentially played hide and go seek with the second killer and made it out because he just kept quiet.
In a normal Hollywood film, I would be floored by the stupidity of the guy in Cosmos position because he would usually give themselves away. I love the fact that Cosmos just kept quiet and eventually the hitman left. That seems more real to life in my book. Or maybe it just brings me back to a childhood game of hide-and-go-seek there is something child-like about Cosmos.
Hollywood usually portrays women in strip clubs as the center of the attraction. This club is a bit more of a cabaret style club but without all of the choreography and setup a cabaret show typically has. The dressing rooms are small and cramped with girls which is very real-to-life; however, hollywood would typically have a larger dressing room layout. The girls are not real strippers here and their sexuality is not front and center; It seems there are sexual alliances such as between Cosmos and the black girl.
There is just enough nudity to make it a strip club but not enough to overpower the character study going on. Hollywood would typically mesmerize us with glittery outfits and twirling dance moves and nudity that we would only notice character as a side note.
There would be more close-ups of the girl’s body parts. The lighting would be more disco-glamour-like instead of dingy like it is here. The music would be more pumping and catchy instead of quirky and vaudville.
Silence of the Lambs
The main characters are Hannibal, Clarice, Jack Crawford, Dr. Chilton, and Buffalo Bill:
- Hannibal is an improsoned psychopath who is was a very smart psychiatrist before turning into a cannibal. While in prison he forced to be the Dr. Chilton’s patient. He hates this because Dr Chilton does not show him any respect.
- Charice is an FBI student who is called into Jack Crawford’s office and given an assignment to interview Hannibal. She sees her work in the FBI as continuing a family tradition started by her late father. She appeals to Hannibal because she is female but also because she is respectful to him and also intelligent.
- Jack Crawford is the head of behavioral investigation unit and is working on the Buffalo Bill case. He is out of leads and knows that Hannibal has some answers. He sends Clarice in to talk to Hannibal because she is female and also because she is smart. Because she is innexperienced he also uses her as a tool to communicate with Hannibal unbeknownst to her, at times.
Because Hannibal is in a depraved prison situation with Dr. Chilton as his doctor he is subseptible to the charms of a respectful female. Clarice is subseptible to Hannibel because he acts as a mentor or someone who cares about her advancement in the FBI. She has no parents, and is an only woman in a male dominated, chauvinistic world.
Because Dr. Chilton would like credit for his work with the prisoners and to possibly have a more prestigious position he is greedy for credit on the Buffalo Bill case and makes himself unlikeable to the audience and to everyone else. Crawford wants to catch Buffalo Bill so he uses Clarice to exploit Hannibal’s weakness. I think there is a high degree of unity in the cause and effect chain which leads us to have clear understanding of each character type.
The Silence of the Lambs mostly has a subjective narration strategy. Most of the scenes are filmed from a POV perspective. There are also mental subjectivity moments such as when Clarice sees herself as a child at her father’s funeral. There are also objective narrative moments such as when Clarice is running through a training course.
The narration is mostly unrestrictive but is also restrictive. It is unrestrictive because we know enough about the situations to have a clear idea as to how they will turn out. For example, when Clarice meets Hannibal for the first time we already know she will be creeped out at some point and that they will also develop a repore. We also know that Clarice will be the one to find Buffalo Bill because she has shown herself to be more tapped into the clues.
However, when Hannibal is playing to the dying officer in the ambulance we are surprised by the restrictive narration strategy used.
Unlike Limbo or The Big Night, Silence of the Lambs has more closure in its ending. First we believe Hannibal will not bother Clarice. We also know that he will kill Dr. Chilton. Lastly, we understand enough about Clarice that she will work to recapture Hannibal and will likely be successful on some level or it will be her life’s work.
This film has a dual emphasis on plot and thematic development. Because the plot concludes the ending answers to that emphasis. However, Clarice has definitely grown as a detective and her role in the FBI is now established.
Silence of the Lambs is a classical narration with a modernist twist. It is plot driven, yet character development takes a center stage throughout. It is unrestricted narration with a touch of restricted narration at key moments. There is a happy ending until we are reminded of Hannibals escape and eminent threat.
Big Night by Campbell Scott & Stanley Tucci
It is about time to say something regarding the helper boy-guy whose name I did not catch. He is a constant presence who sees everything. I think it is an interesting grounding point in the narration to have a person like him who even sleeps in the kitchen like a kitchen gnome. But the state I’m left in at the end of the film is still having hope for the restaurant and hoping they don’t give up. They just threw an awesome party and invited guests from the area who will definitely talk about their amazing experience. At the same time the two brothers seem emotionally drained, which can be a good thing. Sometimes we get stuck in our ways and it takes a good slap in the face to make us see things differently and to take different more creative action. So, it is possible that something good comes from The Big Night for the restaurant. The way they put their arms around each other shows that they both have slept on what happened the night before and come to breakfast with new resolutions or at least new understanding of the situation. I especially feel this way with Primo. –morgan jones
Tucci is answering a question about family. By answering this question, he answers other questions, almost implicitly: will the brothers stay in America?, for example.
The restaurant Christiano and Primo run does not bring in enough money for them to pay their bills so Christiano asks for advice from Pascal, who owns a very successful restaurant. Pascal, who wants a better cook, in his restaurant sees an opportunity to acquire Primo, who is a genius cook, for himself so he plans to ruin their restaurant.
Christiano and Primo plan the Big Night as an investment because a famous Jazz musician is supposed to dine there and they see it as an opportunity to reinvent their restaurant’s reputation.
Because Pascal planned to ruin their restaurant he never actually invited the jazz musician and so they made an empty investment.
There are other smaller cause and effect chains such as:
- Christiano breaks up with Phyllis because he is stressed out about money.
- Primo acts like a kitchen diva because he has no idea their restaurant is going under and is concerned about his principals.
- Christiano tip toes around subjects that might upset Primo because he angers quickly.
- Gabriella reveals Pascals lie because she sees that Christiano has lost everything and doesn’t want to be apart of the deciet. (actually I’m not sure I’ve quite captured her cause)
- Phyllis finally ends it with Christiano because she sees Gabriella kiss him.
- Phyllis shows up to help Christiano with his Big Night because she is innocent and kind.
One continuous shot magnifies the feeling of being emotionally drained and lets the viewer really absorb this feeling for themselves. It’s as if we are all in the state of having done all we can do so now there is nothing left to do but watch and see what happens. I think the camera work shows this: there are no more fancy edits or angles to show, this is it. -morgan jones