The Combination

Directed by David Field, The Combination tells the story of a group of Lebanese people living in Sydney. Specifically John, recently out of jail and his little brother Charlie. Early on John falls in love with a white girl named Sydney, while his brother and his group of friends are breaking into drug dealing.

The relationship between John and Sydney is confusing to grasp at first. The first scene we see of them after their initial meeting is on a date at the gym where John works, which ends badly. The next time they are seen everything appears fine as John picks Sydney up at her house for another date. Several of their scenes start out this way where they are having a good time and by the end the feeling between them will be so cold. Another example is when Sydney meets Charlie for the first time and John stops him and his friends from going to “bash” Scott. This ends with her slamming the car door and her front door after being dropped home and once again everything between them is fine in the next scene. These conflicts are never really resolved they just make up somehow.

Unresolved conflicts are not exclusive to their relationship either. In one scene one of Charlies friends, Yas stabs a person and they are all caught by the police. As the film goes on the next day he is back in school, with no resolution to what happened. I was thinking he would be arrested or put in a juvenile center, but it seems there was no punishment at all for the stabbing.

Music is one of the first things I noticed about this film, being that it was too loud and I was not able to hear some of the dialogue. This only happened with the rap music so I’m unsure at this point if it was purposely loud to display a point or if it was the audio equipment in the cinema. Rap music was also seemingly used to fuel the younger groups. It is shown that both the Lebanese and Australian highschool boys listen to the same type of rap music and this was emphasised with the use of two identical shots of the boy’s backs, panning up to their heads while listening to the music.

The film appears to have a chromatic grey wash over it, taking out vibrant colours and creating a rather desolate world. The same thing was applied to Rabbit Proof Fence to create a hellish and unpleasent feeling. In this film it is also used to blur the line between right and wrong, creating a literal grey area for the characters to inhabit.

The theme of racism is painfully clear and hit quite close to home. I live in Western Sydney and grew up around the kinds of people that the characters represent and throughout highschool especially, the gaping racial divide was particularly clear. Generally Australian soceity considers our country exceptionally multicultural and not racist, but this film depicts nothing but the truth. In fact it probably only depicts the tip of the ice berg. Australian soceity is full of closest racists who wont even admit it to themselves. This film shows that through the attitude of Sydney’s parents.

The film has a strong sense of realism. The only time I even noticed the camera were the afformentioned shots of the two boys listening to rap music. Otherwise this flm is a fantastic example of contemporary realism.

March 10, 2009. Contemporary. Leave a comment.

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

This film by D.W. Griffith is a three and a half hour piece of propaganda glorifying the KKK. Although putting the extreme racism aside the film was clearly made with no sense of cinematic narrative structure. This can be attributed to the lack of cinema at the time and sheer amazement people would have felt at seeing a picture on a screen, but even so I have a hard time believing that this film would have kept audience glued to the screen for the entire three and a half hours.
It was an adaptation of a book ‘The Clansman‘ , but I feel Griffith was simply trying to replicate the book instead of adapting it to the new medium. While I have not read the book, I think that the story presented on film would be a much less boring experience being read.
The film undergoes seemingly random chroma changes. The first few chapters start out yellow and then there’s a short two or so in blue and then back to yellow. The only change with any discernable purpose is when it becomes red to represent bonfires and various parts of war.
The iris effect that Griffith seems quite fond of was annoying. I assume the idea was to show where the focus in the scene should be, however this can be easily achieved by framing the shot properly.  It does make me curious as to what the audience would have thought of the effect at the time.
The sets look quite realistic with the exception of one indoor fight scene where a man lifts and throws another on to a wall that moves, clearly showing that it is a flat.
It seems like Griffith used both real black people and fake black people via the use of (unconvincing) make up. The fakes were easy to tell as they simply did not look authentic and were only used for key roles.
The acting was generally believable until it got over dramatic near the end or unprofessional, e.g. at one point early in the film a girl spiked the camera in a crowd scene.
Music was generally appropriate however I did notice that at some points it was too epic for the action going on. For example in a scene of someone sitting down and talking the music should not have been fast paced and very loud.
This film shows the beginning of large production budgets (originally US $40,000 but rose to $112,000) and the potential of films to make absurd amounts of money, grossing $10 million.

March 5, 2009. In class. Leave a comment.

W.

For a film about such a “controversial” figure, W. provided very few, shocks, outrage or scandalous material expected from an equally as “controversial” director. One would think that the portrayal of a president as a no good alcoholic who’s just working towards his fathers approval might spark something, but it just doesn’t quite connect.  This may be because Bush simply isn’t as interesting as the exploits of Kennedy and Nixon, two of Stone’s previous subjects.

As the movie begins alcohol is clearly a key theme and is overly present and emphasized in every flashback scene  for the first half of the movie. For an issue present in so much of the film, it is dealt with rather swiftly in two short scenes of him collapsing on his morning run and then attending alcoholics anonymous. After he gives up alcohol the movie becomes an ad for Dr Pepper as Bush is drinking that in a lot of scenes with the logo quite visible.

On make up and costume, when flashbacks occur it is often difficult to tell the difference between the time periods as outfits and styles are not distinguishable. Bush’s physical appearance doesn’t really change through these time periods and is only evident in the present day storyline when he has gray hair.

I get the feeling that Stone was aiming to make religion a key issue of this film (though whether he intended it as a good or a bad thing escapes me) as he painstakingly shows everyone in high power to have strong Christian beliefs. Not only the American leaders, but there is apparently a cut scene where Tony Blair expresses his intentions to convert to Catholicism. Personally I find religion in politics pointless, as expressed by the character of George Bush senior as he describes the issue of openly declaring your religion to the public as “inauthentic” in the film.

Overall the film failed to reach my expectations of Stone and it was hard to connect with the characters. However it was quite interesting and I never found my concentration wavering. It would have been nice if it had had a proper ending though.

March 4, 2009. Contemporary. Leave a comment.

Lumiere, Porter and Melies

Lumiere

The realist actualities of Lumiere provided a short, one angle insight into a different part of the world. They were nothing more than a camera (or kinetoscope back then) set up for a few seconds with little action happening. The significance of this is quite clear though. These were some of the first moving pictures in existence and a couple of seconds of people walking out of a factory would have been truly astonishing back then. If it were to be likened to contemporary times it would probably be like us seeing 3D hologram technology, which would create an entirely new medium to work with. Some of Lumiere’s other titles include ‘Woman Throwing Baseball’ and ‘Arrival of the Train.’ This was technology that would change our world, however not through “Actualities.”

Melies

Melies the magician would be one of the first to play with this new filmic technology to create an expressionist story. Widely considered to be the first science fiction film made, ‘Trip to the Moon’ (1902) is exactly what the title implies. It begins with a parody of astronomers dressed as wizards, who make plans to go to the moon. It is an amazing piece when you consider that it all would have had to have been privately funded. There are wonderful sets (flats, forest areas), set pieces (specifically the big ship), very nicely done costume and props (the league of astronomers and the animal-like moon dwellers). However camera angles are virtually the same in every scene, making it feel almost like you were sitting in the audience of a theatre show.

Porter

‘The Great Train Robbery’ (1903) presents a well structured narrative through the potentially pioneered use of jump cuts. That is, the story isn’t exactly linear, for example the scene where the bandits get off the train is followed by them running through the forest with no need to show what happened in between. It also cuts to what is happening elsewhere at the time, e.g. while the bandits are running through the forest we see the police at a ball. There is an attempt at colouring various parts, such as a woman’s dress at the ball, however it simply doesn’t look right as the sole colour apart from bits of purple on the roof. While I acknowledge it must have been a tedious process to colour it, they should either do the whole scene or not at all, as I think the colour actually distracts from the action occurring. There were some experimental camera angles used and some panning that made it feel more cinematic, as opposed to ‘Trip to the Moon’ where the use of only one single camera angle made it feel quite theatrical.

March 4, 2009. In class, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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