Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Posted in Blog on December 15th, 2011 by Jeen Kim

Thank God I finally saw this movie- Now I can understand all the references to it in other movies and television and such. Anyway, I felt that this movie was a perfect finish to an amazing semester. In this last film we could see the substantial changes in film from the previous films we watched, not only in color, but in sexual and violent content. By watching these films in chronological order I really got a sense of progression of time from the 30’s to the 60’s.

The thing that stuck out to me the most was the amount of violence. The last scene in particular, where Bonnie and Clyde get killed, had a surprising amount of it. This reminded me of another scene in The Godfather (1972) because of the unnecessary amount of bullets; both acts are meant to slaughter indiscriminately, far exceeding the usual “double-tap”.

Spoiler Alert

This was only five years after Bonnie and Clyde so I think it’s safe to say this was a major source of inspiration.

Well, this is my last post and it’s been a pleasure. Thank you class for your comments and thank you Professor Herzog!

Formal Analysis

Posted in Formal Analysis on December 9th, 2011 by Jeen Kim

This is the scene from Breathless (1960) where Michel Poiccard drives a stolen car, eventually murders a cop and then runs away early in the movie. For the first couple of shots, Michel is just driving while making comments. He says “Nothing like the countryside” and “I really like France”. At this point we don’t know who he is speaking to- he could be speaking to himself. In the next shot, there is about a two second pause and then Michel turns and looks directly into the camera, and starts to have a conversation with the audience. It is here where we really get to know him through his subsequent high jinks and run in with the law.

This scene is delivered through direct address, jump cuts and a handheld camera. These three aspects in the scene make it impossible to watch it without noticing the blatant materiality. When Michel directly addresses the audience, it completely reminds us that there is a camera there if even the character notices its presence. It in a way “breaks the illusion” of the film that we normally get absorbed into. The jump cuts don’t transition smoothly at all, making it harshly discontinuous and highly noticeable. Therefore, one could not help but think of the editing process. By using a handheld camera, the movement of the actual frame cannot be avoided. Thus, the viewer instantly recognizes that someone is holding a camera that we happen to be looking through.

These techniques make the audience feel weird, unnatural and possibly awkward because of these unorthodox methods. For example, when Michel directly looks and speaks to the camera, there is about a 2 second pause before it, which makes the address more surprising. This plus the omnipresence of jump cuts make almost the entire scene force materiality upon the viewer. What is interesting, though, is that these peculiar techniques change our perspective of film and it feels as if we are in the car with Michel; conversating and horsing around. It is because of these peculiar techniques that we are able to learn about Michel on a more personable level.

By this I mean that this scene essentially establishes Michel’s character. Because we are aware of the materiality, we feel as if we were present through these techniques and therefore we feel closer to Michel. We learn a lot about his character in the car: he is immature, rebellious, impulsive and borders on the sociopathic. Michel was characterized as someone who stands out by will of the filmmaker(s), in my opinion.

The materiality the viewer notices is important to the characterization of Michel. By using odd techniques to expose materiality, the audience can get a better understanding of Michel (when he is goofing around in the car as we watch him in the passenger seat). This emphasis on Michel is an extension of the filmmakers themselves. Being part of this new movement, they wanted to stand out just as Michel’s wild character did. The filmmakers wanted to epitomize the New Wave as rebellious and maybe a little crazy, breaking from the tradition of literary adaptations and theatrical performances. So, the filmmakers characterize Michel as unique, fresh, and exciting (similar to their new critic-perspective of film) through these techniques revealing a possible ulterior motive.

Psycho (1960)

Posted in Blog on November 7th, 2011 by Jeen Kim

Wow. This movie was awesome. I really didn’t expect the ending to be like that. It reminded me of Identity (2003), another movie I enjoyed. You could think of Identity as a sort of spin off of Hitchcock’s Psycho and I think the original Psycho had an influence on the more modern Identity.

Anyways, I found it interesting that Bates mentioned cats and dogs in his conversation about birds because cats and dogs scratch or bite, while birds are relatively harmless. Birds cannot inflict harm to him the way cats and dogs can, and we can see the extent of his power obsession.

Even in his own “sanctuary”, with his peephole where he feels empowered, where he can be himself, there are still more powerful entities.

This is what I’m talking about. The low angle shows Bates where he has power, in his own domain, and yet still there is a higher power. It goes from us, to Bates, to the owl. The nocturnal creature watches Bates at all times. Ironically, the animal that is passive, that Bates controls, turns into an object of reverence and fear in the end. Moreover, the owl is the most brightly lit thing in the frame. Even where Bate should have power, he still does not.

He seeks power in his own way and he still fails, maybe unintentionally. His unavoidable lack of control is unbearable so he decides to be a completely different person, the ideal figure with power in Bates’ life- his mother. He cannot change the external, so inside manifests the power figure. Only then can he enjoy playing the opposite role.

That’s just how I see Bates’ mind. This character was very interesting and the actor (Anthony Perkins) is absolutely superb. That is all.

Early Summer (1951)

Posted in Blog on October 21st, 2011 by Jeen Kim

I noticed that this movie was about… about pretty much nothing. It felt like a look into a normal family and their life. But of course, as we have read, during this time Japanese filmmakers had been limited substantially.

Watching this movie was quite a different experience; it felt somewhat uniform throughout. Yasujiro Ozu’s style was very obvious and “in-your-face” during the entire film. By this I mean his constantly repeated elements. He plays with depth of field so much you would think that was the only way he knew how to frame the shot. Also, a way he does this is with unimportant, unfocused objects in the foreground to the side(s) of the frame with the focus on a more distant entity. Moreover, he uses the same exact shots repeatedly, in separate scenes and occasions throughout the film where the only changing variable is the character(s). This is an example of what I’m talking about:

I’ve been here so much I know where everything is and I feel like I live here. All jokes aside, I actually enjoyed that because it familiarizes the viewer. The audience would say, “Oh, I’ve been here before” and they would know exactly where they are.

I definitely got the feeling that Ozu put a large emphasis on his actors. In addition to his depth of field, Ozu’s camera was virtually stationary throughout the whole film. The camera would only move a couple of times in the two hour span. I think Ozu wanted the viewer to focus more in the frame, rather than having eyes wander. Because of a stationary frame, the viewer, or I, rather, would pay attention more on what was going on, or on the movement. The characters are almost always the focus of the frame and the viewer has no choice but to focus on the dialogue and the body language.

Not only this, but Ozu constantly uses medium-close ups of his characters all of the same nature:

The film is littered with these MC shots of characters all with about the same distance and composition.

Something I liked about this film was that it was eclectic in a sense. I mean that at different times, it would be funny, giddy, serious, depressing, or hostile. All these feelings incorporated into one film was intriguing to me, and I wouldn’t even realize the story was building to these things; it just suddenly happened.

Shot by Shot Analysis

Posted in Shot by Shot Analysis on October 15th, 2011 by Jeen Kim

Double Indemnity (1944)- 0:47:59 – 0:49:48

This is the scene where Neff prepares before killing Mr. Dietrichson. It is basically a montage of what Neff does prior to the murder.

0:47:59 – 0:48:17

Medium-long shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, relatively short take.

The camera follows Neff throughout the take as he drives into the garage, gets out of his car, asks Charlie for a car wash then goes upstairs. Here he is creating an alibi by telling Charlie he is “staying in tonight.” Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:17 – 0:48:30

Medium shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, relatively short take.

Neff, focused in the middle of the frame, makes a call to his co-worker Lou Schwartz (that there will be a record of) further reinforcing his alibi. Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:30 – 0:48:38

Long shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, short take.

Neff appears in a dark navy blue suit as Mr. Dietrichson will be wearing. The camera follows him slightly as he sits to answer a call from Lou Schwartz. Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:38 – 0:48:43

Medium-close shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, very short take.

Neff puts a hand towel and adhesive into his pockets to further impersonate Mr. Dietrichson and his cast. Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:43 – 0:48:53

Close up, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, short take.

Neff puts a card in the telephone box as a cautious measure so he would know if someone had called him while he was away. Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:53 – 0:48:57

Close up, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, very short take.

Neff puts another card in his doorbell for the same reason. Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:57 – 0:49:02

Long shot, low angle, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, very short take.

Neff takes the stairs to avoid people. At the top of the stairs it starts as a long shot but turns into a close up as Neff comes closer to us. Dissolve into next shot.

0:49:02 – 0:49:10

Extreme long shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, short take.

Neff walks to the Dietrichson residence (whilst smoking a cigarette) to avoid people once again. The whole house is in frame and Neff is in the bottom right corner. Quick cut to next shot.

0:49:10 – 0:49:22

Medium shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, relatively short take.

Neff takes his last pull from his cigarette, drops it, then walks towards the garage away from the camera turning it into a long shot. His narration mentions he can smell honeysuckle even more now that it is night. Quick cut to next shot.

0:49:22 – 0:49:48

Long shot, slightly higher angle, non-diegetic sounds, extreme low key lighting, long take.

Neff sneaks into the garage and hides in the back seat of the sedan. Meanwhile he is in too deep, and he is thinking about how he must kill Mr. Dietrichson after the three honks.

___________________
Many aspects in this scene remain virtually, if not exactly, constant throughout. The constant non-diegetic sounds are Neff’s narration and an ominous score with a dark tone. Also, being a film noir, low-key lighting is constantly used. The first time a non-straight on shot is used in this scene is when Neff is at the top of the stairs walking down. This is a low angle shot where we only catch a glimpse of Neff’s face. This first camera placement change is probably significant because it shows Neff actively going out and taking his first steps to commit murder- no more planning or preparing.

Moreover, a first in this scene and a first in the entire film as well, is the suit Neff wears. Throughout the film Neff wears a pretty light gray suit in which much light reflects. In this scene he changes to a dark navy suit, and it is both contrastingly and aesthetically noticeable. Just scroll up and take a look at Neff before and after he changes. This play on colors and dark/light is most likely to physically show that Neff is a different, much darker person than before.

The central pattern here, I believe, is the mention of honeysuckle. This is the second time in the film honeysuckle is mentioned. This is interesting because Neff smells the sweet scented plant only when near the neighborhood of the Dietrichson’s. It is distinct and memorable. What’s even more interesting is that the narration says he could smell it even more because it was nighttime. It’s as if he’s attracted to the distinct scent [of Mrs. Dietrichson] even if most species of the plant are poisonous.

This made a lot of sense to me because Neff was not the generic oblivious man from which his unexpected downfall was the woman. He was aware and had an idea of her motives from the start, and he still let himself get manipulated. He took the risk that maybe this one wasn’t poisonous, or this might be true love after all. Maybe from this the filmmakers are trying to say that beneath the pretty and attracting exteriors (like the smell) lies something much more nasty and ultimately decieving.

The Public Enemy (1931)

Posted in Blog on September 4th, 2011 by Jeen Kim

I’d like to start off by saying this genre of crime/the gangster is probably one of my favorites. I don’t know, there’s just something about they way these people live, behave, speak and dress that’s captivating to me.

When I first heard the title, I initially thought that “Public Enemies” (2009) was a remake of this.

But after Friday I’m 99.999999% sure it isn’t. It’s not, right?

Well anyways, it was extremely interesting to see where the modern gangster/crime films have come from and the small differences that make them so different. For example, in “The Public Enemy” the main character, Tom Powers (James Cagney), wasn’t really the top dog or the boss- he had people over him. He seemed like a small fry in the criminal community. In today’s gangster movies the main character usually climbs to be the guy on top, like in “Scarface”. That was just a small disappointment.

Another small difference was that the most firepower Tom Powers ever had were pistols. In today’s movies the characters wield huge machine guns, and everybody loves big guns, right?

Also, the editing was sometimes rough and sloppy- it’s hard to miss. I remember in one scene where Tom ends a conversation with his mother and she walks away, it appeared as if she teleported. Maybe it was the best they could do, with the technology and raw footage and whatnot.

Aside from these petty things, the thing I noticed the most was that this movie was deep; it had a point.

It had references to many controversial issues at the time, like homosexuality, women, and the war. I loved how you could sort of get the gist of the culture just from this film. In today’s movies you just don’t see the same things.

This is the greatest difference I was talking about earlier. For me, ending the movie with this was the point of the movie. All great films/television have points to them, they’re not just random stories that people want to see. They try to comment on or teach something relative to the time. Maybe that’s why Tom Powers did not have gatling guns, or was not the boss; so the audience could relate more to an “average” man in the mob.

Although the message of this film is not crystal clear, I believe it means that the public’s community is their responsibility. The state of it and the crime that it experiences is a problem for us to solve, so an endless cycle of death does not ensue.

Well, that’s just my two cents, thanks for reading! =)

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