The Grand Illusion (1937)

This film demonstrates the evolution and continual mastery of film making techniques to convey a story, however it lacks a solid narrative structure. The story has little introduction, a web of complications and conclusions with various climaxes and finally ends.
New techniques include that of time passing. To demonstrate a time skip there would either be a dialogue of current events to do with the war or a shot of a newspaper reporting events. The new convention of establishing shots shows the use of a moving vehicle with a camera on it. Possibly a train or early dolly system. These shots were also used to demonstrate a passage of time via a montage of shots.
With the introduction of sound comes the problems of the sound editing process. A few scenes such as when all the prisoners played the flute and when Marechal was speaking to the cow were clear examples of inexperience in sound editing. The tone of the flutes did not change despite everybody moving behind a wall.
There was one terrible cut during the scene where Marechal and Elsa are about to kiss where the music is built up to an exceptionally loud and impacting point and then it’s a straight cut to the next day with different, softer music. It was just disturbing to the eyes and ears.
The film is generally realist, but incorporates expressionistic elements such as the scene where everybody stands still, in a rather twilight zone-ish style while the camera pans around the set. The aforementioned montage technique is another expressionistic element used. However the main goal was to convey a realistic story. The expressionistic techniques seem to be used for pacing and comic relief.

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March 24, 2009. In class. Leave a comment.

Love The Beast

This is simply the most boring film I’ve ever seen put to screen. I mean you expect this kind of mildly interesting, but ultimately not worth watching, thing on the discovery channel, but not at a cinema for $10 a ticket.
I cant help but wonder what the target audience was for this film. What would inspire somebody to get out of the house and pay to see this? Personally I think the target audience was Eric Bana, as it is just that restrictive in content and appeal.
It is clear that the film makers themselves even saw the race scenes as monotonous, as they introduced a few techniques to attempt to make it more exciting such as louder music and split screens.
As it had no main story the film was subject to tangents and aimless dribble about cars. That’s the danger of making a documentary and I firmly believe that even documentaries should have a story plan for the audience to follow with anticipation.
Bana’s voice over was a joke. He sounded like a movie trailer vocal artist. Completely unnatural and it made it difficult to believe anything his voice over said.
On a plus note it did offer a little insight into the world of professional racing. I found the pace notes the navigators work by particularly interesting, as it draws a lot of parallels to the script and calling of a stage manager during a live theatre show.
The subtitles were also interesting with their draw back fade out effect, however I’m not considering it a positive thing that the movie was boring enough for me to notice a minute detail such as that.
All in this all this film was junk that would never make it to screen had it not been Eric Bana who made it.
(on a side note a search for “love the beast” in google image search yields disturbing results. Make sure to add Eric Bana if you plan on doing this.)

March 24, 2009. Contemporary. Leave a comment.

Metropolis

This epic film has introduced many innovative narrative and dramatic techniques, not previously seen in any other film studies thus far. The first is that of emphasis. Previously it has been hard to ascertain the tone of characters when cutting away to words, however Metropolis is the first film I’ve seen to use varying typography styles and capital letters, such as the “ME!” that was cut away to in one scene. It is much more effective in conveying the character’s sense of tone. It also underlines various words for emphasis.
Fade transformations are experimented with in the film and in the case of the factory turning into the pyramid, is very effective. However the later fade of the cyborg turning into Maria is nowhere near as convincing.
Metropolis also introduces what is known today as the ‘Cookie Cutter.’ That being the various scenes where little pieces of film are cut, the edges given a nice feathering fade and juxtaposed with other pieces e.g. the scenes of all the eyes and faces.
Rear projection makes an appearance as it was brilliantly used to make a fake computer screen for the characters to look at and interact with.
This incredibly layered film has three distinctly different settings, being paradise at the Babel Tower, the machine world of the workers and the dark ancient catacombs down below.
Most scenes on the factory floor give off a very theatrical musical vibe as the workers are dressed the same and moving in sync with each other and you almost expect a song to break out, forgetting that it is a silent film. The sets were also incredibly theatrical, clearly built to provide the audience with a sense of spectacle, rather than realism.
I only have few criticisms about little things such as continuity. The scene directly after the flood, characters are not wet. The cyber woman’s movements were far too natural. In some scenes there are long stretches of dialogue without cutting to words on screen at all and that makes it difficult to understand the story.
All in all Metropolis is an epic and enjoyable story, that in the right hands could likely be turned into a spectacular remake for the modern audience. While it would never have the same feel as the original, I believe it is a story that should be passed down and continued through the generations as they find their own meaning in the story via their film techniques.

March 22, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

This will be a rather short one as we did not get to see much of this film, just the opening and skipped fragments of the end. Therefore I cant really comment on the story.
The iris technique continues to be used for close ups of characters (to which I’m still not convinced is more effective than simply moving the camera closer to the characters), however one new use we see here is the iris out open. This is the iris spreading out to reveal a scene. A rather effective technique in setting the scene for a story that is still used today.
The sets were very theatrical, that being spectacular, but obviously fake. The film makers likely did this on purpose to create a surreal world. Similarly the acting of Dr Caligari was very theatrical, particularly his eyes. Everything was at such an obscure angle that is disallowed the practicality of anything, but it did look cool.
The spooky writing with funky colored shapes behind it was an extremely bad font for reading, however the film made up for that by holding the words on screen longer for the audience to decipher it.
Some intentional chroma changes were used, such as a blue filter for anything outdoors and a yellow filter for all scenes indoors.
The brief little bits we did see inspired us designers to ask our  lecturer about creating a stage version of this film.

March 22, 2009. In class. Leave a comment.

Three Blind Mice

This film gets off to a rather ambiguous start as three sailors enter a hotel room. Various references are made to an event that the audience do not yet know of. This is a technique designed to suck the audience in to the story, however I’m no sure it worked here as I found myself not caring all that much.
On the whole the film was rather aimless. There weren’t really any set goals or a string of fascinating events to follow. Just three sailors wandering through the city of Sydney. The fact that we don’t know what happened on the ship for the majority of the movie contributed to the feel of pointlessness.
There was one incredibly long poker scene, that was only broken up by one scene up on the roof. This poker scene, like the film, seemed rather pointless as the topics of conversation kept changing radically and had little developmental value on the characters in the film.
Filming in Hyde Park was quite impressive, audio wise. Being from Sydney I know that no matter where you are in that park and no matter what time of day there will always be a hell of a lot of traffic noise from all sides. Therefore it was quite impressive that the audio in the Hyde Park scenes contained little to no traffic noise. It also looked like they grabbed a few passers by and not regular actors in the Hyde Park scenes, taking photos with them and such. Their reactions were too genuine to have been an actor.
Bob Franklin was a nice surprise. I’m quite used to seeing him in comedy roles such as Thank God You’re Here or The Library, but when he plays a serious dramatic role it reminded me just how intimidating his dry style of dialogue can be.
This film also ends with a bookend as they all leave the hotel room and turn the light off, which mirrors the movie’s beginning.

March 22, 2009. Film Festival. Leave a comment.

Her Whole Life Ahead

This delightful Italian comedy appears to question reality through the character of Marta, a philosophy graduate who has ended up working in a call centre. The film opens with a surreal musical number in which Marta is an observer. This however turns out to be reality, as the call centre girls do a dance before every shift.
The show Big Brother comes up a lot and serves as a metaphor for Marta’s life in the call centre. The call centre itself is very visually appealing, artsy and high tech, not unlike the Big Brother house. Call centre employees are fired regularly based on their low number of appointments made, similar to the eviction system on the show. It once again makes the viewer question reality.
Furthermore the office reminds me of the film The Island, another film about questioning reality. It’s appearance of paradise, containing a very dark side and even the monthly awards (similar to the lotto in The Island) speak of potential influence from that film.
The actual office set was clearly difficult to film as all of the wide shots, usually during the dancing scenes, are at awkward angles and make the office space look extremely cramped.
One interesting technique that was the use of sound in the scene where Marta is listening to music whilst running from the union guy. When the headphone is in her ear the music is loud, drowning out his voice, but when it is out it the sound is instantly cut. Very simple, but something I’ve never seen used before.
This film ends with a bookend performance containing a musical sequence similar to the beginning.

March 19, 2009. Film Festival. Leave a comment.

The Wackness

The Wackness is a very low budget film that contains wonderfully interesting characters and  some very well executed film techniques.
The relationship between Luke and Dr Jeffery is very much one of equals, despite their differing age and status.  Both of them have quick wit and catch out each other’s statement flaws a lot, giving them equal conversational control. The two of them are also purposefully juxtaposed encountering the same problems and dealing with them in different ways. For example they both start having problems in bed. The doctor deals with this by watching porn and taking drugs, while Luke talks and works things through with Stephanie.
The film also features a lot of interesting transitions. One involves going from opposing rooftops to a medium close up of Luke. The others are very musical and feel natural as the music takes you to the next scene. There is also the idea of music fueling the world the characters live in as they are constantly exchanging music with each other. This includes Luke, Dr Jeffery, Luke’s supplier and even one of Luke’s customers.
Various references are made to the setting being in 1994, such as the old school brick gameboy and several radio monologues about Mayor Giuliani. That aside the film does not particularly focus on the time period at all and it feel pretty much like the modern day.
The film can be described as more realistic with expressionistic elements. For example the beginning with Luke’s fantasy on the train made me feel for sure the film would be quite Scrubs-like with a lot of fantasies. It turned out to be quite realistic with only tiny elements of expressionism inserted here and there.
The Wackness provided a fun story with serious elements and fantastic humor delivered by quirky likeable characters.

March 18, 2009. Film Festival. Leave a comment.

Lemon Tree

This film offers a slice of life amongst the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think a lot of the film is lost on Western viewers. For example the issue of compensation and the strong Palestinian belief that they cannot take Israeli money. While the government is unfairly removing her grove I don’t see the reason for the extremely strong emotion evoked in Salma. This is probably a mixture of things lost in translation, cultural differences and the fact that I have never cared about something that much in my life. Whatever the case the film failed to deliver that emotion to me and I found myself not caring about the trees and annoyed at her continued opposition.
There was a photo on the wall of Salma’s late husband that appeared a lot. I don’t know if it was the intention, but it got a laugh every time there would be a straight cut to it. It reminded me of a scene in Bend It Like Beckham where there is a cut to a portrait of Babaji on the wall with the intent of being funny. I’m not so convinced that the humor of those numerous photo cuts in Lemon Tree were intended to be funny, but rather another cultural difference.
The characters spoke random English at times such as “off the record” which reminded me a lot of Japanese media, where they regularly use English in sentences that don’t often make sense (e.g. “crazy shining love”).
The film did have a rather realistic end which was partially satisfying, as it would be incredibly unbelievable for her to defeat the government. He relationship also seemed quite impossible, given the social stigma attached and seemed right that it did not work out, even if it was a little bitter and sad.

March 18, 2009. Film Festival. Leave a comment.

Lake Mungo

Lake Mungo was intriguing, perplexing and simply a pure mindfuck of a film. Different to anything I have ever seen before. As such I cant write up the review in my normal style, as so many of the things I jotted down on my funky note pad became incredibly pointless and layered as my views and realities on the film changed as often as they did.  For example in the beginning I took notes such as:
– Blurred footage to mask actors
This was under the assumption that the documentary was real and I was pointing out a documentary technique which is done in recreations to hide the actors. I’ll also point out that they stopped using a lot of these after about the first half an hour. In retrospect it was a brilliant strategy to suck you in and it was done so smoothly that you (or I) don’t even realize unless you think about it afterwards.
The film also has a lot of logistical flaws that only realize afterwards. This includes things such as various unresolved plotlines (e.g. the Tooheys, the sex tape and what actually happened to Alice). These dlaws also extend to technical faults such as when it was revealed that Matt used a TV screen to get Alice’s reflection in the mirror. Logistically a television in the dark would light up the entire room and the light around the room would be ever changing. This did not occur to me at the time and I’d be willing to bet it didn’t to most others either.
There are a lot of subtle hints that the documentary is fake. The comedic moments, such as having to drive back to town in reverse, feel quite out of place, however they are so brief that you accept them, have a laugh and move on without a second thought.
The other huge hints are the rather soap opera like plot twists. The revelations of Matt having faked the photos, the discovery of the tape, the Ray/Alice relationship and the footage of Lake Mungo were all quite shocking events that changed the direction of the story in much he same way that happens every day on The Bold and the Beautiful. However after the transition into these events the documentary still appears to take itself so seriously that we cant help but be sucked in.
One more hint that was unintentional from the film makers was the juxtaposition to the short film My Rabit Hoppy, an obviously fake film shot as if it was realistic. This was a clever move by whoever came up with the idea to put them together.
Lake Mungo is a one time experience and I consider myself to have been very lucky to be a part of it. Under no other circumstances would it have had the effect it did. If it were to be released in mainstream theatre word would get around it would become more like The Blair Witch Project, where the audience goes into it knowing that it was fake, ruining the initial experience.

March 17, 2009. Film Festival. 1 comment.

The Battleship Potemkin (1925)

This film by Sergei Eisenstein is a pure propaganda film made in response to Lenin’s interest in using film, as a way of justifying the revolution and consolidation of power. This is achieved through the plot device of a martyr in order to instill a sense of justice into the minds of the masses.

The film has a much more solid narrative structure than our previous studies. It is broken up into five equal chapters and follows the simple formula of introduction, complications and spectacular conclusion.

Eisenstein clearly made this as an expressionistic work, as the film techniques are very noticeable and most tend to emphasise an overly dramatic portion of the film, such as the little boy being killed and the shots of the amputee to evoke sympathy from the audience. The expressionistic techniques are effective in amplifying the mood and atmosphere of the particular scene and most definitely used with that purpose in min in order to sway the public. If realist techniques were applied it would be much less successful as a propaganda film.

The iris technique was used a few times for no discernable purpose. There was also a strip shot where they eliminated two strips of rectangular film on either side of a shot of people walking down stairs. Once again I have trouble figuring out its purpose, but it was more visually appealing than the iris effect.

One problem that continues from our other film studies is that of the anti climax. It would seem that film makers had still not quite figured out how to effectively structure the last part of their films. There is a lot of build up to battle on the sea in chapter 5, which is unsuccessfully sustained through five minutes of preparing the ship for battle. Then the deux ex machina comes though when the ships are magically inhabited by revolutionists and everyone appears to leave happily every after.

March 10, 2009. In class. Leave a comment.

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