falderal : a moving images blog
Thursday - June 13th, 2013
Die Frau im Feuer ; 1924

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!

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Saturday - June 8th, 2013
Girls and Boys on Film: The Gaze and the Portrayal of Gender in Duran Duran Videos

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…

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Saturday - June 1st, 2013
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Out There – Darkness ; 1959

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

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Saturday - June 1st, 2013
A few things

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!

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Tuesday - May 28th, 2013
The Great Gatsby ; 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:

IMDb Link: The Great Gatsby


Thursday - May 2nd, 2013
Paths of Glory ; 1957

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

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Monday - February 25th, 2013
Pretension or interest?: My thoughts on my Criterion Collection movie marathon.

My friend tagged me on a Facebook post and wrote:

has a lot of film catching up to do: Kes, a ton of Mizoguchi films I’ve yet to see, re-living my youth with some Godard, and way too much Fassbinder, [my name]!

I followed that up with my own status update:

Thank you [friend’s name] for telling me about Hulu! Seems like this weekend is going to be full of Truffaut, Kieślowski, and Rohmer. Oddly very Frenchy, teehee!

In retrospect, that’s a lot of name dropping! At that time, I didn’t mean to sound pretentious but was listing off the directors that I wanted to see works by, especially Rohmer since I’ve been pushing him off FOREVER.

After watching each film on Hulu, I would write little status updates of what I thought about the film I watched. Here’s what I wrote:

Trois couleurs
I finally watched all three in a row! Absolutely fantastic, 10/10! I loved Bleu best.

I Married A Witch
5.5/10: Cute movie and Veronica Lake is adorable as ever!
I am starting to think that I don’t like René Clair’s feature films too much but we shall see!

6.5/10: What I liked and disliked about the movie were the reasons why I like or dislike Godard films.
I have a feeling that it’s a film that I’m going to dislike when I get older, however, I definitely want to rewatch it again in the future.

Lola Montès
8.5/10: Beautiful and touching! Has many things that I love about films such as the overly artificial nature of it. I can see why Fassbinder liked it so much — I think that I should trust him and watch all of his favorite movies.

The Divorce of Lady X
5/10: Cute but very lacking. It reminds me of bad American screwball comedies and it just seems like England is trying to imitate Lubitschian screwballs and failing miserably. And the more I see of Merle Oberon, the more I think that she’s nothing but a pretty face. Laurence Olivier’s acting was brilliant and I hope to see more of his comedic roles!
Use of Technicolor did nothing for the film — it would have looked better in b/w.

21 Days
5/10: Reminds me of early Hitchcock pictures like 39 Steps and Jamaica Inn. Laurence Olivier was pretty good but Vivien Leigh was mediocre (funny how it’s the opposite in Fire Over England).

Les Grandes Manœuvres
9/10: I was worried that I was going to be disappointed with another Clair feature film but to my surprise, I really liked this one! The film had a dash of Wilder, Lubitsch, and Sirk, but the overall feel and style was unique. I love the whimiscal aspects of Clair films and this definitely had it!
Also, completely off-topic but seeing a young Brigitte Bardot was a shock. I guess her melons weren’t ripe yet.

Zazie dans le Métro
9/10: Whimsical, surreal, fantastic!

That Hamilton Woman
8/10: Korda production at its best! Viv and Larry were fantastic in it

Madame de…
9.5/10: My favorite Ophuls film that I watched! What a beautiful film and the story was great too. I never thought I’d say this but wow, Charles Boyer is a great actor — he definitely helped the movie shine and I loved watching him.

Le plaisir
6/10: Great cinematography + mise-en-scene but I didn’t like the plot much (and we all know how much I love plot!) The third segment was the best, in my opinion, and I really loved how the suicide scene was shot.

La Ronde
6.5/10: I liked the Ophulsian touches but the film didn’t do much for me. Also, the film features the most awesome cigar holder that I’ve seen in a film.

These little notes were ones I wrote to keep track of what movies I watched and my first impressions of them.

Yesterday, my friend treated me to dim sum (god bless her) and she jokingly said something along the lines of how I’m a film snob and that my status updates were proof of that. I told her that I wasn’t and we all tittered but then I started to truly wonder if I was.
This is what I consider a film snob: People who name drop all the time to make themselves look more intelligent. People who look down on others for not knowing certain things related to cinema. People who try to one-up each other with film knowledge.
I’m going to give it to you guys straight. Sometimes I act as such too but then I remind myself that there are so many things that I don’t know and that it’s really silly to judge others, especially based on specialized knowledge. After all, I still haven’t watched some of Fellini’s best-known works so who am I to judge? And I know diddly-squat about contemporary films so I am well aware of my weak points (But people, don’t get me started on Bette Davis, Billy Wilder, or Ernst Lubitsch. I will talk your ear off and ask you to fangirl/boy/gender-neutral/etc/SQUEAL-IN-DELIGHT with me!).
Long story short, I think judging is unnecessary and as my friend pointed out about me, all I ever say is, “No judgment!”

Now that is settled, let’s go back to my list of films and how my movie marathon worked out. Instead of watching Truffaut, Kieślowski, and Rohmer, I started off with Kieślowski and Truffaut and Rohmer dropped off the face of the planet.
How I decided which films to watch within a short period of time (I’m only human and had to sleep.) were based on genres (the strongest factor), stars, and then director. I ADORE comedies so I decided off the bat that I must watch all the comedies on the list of “MUST WATCH” films that I made for this movie marathon.
However, I decided to only watch comedies starring film stars I liked or ones directed by famous directors. This is where the pretension vs interest comes in. Am I watching this so that I can talk to other film people and be like, “Oh yes, I completely know what you are talking about. Ophüls’ camera movement is divine isn’t it? I know Lola Montès is his best known and loved work but I prefer Madame de due to the combination of plot, mise-en-scène and cinematography. What? You think plot isn’t important. Well sir, I have to disagree! Everything about this film is well-balanced and one aspect of the film complements the other!” (Oh god, gag me with a spoon!) or am I watching it because I really love films?

In the end, it all doesn’t matter what people think about me but I often wonder about how I choose which films to watch. If one is to label me a cinephile, I think that there are two aspects of me within this one label of “cinephile”.
One part of me is: A quest for knowledge.
The other part is: An instinctual love.
What I mean by the first part is that I watch certain films to educate myself. There are certain directors that many people know (even people outside of the ~film community~) so I feel some sort of obligation to know some of their works. What I mean by the second part is the love for films that I have that I can’t even describe in words. When someone asks me about why I love a certain film or a film star, I get starry eyed and blather some nonsense in an attempt to describe my feelings. There are certain actors that I am obsessed about and there are certain films that I can watch on repeat and never get tired of.
I guess that sometimes I have trouble accepting the first part because I feel as if I am tainting this “pure love” that I have for films (the second part). Both parts are equal and I do enjoy learning about new directors and such but I feel that the first part of me is less sincere even though my thirst for knowledge is sincere.

Oh well! One day I shall come to terms with it! And thanks to my curiosity about Max Ophüls, I found out that I really do like his works and want to watch everything that he directed! And if I seem like I’m name dropping, I don’t mean to come off as snobby but get carried away with my ramblings.

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Tuesday - January 29th, 2013
Morality and the New Woman

Last semester was one that was both heaven and hell. I was taking classes that I enjoyed (for the most part) and the one that I was truly excited about was my independent study. My independent study was a research paper on Asta Nielsen and Mary Pickford and how both women portrayed the idea of the new woman overtly or subversively. Overall, I was pretty satisfied with my paper although I was worried about some of the holes I had in my argument, and the biggest hole is what I’m about to address.

I received my paper back from my professor and she brought up the same question that I had about my own paper: Is agency a good thing if one’s act is selfish and not moral?
I was using Nielsen’s film Hamlet as an example of how film portrayed a woman who embodied the idea of a new woman — the important part being what I considered to be a new woman. For me, the ideas of a new woman were ones tied to independence, intelligence, and worldliness, and the character of Gertrude was one that encapsulated all of them. Gertrude was just doing her thing throughout the whole film! She’d cheat on her husband, lie to her country, and kill her son/daughter and husband as a way to satisfy herself. In other words: she knew what she wanted and she’d do anything to get it.
To have such a character is refreshing because in cinema, many women are pushed around or are just “decorations” in a film (e.g. pretty girl being tied down onto a train track just to be saved, such as in Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life, 1913) but It reminded me of something that I think I read awhile back (things are getting a bit murky in my head, I admit!) about how strong female characters in cinema are shown in somewhat an antagonistic light, for example, femme fatales.
Femme fatales are intriguing in that I personally find those characters to be absolutely amazing (They’re completely the opposite of me in character that I guess I want to live vicariously through them. But enough with the pseudo-Freudian analysis…) but it is true that people can see these characters as symbols of corruption. Instead of women being picturesque Victorian “ladies”, the shift in gender norms led to the creation of the vamp/femme fatale. Just think about what “vamp” means. Like a vampire, these women are ones that suck the life out of men and make them putty in their hands.

Coming back to Gertrude and my paper, I am honestly struggling with the notion of independence and morality in female characters in film. I don’t believe that one has the choose one or the other, heck, I used Mary Pickford as an example of a woman who used the patriarchal system to her advantage. But when it comes to independent women in early-1960s cinema, where and how do we (I?) draw the line?
Am I severely obscuring the term “new woman” to fit my own arguments? Probably.
Are there strong female characters in early cinema? Sure.
But how are these strong female characters shown? Usually with a flaw or something that appeals to the male audience to placate them.
At the top of my head, I can’t think of a woman who is good and strong. Katharine Hepburn in Holiday (1938) is the closest I can come to.
But then I wonder why is it so good to be good? Or am I on the verge of becoming amoral? And I wonder if I would be stuck with this big headache if these characters were male. Would I brush off their actions or would I be ruminating over this?

When I come up with some form of conclusion, it will be time for another blog post.


Monday - June 4th, 2012
From Low Art to High Art: Film’s Availability to the Masses

This is a ramble. Feel free to ignore.

The correlation between art and economics has always been present and the thought of art being “hoity-toity” even now is proof of this. Anything considered as something “above” is tied in with wealth — people assume that going to museums is for people who are wealthy and educated even though nothing about art itself is inherently tied to wealth.
In the Western world, art has slowly moved from being something private to something more public and for the masses. Paintings were usually for private use although statues and murals were for the public, but with the rise of prints, the availability of something grew. People were able to afford these non-originals and these prints were easily produced and distributed. I believe that films bring this to the next level. People in the beginning were suspicious of films and it was seen as a lower form of art. Yet with the rise of new technology, is film going towards a direction that is no longer for the masses? With the rising ticket prices, films are becoming something more exclusive. If one does not have the monetary means of being able to pay for a ticket, they cannot experience certain films the way they were supposed to be experienced. It is no surprise that people turn to pirating to get their “fix”. Back in the 30s during the Depression, Americans still flocked to the theatres to escape and to find shelter and amusement for a cheap price. Now the last thing people think about is spending their money on movies and if they do, they would probably want more bang for their buck and buy a DVD, which they can watch repeatedly.
It’s funny how the film medium, which has started as something quite egalitarian, has turned into something that is no longer that. What will films be like in the future and what will their place be in our lives? Will the movie going experience slowly die down or will gimmicks (most likely quite expensive) draw the audiences back in? i


Sunday - March 25th, 2012
Stella Dallas ; 1937

Director: King Vidor
Actors: Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Anne Shirley, Barbara O’Neil
Country: U.S.A.

Film adaptations of Olive Higgins Prouty’s novels seem to have a way of making me into an emotional wreck. Now, Voyager gets me every time and has me clutching onto napkins and wringing them while watching the film but Stella Dallas made me emotional to the extent that I could not even watch the film straight through. I don’t know what I would have done if I watched it in a theatre because the emotions that I felt were much too great to handle. I am a sucker for melodramas and usually cry through most of them but there was something about Stella Dallas that was almost painful for me to watch and it reminded me of an essay I had to read for class about female spectatorship in regards to melodramas. If I remember correctly, it was about the masochistic relationship that women have and how they enjoy seeing other women in pain (disclaimer: I could be remembering this all wrong), and the reason I thought this was because I continued watching the film when at times I almost became physically ill from watching this film. Even though I paused the film at times to catch my breath, I kept on watching it until the end. Why did I do this? The answer could be as simple as “Because I wanted to know the ending.” but somehow I don’t think it’s quite that.

While watching it, I wondered why I had such a violent reaction while watching this film to the extent that I had to get away from it at times and why I started feeling sick and couldn’t breathe properly. After thinking a bit after watching this film, I think that my fear (of sorts) with maternal melodramas stem from Mildred Pierce. While Mildred Pierce is a film that I like a lot, sometimes I have a hard time watching it due to how hateful Veda is and another melodrama that I have a hard time watching is Imitation of Life because of how Peola acts towards her mother. In both these films, the daughter character has traits that can be seen as despicable (why they act this way can be analyzed and be a wholeeeee ‘nother entry) yet in Stella Dallas, the daughter: Laurel, is not a character to be hated. She is a likable character and quite noble as can be seen in the scene when she finds out that her friends are making fun of her mother. Even though in the beginning she was embarrassed by her mother, she realizes that she loves her mother very much and does not want to leave her mother’s side, even for the chance of being seen as an upper-class, respectable young woman. I was so terrified that Laurel would hate her mother and had to pause the film and take a break for a few minutes before watching the scene when Laurel finds out that it is her mother that her friends are ridiculing. To be honest, I didn’t even really watch it and closed my eyes and ears and looked sporadically to see what happened but I couldn’t take the scene in fully. I didn’t want to because Veda from Mildred Pierce haunted me and I was frightened that Laurel would turn out to be just like Veda.
This was why the ending was particularly hard to watch and why I cried through the whole end sequence. There was no blame to be put on a specific character as to why the ending happened the way it did and the excess emotions that I felt weren’t filtered into how I felt towards various characters. Instead, all I felt was pity and frustration throughout the whole film and there was no cathartic moment or an outlet for these emotions. In Mildred Pierce, I felt anger towards Veda and pity towards Mildred but in Stella Dallas, there wasn’t any division or displacement of my emotions and my feelings just kept on rolling into a ball. Maybe after a few months, I should do a “Stella Dallas Revisited” sort of blog entry and analyze WHY I felt as if there wasn’t an outlet for emotion, at least for me.
While some people may view Stella’s actions to be annoying and that Stella was “asking for it”, she did the ultimate sacrifice by giving up her daughter so that her daughter could have a life that is different from her own. What perturbed me though was Stella’s smile as she watches her daughter get married and then walks away. Sure she is happy that her daughter was able to marry the man she loved but why is it necessary for Stella to be out of the picture? It was obvious that Laurel loved her mother very much and that Laurel would have found a way to have her man and keep her mother close to her. What was the force that drove Laurel and Stella apart? Is it because social image is so important that a mother has to give up her daughter in order for the daughter to be happy? Is image that important that Laurel’s father and stepmother would support Stella’s decision even though they are aware of Stella’s ulterior motives? Would Laurel truly be happy without her mother? I think that there is a very bittersweet undertone to the wedding scene because Laurel still remembers her mother and I don’t think that Laurel will ever forget her even as years pass by despite how they ended their communication with each other. Both characters are trapped within circumstances that they couldn’t fully control as can be seen with both Laurel and Stella being behind bars and I strongly believe that neither character will truly be happy by the trappings that society made for them and the trappings that they themselves made for themselves by accepting the pressures of society.

Finally, I just wanted to say how surprised I was by this film in regards to King Vidor. While I do associate King Vidor with Show People, somehow I expected this film to use the film medium more effectively than the traditional classic Hollywood style. I know of King Vidor’s potential and his interest in cinematography and somehow I expected something a little more from Stella Dallas. Although I DO admit that this film did remind me of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement in Germany because of the film didn’t look glamourous like Now, Voyager, but at the same time, many Hollywood films had this look of even lighting. Also, Stella Dallas didn’t really call for glamour like Now, Voyager did. I guess what did most of the legwork in this film for its emotional intensity was Barbara Stanwyck, but I’m not surprised by that. She is an amazing actress, no doubt about it!

IMDb Link: Stella Dallas
Where to buy: Amazon.com

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