Sense of Space in the movies

I read an interview of Brian de Palma, in a magazine, a special issue about crime/thriller movies.

De Palma explains that he loves to film crimes, mainly for two reasons :

  1. Each crime has a witness, and he’s interested in the process of showing a witness.
  2. It a great game of directing possibilities, building suspense or having fun with image storytelling.

In a way, it’s already the subject of an article : here, he’s not really interested in the bad guy’s mind or motivations. And the victim(s) : not really either…

Then he tells us about the stairs scene in The Untouchables. Something like : “Someone will get killed in a station, let’s have fun with a complex suspense scene with the big stairs, adding other people and a baby carriage”. De Palma tells that it’s complicated, with many people and points of views involved, therefore he had to “explain” the scene, the space, the stage, very carefully… to the audience.

And it was a funny way to play with the iconic carriage/stairs scene of Eisenstein’s Potemkine!

 

I have three names in my mind when we talk about the sense of space in the movies : John McTiernan (Die Hard), Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai) and Brian de Palma. They take care of us, spacely talking. It can be with a map, a way of moving the camera, light, but also the way people look at each other (the house in the forest, in the 13th warrior, is a great example).

When you’re aware of that, you have one more criterion in your toolbox when you judge a scene. For example, in the end of Alien 3, we don’t understand the alien trap at the end, it’s confusing.

Do you have other directors in mind? And in other areas, like photography or teaching, in museology or music, what would be the “sense of space”, the “I take care of the audience, I want people to have a map in head before and during action”?

 

The tool I extract here is :

If De Palma likes crime not for the crime but for the images possibilities it gives him…

If I often like Art “not mainly” for beauty, for the paintings, for the photographs or for the poems, but for the words the artist says about them…

In other fields, what could it be?

When you love something not for the “normal” reason, but for the “à côtés”, the side issues, the interesting words besides, the…

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Logan, X-Men, Avengers & Levers

I love movies, I love De Palma & Kazan, I love Welles & Bergman, and I love these US Big Machines with Jedis and Superheroes too!

Yesterday I watched Logan, a Wolverine movie, and I was amazed by its… tone.

First, it’s been directed by James Mangold, who made the hilarious and perfect Knight & Day, the great Walk the Line, the stressful Identity, and more : this little jewel of Copland.

Good, very good director.

Logan is a surprise for Mainstream X-Men like movies lovers : it’s dark, complex, much more violent, risky, and full of great ideas.

It’s not as easy as “I broke the toys”, though Charles Xavier is old and Alzheimerized, though Logan is not “repairing himself” that much.

That movie sweats intelligence in every scene. The diner is perfectly played. The horses scene is delicate. The casting is marvelous (the albino, the little mutant girl).

 

It brings me to this pattern :

When you have big success with mainstream big things, like Star Wars, Avengers, how do you move forward?

 

One good thing is to pull out big show-offers and smart pants makers to entrust these big projects to… good directors, who made personal intelligent things before.

  • Give Logan to the man who made Cop Land.
  • Give Rogue One to Gareth Edwards who directed Monsters.
  • Give The Last Jedi to the man who directed Looper.

 

But one can see something happening : Levers Choice.

Marvel tried these :

  1. Reboot the thing, like they did twice with Spiderman. And why not?
  2. Get bigger. From Iron Man to the last Avengers with dozens of heroes…
  3. Butter up idiots & geeks with vulgarity and puns : Dead Pool (it worked!).
  4. Drive to complexity, more adult themes & concerns : Logan.

 

Well : it’ll be interesting to follow…

Thanks for reading!

 

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Jazz your creativity (the cinematographer’s example)

I’m watching a GREAT documentary about cinematographers, named “Cinematographer Style” (it’s there : https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0847474/ and it’s 7.1 on IMDB, which is not bad at all if you know what it means).

110 of the world’s top cinematographers discuss the art of how and why films look the way they do.

What impresses me is that the director trusted the WORDS of these cinematographers (yes, directors of photography, the guys responsible of the image in movie making) so much that he never shows extracts of movies. You just have these geniuses talking about what they do.

And they’re clever, they’re smart, they’re THINKERS!

Something emerges of this :

There’s a dance between :

  1. They are skilled and they have ideas and a vision and they exactly know what to do.
  2. They adapt, they watch “the moment”, what the city gives, what the actors give, what the sun or the clouds give. They are opened and they dance with the necessities and what happens.

I also love these guys because they lecture us the splendidest way, and they’re always dancing with two sides of reality :

  1. They are artists but they are technicians
  2. They use natural light and artificial light
  3. They have a strong personality but they have to follow the director
  4. Thinkers but practical

Well, that’s all. Watch it if you find it and have fun : apply their words to your field. Learn from them. And if you’re interested, watch the films they worked on!

It made me happy, because they are generous thinkers…

Thanks for reading!

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Exploration of explorers’ works. Let’s Robert Altman & Werner Herzog, for a while

“There’s hope but not for us”, said Kafka. I don’t know why I think about this when I think about Robert Altman (in fact, I exactly know why…).

Cut prices time, I just bought an American big book about Altman (the director or M.A.S.H.) :

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I remember being amazed by the choral qualities of the splendid Nashville or the toxic Short Cuts (weaved from R. Carver’s short stories), being bored (but couldn’t stop watching) with The Long Goodbye, the modernity of Three Girls, the sound of McCabe (and the snow), laughing with MASH, the cruelty of The Player or Prêt-à-Porter.

I also remember that I ALWAYS loved reading about him and his work. You can not label him. He explores.

Googling “Best Robert Altman movies” leads to good pages. Article or comments give elements :

  • Let’s face it. You either “get” Altman or you don’t.
  • Pretentious asshole who’s work was so far removed from the wrapping of “genius” that his siciphants and fans labelled.
  • It’s hard to rate Altman’s films because you need such different criteria for each of his films to be fair.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson has frequently testified to Altman’s influence on his work.

 

https://www.indiewire.com/2014/10/robert-altmans-top-15-films-190632/

https://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/ten-must-see-robert-altman-films/

Yes, there’s a hopelessness in Altman, and Nashville is an American one…

 

Well also I watched Burden of Dreams, about Werner Herzog‘s movie Fitzcarraldo. I was amazed by the will of this man (on the left photo). His gaze. His German strength. A crazy will, a gorgeous, beautiful willpower.

Thus I’m downloading all his best documentaries. Here are some on IMDB :

https://www.imdb.com/list/ls066303643/

 

(I won’t go in the jungle, but I’m interested in this guy’s obsession – astronomer/astronaut, remember?)

 

Exploration of explorers’ works. This will be an interesting summer…

 

 

Have a nice day!

 

 

There’s ALWAYS hope
it’ll never end
when it’s worth it, right?
It’s all about willpower.

A vanished searching energy?

As you know, I’m watching documentaries about movies.

I’m finishing a good one turning around Hitchcock & Truffaut (the French director interviewed the old master for days, and made a book of it).

It became like a Bible for many directors we see in the doc, like Fincher or James Gray.

I came to a place where people like Martin Scorcese and Paul Schrader (who wrote plenty of good films, see : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Schrader ) talk about Hitchcock’s movie : Vertigo – which is a masterpiece!

In the seventies, before VHS tapes or DVDs or the Internet, there was a time when it was virtually impossible to watch the film.

Then they talk about the greed, the big hunger it triggered in movie lovers’ heads. This movie was a myth, something like an invisible treasure…

Nowadays, everything about culture is everywhere. A movie? You can buy it, rent it, stream it, watch docs, read online. It’s a great era for thinkers and explorers.

Therefore, people lost “this” hunger.

I talk with “movies lovers” kids, but most of them don’t know about the old masters.

I personally (I think) managed to keep this hunger. Sometimes I want to push the younglies : listen to Stravinsky, watch Bergman, read Faulkner! Well, nope.

The questions become :

Should we transmit this cultural hunger to new generations who don’t care? How? How come curiosity almost died as soon as everything is online, from University articles to YouTube videos? In a way, that’s what I do here : trying to trigger a few grams of curiosity. Does it work?

PS : Maybe the hunger is living elsewhere. Video games for example. And it works pretty well with smart marketing : Beats headphones as a good example (an average became THE thing people wanted to buy because…).

Thanks for reading!

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Best Documentaries about Cinema, Actors and Film Making

I can’t wait to watch the HBO Documentary about S. Spielberg. This impatience made me thought about great other documentaries about cinema I watched before.

Here a some you could stream one day. I know them, they’re GOOD :

  • Stanley Kubrick, A Life in Picture (awesome)
  • Hearts of Darkness : A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991) (flabbergasting)
  • The Kid Stays in the Picture (about a Paramount producer)
  • Listen to me Marlon (built around the voice of Marlon Brando)
  • The Cutting Edge – The Magic of Movie Editing (I ADORED this one)
  • Cameraman : The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff
  • Fellini : I’m a big liar
  • Dangerous Days : Making Blade Runner (very, very good)
  • A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
  • Room 237 (really fascinating theories about The Shining)
  • The Beast Within : The Making of ‘Alien’

I googled to find more docs with good notes (or on “every” list), I will check soon :

  • Side by Side (digital or not?)
  • Visions of Light (about Photography in movies)
  • Directed by John Ford
  • American Masters Episode: Woody Allen (Sydney Lumet, too, I think)
  • Burden of Dreams (Herzog & Kinski in the forest)
  • Final Cut: The Making of Heaven’s Gate and the Unmaking of a Studio
  • Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
  • No Subtitles Necessary : Laszlo & Vilmos
  • Billy Wilder : confessions
  • Jodorowsky’s Dune
  • Lost in La Mancha
  • That Moment : Magnolia Diary
  • Cinematographer Style
  • The Godfather Family : A Look Inside
  • Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau

 

Have fun!

JP

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Where to apply modernity?

Reading my Jeff Wall book I found this little paragraph about certain movie directors who were modern (and even avant-gardist) BUT in a tradictionnal form.

Fellini, Bergman, Rohmer, Bunuel, Eustache or Fassbinder, making movies with this idea :

Putting modernity pressure not on the form itself, but elsewhere, on elements of the classic form.

Each example is very clear, when opposed to Jean-Luc Godard, who killed, enstranged, deformed, distorded, dented the classical forms of movies : experiences on the sound, narration, superposition, edition.

“Rule Breaking Films” (you can YouTube this) are interesting ALSO to find out (and list and sort) where modernity has been applied.

Kaleidocopic (Persona), surreal/casual (8 1/2), jazzyist jumcuts (A bout de Souffle), no sets (Dogville), refusing artificial dramas (Patterson), watching the camera (Pierrot le Fou, Monica, Do the right Thing) : you’ll find your own examples with Google.

 

Anyway, what’s interesting me here is this tool :

Apply modernity, break some rules, push avant-garde elements. OK, but what if on some places only, letting the rest totatlly “normal”?

Where? Poetry? Photography? What’s your field? How will you choose your “element”?

 

Thanks for reading!

JP

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