Cinema Studies Diaries

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The first and greatest documentary about Holocaust

The 30 minutes documentary, is in these videos above, so anyone can (and shall) watch it.

Nuit et Brouillard.
A documentary directed by Alain Renais, only 10 years after the end of World War II.
Everything in this movie embarrasses and pleases me. Embarrasses as a human, pleases as a cinema student. The classical music, the green fields, the constant ironies, the calm voice “story teller” of the victim/narrator, the images of bodies that become images of corpses, that become unrecognizable parts of human remains. The picture of pain, that although laconic, leaves the spectator with a long and acute sensation of agony.

I felt guilty like all must feel, not because I was there, not because I was directly responsible for something… I wasn’t even alive.
I feel myself guilty for thinking similarly to many others: At least is over.

But it is not over and it will never finish. While movies like this allow the holocaust to keeps a living creature in our memories, the pain of all who have suffered will continue to be felt and the evilness of the guilty ones will never be forgotten.

The final phrases: “Who’s fault is this? Who’s fault is this? We are all to blame...”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hitchcock Revisited

This past weekend I decided to revisit some Hitchcock movies. Vertigo is not one of my favourites, but from all the screenings I watched, this was the scene that impressed me most in terms of cinema studies.
Almost in the beginning, there is this sequence when the character of James Stewart follows Kim Novak to a museum and observes her watching a painting of woman that her husband believes is (espiritual) haunting her. The scene starts with a large, fix plan, where we can see the character of James Stewart entering in the museum. We are following his point of view, or at least the camera is pointed so the viewer can see what is happening in his perspective. A lot of attention is given to the shadows and the lights… And before the camera shows us what is important in that room, we can have a total perspective of the set.
When the detective discovers the women he is following, the camera slides between plans:
Stewart’s face - Novak’s back of the head - The flowers in the chair – The flowers in the painting.
A close up to the flowers takes any doubt that they are the same ones in the chair, and then the camera cuts again to Stewart’s face, and his expression is all that the viewer needs to know that he is about to fall in the trap. Through his point of view, the camera does a close up to Novak’s hair, and then again slides to the hair of the woman in the painting.
James Stewart gets out of the museum, confused with the things he saw, and Novak stays in the same place, observing the painting of Carlota, like if herself is a part of the exhibition. There are a lot of mise-en-scene elements that can be talked in this scene, but I think the most important (not only in this sequence but in all movie) are the flowers. Every time flowers are shown: natural flowers, bouquets, curtains with flowers, flowers in paintings, etc… They have a meaning... They represent the lies and manipulation, like in this scene, where a theatre part is set up to make Stewart believes that what his friend said is the true.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years.

Can we analyse this video in a perspective of "Time and Memory"?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Driving Lessons

I just saw this movie and I loved it! Here is the trailer and the synopsis.

"We first meet Ben (RUPERT GRINT), a shy, bookish 17-year- old, as he begins a very unpromising summer vacation. While the other kids are out having fun, Ben spends these precious few weeks attending bible classes, having driving lessons with his overbearing and overly religious mother (Laura Linney) and helping out at a local old people's home. It’s certainly not his ideal summer but, with a demanding, vigilant mother and a passive vicar for a father, Ben is anything but in control of his own destiny.
Ben's absurdly straitlaced world is turned upside down when he gets a job assisting Evie (JULIE WALTERS)
, an eccentric retired actress. Vulgar, dignified and childish all at once, Evie enters Ben's life with a cataclysmic force. Suddenly caught between two worlds, Ben starts to gravitate towards his employer's unconventional and often bizarre ways, even though it continually gets him into trouble with his mother.
Evie drafts Ben as her partner in a series of adventures, culminating in a camping trip that turns into a road trip when she cajoles unlicensed Ben into driving her to the Edinburgh Festival. Ben reluctantly ignores his conservative instincts and jumps behind the wheel.
What follows is a journey in which Ben and Evie help each other move forward in their radically different lives, as Ben is forced to confront how he was brought up and who he wants to be."
Some characters of Driving Lesson can be very cynical, but this is a really honest movie. Through every thing that happens in Ben’s life since he meets Evie, we can see how people can live a life of blindness. This strange relation they develop is so pure and even better in a viewer perspective because of poetry (literally) that connects them. On the other hand, we can see a typical british family, and the hypocrisy that sometimes a life devoted to church can bring to a house.
This movie has all the characteristics of an independent movie: not a really fantastic story, but a story told in a fantastic way. Great supporting characters and an end, that is not happy, but it causes you a smile in the face. Simple, but good.
To finalise, I’d like to stand my favourite scene, the one that shows all the essence of the movie. When Ben and Evie start to perform Shakespeare plays in the garden, we can observe the transformation in the teenager behaviour, by the way he allowed himself to be authentic by the first time in his life. This sequence, which plays with Shakespeare’s dialogues through images, has a large combination of camera perspectives and a very original editing. It ends with the two of them, lying on the floor laughing, like if only through the poetry and drama, they can achieve true happiness.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sans Soleil, Sans Magique

I saw Sans Soleil today, a documentary from the director Chris Marker. The movie is a meditation about memory and shows images from countries like Japan and Guinea, while a woman reads a letter supposedly sent by a cameraman to her. I didn’t like the movie, but I have to admit that I did enjoy some parts. Although I don't agree with some things that are said, the text is very beautiful and results very well with the images. I liked all the references to animals, "each year death takes a panda as dragons do young girls in fairy tales", and I appreciate very much the commentaries and images on Hitchcock's Vertigo.

In a global evaluation I didn't liked the movie mainly because of the editing. I didn't like the long cuts and the black raccord, neither the close-ups of really violent images coming from nowhere. I believe that most of them are random and pointless.
This need from the director to shock the viewers, takes me to my main point about this movie. Although the theme is the memory and the human nature, I believe the plot has a very strong politic message. I don't mind that movies work as political propaganda, but I require that they are clear about it. My father fought in the colonial war in Guinea, and like many others, he was forced to be there. What the movie says about portuguese soldiers, and the sequence of images that connects the war in Guinea to the heartless killing of animals, just upset me very much.

You can read the film narration in english in here.

PS- I saw the movie with english narration, when the original is french. Focusing on Julia Kristeva's ideas about translation, I think the movie looses a lot. You don't need to go further the title to understand this: Sans Soleil sounds much more appropriate that Sunless...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Of Time and the City

Last Thursday I saw the documentary Of Time and the City from the director Terrence Davies. The movie shows images of old and new Liverpool while the director tells stories of his growing up in that context. For me the movie was like a movie-concert. His strong, enigmatic voice, combined with the excellent soundtrack, works like a melody…. What happened to me in this movie was a rare phenomenon that only exists when the movies have a strong poetic message in the text or in the images… I just started to fly into my conscious… I was there, but at the same time I was in many different places… Like Terrence Davies, I visited places of my childhood, I remembered my nights out with my friends and the most important thing: trough the images of children and elders I met with the people I love…
This phenomenon can be understood as a barrier to a total perception of the movie, but in my perspective: it were the “flying away moments” that made the movie such a good experience to me… That’s why I liked it so much…

Question of the day:

Most of the images used in Of Time and the City are archive footages. Understanding that the shooting is a very important part of a director’s vision; can movies like this be catalogue as a different type of documentary?