falderal : a moving images blog

Archive for June, 2013

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!

Girls and Boys on Film: The Gaze and the Portrayal of Gender in Duran Duran Videos

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Lately I haven’t had time to watch feature films so I thought that I’d write about music videos since they don’t take much time to watch, which leads to another…

MARATHON!!! Woohoo! I haven’t done one since the G.W. Pabst one and I thought that the next marathon I would be related to some film star, Billy Wilder, or Ernst Lubitsch, but nope, instead it is one of my favorite music groups: Duran Duran. I am going to watch every single music video I can get my hands on by them and just write about whatever pops in my head while watching them.

I thought that I’ll start the marathon by posting a paper I wrote last year about the band since I think that I’ll probably end up referencing it later down the line.

God, I can’t believe that I’m putting something I wrote for school out to the public because I HATE showing my writing to people because it’s just embarrassing. Friends who read this blog, please do not think of me any less!
I must have been terribly unhappy with this essay because I couldn’t find it on my external hard drives or on my laptop and had to redownload it from the email I sent my professor.

Without further ado…

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Out There – Darkness ; 1959

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Original air date: January 25, 1959
Season 4, Episode 16
Director: Paul Henreid
Actors: Bette Davis, James Congdon, Frank Albertson, Arthur Marshall
Country: U.S.A.

While procrastinating on papers, I often watched Alfred Hitchcock Presents while supping on instant noodles. Now that I’m no longer in school, I haven’t watched an episode of AHP in some time, but while working on my film list and checking off Bette Davis films, I found out that she was in an episode of AHP. Naturally I had to hunt it down and watch it and to be honest, there isn’t much to write home about.

The story is about Miss Fox (Davis), a wealthy widow who lives in a condo by herself. She has a pet dog named Vanessa and Eddie (Congdon) is Vanessa’s dog sitter. One day, Eddie asks Miss Fox for money to help his sick fiancée. Miss Fox, who has a little crush on Eddie, is disappointed to hear that he has a fiancée and it is probably due to this reason that she refuses to give him the money. When Eddie leaves, Miss Fox calls out to him, probably from guilt and wanting to give him the money, but it is too late. Later, Miss Fox takes Vanessa out on a walk and gets strangled. Miss Fox identifies her perpetrator as Eddie but Eddie denies that he attacked her and says he is innocent. A year later, it is proven that Eddie is innocent and Miss Fox feels guilty about it. Nevertheless, she never outright apologizes to Eddie but does attempt to make things right by giving him a large sum of money. Eddie doesn’t forgive her and strangles her to death when she returns from a walk with Vanessa.

I didn’t care much for the story, but maybe it is because I watched this episode just to see Davis. My eyes were on her and that was all that I cared about. Despite being a fan of Davis, I am going to say something that is going to sound awful: I believe that her raspy voice (which somehow kind of worked in All About Eve) is the indicator of her downfall as a star. Of course, her age had to do with her losing star power in the Hollywood system, but I believe that it is her raspy voice that makes her appear like a bad imitation of herself. In her earlier films, she has a voice that is versatile but once that raspy-ness kicks in, she sounds almost monotone and (sometimes) laughable.

Mixing Davis’ voice with a bland story and hokey music led to some fun but that was it. I found James Congdon to be rather boring and flat as an actor and he only came alive when he was playing with Vanessa. I guess he acted that way to show that he didn’t have any interest in Miss Fox as a woman but nevertheless, I found him banal and saw him as proof of how much Davis has fallen since she is working with such an actor rather than a talented star. Despite Davis’ voice, her acting is still top notch and it can be seen when comparing her to Congdon. In the elevator scene when Miss Fox tells Eddie that he’s changed, Eddie looks only a tad more unhappy but looks as stiff as he did in the beginning of the episode. The only thing that changed was that Eddie has more of a frown on his face than a neutral expression. Davis, on the other hand, gives a nuanced performance when she finds out that Eddie has a fiancée. Just from looking at her face, you can see the disappointment, the hurt, and the jealousy, and can imagine Miss Fox thinking about aging and how her youth has passed. After all, Davis wasn’t a great actress for nothing!

The directing and usage of sound was similar to any AHP episode. When I see imitations of old TV shows with the exaggerated, sudden music, and corny acting or usage of props, I thought that it was just for fun but now I can see that old TV shows really did look like their reproductions. Paul Henreid, who I adored in Now, Voyager (1942, also starring Davis!!!), directed this episode and he also directed Davis in a movie, Dead Ringer (1964). I haven’t watched Dead Ringer yet but I hope that his directing style has improved by then because the directing here was trite.

AHP are like guilty pleasures for me — I don’t feel guilty for watching them but I’m never too sure why I watch them yet I keep on watching them. I admit that I look forward to how Hitchcock will present the story, but other than that, there isn’t any reason for me to watch them except to pass time. The stories are usually flat and sometimes even boring, and they don’t hold a candle to Hitchcock’s works. I should read more about Hitchcock so that I can learn why he did these television shows. I admire him for cashing in on his fame (it’s a smart thing to do), but at the same time, I feel pooped whenever the episodes aren’t that great. Isn’t it peculiar that I’ve watched many of Hitchcock’s feature films yet I know almost nothing about the director? Hm…

IMDb Link: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Out There – Darkness

A few things

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

1) I made a list of films I have watched and linked entries to the ones I wrote about. Of course, the list is incomplete but I am going to try my best to fill it out as much as I can for my own, personal record. It’s going to be hard to remember all the films I’ve watched in my life but it’ll be fun to try to remember. You can see the list here.

2) I am going to attempt to write about every single movie that I watch. It’s a daunting task but I think that it will be good practice for me in many ways. I hope that my writing will get better (Eh, who knows. Writing to oneself with no feedback in regards to writing style isn’t much) and it will also be good to be committed to something. I am going to try to see this as an adventure rather than a task — wish me luck! I am planning to rewatch films that I watched in the past so that in the end, when I’m older, my list of films that I watched will be linked to a blog entry. I hope that I will blog forever and ever!