Archive for the “Walter Murch, In the Blink of an Eye” Category
It’s no accident that the male figure is pervasive in Alfonso Cuarón’s portrait of a 2027 Great Britain. The dominant patriarchal order is indeed intact, there’s no doubt about that. What might not be so explicit in Children of Men is the role of the female. In her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Laura Mulvey attempts to discern the effects of preexisting societal conventions on the subconscious of the spectator. Specifically, Mulvey examines gender norms and how they manifest during the movie-watching experience. In mainstream film, Mulvey asserts, eroticism is weaved into the male-dominant state of nature: “Traditionally, the woman displayed has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium, with a shifting tension between the looks on either side of the screen” (716).
In Cuarón’s 2027 Great Britain, the figurehead of eroticism – the young female – has severely declined in numbers. And so the male (both the film’s protagonist and the male viewer) is stripped of a conventional “bearer of the look” status, thereby forced to reexamine the traditional gender roles assigned to his counterpart. But today eroticism still seems intrinsically linked to the subconscious, thus, a state of tension is evoked when the viewer is forced to adjust to a postmodern-feminist perspective. That tension is largely manifest by our protagonist Theo (Clive Owen)–his journey throughout the film mirrors a sort of reexamination of the female figure. In essence, to get to “tomorrow,” the female is vital. We furthermore see a reversal of conventional gender politics: the male does everything he can to help the female finish the job. Ultimately, in the mind of Theo (and thus the viewer’s perspective), eroticism is supplanted by a yearning for pragmatism. This demand for the gender traditionally deemed “subordinate” in an authoritative society has implications beyond feminism. Cuarón wants us to reexamine the dominant ideology guiding our own society–things like capitalism, communications technology, pervasive government, passive citizenry, etc. He uses one of the many conventions of modern society, the subordinate female figure, to show us how fragile mankind really is (emphasis on the man). Stripped of the capacity to reproduce – analytically speaking, to be independent; creative people – man is nothing. So in an increasingly-isolationist society undermined by a consumer world that threatens to blot out any hope of self-creation, we mustn’t let our material obsessions blind us from the threat of an overbearing government. We must be pragmatic; sensible individuals, and remain steadfast, as Theo comes to understand.
The spectator-side tension evoked by Children of Men, forcing a reinterpretation of the modern female (reflected by Theo’s journey) and thus society’s dominant ideology, while largely due to the viewer-character discontinuity in the erotic framework of the subconscious, wouldn’t have struck the viewer with such force without Cuarón’s particular attention to visual environment and mise-en-scène. It is the realness of Cuarón’s world that gives the “lack-of-eroticism” such an authentic feel. He paints his portrait subtlety, with an effort to reference his surroundings, but not explicitly so. His technique applies Walter Murch’s insight: “…suggestion is always more important than exposition. Past a certain point, the more effort you put into wealth of detail, the more you encourage the audience to become spectators rather than participants” (15). In so doing, Cuarón forces the viewer to constantly scan; think; reflect–he allows the tension created by a lack-of-eroticism free reign by making it seem so natural. Ultimately, the viewer is forced to question the danger of modern existence and its relation to our consumer and gender-oriented society.
1 Comment »
Fellini’s 8 ½ is a confusing work, there is not doubt. But this confusion is less a product of the film’s infelicities as it is an intended sense of disorder Fellini means to address. Murch suggests that a film is edited in a way that can ultimately physically manipulate its audience, literally changing the cadence of when they blink. 8 ½ is founded on the notion of fixation. Fellini provides a narrative that may exist beyond the confines of continuity editing, but the collection of images he provides are captivating nonetheless. Whether it is an innate desire to decipher the films meaning or simply a struggle to manage the nebulous plot of the film, it demands the fully devoted attention of the audience. The characters, scenes, and sensations of Guido’s mind are the primary guide we have in viewing the film. They are our currency for the complex system Fellini strives to create. We are privy to Guido’s past, his pain, and the fantastic dreams of his clearly troubled life. They are consuming to us, just as they are to them. After watching the film initially I felt distant from what I have seen, it was so unbridled with its cuts, images, sound that it simply made no sense. There was nothing with which I could identify. But with a bit of reflection, I thought that such a feeling may have been exactly what Fellini was pushing for.
Guido is a character in arrested development it seems. He cannot escape his convoluted life as a womanizer, catholic, artist, husband, or even as a flawed human being. His life is founded on a confused collection of memories and thoughts. With that in mind, Fellini does something that frankly most directors cannot achieve in a lifetime. He does not simply show us what Guido experiences, he let’s us feel it. The film instills in the viewer the same sense of disorientation, desperation and artistic conflict Guido faces himself. He does not simply manipulate the way in which we afford attention to certain scenes; rather he successfully creates an uncomfortable link between the mind of his discombobulated protagonist and the mind of his viewers. A little creepy and metaphysical, but I truly believe it. The film does not rely on continuity or conventional narrative; instead it relies on sensation; on the associations evoked by every disturbing, confusing and profound image of Guido’s life. The film is more than simply a conflicted work of art; it is a controlled assault on human sense and emotion. In more ways than one 8 ½ is like no other movie I have ever seen. But it is this improbable connection of emotion between the character and the viewer which makes it one of the best.
No Comments »
When did I go wrong? I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it all the same.
Upon first viewing Fellini’s 8 1/2, I really had no clue what to think. I was confused and exasperated. Spending two and a half hours watching a film I don’t end up understanding is quite frustrating, and in all honesty, I still don’t really know what to think about it.
Yet I feel that’s Fellini’s main goal with the film: to give the audience an understanding of Guido’s lack of understanding. Art is not some object that one can merely mold and force into a shape like Play-Doh (but I bet it tastes as delicious). Art is an autonomous entity. Guido bemoaning his lack of “…anything to say” speaks to this very idea of art’s independence. It cannot be simply conjured by one’s will; rather, it must from within him naturally. As Murch similarly notes, the passion drives the project. Such passion cannot be feigned regardless of evocative lighting or superb camera angles. It comes from within the project. In Guido’s case, he was the project. The emotion he felt for the work had to originate from within his own being. And yet,as he so notes, he cannot even feel passion for himself. As an extremely pompous (but alarmingly accurate) writer notes of the film’s script:
“…what stands out at a first reading is the lack of a central issue or a philosophical stance. That makes the film a chain of gratuitous episodes which may even be amusing in their ambivalent realism. You wonder, what is the director really trying to do? Make us think? Scare us? That ploy betrays a basic lack of poetic inspiration.”
Interestingly enough, Fellini metaphorically compares Guido’s philandering with his false passion for the project. As even Guido indicates at the end of the film, “…he doesn’t know how to love,” his relationships with women, from his wife to his numerous mistresses, are built upon a foundation of emotional playing cards. There is no ‘team’ when it comes to Guido’s relationships; as his harem dreamscape clearly notes, he sought to be the lion tamer in his own person sexual circus. Yet his realization of his selfishness allows him to fully grasp the shallowness of his person. He has falsified numerous significant sexual and emotional experiences he’s had, from dancing with Saraghina to his marriage to Luisa. Much like his realization of his beliefs his current art as a whole, the passion is not existent, and that which he thought existed was merely feigned. Thus, for him to attain the true human feeling and to produce a wholly truthful piece of art, Guido had to cut everything – the project and his many women – off from him.
No Comments »
Today I was going over my notes from Monday’s screening and tried to think about the ways that Murch’s principles are found within Frozen River. I thought about his idea that the editing pattern/rhythm should match the desired reaction from the viewer. He talks about editing and blinking the eye. Some scenes are meant to make the viewer blink frequently while other portions of the film are meant to grab the viewer’s attention and minimize blinking.
When Ray and Lila pick up the “dead” baby, the drive in the car is one example of an instance where I did not take time to blink. To blink during this scene would break the emotional tension as the two women begin to panic over the consequences of their crime. Why would the editor of the film choose to elicit such an action frm the viewer? I believe, that despite all the despair within the film, children remain a source of hope for the different mother figures Hunt portrays. We want the baby to live because there is somehow a hope that life can go on if children are raised with a strength and desire to successfully overcome obstacles. To blink or “cut” during that scene would mean forfeiting hope for the future.
No Comments »
I am at a loss for words when it comes to discussing The Piano (1993), pun intended. Although there is so much to be said about the film, I don’t know how to formulate my reaction into words…so I am going to try my best.
My initial reaction to the film was utter terror. This poor women is trapped in a loveless marriage, she is being molested by a strange man, and then she gets a finger cut off. This is usually the point when I would use a curse word, but I refrain. I just feel bad for Ada (Hunter). The only time she shows any kind of happiness is with her piano and with her daughter, Flora (Paquin).
Upon further examination of the film in relation to Murch’s text, there is one key element I wish to discuss; minimalism. Murch says “always try to do the most with the least-with the emphasis on try. You may not always succeed, but attempt to produce the greatest effect in the viewer’s mind by the least number of things on screen. Why? Because you want to do only what is necessary to engage the imagination of the audience-suggestion is always more effective than exposition” (Murch 15). In this case, Campion must emphasize the visual elements of the film (mis-en-scene) because Ada never speaks. The viewer must examine her eyes and subtle body movements to truly understand her. The tilt of her head can say so much and Campion’s use of the close-up shows us her eyes (windows to the soul). We can see her pain and suffering when she is separated from her piano, simply by looking into her eyes. Just like Murch said “suggestion is always more effective.” We don’t need to hear Ada’s words to understand what she is saying.
My final comment about this film is my attempt to answer Professor Smith’s question about female directors; how are the different? I think that it is important to note that the differences that come from Campion’s film probably originated with her screenplay (won the oscar). Campion, a female director, was not working on a screenplay written by a man, she wrote it and probably had a vision that was conceived before she put pen to paper. Every look and emotion that Hunter displayed was planned out by Campion before she ever put film into the camera. So in this case i think that there is more to be said about the differences we would find if this story had been written by a man. Ironically enough,Campion became the first woman to win the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival with this film, though she was unable to receive the award in person because she was due to give birth.
No Comments »
Posted by Samantha in Interviews, MIke Figgis, Digital Filmmaking, Walter Murch, In the Blink of an Eye, Workshops, tags: B-Roll Footage, Editing, Filmmaking, final cut pro, Mike Figgis, Walter Murch
Friday’s class brought up a lot of questions about the film we are making. One of the important issues that Mike Figgis talks about in his book is the importance of sharing a vision for the film. Watching the different bumps from the same footage provides evidence that we have not really collaborated enough on this project to fully understand its narrative capabilities.
Of course, part of this issue originates from the lack of experience many of us have with Final Cut Pro and filmmaking in general. How can we resolve this and still achieve success? I guess that best assessment I can generate is that more information is necessary to really utilize the materials we have. There is a lot of useful footage and I think it is useful that we have at least three people on each month familiar with a finite amount of b-roll footage.
Having a lack of familiarity with the rest of the footage makes it difficult to relate to our film. Right now, there is no kind of dance between the “editor(s)” and the images we have. Right now, I am unsure of how to follow and how to intelligently discuss the process of making this film when I have no further knowledge than of the b-roll footage from June.
No Comments »
In Walter Murch’s book “In the Blink of an Eye” he writes that “the participation of the audience” was the last thing he needed to finish the editing process. This notion is completely true, because no matter how good you think a project is, the audience seem to be the group of people who are the true judges. Film is one art form where every audience member can see something different and help deliver different feedback. This feedback is crucial to the final project because it is the only way to refine a project in a way that makes it better. The editing process further shows how important collaboration is in regards to the film making project because it one person cannot call all the shots and be able to know everything that works perfectly for a project; thus, it is truly a group effort to decide the best options and direction for a film.
I also found it interesting when Murch writes about how and why cuts work. He writes “perhaps we accept the cut because it resembles the way images are juxtaposed in our dreams. In fact, the abruptness of the cut may be one of the key determinants in actually producing the similarity between films and dreams” (58). This quotation reminded me of McGinn and how he wrote about how films and dreams are interconnected. Before this class I never compared films and dreams together, but it is completely true, because films really are dreams. For this reason, I agree with Murch that cuts are natural and work in many instances because the abruptness is expected and accepted by viewers because cuts typically occur in one’s dreams.
No Comments »
Having just completed our second filmmaking assignment, I find myself thinking about how great the timing was to view King Corn prior to submitting my bump. When I first sat down I had no idea where to start. Luckily watching the film on monday helped put some ideas in my head. First, I thought their narrative structure was perfect for the subject matter. Obviously Ian and Curt were learning more about corn as the months progressed and their acre developed, so breaking down the film into months made it very easy to convey this process to the audience. I think this structure also lends itself to our film, seeing as we have already created bumps according to the months.
Another important thing I learned from the film was how to incorporate b-roll footage in a way that best advances the narrative. The b-roll from King Corn was one of my favorite things about the film, especially the shots where the camera was attached to the tractor. The b-roll in the film was often accompanied by dialogue overlapping and is one method that really helped me organize/begin my bump. Looking back, it seems like these ideas are common sense but they sure did not seem that way to me when I began to edit my first ever sequence.
Cornheads Ian and Curtis
No Comments »
I was looking back at the posts I have written so far for the course and I noticed that I took special care to categorize and tag my entries very consistently in the beginning. As the semester has progressed, I have become less meticulous in taking time to organize my work for easier access to other individuals. I have updated my posts to minimize this problem and remove hinderances for finding my work.
As Prof. Smith mentioned in class on Friday, it is important to facilitate access in the process of organizes material. In our case, editing and sequencing our film is going to require considering how to make our material accessible to a wider audience. Murch also takes on this idea in his book. This is not a lesson that should go ignored for egocentric perspectives limit the opportunity to create something meaningful to a wider audience.
1 Comment »
“The eyes are the window of the soul.”
Murch’s In the Blink of an Eye was not only a helpful account of the bits of knowledge Walter Murch has aquired through his editing experiences, but also a provacative book about emotion within a film. I had never thought of blinking as an act that had any relation to my innermost thoughts or cuts within filmmaking, but after reading Murch’s suggestion of the meaning of a blink, I find myself viewing this act in a whole new way. As I read the passage in which Murch asserts that people blink as a shift of thought occurs in their mind, I was reminded of the above English proverb; many have considered the eyes a reflection of peoples’ true feelings and emotions and I have often heard the idea that the eyes cannot lie. It would make sense then that the act of blinking would also be involved with our thoughts and feelings. It is human nature to seek to organize and attempt to structure the chaos of life, so it seems obvious that our attempts to separate our different thoughts would be reflected in our body language in some form. As Murch explains, blinking is a way of shutting our eyes off to the world for a moment, changing our horizon; even if we have not moved and the setting we were looking upon will be the same once we open our eyes, this breaking up of our view forces it to be different to us in some way. This relates to cutting, in which the screen we are looking at is constantly jumping through time and space. Murch connects all these thoughts in a way that I never would have thought possible.
Wednesday’s workshop was extremely helpful and it was interesting to begin the editing process with Murch’s pointers in mind. I was especially struck by Murch’s theory that emotion is the most important element to consider within editing of a film. An editor must constantly keep in mind what emotion he/she wants to invoke from the audience, and use this as the guiding force in editing choices. I believe this is what makes editing a challenging task, because no matter how well you master the actual techniques of the editing process, every film requires its own unique set of editing selections that will create the emotion and power necessary to involve the audience, and it is up to you to make the right choices.
No Comments »