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falderal : a moving images blog

Archive for the ‘Year’ Category

Duran Duran – My Own Way ; 1981/1982

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Directors: Russell Mulcahy

I was a bit unimpressed with this video because “Girls on Film“‘s video was so elaborate. This video seemed like a combination of “Careless Memories” and “Planet Earth“‘s video with the German Expressionist-like background and the focus on band members. Not only that, but the dancers were also reminiscent of the dancers in “Planet Earth”, but I guess this is pretty explainable since the director is the same.

What I did like was the editing for this video and the Mondrian-esque bits added a fun effect to the video, which complemented the song. The quick cuts matched the beat of the music, so I thought that was pretty neat. Other than the editing, there weren’t any references to the lyrics in the song.

I like to imagine that this video isn’t much of a marketing tool (unless the goal was to sell eye candy, in which they did succeed, in my opinion) but something you’d watch while dancing to the song and eventually, it will just be playing in the background.

Hm… I think that’s really it. I feel rather underwhelmed and don’t know what else to say.

I was happy to see Nick smiling a lot in this video because he looks so cute when he does. As he gets older, he seems to smile less and less in the videos, which makes me feel pooped. Everyone looks better while smiling!
I was also amused by the parrot strutting on his synth and also making an appearance next to Roger’s drum set. I wonder what Nick would have done with the parrot took a dump on his synth. Immature thought but it was a thought that crossed my mind for a second while watching the video.

As Good as It Gets ; 1997

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Director: James L. Brooks
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Country: U.S.A.

I watched this movie on television in either middle school or high school and I remembered enjoying the movie a lot. I came across it again so I decided to watch it and I found it highly enjoyable this time around as well.

I have a weird relationship with Jack Nicholson in that I admire his acting but I find him scary. It isn’t scary in the Boogieman scary but Nicholson has his own weird vibe that I can’t shake off. Even in this movie, all I can think of is, “It’s Jack Nicholson. It’s Jack Nicholson.” while enjoying the movie.

What I liked so much about this movie was the way the actors worked with each other. It was as if the characters were written for them and no one else could play them the way they did. Even though I didn’t think that there was any romantic chemistry between Nicholson and Helen Hunt, I didn’t find it weird either. Speaking of Helen Hunt, I thought that she was wonderful in this film. While Nicholson’s character, Melvin, is the protagonist and it is his story in regards to how he changes by helping other people, it was Hunt’s performance that I found to be most touching. Her scenes with Greg Kinnear were so sweet and she seemed so genuine that I couldn’t differentiate Helen Hunt, the actress, and the character she was playing. I love it when I watch a movie and I forget that it’s a movie; it’s as if I’m no longer here and I’m just a fly on the wall observing real life people. I guess this is why Brecht came up with his idea of theatre, but I really do love this feeling of total immersion when I watch films and in regards to this film, I’m happy that I can pinpoint why I felt this way. Helen Hunt, you are an amazing actress.

And another thing… Verdell is so cute!!! (ref. Picture 2) I know that animals that perform for movies are highly trained but I couldn’t help but wonder how many takes it took to get the right shot. Verdell was so perfect in every moment that I was astounded by how well he conveyed the necessary emotion to complement the other actors. Verdell and Melvin were the best couple in this movie, I swear. Ugh Jack Nicholson… WHY ARE YOU SO TALENTED?!

I’ve decided that this movie is one of my favourite feel good movies; I wouldn’t be surprised if I come back to it every now and then to cheer myself up.

IMDb Link: As Good as It Gets

The Shining ; 1980

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel
Country: United Kingdom, U.S.A.

This entry is dedicated to my friend Stephanie, who is the only one who knows how much I dreaded watching this movie and was willing to do a Kubrick marathon with me. Thank you for being an awesome friend!

***

Finally, Stephanie and I were able to watch The Shining and resume our Kubrick marathon. I was scared since I do not like horror films at all and I am so glad that we got this movie out of the way. It was worth the watch, but no way am I rewatching this again! (Unless it is with bunnies.)

What made the movie most frightening for me was the use of sound, particularly the score. It complemented the actions on the screen perfectly and created the most unnerving atmosphere. For example, towards the end, when Wendy (Duvall) is looking for Danny inside the hotel, the chant-like music seemed to reflect the hotel’s ghosts coming to life but it also added drama to the scene. I felt very scared watching that scene due to the music and what Wendy was going through. Although I haven’t watched many horror films in my life, I do know that sound plays a large role in the genre, but Kubrick’s use of synth music did a great job in evoking eeriness, claustrophobia, and tension. It was the music that made me jump and feel like I was on the edge of my seat, more than the actions on the screen.

A few things that caught my attention was the exterior shot of the Overlook Hotel (ref. Picture 2) and the acting. When I saw the shot of the hotel, at first, I didn’t even see it until I looked closely at the shot. I wondered why Kubrick chose this hotel because it blended with the surroundings and the shot looked weird. After thinking over it a bit, I thought that the shot worked because it made the hotel look ghostly in the “is it there or is it not there?” sense, which seems to foreshadow the supernatural things that are to happen later on in the movie.
As for the acting, in the beginning, I thought that Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall’s acting was incredibly hokey. It was if I was watching a B-movie and I thought that Nicholson in particular was hamming it up. In retrospect, I wonder if this was intentional and if it was, maybe it was an indicator for Jack’s (Nicholson) descent into madness as the hotel takes a hold of him. When Jack is interviewing for the caretaker position and when he calls his wife about it, something about him seems off and inauthentic, but when he decides to do his best to “correct” his wife and child, there is nothing about him that seems fake. As the movie progressed, I stopped thinking this and thought that the chemistry between all the major players in the movie was perfect. I stopped thinking that Nicholson was being hammy and I started to find Duvall to be less and less grating and was rooting for Wendy. Often times when I watch movies, I’m thinking, “YOU IDIOT, WHY AREN’T YOU DOING SO-AND-SO?!” but Wendy was sympathetic and perfect in portraying a loving wife and mother who is frazzled but doing her best to survive and save her son. When Jack is breaking through the bathroom door and talking/singing about little piggies (brilliant moment in acting, by the way), Wendy looks horrified due to what is happening, but when she finally acts and slashes her husband’s hand, her face expression is a combination of fright and guilt over having to hurt her husband. I loved how Wendy was very active and how you could see that there were many thoughts racing through her head, and she tried to think of what she can do to get out of the situation that she is in. She wasn’t some useless woman who gave up and wailed about her woes, but she tried her best to save herself and her son.

What I found enjoyable about The Shining is that it’s not a horror film that’s all about screaming and being scared. There is nothing wrong with movies like that since it’s a completely different experience, but The Shining made me become invested in the plot and the characters rather than watching out for the next scream moment. I’m a fan of straight forward endings, but after watching this movie, I had fun thinking about what certain scenes meant and I have to give props to a movie that let’s me enjoy thinking about something. It also seemed that it was a film that was fully aware of the nature of films in regards to how they are watched and how there is no right interpretation in regards to a movie or any artistic work. I have never been so aware of the mise-en-scène until this movie — the amount of red used in this movie makes you even more aware of its usage. In regards to interpreting film, it reminded me of my early years in college and how I struggled with the idea of what’s the “right” way of looking at a movie until a professor told me to stop stressing and that there is no right or wrong. A person can have their own views and if they can support it, then all is peachy keen. It doesn’t mean that others need to agree or that one needs to agree with others’ points-of-view, but these various perspectives can lead to discussions and further thinking.

Stephanie told me about The Shining re-enacted by bunnies and showed me this wonderful video. I found it absolutely hilarious and adorable and had to watch it on repeat. What amazed me was how successful the video was in capturing all the key scenes and I didn’t find it scary at all. I thought that the “staring” part (ref. Picture 3) was really funny because I didn’t expect to see that within the 30 seconds. It’s impressive how much information can be crammed in 30 seconds.

I would love to watch this movie again, but since I’m a big fat chicken, it’s going to be one of those movies that I admire but can’t rewatch. I can see why so many people are a fan of this movie and I have great appreciation for it as well. I’m really enjoying the Kubrick marathon and so glad that a friend is partaking in it as well. The next film we’re going to watch is Barry Lyndon!

IMDb Link: The Shining

Duran Duran – Girls on Film ; 1981

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Directors: Godley & Creme
Original air date: July 13, 1981

For some reason when I rewatched this video, it left me cold. Maybe I ate too much lunch so my brain was dead, but I remember my first impressions when I saw the video for the first time. I remember thinking that it was quite funny, was a bit shocked by the suggestive scenes, and loved the model acting like a sumo wrestler because her hairdo amused me. However this time around, I felt nothing. Maybe I’m just thinking too much these days, which is taking out the fun in watching anything. Lately I’ve been feeling quite a bit of indifference to things that I’ve watched.

I liked how the video showed the camera and the band members back-to-back so that the viewers become aware that it’s not just girls who are on film, but the boys as well. I loved how John Taylor was getting primped up and Nick Rhodes was checking himself out in the mirror; I thought it was quite appropriate and was sort of like a role reversal in regards to how these behaviors and actions are stereotypically attributed to women. Sadly (for me), there are more instances of seeing other people than the band members, which means that my attention is drawn away from the band members (let’s not kid ourselves, all I wanted was Nick) and onto the characters doing various things. I thought it was quite hilarious how these women were shown as dominant and yet they are still subservient since they are playing these roles in front of the band members. It doesn’t help that the band members said that all they cared for was checking out the models — you can’t really blame them since they were in their late teens. Hell, I’m in my early twenties and I still fangirl. Interestingly enough, the males who are doing the “looking” aren’t the band members (they’re just performing) but they are the men who are eventually beaten up by the women. It’s a little bizarre how the set design makes it appear as if these female models and male actors are performing for the band members and yet it also appears to be that the show piece are the characters and the band members are just there to provide music for the scene. I guess everyone wanted to play the decoration role in this video.

I know that music videos don’t need to complement or have anything to do with the lyrics to the song, but I thought it was pretty tongue-in-cheek to show these one-dimensional female models/characters when the song (from what I understood) is sympathetic towards female models. The following lyrics

“Girls on film (she’s more than a lady)”

“There’s a camera rolling on her back, on her back. And I sense the rhythm humming in a frenzy all the way down her spine.”

“The diving man’s coming up for air cause the crowd all love pulling dolly by the hair, by the hair. And she wonders how she ever got here as she goes under again.”

made me think that the song was about how female models are seen as objects without any substance and how they are used by photographers. Yet here we are watching this video that shows women being objectified for our pleasure and we don’t really care for the women and what they have to go through. At the end of the video, we see these women retreating behind the scenes and having a good time so why should we really care for these women anyway, right? In this sense, I do think that this dichotomy created by the video and the lyrics is quite brilliant.

One more thing: I love Nick’s hair in this video! I am loving how his hair changes from video to video, although I am going to assume that his hair is going to be same throughout the travelogue videos. And I never understood why people thought John was so handsome until I watched this video. Look at him in the screencap!!! What a dreamboat.
I’m just going to give up using last names and refer to the band members by their first names from now on. I’m so inconsiderate, presumptuous, and rude, hahaha.

Duran Duran – Careless Memories ; 1981

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Directors: Terry Jones, Perry Haines

Ah, “Careless Memories”! How I love this song because of the lyrics; they’re probably one of the few Duran Duran songs that I relate to and it’s probably the ~eternally angsty teenager~ side of me that makes me think fondly of this song.

Going to the video…

Call me mean, but I found this video absolutely hilarious. It was my first time watching it and I was surprised by what the video entailed. I enjoyed it so much because I loved how cheesy it was in so many parts (ref. Picture 1) — even the lighting added to the corny factor of this video. It was very similar to “Planet Earth” in that there isn’t much to look at except for the members, and I swear to God, I bet that all Duran fans watched this just to see Simon Le Bon’s overacting. I can’t hate the video for Le Bon’s acting because I felt like even he wasn’t taking the video very seriously and I always see Le Bon as a big jokester. There were so many time when I chortled and this video made me love Le Bon even more. He was so dreamy in the 80s and his hairstyle in this video suits him very well. I wish that he stuck with the hairdo since it’s so flattering on him (although between us, I not-so-secretly like Le Bon’s hair in the Big Thing era!)

Visually, nothing caught my eye. That’s a lie, because I looked forward to close ups of Nick Rhodes throughout the entire video. There just wasn’t enough of him, which was a big, fat shame because he looked so good in this video! I want to pet his fluffy hair… and look at his sleeves!!! I want that blouse in my closet. I fangirled every moment Rhodes came on the screen because he looked fabulous and he smiles in this video too! No one can deny that the man has a beautiful smile — it’s just too bad that he rarely shows it in pictures (ref. Picture 2). I am starting to wonder if all I’m going to end up doing in my future blog posts is to mention Rhodes and what I think of him in the videos. I wouldn’t be surprised if I do.

On a serious note, the only ~cinematic~ things that caught my eye was the possible use of a crane to get a close up of Le Bon and the freeze frames of the flowers being shown. In all honesty, the freeze frame flower bits were the most interesting things in the video because of their suddenness, and it complemented the frustration mentioned in the lyrics.

What I noticed in regards to Duran Duran videos that I’ve watched was that if I like the song, I’m usually disappointed by the music video. I can’t really blame anyone for this, especially with such an early video, but the songs that I like usually have videos that I’m not too fond of. I got through “Careless Memories” easily because I thought that Le Bon made it really fun (I couldn’t help but dance along to the video) but then I think about “Save a Prayer” and how much I dislike that video (will talk more about that when it’s time to write about it). However, my fault is that I expect things without knowing what I want so I can’t even write a good criticism about this video. If someone asked me, “What would you have done differently?” I would just derp and run away.

Such were the thoughts when I watched this video.

Duran Duran – Planet Earth ; 1981

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Directors: Perry Haines, Russell Mulcahy

Just to clear some things before going into the post, I am using original air dates and posting about music videos from information given to me by Katy of Ask Katy or information that I’ve gleaned from the Duran Duran Wiki.

Now that’s all cleared, onto the post!

I have been working on this post for 2 weeks now and I admit defeat. I am probably going to look back at this entry when I’m 40 years old and go, “What in the world?”

As for the video, I have mixed feelings about the “Planet Earth” video but in the end, I absolutely love it. Here is the thing. I love pretty things and people but then there is the other side of me that says, “You were a film studies major for Christ’s sake. YOU CAN’T JUST LOOK AT SURFACES.” But the thing is, as much as I like to learn, I also like to admire something that is pretty and not to think much about it. How I react to nice visuals changes from situation to situation and sometimes, I just want to like something for superficial reasons, and that is the case with “Planet Earth”.
On the one hand, I wish that the music video was more ~interesting~ (like their video for “The Chauffeur”), but truthfully, I love this video because I get to see the band members in their prime in regards to their looks. There are close ups of every member and I get to just feast on these pretty boys. And is there something wrong with that? There probably is and I’m sure much can be said about “the gaze” but all of that goes out the window after I see Nick Rhodes in a frilly shirt and a nice jacket. I share the same sentiments with Andy Warhol when he said, “Oh I really like their videos, they have the best videos. They didn’t have enough of Nick Rhodes on that peace record though; there’s a lot of Simon on it but Nick just comes in at the end.” — that’s how I feel about every single Duran Duran video. THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH NICK RHODES IN MY LIFE. Yes, it is the truth and I don’t care about content when there are pretty things to be seen. I think my guilt is assuaged because I find many of Duran’s videos to be about admiring nice things and that whatever I see in these videos are meant for my pleasure. I also found something on Ask Katy, which I found to be a bit funny. A fan asked why Roger Taylor is the topless one in the beginning of the video and he answered, “I can’t think of any reason why i [sic] was chosen for the opening shot other than I was the only one prepared to take my shirt off and bare all!” Yep, bare it all for us fans! Woohoo!

I think that’s really the worst though. The fact that I don’t tend to care much about my thought process and dismiss it alarms me a bit at times (as you can tell from this ramble and probably all my blog entries). I guess I can make myself feel better by saying, “I’m looking at manufactured pretty boys! I’m doing what I’m SUPPOSED to do.” I’m a brainless robot.

The video makes it so easy to consume the band members that critical thinking goes out the window when I watch the video. It starts with a topless R. Taylor and from there, it is a visual feast of the members, especially of Simon Le Bon. The lines that pop up next to the topless Le Bon draws the viewer’s eyes to Le Bon’s face so that all we can do is stare at him and sigh in contentment. I guess that this isn’t all that new with music videos, since older music videos that I’ve watched also featured the band members prominently.
I suppose that there isn’t much guilt in regards to consuming these pop stars because the music is so catchy and easy to take in. What I do find interesting is that in their earliest video, there isn’t much objectification going on in regards to women. Sure, there are those New Romantic dancers (male and female) and the woman who is next to Simon (ref. Picture 2), but she’s there for such a little while and most viewers are probably caring more about the band members than the woman. The woman may play the usual “decoration” role, but I can easily brush it off since the band members themselves are more interesting and decorative than the woman.

What I like seeing in moving pictures are references to the past, and I am thinking that the “Planet Earth” video took some visual cues from Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920). I like to see this as a nod towards the role that music videos will play in Duran Duran’s career, in that the band is taking a risk in investing something that is new, which in turn will open doors for them. Dr. Caligari‘s set design was different than what was normally seen in silent films at the time and Duran Duran’s increasingly elaborate videos were something new too. Not only that, Duran Duran’s videos became highly associated with them, just as German Expressionism, and particuarly Dr. Caligari, became a hallmark and icon for German cinema. Also, the Expressionist style of Dr. Caligari came from budget issues, so I wonder if Haines and Mulcahy chose this style also for budget reasons too… Hmm…


Andy Warhol quote source: Fiona Russell Powell

Shakhmatnaya goryachka (Chess Fever) ; 1925

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Director: Vsevolod Pudovkin, Nikolai Shpikovsky
Actors: Vladimir Fogel, Anna Zemtsova, José Raúl Capablanca
Country: Soviet Union

During my email conversations with my friend, K, I asked her what her personal favorite films were and she mentioned Chess Fever. I was very glad that she recommended it to me because it was a joy to watch! The film had everything that I loved about silent film comedies: slapstick and visual humor.

I think that this is one of those films that is great for introducing people to silent films because it is short, funny, and really cute. The male protagonist was adorable with his many cats, pockets full of chess boards and pieces, and his clothes reflected his obsession with chess; his hat, handkerchief, socks, and even his sweater resembled a chessboard. My favorite scene is definitely the one that I chose for this entry, when the male protagonist tries to woo his fiancee back, but then he ends up playing chess on his handkerchief.

Despite it being very funny, I did find the movie to be quite unsettling. Maybe I am over-analyzing, but it felt as if the movie was a reflection of movie making. In the movie, the only character that dislikes chess is the female protagonist, Vera (Zemtsova). However, everyone in her life, from her mother, her grandfather, is obsessed with chess and so is the rest of the town. In the end, she ends up loving chess by falling in love with the world champion of chess, and she is reunited with her lover (Fogel). Coming back to the idea of movie making, what made me think of that idea was that actors are like chess pieces and don’t have a will of their own: they are the chess pieces and the directors are the players controlling them. Even though actors may say what they want, most likely they will have to succumb to their director’s wishes, and this is just like Vera who in the end becomes like everyone else in the movie. Also, I don’t know if Pudovkin and Shpikovsky were trying to say something about the dangers of group mentality through this movie or if they were just having fun with the idea of chess, but that thought was a bit unsettling too.

Nevertheless, before I started thinking a BIT too much about this movie, I had a lot of fun watching it. It reminded me of Ernst Lubitsch’s silent comedies, which is probably why I enjoyed watching this so much. Also, I FINALLY watched something by Pudovkin, phew!

IMDb Link: Shakhmatnaya goryachka

Die Frau im Feuer ; 1924

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Because this blog is a free for all, I decided to post about my movie related travels.

For my last semester in college, I decided to undertake a research project related to Asta Nielsen and Mary Pickford and was able to travel to Germany and Denmark to dig through the archives and also do an internship. Some of the things I found were things that I didn’t find readily on the internet, so I thought I’d share.

In this entry, I’m posting the Illustrierter Film-Kurier for the presumed lost Nielsen film, Die Frau im Feuer. I found this on microfilm at the Deutsche Kinemathek. I am so glad that these Film-Kuriers exist because they are probably the only ties that we have in regards to Nielsen’s lost films.

What was most surprising about my finds was that Nielsen is rarely seen in fan magazines and the only time she is mentioned in fan magazines is when a new film of hers is released; I saw more of Jenny Jugo than anyone else. However, Nielsen was mentioned quite often in trade journals, especially in the late 1910s and early 1920s, except my German sucks so I have no clue what they are saying for the most part. One day I will master the language, ONE DAY!!!

Click here for the rest!

The Great Gatsby ; 2013

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke
Country: Australia, U.S.A.

I dedicate this entry to my friend, Poopsie, who has known me for thirteen years and calls me a film snob. I swear to God that I’m not!!! But maybe I might come off snobby in this entry? *wiggles eyebrows* No, she’s right, I am a snob. Speaking of pretension, this is what I could call snobby: The New Yorker.

When I heard that there was going to be another adaptation of The Great Gatsby, I felt a combination of excitement and dread. Excitement, because I thought that Baz Luhrmann might be the perfect director to direct the story, but dread because I wondered if ANY film could do the book justice. Also, I grew up watching the 1974 version (ROBERT REDFORD, HNGGGGGG) so I’m going to be perfectly frank with you, I’M BIASED.

Then the trailer came out, and I was excited to see Leonardo DiCaprio (I love him as an actor), but instead of feeling in awe of DiCaprio, I laughed when he came on the screen. What kind of indicator was THAT? And on top of this, I saw that Ziegfeld Follies was misspelled so I had my little immature moment (aka “snobby moment”) going “What the fuzzy?!”. According to a comment that was left in an article that my friend sent me, there is a newsreel clip where Ziegfeld is spelled Zeigfeld, and maybe Luhrmann was acting even snobbier than all 1920s fans/snobs by making some abstruse reference to a newsreel clip, but COME ON. Ziegfeld is a big name so HOW COULD YOU MISSPELL THAT? Feeling miffed and confused over DiCaprio, I became reluctant to watch this movie and didn’t plan to watch it.

In a turn of events, I ended up at a theatre, and I told Poopsie that the actor I am looking forward to the most is Tobey Maguire. When I found out that he was cast as Nick, I was really happy to hear that — definitely more excited than hearing that DiCaprio got the role of Jay Gatsby despite my fondness for him. Well, like most people, Poopsie was horrified to hear that I was looking forward to Maguire and I’m going to tell you guys now: I still stand by my approval of him.

I found the movie fun to watch and all I could think was that the film was a sensory orgy. I didn’t know what to listen to nor where to focus my eyes on because there was so much to look at and sounds sometimes overlapped to create a certain feel. Visually, the film itself was very Luhrmann-esque (think Moulin Rouge) and my first impression was that it was nothing more than a lot of glitter, but that made me think even more about it.

First off, DO NOT COMPARE THIS MOVIE TO THE NOVEL. Like many people, I tend to compare film adaptations to their source work, but recently, I have been trying to stop doing that. After watching this film, I decided that comparing a book and a movie is like comparing apples and oranges and that there are some things that only movies can do and there are some things that only written works can do. I tried to watch this movie with an open mind (it also helped that it’s been 10 years or so since I last read the book) and I tried my best to not compare it to the novel’s themes or story line and to only take in what was shown in front of me. It was rather effective since I found the movie to be well-paced and fun to watch.

After the initial reaction wore off, I began to think that the movie was very “empty”. Despite trying to prevent myself from comparing the film to the novel, I felt a little sad that the movie felt like it was all about the visuals and the themes of the novel weren’t present in the film at all. How I saw it was that the story was just a backdrop, or even an excuse, to have such resplendent visuals, and that all that mattered were the images and nothing else. Pretty much what I ended up concluding about the movie was that it was like nice on the outside but nothing on the inside. But then I thought, “Would this movie hold up on any level if there was no story? Or if the source material was a bad one at that?” Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is on the verge of being a melodrama on the story level and it appears that the only thing that Luhrmann took from the novel was the love story with the themes in the novel being completely lost. After much thinking about this, I think that my initial thoughts are wrong. The film isn’t meaningless — on the contrary, Luhrmann uses this seemingly glib film to underscore the emptiness related to wealth when it is surfeit and the superficial nature of American patricians.

In many ways it reminded me of Josef von Sternberg’s films where image is most important. Just like von Sternberg (reference Image 4), Luhrmann’s visuals are lush, but unlike von Sternberg, I think that Luhrmann’s Gatsby has visuals with meaning. At this point, I see many of von Sternberg’s films made in the 1930s to be purely visual pieces where the story is used just as an excuse to compose beautifully composed moving images. But does a purely visual piece mean that a work is meaningless? Does meaning give worth to a movie? I think this is where subjectivity comes into play because when I watch some experimental films, I don’t feel like all I saw was images but that there was something more to it. Is it because I’m watching a narrative film that I expect to not feel this “emptiness” and that I’d take something away from the movie and its storyline? What would Gatsby be without the visual overload? I don’t even know what to think of all this. I should rewatch Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette because I think that that film will be the perfect film to use as a backdrop to aid me with my thoughts and questions. Anyway, coming back to what I was saying, I don’t think it’s just beauty for beauty’s sake with this film but instead, Luhrmann quite appropriately uses excessiveness. After all, don’t we associate the Roaring Twenties with extreme extravagance? And it was because of Luhrmann’s style that made me think in the first place that he would be the perfect director for this film.

Coming back to Toby Maguire, the reason why I liked him so much was because of this “emptiness” that I speak of. Even as Nick, who has the most “soul” in the movie, he appears to be stiff and cold. Maguire’s acting style doesn’t make me see Nick as a warm character but instead, his acting is just another aspect of the movie that emphasizes the lack of warmth and genuine human interaction within the upper crust.

Also, was it only me or was there a picture of Norma Shearer (ref. Picture 5) in the party scene where Nick gets drunk? I had a mini fangirl moment while watching the movie. I love that woman too much. I don’t remember the picture too clearly, but it kind of looked like this one. I was also happy to see Leyendecker’s Arrow Collar Man (ref. Picture 3), Mae Murray’s name, Blood and Sand, and Douglas Fairbanks’ name. I need to learn how to stop fangirling whenever I see references to things I like. Will I ever grow up?

Image credits:
http://www.reykjavikboulevard.com/the-great-gatsby/
http://www.americanillustrators.com/artist.php?id=12591
http://www.annexmagazine.com/gatsby-trailer/#sthash.Z7VHcJLk.dpbs
http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/late%201920s

IMDb Link: The Great Gatsby

Paths of Glory ; 1957

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Actors: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson, Joe Turkel
Country: U.S.A.

My friend and I have been planning a Kubrick marathon for some time but something always came up and we would not watch a Kubrick film or we wouldn’t get to it. We decided that The Shining would be our first film but due to technical difficulties, the only choice we had was Paths of Glory. We both groaned since we both dislike war movies and I felt pooped about having to stare at Kirk Douglas’ face. I have nothing against him but whenever I see his face, I just want to punch him, just like Jason Schwartzman. Just like how I didn’t want to punch Schwartzman when I actually met him, my urge to punch the computer screen whenever Douglas showed up lessened and lessened. He was wonderful as Colonel Dax.

In many ways, I don’t think that Paths of Glory is special but at the same time, there are many exceptional things about it. For the most part, the film looks like a normal A/B feature film but then you start seeing things that are distinctly Kubrick, specifically cinematic aspects that you see later on in his films. I, and many others, associate Kubrick with tracking shots, and I have often associated Max Ophüls with tracking shots as well. For me, when I watched Paths of Glory, the tracking shots did not have the grand feel that Ophüls’ tracking shots had. Or maybe they both achieved the same effect in that Ophüls used those tracking shots to give his films a glossy feel whereas Kubrick used tracking shots to achieve various effects. For example, in the famous tracking shot of when Colonel Dax walks in the trenches, the viewer isn’t marveling at the lovely movement of the camera but instead, one notices the grim look on everyone’s faces. Each face may be different but they don’t really have an identity — instead, they collectively give off the impression of people being in the dumps. War isn’t glamourous and fighting it isn’t all flags and glory — instead, it is a cause for unhappiness.

This picture (on the right) also made me aware that Kubrick was stepping out of the norm in regards to normal Hollywood style camera angles. It was moments like this when I became aware that this film was made my Kubrick, versus let’s say… Edmund Goulding (no offense to Goulding, of course). The impression I got was that the director was going for something new and the odd angle had an almost Brechtian effect on me. Sure, it made me focus on the character and made it look like I was looking down on him, just like what the judges and prosecutor were doing, but at the same time, all I could think was “WHY DID HE USE THIS ANGLE?” It bugged me loads.

All in all, I thought it was a good movie but it definitely made me feel pooped, as usual. I wonder how I’ll fare with Full Metal Jacket.

IMDb Link: Paths of Glory