Movies : an in between modernity mess

There’s a funny dissonance I love to feel in movies : it’s when the modernity of a scenario, of dialogs, of directing is seen into what seems an “old form”.

It’s obvious – and very disturbing – when you watch Seven Samurai (1954) or Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). The sound is old, and it’s black and white vintage, but everything sweats modernity.

It’s as if it was “not OK”, not fitting, and one wonders how the audience could watch that at the time. You feel this with all Welles movies, but also Fellini’s.

But in the beginning of the sixties, you find movies which are between two worlds : Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962), Huston’s Night of the Iguana (1964), Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), but also Lilith (1964) or Breathless (1960), Suddenly Last Summer (1959), The Misfits (1961), L’Eclisse (1962)…

All of them are black and white movies, and you begin to watch them accordingly (“Oh a good vintage classic movie!”). And you are FLOORED by the complexity or modernity of these…

Well, this article is about this “in between” mess. The structure seems to be : “looks like an old form, but modernity explodes into it”.

Where do you find that? In literature? Photography? Poetry?

What if you searched, out of Netflix, “Best films of the Sixties”, and watch them all, just for the pleasure of discovering forms, authors, resonances, happiness? Out of the flow…

Have a nice day!

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Movies, Previews, Surprises

When you’re a movie lover, you know that good movie directors hate the “tests” producers organize with films.

They show the movie privately, in a theater, then the audience has to answer questionnaires.

According to the results, then they cut and alter the movie. That’s horrible, right?

It’s pretty rare that the director has the “Final Cut”…

But this week I’ve been a little surprised by this :

Sydney Pollack, in the bonuses of “The Way We Were”, explains that the movie had a problem after he made a preview. The balance is always hard to find, but here he says that it was a failure. Thus he simply cut a few scenes, like with an axe, and showed it to another room the day after. Big success.

I supposed that if he did this, it’s because he “felt” there was a problem – which came here from the balance between the love story and the political story.

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Then I read, in Walter Murch‘s book “In the blink of an eye” (he’s a great film editor – Apocalypse Now), that he was not against film preveiws. I was VERY surprised, but he explains that one should not ask the audience anything after the preview, but day(s) after, in interviews (IRL or phone).

Here’s my tool :

When you have a bold, decided opinion about something “one SHOULD NOT do, ever”, it can be interesting (or at least a game for the mind) to hear people you respect having another opinion. If you listen, you’ll discover subtleties, knacks, and delicious exceptions. After all, there’s one risk : you could expand your knowledge, or at least add a facet to it…

Hmmm, what’s the next step?

Thanks for reading!

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Widescreen Black & White Movies

I don’t use Facebook to follow my cousin who had a great barbecue yesterday. I follow groups where people are fun or inspiring.

In a group about movies today I found a great question :

“Widescreen Black & White Movies?”

For a cinema lover it means something, because black & white movies are NOT widescreen. Silent movies and anything before 1940s are black and white and Cinemascope began in the 1950s.

Let’s make is simple : old movies are in 1.33 format, 4/3, the shape of old TVs.

We could study… recent films shot in 4/3, like on this page : https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/lists/10-great-modern-films-shot-43-academy-ratio – like :

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But I chose the other option for my article, Widescreen Movies (the modern format) shot in black & white.

This means something. The format is modern but the director chose “no color”. It’s often absolutely gorgeous – I don’t really know why.

What did we find?

Hud, Manhattan, Lola, Jules & Jim, La Dolce Vita, The Innocents, The Hidden Fortress, Andrei Rublev, L’Avventura

You can Google it to find pages like : http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2015/20-black-and-white-films-with-the-most-beautiful-widescreen-composition/

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Well, it’s a funny interesting way to explore cinema with your lover.

The structure/pattern here is cool :

Where else do we find this mix : something new (widescreen) with something old (black & white)? What does it bring?

Thanks for reading!

 

 

“Remarkable Pivots” : What can a place do in a movie?

I found a book about this subject and you know me and my habit to read the table of contents…

What can a place do in a movie?

Yes, it’s a decor, a setting, a scenery. And also :

  1. A space to travel in.
  2. A welcome cell.
  3. A remarkable pivot.
  4. A refuge.
  5. A worksite.
  6. An unshakeable fortification.
  7. A temple. A forest. A waste ground.
  8. An aseptic abode.
  9. Underground…

A combination of many of them?

Voilà. My Structure/Tool here is this :

Take any subject : photography, poetry, blogging, teaching, marketing.

List elements. In a movie : story, actors, scenery, light, sound, music.

Select one element and focus on it, then extend. Give it a much bigger importance. The best importance. What do you find? What does it give and bring?

Teaching? Focus on the tables in your classroom. Poet? What paper will you use?

Have fun! I’m now digging in the history of cinema to find movies where the scenery is the star or a house a character….

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Organic Storytelling?

Interviews between two movie directors are the best. It gets higher and it’s more interesting and complex, of course : pros are talking.

There’s an interview of Jeff Nichols (Shelter, Mud) by Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, The Age of Innocence), where they explain that they are both criticized because their movies “lack of intrigue”. In a way, like in the movies of the 70s, a more mature era…

It’s true that most movies are strongly driven by a scenario. Everything is well explained and you feel you hand held by the makers, who WANT you to think this and that, adding music where you have to cry, etc…

Nichols and Scorsese both use the same language : the narrative energy must be there of course, but it’s obtained by asking questions and answering them along the scenes, by the editing, the light, events, and their order. The movie moves forward without constantly telling you IT-IS-A-STORY. Nope : there are characters, and events (like in real life, right?) and hidden structures – of course.

The audience doesn’t “feel the author”. Their intelligence is active, and it can blossom in many ways. It gives a rhythm, a more organic one, a more unique way of unfolding the movie.

 

In French, we call Organic Farming : “L’agriculture Bio” – from biological.

The word “Organic” is interesting. It means :

  1. Without chemical (for food)
  2. Living organisms
  3. Unified (an organic whole)
  4. Flowing, natural (an organic development)

 

 

Therefore it’s a structure I love. We could call “Organic Storytelling”, in a movie, in an article, a book, a novel, a way of making things grow and evolve without the chemical (but effective, too) processes of tricks and pushes and manipulation.

 

There’s a good example in sex and pleasure : every evolved adult knows that if you can bring and orgasm to your partner (man or woman) in many ways, you can separate these two paths :

  1. In the appropriate moment, stimulations and proper movements brings your lover a good orgasm. It’s as if you were pulling a bucket of pleasure with a string, from the top of the well…
  2. And there’s this other way, where you partner gets so aroused that he/she becomes a sphere of electricity : anything can bring her/him to explosion. It’s as if the bucket of pleasure were levitating up in the well, delicately guided by you and your string, from the top of the well…

What’s the best?

 

 

Intention of effect kills effect, says the wise man, and I agree with the wise man.

With this “organic building” structure, what would be photography, painting, poetry, blogging, teaching? Do your audience really need to know what you want them to feel? Is it a good question? Hmmm need a conversation, I know…

Vocabulary as seeds : what is control here? What are propositions?

 

Thanks for reading!

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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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04

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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