Vinterbergs 1998 film The Celebration was not only one of the most disturbing films we’ve watched in class, but also one of the most twisted films I’ve seen in general. One of the interesting qualities of film is that it presents a reality that is portrayed through performance. I was highly disturbed after researching the avant-garde style Dogma 95 manifesto to realize that this cinematic movement required films to be as real as possible, meaning all actions including beatings etc. are not faked and edited in post production.
The issues and topics that the film dealt with were very real and sensitive including sexual abuse, and family decay so to discover that the director strived to reenact these scenes as realistically as possible is problematic. The scene that mostly comes to mind as being highly distasteful is the beating of the woman. In this scene, I have an issue understanding why its necessary to have the man actually carry out an action that could easily depicted through various camera angles and good acting which takes more skill and creativity. The Dogma 95 argument that it makes the scene more realistic if the action is completed versus edited and altered in postproduction is not credible to me if it means causing harm to an individual for the purpose of entertainment. Many films have successfully depicted harm, sadness, and gruesome action without literally performing the act, and it does not take away from the authenticity of the scene. Film is not a direct representation of reality and should not try to imitate it in this manner.
Linda Williams focused her studies on the female spectator pleasure by analyzing melodrama classical Hollywood films. She uses the film Stella Dallas as a test case to support various concepts of feminist’s film theory including maternal sacrifice and identification. In the film we see a hardworking lower class mother sacrificing her relationship with her daughter as the daughter climbs the social ladder and marries into an elite upper class family. In the crucial Final scene of the film, Laurie is getting married inside the family’s mansion while Stella stands alone outside the gates of the house observing the ceremony through a small window that was cracked open.
Williams also talks speaks to the dynamics of looking and identification within a film. The audience does not identify with a single character or viewpoint throughout the duration of the film. In Stella Dallas Viewers see the isolation and separation Stella faces as she watches her daughter depart her former role but we also are taken inside the house into the wedding, a privilege her own mother does not receive. Another example, is when they’re on the train and at the point when Stella decides to give up her daughter after overhearing her friends joke about Mrs. Dallas. Both Stella and her daughter heard the conversation and hoped the other hadn’t.
By viewing the film from multiple perspectives, Williams argues that the audiences is exposed to the desires of all the characters including Stella, her daughter, her daughters new husband, and even Helen. We as the audience are seen as the ideal mother because we see identify with all the conflicting points of view. At the final scene of Stella Dallas, the viewers identify with the loss that Stella has faced despite the films intention of convincing us that this action was necessary on her behalf.
This post modernist film presented a director’s insight and viewpoint into the process of filmmaking. When comparing this film to the same theme highlighted in Truffaut’s work that was screened in the beginning of the year, the two films differ greatly in many ways. After watching 8 ½ in its entirety, it was not immediately obvious what was going on in the film because of the discontinuity that displaced the narrative. In some ways, this characteristic deterred the quality of the film for me because I often found myself feeling frustrated and confused , which inhibited by ability to thoroughly enjoy the film as a whole. Unlike Truffaut’s La Nuit Americaine, in 8 ½ it was extremely arduous to differentiate between the two films within the film. In hindsight, although at first I saw this observation as being a destructive trait about the film, looking back it adds to the theme of the protagonists inability to distinguish his personal reality and his desires as well as his reality from his work. Overall, I think watching this film a second or third time would greatly benefit my understanding and appreciation of the piece.
Even disregarding the monkey brain buffet, and the obscene amount of creepy crawling creatures, Indiana Jones Temple of Doom was an extremely cringe worthy film. The depiction of indigenous individuals, women, Indian culture and much more were all undoubtedly problematic. The lack of continuity throughout the film was an immediate indicator on the quality of the film; however, each additional misrepresentation threw an additional punch. I was fully expecting the film to receive an incredible amount of backlash and Spielberg to comment or more appropriately, apologize for the offensive depiction. I was shocked to discover that the only hindsight he offered was that the film was extremely dark and gory. Furthermore, he attributed this quality to his unfortunate circumstances at that time which was his divorce. Essentially, Indiana Jones Temple of Doom was a break up film; exposing the emotions Spielberg was experiencing during the time. In regards to the Auteur Theory, this coincides with the personal filming aspect of the theory, which states that directors produce films based off their own situations or experiences. Obviously, Spielberg never crashed a plane in the mountains or was forced to drink blood, however, the dark demeanor of the film reflected his state of mind at the time.
The outcome of the scene where Ennis attempts to retrieve Jacks ashes from his family to carry out his final wish of having his remains scattered throughout Brokeback Mountain conveys a crucial message. Firstly, the ambience of Jacks parents’ home, in addition to the demeanor of his parents reflects an extremely monotone and stark tone, which is an immediate indicator of the hostility Ennis is about to face. After presenting the purpose of his visit, Jacks father counters his request stating that Jacks ashes will be scattered on his home plot, ultimately denying him of this wish. This denial demonstrated another example of the lack of control that was present in Ennis and Jacks relationship and the restraint they faced numerous times throughout their time together. Despite being dead, Jack is still being controlled by an outside force.
Another aspect of this important scene exists in the interpretation of Jack and Ennis’ shirts. Since Ennis is denied the ashes, he instead walks away with a memory of their relationship in the form of clothing. Upon further investigation, it is apparent that the meaning of this memoir is tremendous. The literal intertwining of the shirts obviously represents their relationship, however the blood also depicts the death of Jack, and the placement of the shirts outside the closet reflect Ennis’ newly gained acceptance with his homosexuality. Lastly, the shirts are left hanging on the door along side a picture of Brokeback Mountain relaying the idea that their relationship is a thing of the past, and currently existing solely as a memory.
The film effectively interweaves subtle messages within the settings, actions and objects making the effect of the film more meaningful than just the immediate face value.
Response to Color Adjustment
Marlon Riggs’ thought provoking documentary, Color Adjustment, presented various credible arguments about the portrayal of African Americans on television. One of the most intriguing inquiries posed in the film was the idea of defining the positive image of African Americans on film. If they are portrayed as lower class families struggling in a repressed society with no career opportunities, does this realistic and relatable simulation find more applause than one where a whitewashed upper middle class African America family is thriving? It is also crucial to identify the audience for this question as the answer to this most likely varies based on the spectator’s role in society.
This discourse relates to our class discussion on whether any representation is better than no representation. I personally think it is dangerous for such a popular medium such as television or any other forms of media to be responsible for molding the identity of a group of people. This holds especially true in early history when the two separate races were not integrated and for many, the only interaction and relation Whites had with African Americans was what they were exposed to on television. When entire groups of people are categorized by a few characteristics, it can often lead to the formation of a stereotype. If the traits are negative, the result is detrimental. For this reason, I have a hard time agreeing with the phrase “no press is bad press.”
Comparing and discussing the two clips depicting women in different manners highlighted the underlying power of cinematic techniques. The first clip portrayed a woman doing typical mundane tasks through the perspective of a stagnant filming apparatus and the use of long takes. At first, I thought the lack of cuts added to the male gaze, working against feminism because it allowed the viewer to spectate for a long period of time as if subject were a zoo animal. However, after watching the entire clip and realizing that nothing demeaning or sexually arousing was occurring, it was evident that this clip was not a typical portrayal of women in Hollywood Cinema. Furthermore, in comparison to the clip from Klute, the absence of any significant dialogue, music or intricate costumes in the first clip also added to the dull portrayal.
The second clip from the film Klute depicted the female character in an entirely different manner using sexual language, the introduction of two male protagonists, and exotic music in the background. Although the lighting prohibited the audience from explicitly viewing the promiscuous details, the mise-en-scene was enough to convey a sexual image of the female. Mulvey stated that Hollywood Cinema inevitably privileges the male in terms of narrative and spectatorship, which is overt in clips such as Klute, and less so in the first screening we viewed. Nevertheless, the comparison of the two clips was crucial in pointing out the power of lighting choices, camera angles, the use of sound and various other cinematic aspects.
MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA
Unlike Truffaut’s La Nuit Americaine where we have an outsider’s view of the arduous effort required in the filmmaking Industry, this film provides a more abstract viewpoint of the process. Both films relay a similar message in different contexts and visual representations. For example, the danger of film production in Man With A Movie Camera can be seen when he goes to extreme measures to get the shot he wants i.e. climbing intimidating heights. Similarly in Truffaut’s film, this same aspect is represented by the use of stunt double for the dangerous scene involving the car and the cliff.
The editing used in the film is also extremely noteworthy and especially groundbreaking considering the time period in which the film was released. Through various techniques that manipulate our perspective of time (done through series, montage and collision editing) Initially, it was difficult to derive a story line from the film due to the lack of prior information, establishment scenes or title cards. However, by the end of the film it was clearly a documentation of the process of filmmaking and all the potential possibilities enabled through the apparatus of the camera.
While there is little dispute regarding the fact that filmmaking is a collaborative effort, when it comes to labeling one director as the sole author of a production many eyebrows are raised and controversies arise.
On page ten of Understanding Film Theory, a quote from British director Richard Curtis states “A film is made at least four times. Once in the writing. Then in shooting, which is the second film. Then in the editing, which is the third film. Then there might be a fourth film” In order for a director to be considered the single author of film, I believe they must impose a heavy presence in each of the different aspects of the filmmaking procedure. The lines that clarify the requisites for an auteur feel blurred and strictly based on a case-by-case scenario. Regardless, it is obvious that most directors don’t enter the film industry with the mindset that they are striving for the label of authorship. In the fame obsessive culture we live in, it is arguable that the title of auteur generates a feeling of accomplishment and praise however from an analytical perspective there is a greater meaning behind this title.
One existing benefit derived from the Auteur theory is the ability to draw common characteristics and style used by the director in a variety of their films. Big name directors have specific qualities they are known for in their works, which provides a unifying aspect to their films; however, this is not to say that a director can only produce one style or genre of film. Contrastingly, one downside from believing that directors have a single style that they incorporate in every film is that it might persuade the audience to stretch the meaning of certain aspects to fit the mold of the style used in previous films.
Auteur theory presents an interesting question and a new influence to think about when watching films.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 political satire addresses controversial historic events in a comedic manner. The disastrous nuclear bombing and the events leading up to it represented an altered reflection of the heated arms race between the U.S and Soviets in the 1960’s in addition to the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Although the film was obviously not a visual replica of history, many of the themes, ideas, and messages of it were heavily based off realistic issues and sentiments during this chaotic time period.
One of obvious themes mirrored in the film was the widespread Cold War and nuclear war paranoia. Historically, Americans were crippled with fear knowing that a nuclear war that could wipe out all human existence was a possible threat. Children in schools even practiced responding to nuclear attacks by hiding under their desks. Furthermore, any displays of Anti-Americanism were handled with the upmost severity, some leading to unjust legal punishment. Similarly in the film, this same distress and concern can be seen in many characters including Turgidson and the rest of his defense team. While this comedic film does induce laughter from the perspective of knowing that this never occurred, during the high intensity of the 60’s, laughter regarding this particular situation was practically a forbidden act.
Despite the extreme tension surrounding the events portrayed in the film, the brilliance and intricate detail in the film proved to be groundbreaking and positive for the film industry. The courage and bravery required of an individual to direct and produce a film of such extreme political resonance also gives Kubrick another layer of credibility and respectability.