Breathless

This was certainly my favorite film I’ve viewed this whole semester. I loved everything about it. Its funny, in the beginning of the semester I thought black and white films were boring. Like M. I hated that black and white. But up until now, I’d actually forgotten that this movie was black and white. Well, the greyscale was broader in this film, but still – it wasn’t vibrant color. And I didn’t mind one bit.

Anyway, I absolutely loved the lead actors in this film. Both the lead actor and lead actress are named Jean, and the director is named Jean too, haha. Guess it’s  a French thing (even though the character Patricia is supposed to be American). The unconventional relationship between Patricia and Michel was simply adorable. The pairing of that concept and the experimental techniques used in the film, such as jump cutting, really gained my interest. I’m sure I’ve seen recent films that used jump cutting before but this film made it really significant.

Good example of jump cutting

Another aspect of the film I enjoyed was Michel’s role as a criminal on the run. What amused me was that he didn’t exactly try too hard to keep a low profile while on the run. He committed more crimes, such as grand theft auto, and showed his face in public places. Yet the cops still couldn’t find him until Patricia gave him up!

Michel was definitely a character to remember. The faces he made, the way he spoke to Patricia, how sly he was when committing crimes, the way he did anything he wanted and didn’t fear the consequences…all of these traits made him unforgettable. Patricia was also a rather hard to forget character, but I would say mainly because of her looks. When I first saw her on screen I was amazed by her beauty. Her cute little nose and the way she pulled off her short hair was just gorgeous. Patricia also humored me because she would say one thing and do another. She never seemed to keep her word. I couldn’t tell if it was because she wanted to please everybody, or if it was because she wasn’t sure of what she wanted . For instance, she would act like she didn’t want Michel around, then act like she was in love with him. She followed him around while he ran from the police, then ratted him out to the police, then told him what she’d done. I did not understand what was going on in her head.

I loved the scene when Patricia comes home and her key is missing, and the doorman suggests that maybe she left it in the door, and when she goes to check she finds Michel in her bed. She doesn’t freak out and tell him to leave. She says things that suggest she isn’t happy about his presence, such as saying she wants to be alone, but she doesn’t kick him out. She entertains him. He asks her what shes thinking about and she says she doesn’t know.

Michel and Patricia in Patricia’s room

If you ask me,  I don’t think there’s really too much going on in that pretty little head of hers. She strikes me as one of those girls that is pretty, but wants to be more than that. She wants to be an intellectual and be recognized as one, yet she kisses her boss which will really get her no respect. She gets everywhere in life based on her looks, whether she would like to admit it or not. You have to admit there is just something she has which makes her so appealing. This is probably why in the beginning of the movie Michel tells her he loves her and needs her to come to Rome with him. I loved this scene too because Patricia varies between speaking in French and English, and her English voice is so different, its funny.

New York Herald Tribune! Patricia’s “American” voice

Wait, I really love when Michel drops Patricia off to meet her boss and he tells her, “Go on then, I don’t want to see you again. Go to hell scumbag!” Then he proceeds to follow her and spy on her. This is when he catches her kissing her boss and gets jealous. However, although he gets jealous, he still shows up at her house the next day. Another thing about this scene, is that it follows Michel’s gaze first, then Patricia’s, then Michel’s again. It is somewhat confusing, but it’s a technique I didn’t really see in any other films we viewed in this class.

The ending of this movie was unexpected but I enjoyed it because of a few certain things. Throughout the movie, Michel does this thing where he brushes his lips with his thumb. Also, in one of my favorite scenes which I talked about earlier, (the one where Patricia finds Michel in her home when she arrives) Patricia is examining herself in the mirror and Michel tells her to make three faces. One where he is opening his mouth big, then a big smile, then a big frown. He makes Patricia repeat these faces. When he is dying in the end scene after being shot by the police because Patricia revealed his location, he is laying on the floor looking up at Patricia and he makes these faces. Then he tells her she’s a real scumbag. She asks, whats a scumbag? Then mimics Michel’s lip brushing tick. I like the way things  sort of came full circle. Another connection from the ending to the beginning of the movie is in another scene I spoke about which I enjoyed, the scene where Michel is walking with Patricia while she sells newspapers and begging her to come to Rome. In this scene, she asks why Michel is so hung up on her, she knows hes been with other women since the last time they’ve been together. He tells her although he has indeed been with other women, each time was a bummer. And she asks, whats a bummer? I’m not 100% sure on this, but I believe this whole not knowing words meanings thing is to emphasize her American-ness. Or maybe she’s just dumb.

Ending scene

Written on the Wind

This film was really enjoyable. I was ridiculously tired on the particular Friday when we viewed this movie, but it was able to hold my interest and keep me awake. I would have to say the factor that stood out most in this movie was the acting. It was very over-the-top and melodramatic. Especially the acting of Dorothy Malone as Marylee Hadley. She made it feel like a soap opera that you watch on your couch on Sundays, but a lot more fun to watch!

Some of the first things I noticed in the beginning of the film, was the population sign that the camera focused on which read Hadley, Population: 24,684. The person driving the car (who turned out to be Kyle Hadley) was drinking and driving.  I also noticed that the word Hadley was all over the town. When the drunk guy walked in to his house, there were leaves blowing all around inside the house which I found strange, but I figured it was a reference to the title of the movie. The drunk man walks upstairs and passes out and his wife does not seem to appreciate it. Most of this scene is repeated later in the movie and at that point, it makes sense.

The next scene shows a female in an office and focuses on a magazine cover on which the date reads Oct 24, 1955. Hadley Oil Company. This seemed a little strange to me because I didn’t think oil companies had their own magazines. However, I figured this was just another reference to how important the term Hadley was. A man then enters the scene, who I would later find out is Mitch Wayne. The female is Lucy. They have a brief conversation, and it’s clear that Mitch is interested in Lucy. However, shortly after they begin talking, Kyle Hadley enters the room and steals Lucy away. They are then shown in a car, sitting in the backseat having a conversation while who I’m assuming is Mr. Hadley’s personal driver escorts them to their destination, which is unknown at the time. I noticed that the shots kept cutting from Medium Shots to Close Ups.  I believe they got closer up when Hadley was speaking, probably to signify his power and importance. Next, they are in a restaurant where Mitch joins them and they are all sipping champagne. The scene cuts to a black screen then instantly flashes back to them drinking champagne more, to show that they have been drinking for a while. The scenes cut a lot in this film.

Anyway, it is evident that Kyle Hadley is trying his hardest to woo Lucy by showing off how rich and powerful he is. Mitch truly likes Lucy though, and its sad to see her falling for Hadley’s tricks. Once again, they are in a car going to an unknown destination and the camera angles are changing constantly in the car ride.  Next thing we know, Hadley and Lucy are boarding a private jet. They ditched Mitch at the restaurant – Hadley told him to go buy some cigarettes and then got in the car without him. A very rude thing to do to your best friend, but at the time I had no idea that the relationship between the two men was anything other than professional. But Mitch knew where they were headed, and beat them to the private jet. Very funny. Shortly after this we learn that the two men have been friends since the first grade.  You can definitely get a sense of competition between the two men.

Anyway, things start moving rather fast from here. After only knowing her for such a brief period of time, Kyle Hadley takes Lucy to a room in Miami Beach full of fancy clothes and jewelry, explaining to her that everything belongs to her now. This made her uneasy, I suppose because she isn’t a “golddigger” and doesn’t want to seem like she is to Mitch, everyone else, and even herself. She was rather unimpressed by the riches Kyle was offering to her. In the morning, Kyle is shocked to find that Lucy is nowhere to be found. He goes to look for her at the airport, and finds her there where he proffesses his love for her and asks her to marry him. She accepts. She is taken aback, however, when she discovers a gun underneath Kyle’s pillow. Very dramatic music plays in the background. This makes her think that she doesn’t know her husband as well as she thought she did. After meeting Kyle’s dad, she learns that Kyle has a reputation of being a drunk. She approaches Kyle with her qualms, and he quits drinking and throws his pistol into the ocean to prove he can change for her.

I just realized I haven’t taken much time to elaborate on Marylee. The problem child. The wild one. The troublemaker. A promiscous girl, hellbent on making Mitch hers and ruining Lucy’s life in the process. She fails at both endeavors. She doesn’t fail however, at making her father go crazy. When she is brought home by the police one night  after being busted at a motel with the gas station attendant doing, well you know… it is the icing on the cake of troubles her father is experiencing. This obviously doesn’t phase her however, seeing as she retreats immediately back to her room and blasts music and dances around her room. While she does this, her father is walking up the stairs towards her room and the vibrations from her dancing and loud music cause her father to lose grip of the banister and send him tumbling down many stairs, killing him. This was a ridiculously dramatic scene, then again this whole movie is melodramatic. However, the importance behind this scene was that when Marylee’s father died Lucy and Mitch were the ones who noticed and took care of him. Marylee stayed in her room clueless, and Kyle was out getting drunk. Lucy and Kyle were both directly and indirectly the cause behind their father’s death. Mitch was closer to the Hadley’s father than the Hadleys were. He was living there for his whole life, his father sent him to live with them when he was very young. His father was a poor man, who spent his time hunting. The Hadleys were wealthy businesspeople.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdpQoez47yo

Back to the story – A year passes, and Kyle keeps his promises, staying sober and faithful. However, another problem in the relationship arises – it becomes evident that Kyle is incapable of having children. He is not infertile, but just has a weakness. Upon hearing this news, Kyle begins drinking again and changes completely. Marylee, his sister whom is in love with Mitch, plays the part of a conniving instigator and does all she can to convince Kyle that Lucy and Mitch are having an affair. Kyle believes this because Lucy is pregnant – and it is his child, since hes not infertile… his problem has obviously gone away. However, he has been avoiding the doctor and doesn’t know that his problem is gone.  Kyle hits Lucy however, and causes her to have a miscarriage, then comes home in a drunken state one night threatening to kill Mitch. He goes for the gun in the drawer in his father’s study, but is surprised to find it is not there. Mitch had hidden it earlier, thankfully. After some prying however, Kyle discovers the gun and he fumbles around with it, meaning to shoot Mitch, but ends up shooting and killing himself. Marylee, being the bitch that she is, threatens to tell the cops that Mitch shot Kyle. She says, if he doesn’t marry her, she will say he  killed Kyle. She wasn’t lying. She begins to tell the judge and jury this in court when Mitch is put on trial. Eventually, she comes around and tells the truth though. The movie ends with Mitch and Lucy driving away from the Hadley estate, symbolizing the end of a chapter in their lives, and emphasizing that Marylee is really alone now.

This film definitely held my attention. In fact, I liked it so much that I watched it at home a few times (the whole thing is on youtube!). I did like the style of the filming, and the vibrant colors made it unlike any movie we’ve seen in class before. Although the movie was very entertaining, I wouldn’t classify it as a good movie. Its one of those guilty pleasure types of movies. Definitely worth watching.

 

*The reason this is a review of an older film posted late is because it was a draft I had in here and forgot to publish.

Extra Credit 2

Black Girl End Scene

This short film that we viewed recently in class was rather touching. The actors all had a strong presence, especially the lead, Diouanna. However, the scene I chose to analyze is the end scene, which she is not in. Well, at least not literally.

I would actually like to go about this analysis post somewhat in the format of the Gaze assignment. But before I get into that, I suppose some background information on the film would help paint the picture. Basically, Diouanna is a young Senegalese woman who is a nanny for a white family – mother, father, son. She lives in Senegal with her family while she works as a nanny. When the family relocates to France, they invite Diouanna to come with them and be their live-in nanny. She imagines a life in France will be a glamorous one and agrees to do it. However, when she gets to France, it isn’t long until she realizes her expectations surely did not match her reality. She is treated worse and worse everyday, forced to work harder, and gets excuses instead of payments. The wife is especially rude to her. Diouanna isn’t allowed to wear dresses while she works according to the wife. After the husband and wife write a fake letter to Diouanna from her mother,  she decides that she has had it and she is leaving. She begins to pack everything, including a mask she had given to mother in the family as a gift a long time ago, when she might have deserved it. When the parents get home that day, they notice the house is still a mess and no one is watching their son. When they look for Diouanna, they find her sleeping and the wife wakes her and yells at her. Shortly after, the wife notices the mask is missing off the wall and she finds it in Diouanna’s room and they fight over it. The wife is really a petty b*tch (for lack of a better word, sorry!) in this film, man I hate her. Eventually Diouanna wins the battle for the mask. She continues packing her things and I assumed she would travel back to Senegal, but instead she commits suicide in the bathroom of the family’s house. Very sad.

Anyway, the husband shockingly has enough respect to travel back to Senegal to return Diouanna’s belongings to her family, including the mask. Diouanna’s little brother takes a liking to the mask and holds it to his face as soon as he recieves it. He follows the husband on his way back to the airport staring at him through the mask. The husband is so very intimidated and genuinely freaked out by the young boy in the mask, who isn’t even doing anything. He doesn’t yell at the kid to go away or anything, either. He just picks up his pace and tries to escape him.

Personally, I believe the mask represents Diouanna’s spirit and ghost. It is haunting the husband because he treated her badly, and allowed his wife to treat her even worse. He cannot escape the memory and the ghost of Diouanna, no matter how hard he tries. This is why he doesn’t tell the boy to go away. He knows its not the boy haunting him, and he knows he can’t get rid of it. The film ends with the boy slowly lowering the mask off his face to reveal a facial expression that’s rather melancholy, and maybe even a bit evil, while the husband drives away in the distance. The boy is clearly is upset over the loss of his sister, and who could blame him? I’m personally glad he was able to remind the husband of how terrible he has been and how he will have to live with the grief and guilt for taking away a young woman’s life who was nothing but kind and faithful to him and his family.

Other people thought the mask represented something else, but I’m almost positive the mask represents Diouanna herself. Throughout the end scene, the camera is either focused on the mask itself, or the view from behind the mask.

 

Extra Credit

Written On The Wind Scene

For this particular analysis, I have chosen to use a clip from the melodramatic film Written On The Wind, directed by Douglas Sirk and released in 1956. This film was revolutionary during its time because it was released in a time when Hollywood was just starting to use color in its films, and the colors in this specific film are rather vibrant compared to other films released prior. In addition, the sound technology had also recently improved when this film was released, so it’s quality was really exceeding that of films released a few years prior. Douglas Sirk’s films usually fell in the melodrama genre, and this one is no different. Although at the time, many films were being made independently and not in studios, this particular film was made in a studio. In 1950, Douglas Sirk signed a contract with Universal Studios.

This specific scene I’ve chosen to analyze is an important one in the film because it has an underlying meaning beneath the ridiculous amount of drama involved in it. The scene begins with Marylee Hadley, daughter of Jasper Hadley and sister of Kyle Hadley, dancing in her room and playing music. Marylee is a promiscuous young lady who is always getting in trouble, or better yet, always getting someone else in trouble. At this point in the film, she had just returned home after being taken home by the cops for performing sexual acts with a man in a car who she just picked up at a gas station. She nearly gave her father a heart attack with that stunt, but obviously that didn’t phase her, as she was right back into her room smiling and dancing. When Marylee begins her dancing, her father is downstairs in his office conversing with Mitch Wayne, best friend of Kyle Hadley and object of Marylee’s desire, though her love for him is unrequited. Jasper, Marylee’s father, leaves his conversation with Mitch and begins to walk up the grand staircase towards his daughter’s bedroom. He is gripping the banister as he walks up the stairs, and the banister is vibrating quite rapidly, due to the motion made my Marylee’s quick-paced dancing and the loud playing of her music. This causes Jasper to lose his grip on the banister, and being weak and old, especially weak at the moment, and he falls and tumbles down each step, and there are many! Throughout this all, Marylee is playing her music loud as ever and laughing and dancing. Meanwhile, downstairs Mitch and Lucy (sister in law to Marylee, daughter in law to Jasper, wife of Kyle, object of Mitch’s affection thus making Marylee an enemy) have discovered that Jasper is no longer breathing – the tumble down the stairs cost him his life. The way Mitch rushes over to Jasper and the look of sheer horror on Lucy’s face show that they truly care about this man, whereas his own daughter is upstairs dancing away, not knowing that she has both indirectly and directly killed her father, and Kyle Hadley is nowhere to be found because hes off getting drunk somewhere. Although it is awfully melodramatic that the vibration of the banister cause Jasper to lose his balance and slip, fall, and ultimately die – it has an underlying meaning, like I stated before. The stress his own kids bestow upon him cause him too much grief for him to go on, he simply cannot take it (as melodramatic as that may seem as well) yet his daughter-in-law and his son’s best friend are ever so caring for him and hold him down , showing that unlike Kyle and Marylee Hadley, they have good intentions and true, good hearts. This in turn proves that Lucy and Mitch should have been the ones together in the first place, just as Mitch wanted, and what Lucy probably originally wanted.

This particular scene was short and the individual shots weren’t much to analyze, but the underlying meaning was definitely something to be recognized by the viewers which is why I chose to elaborate on that instead.

 

 

 

 

Analysis #2

I’ve chosen to do my second analysis assignment on the materiality of film. The example I’m using is a clip from the French New-Wave era movie Breathless, one of my personal favorite  films that we’ve viewed in class. The specific clip I’ve chosen uses jump cuts quite frequently.

Breathless Scene

The scene starts out with Michel and Patricia driving around. The camera is focused on Patricia for this whole part of the scene. This whole section is jump cut after jump cut. This form of editing makes it seem as if there is a significant time difference between the scenes, but in reality is it a steady continuation, only the camera angle has shifted. You can tell because the dialogue stays consistent without missing a beat. During this scene, Michel is listing the things he adores about Patricia, but he ends by calling her a coward. While he lists his favorite things about Patricia, she is just observing her surroundings, and ignoring Michel’s comments. I believe this is significant because during all these jump cuts, Patricia’s lack of interest in Michel’s words, and her sudden interest in her surroundings stays constant. The camera doesn’t leave its view of Patricia until Michel pulls up to the place where he is dropping her off to meet her boss for a meeting, and even then it only focuses on Michel for a moment. Apparently Patricia’s ignoring Michel in the car ride offended him because as she leaves his car to meet her boss, he tells her she’s a louse and he never wants to see her again. (He, of course, goes on to see her for the rest of the movie). As soon as Patricia is in the building, the camera is back to focusing directly on her. While she rides up the escalator, the camera follows her from overhead. This makes it seem like more of  a documentary, or just a rather personal, homemade movie. I really like this technique. During Patricia’s conversation with her boss, the camera is shaky, and it goes back to jump cuts, this time between Patricia and her boss, while he tells a story. It seems like there’s a time difference between each shot once again, but it is continuous shots. The jump cuts and shaky camera here give it a personal feel, and make it feel like an amateur movie or a home movie or documentary. I believe the filmmaker used the jump cuts and over head view and shaky camera to show us the film from the eye of a close-by bystander to all that is going on. At certain points it feels like the person in focus is being stalked, with the way the camera angles are used. When Patricia is leaving the restaurant with her boss, the camera follows her from the back, and makes it seem like shes being spied on, so at first I thought we were seeing it from Michel’s point of view, but then the camera cuts to Michel who is clearly annoyed, then back to Patricia and her boss walking hurriedly to her boss’ car, then back to Michel, buying a newspaper, who then turns around and sees Patricia and her boss kissing. It isn’t until this part of the scene that the background music starts. At first it as a normal speed, but while they are kissing the music speeds up, as if it were signifying something scandalous (it is !) and the camera does another jump cut, and shows them kissing from different angles. Once again, this type of filmmaking makes it look as if the people in focus are being stalked. I’m not sure if that was what the filmmaker going for, but thats the concept I get from my viewing.

After the camera cuts back and forth between Patricia and Michel, it shows Patricia and her boss driving away in her boss’ car, first at an eye-level view showing the streets, then cutting to an overhead view once again. The screen fades to black and the music dies out, then after a couple of seconds, the music starts back up again at the same pace it originally began with, and the camera view is now a mid-level view, showing us the Eiffel Tower, from the view of what seems to be a moving car. This view gives the film that personal feeling again. The Eiffel Tower gets lost behind some trees, and then we are back to viewing Patricia, who is hopping off a trolley and skipping about. The scenes shown here cut from Patricia running off the trolley, to her skipping across a street, to her looking at herself in a mirror in a store window, holding her stomach as if she was pregnant, then sucking her stomach in to make herself look thinner. Again we have jump cuts, showing Patricia viewing herself in the mirror at different angles. Once again, we have that outsider’s close-up point of view.

Throughout this whole scene, the filmmaker used techniques that were very new to movies in France. This film was made by Jean-Luc Godard, a major influence and revolutionary during the 1960’s New Wave era. The way the movie sometimes appear to be filmed with a handheld camera, as if it were a home movie or documentary is probably because New Wave era films were low-budget and the lack of funding for the films was definitely reflected in the films. In addition, Jean-Luc Goddard stated himself in an interview in the acclaimed French journal Cahiers Du Cinema, 

“The nouvelle vague, in fact, may be defined in part
by this new relationship between fiction and reality,
as well as through nostalgic regret for a cinema
which no longer exist"

I can definitely see the relationship between fiction and reality in this film. The movie of course, is a fictional story, but the way it is shot certainly makes it seem like a real life account, or a documentary at times. This New Wave type of filmmaking was experimental, and political in the sense that it focused on interpretation of the film-making style rather than the plot of the film. Throughout the whole film, not just the clip, is the audience focused on the techniques used to create the film, more than the plot, thus being  “less prone to manipulation”. The journal Cahiers Du Cinema, which Godard wrote for, suggested that directors were not just crew members, but artists with their own personal vision and style. This is definitely a good description for Godard. This particular scene definitely had a sense of Godard’s specific style of film-making and personal vision. It showed all of the unconventional different camera views and angles he used to make a statement against conventional film-making in his time. This film was made during the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, and the revolutionary filmmakers of the time such as Godard felt that cinema could be used as “a tool for the revolution”, which brings the political aspect into play, the political aspect being that the film was less a “gangster film” than a “metacommentary on [gangster films]”, the film didn’t stick to the usual guidelines for films being made at the time, breaking tradition, and the audience needed to see through his point of view to understand where he was coming from. I believe Godard did a fine job of capturing the audience’s attention with his techniques such as jump cuts, overhead views, handheld camera capturing, and he certainly made the audience focus more on the filmic process rather than the plot. This film definitely broke tradition in its recording style. I found it to be brilliant, as well as Godard’s style in particular.

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