Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Breathless - Kate's Perspective

Err, yeah. What he said.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jean-luc Godard's Breathless -- Jimmy's Perspective

As a film student and a lover of cinema I'm always on the search for opportunities to study films that are considered part of the “canon.” Normally, when I watch these films, I'm not disappointed or if I don't find the entertainment value of them, I learn to appreciate what it was the films accomplished. In the case of Breathless, this just was not possible. I sat down with my popcorn in one hand and remote in the other, eager to see an amazing piece of cinema. As I watched the shaky camera and the jump cuts that the film was so famous for, I remained unimpressed. Godard was known for his almost anti-cinema stance in that he wanted to break the developing conventions that were gathering and choking artistic expression through film. A noble cause indeed, but breaking the rules simply because they are there doesn't necessarily make good cinema. Innovation may come from defiance but defiance doesn't always produce innovation.

Granted, Godard was working within the times of Cinema Verite and it was the style, but if he found it necessary to continually cut up the action (and I use “action” loosely) couldn't he have found it in his heart to violate the style of that movement as well? A question for the ages. While the film may not be specifically Verite, it has many of the elements including the natural lighting, outdoor setting, and unstable camera. The film shares many of these traits with Cinema Verite as well as its much more charming predecessor, Italian Neo-realism. I would take The Bicycle Thief and Umberto D. over this cinematic bastard-child any day.

Another qualm I have with the film is misleading classification if it. On the case and in reputation, Breathless is a suspense film. I, personally, find it difficult to be in a state of suspense watching a somewhat homely Frenchman beg for sex from a naïve college student over the course of 30 minutes. Sure there were shootings, a police chase, and fistfights but most of them were removed due to the gratuitous amount of continuity breaks.

The one good thing I found from the film is a brief education in the French Language. It is actually ironic that I chose this film to study for my French language class as the female lead is an American college student studying in France. The last line of the film is her character asking for a translation of the the dying words of Michel Poiccard so using this film to study French is convenient to say the least. Most of the situations within the film are difficult to relate to in my perspective as I don't gamble, shoot police, or steal cars. Despite these differences, many nouns and several small sayings popped out to me well enough to correct the subtitles as they blinked on and off the screen.

In short, I didn't enjoy the film and dislike it even more because I have late charges on the rental. If you have anything to say about the film or want to tell me I suck because I didn't like it leave a comment. Also, I'm noticing a distinct lack of Kate in the co-blogging effort. Hmmmm...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) -- Jimmy's Perspective.

Fritz Lang's 1927 classic, Metropolis, is certainly one of the best silent movies I've ever seen. Given the legacy it has created and the number of scholarly articles inspired by it, any review I can give the film will seem inadequate and feeble in comparison with the other fantastic authors who precede me. Despite my ineptitude, I must soldier on to force my worldview on you, the reader, through the wonderful invention of the web log.

For anyone comparing my notes to the film, bear in mind that there are MANY different versions of this film in circulation as it was heavily edited when it was exhibited in the United States. For reference purposes I'm watching the 2002 Kino edition* which seems to be the most complete edition available. If you're from Truman State, it's available in Pickler. All the formalities aside, for the time it was created, this film is surprisingly advanced.

In 1927 many directors were still stuck in the mindset of recording what looked like a stage play. Lang, on the other hand, utilizes close-ups and very advanced editing techniques throughout the film. In addition to those editing techniques the set design and art direction are second to none. The matte work used to the create the city is astounding in quality and the miniatures, though outdated within the world of the film, are rendered well.

We, in the age of CGI, would probably scoff at the special effects out of context but provided that these images were created only 32 years after the creation of motion picture in 1895, they are nothing short of amazing. The visual tricks used to create the exploits within Rotwang's lab are impressive.

Just about everything in the film is good... Just about. Unfortunately, the actors of the time were still stuck in the hyper-emotive early stage style of acting. Anger was expressed through the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. At one point, Freder, the main character, literally hangs his head and arms Charlie Brown-style to show depression and disappointment. It was a bit much to say the least. Though, I don't begrudge the actors the context they lived in. It was the style. As they say, "everyone was doing it" and it couldn't be helped.

On a bit more meta level, this entire film was Christian allegory with unabashed quotations from the Bible about the Book of Revelations. The Female lead was named Maria and preached from a Cross riddled altar of a "mediator" to act between the "head" that is the administration of the city and the "hands" that are the labor. Continuing with the Christian themes, at one point the statues of Death and the Seven Deadly sins (a great band name for any musicians out there), animate and attack Freder during a psychotic break. Make of it what you will, I'm just saying it is there.

Another area of study within the film is the techno-erotica aspect contained within it. Rotwang creates a machine woman with the intent of transferring the image of his lost love onto it. Many theorists have written on this and have created some very peculiar perspectives, Laurence A. Rickles** being my favorite reading.

In short, if you're a Sci-fi fan or a lover of old classic films, you need to watch Metropolis. It was excellently directed and is a pleasure to watch even 81 years after its creation.

* Metropolis.
Dir. Fritz Lang. Perf. Alfred Abel, Gustav Frohlich, Brigitte Helm. 1927. DVD. Kino, 2002.

** Rickles, Laurence A. "Metropolis, California." ArtUS. 3 (2004): 33- 41.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Juno-- Jimmy's Perspective

If you haven't seen Juno yet, it's worth your time and money. Overall I would say that this is a good film with likable characters and dialog so snappy your ears are red by the end. Visually the film isn't that interesting but there are instances of visual acuity. The image I'm thinking of happens right after Ms. Page's character has a meltdown and drives off in her jalopy of a van. Pulled over to the side of a practically abandoned highway, the camera moves from the van to a high angle shot of a wide open road fading off into the horizon. This shot, the high angle peering down the seemingly endless road, does an excellent (though almost cliche) job of illustrating the literal "long road ahead" and the potential that this girl has. Don't jump in expecting the rich text of more intellectual films, but there are a few interesting images.

As I said earlier, the dialog of Juno is great, but it almost tried too hard at times. Given the situations and the people that were in them, some fumbling is expected. Instead, we have pristine responses and overly quirky banter. It's all quite quotable and often funny, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing

I'll be the first to admit its impossible to escape ideology in filmmaking. Anything that takes so much effort, money, and time can't help but taking on some of the agenda of the filmmaker. In this instance its pretty obvious how Mr. Reitman feels about abortion. To each his own. My qualm lies in the possible glorification of teen pregnancy. If not glorification, the trivializing effect a film like this (and Knocked Up) might have. The whole situation is a bit of a Catch-22. If you don't talk about it in the media, those effected might not be educated on the issue but if it is over-exposed you run the risk of glamorizing or desensitizing the world to teen pregnancy. I digress.

If you get a chance, watch Juno. Ignore the tacky titles at the beginning and bask in the glory of excellently rendered dialog and a well-developed story.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

thought vomit

I'm thinking about everything I've played or watched in the last week, because I can't be assed to sit down and write a comprehensive paragraph about Assassin's Creed (and seriously, who doesn't know by now?). So here's the whirlwind tour of everything I've done.

Portal - Oh fuck yes. Nothing's better than Portal. Explain to me how a 19-level game has more replay value than anything else I've ever played? GLaDoS never gets old. The four-hour puzzle that spawned a thousand inside jokes completely captured my heart just before Christmas break last year. Portal + Cheez-ums Pringles = bliss.

Assassin's Creed - Dammit. Talk to me when I'm less bitter about the ending.

Sweeney Todd - You know how sometimes you wait for a movie for years and years, and you build it up in your brain because everything sounds so fabulous, and then you go and see it the day it comes out and it's just a pile of crap and you feel like you've wasted a couple of years of your life just to be shat on by the motion picture industry? This is SO not one of those movies. Ahhhh. Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman: my dream duet, realized.

Edward Scissorhands - What can I say? I wanted more Burton/Depp action. Everyone has an opinion on Edward Scissorhands and nothing I say will change it. Just keep reading.

Star Wars: Episode I with RiffTrax - This movie is vastly improved by RiffTrax. It is even more vastly improved by Sunny D and vodka. "Long, long ago in a galaxy far away, a filmmaker went pants-crapping insane!" Download it and gather up a roomful of nerds (just not Star Wars nerds).

Super Mario Galaxy - I want to love this game, I really do. I just wish I didn't have to try so hard. It is very well done, and I imagine once I stop comparing it to Super Mario 64 I'll enjoy it a lot more, but that is hard.

That's my week, more or less, interspersed with classes, homework and lots of arty crap...but I won't bore you all with that here.