Rome, Open City (1945)

Mum and Dad were up this weekend and I was keen to show Dad The Phoenix cinema. After a lovely Sunday lunch, we went off to see Rosselini’s ‘Roma Citta Operta’.

I thought it was magnificent. Very few films make me actually cry full tears, but Magnani’s acting and the heart-breaking ending had me blubbing immediately.

I highly recommend this blunt, raw masterpiece that, having been made just after the war on a shoe string, has a mesmerising and brutal quality. I feel very lucky to have seen it on the big screen.

‘Neville Rumble’ (2013) – useful contacts!

A colleague of mine at school recently revealed that he was making films, which is always lovely to hear, especially in the local area. He lent me a copy of his most recent work – ‘Neville Rumble’ a full-length, well-made film that has some great performances and a gripping storyline. I’m hoping I can get involved in some way for his next picture, even if it’s just previewing it.

Why I failed. 10 points…

I’ve given up on my screenplay. I hate giving up on anything. During my final screenwriting course session I reflected on why I failed.

1. I can always use the old excuse of life getting in the way. It has been especially busy for the last few weeks at work and participating in the Poetry By Heart competition, but you can always do things if you want to. However, teaching, more than any other job I’ve done, seems to drain you mentally and so I have time, just no brain space.

2. I didn’t love the story I chose. I wasn’t sold on it entirely and couldn’t figure out some of the characters.

3. I have been working on receiving criticism for the last few years. I used to be really bad at it, , but I know it’s a really important thing to get better at. However, I found the way the tutors gave me notes, was contradictory and unhelpful. I have realised that I need a lot of reassurance in my life.

4. I’m really not a writer. At all. I did finish The Hall last year when some friends and I did a writing competition, but it nearly killed me.

However, I have realised a lot of positives from the whole experience:

5. From doing the course, we have found out about a film production course at The Phoenix in May and June, which we may do and I think will be more my thing. I’ve also realised what a great place it is for getting involved, which will be really great when Joey lives here.

6. I have read some really nice books from the reading list. William Goldman and Stephen King have been great inspiration.

7. I’ve found a career I definitely don’t want to do.

8. I have realised that I was teaching screenwriting in a fairly conventional way. Although, maybe with more resources and variety. Two hours in a room with just one voice is tricky…

9. I’ve learnt all about formatting, which is very useful and really enjoyable.

10. It has been really nice doing something creative with Mark and seeing how much he enjoyed the process. I also really like his idea and hope he keeps working on ‘The Gloaming’.

I’ve also realised that I set myself big challenges and maybe I shouldn’t kill myself when I fail. It’s good enough just to try things.

Screenwriting 5

The assignment this week was to help us start using dialogue. We had to put our main character in a greasy spoon cafe. Unfortunately, all of the screenplay formatting I had done on my google drive has gone, but hopefully you get the gist…

OUTSIDE ‘DAVE’S CAFE’ NEXT TO A BUSY ROAD. IT’S NINE ON A COLD, GREY BRITISH MORNING.
Lara is about to enter the cafe, but hesitates fractionally before doing so.

INSIDE THE CAFE, WHICH HAS THE RADIO ON. IT IS A UTILITARIAN PLACE WITH LAMINATED TABLE TOPS AND INDUSTIAL SIZED BOTTLES OF KETCHUP.
Lara looks around, a little unsure. She is well aware of how much she sticks out and therefore studies the menu board intensely.

DAVE – CAFE OWNER
What can I get you darling?

Lara bridles a little at the familiarity, but also faintly warms to the affectionate name, like a stranger in a foreign land

LARA
Oh, um… Please could I have a cup of tea?

DAVE
I think we can manage that. I’ll bring it over.

He turns to get her order.

LARA
Oh, sorry, do you have Earl Grey?
(As soon as she has said this, she knows she shouldn’t have. It’s a stupid affectation and makes her even less comfortable in the environment)

DAVE
No love, sorry. Just the standard builders’ tea.

LARA
Oh, ok. Ummm…. That’ll be fine.
(It’s not fine, but she knows she already looks like a fool and would trust the coffee even less)

DAVE
Anything else?

LARA
A couple of pieces of toast please.
(If she is going to have to sit here with the thick tea, she may as well have something else to not consume with it.)

DAVE
£2.20 please love. I’ll bring it over when it’s ready.

She hands over a £20 note.

DAVE
(With a sigh) anything smaller?

Lara starts furiously hunting for change by upturning the entire contents of her bag. She is getting redder in the face and more flustered. Dave, knowing this will be a fruitless search, simultaneously starts sorting out change from the till and as she looks up and shakes her head, he hands her £17.80 in coins. Lara shamefacedly takes this in her hand while trying to clutch all her dislodged possession under her arm and finds a table as far away from everyone else as possible. She sits down and tries to reassemble everything and restore some of her dignity.

Screenwriting course – Assignment Four

OK, so this is a bit more developed and I have removed any directorial comments.

The Search

Scenes of young lovers in the dark making wonderfully intense love are folded into the sudden horrific burst of an IED on a sun baked dirt road.  We can’t clearly see any of the faces, but the stark contrast of colours from the dark night with muted street lamps to the bright sun is blinding and the images blur and become abstract so we can’t fully identify the faces.

We close on a cold empty house that is achingly neat.  It feels starched and sad.  It is evidence of a person living quietly and trying not to disturb things in their daily habits.  Someone who lives a solitary and self-contained life. On the sideboard bookcase in the hall there is a letter from Lara that details to her soldier husband Rob why she has decided to leave him.  It refers to a lover, who has made her realise how lonely she was with his absences and his lack of emotion, but how, even with that, she finds it difficult to leave .  It says how she has not taken this decision lightly and that she is so sorry that it is going to cause him so many problems.  It describes all of the good times and how she hopes they can still remain friends.  We see this letter propped up near the phone while it rings and rings. Next to this letter we also see a photo of how he proposed to Lara – it is a colour photo of a garden with candles that say ‘will you marry me?’ in a heart.

Lara is a primary school teacher who has always done everything right for her parents, her husband, who she married at 22, and her friends.  She was never in trouble at school, did well at university and has always worked hard as a teacher. People assume she is completely fulfilled by her job, seeing friends occasionally, keeping up with her book club and baking cakes to take in for colleagues.  We next see her get into a car in an agitated state and start to passionately kiss James (her lover and a work colleague who at 27 is a year younger than Lara and has never been in a long, sustained relationship) Her mobile starts to ring loudly. She ignores it, until she can’t any longer and with a frustrated reaction she answers it. Everything becomes blurred and we see her pained reaction, although we can’t hear what it says.

We see Lara at the airport waiting to see what Rob looks like.  Her face reveals her guilt, her frustration, her fear and her anticipation.  Rob (a man who enjoys his job as a soldier and sees the world in black and white.  He has always admired Lara and her quiet confidence, but found it frustrating that she is not more adventurous in bed.  He feels that men should be masculine and women feminine in everything) is shielded by people and airport screens for a long time until Lara sees his damaged face and that he is in a wheelchair. He doesn’t need the chair long-term, but it’s the initial trauma. The IED exploded near his left side and broke his collarbone, some ribs, punctured his lung, damaged his pelvis and shrapnel landed around his eye and jaw.  Rob looks dazed and closed and he sees her muted reaction, although she looks happy to see him and immediately willing to support him, her eyes reveal her turmoil and guilt.  On some level he has understood this, but can’t process it.

They go through the rehabilitation process and we see Lara throwing herself in to it.  She physically helps the nurses move Rob around, helps organise the house to make it work for him, discusses his progress with doctors and throughout keeps a fixed ‘smiling, but suffering wife’ expression.  He doesn’t seem to have reconnected with her in any way and resents having to be treated like a child.  He is friendly, but clearly frustrated with his new secondary position.

During this time and increasingly as the physical recovery has finished, Lara and the audience understand the amount of mental damage that Rob has.  We see Rob struggle with  nightmares, flashbacks and anger outbursts about insignificant things.  Lara struggles with these as she is still feeling incredibly guilty about her betrayal, but is even more removed from Rob. He doesn’t understand how he is hurting her feelings, that he is cutting her off and often almost getting violent, but stopping himself just in time. We continually see her reaction intimately and how she is struggling to cope.

The relationship keeps deteriorating and she meets up with James one night after telling Rob she is going to a ‘wounded wives’ support group. They have an angry and sad sexual encounter in a car that is incredibly physical and she is clearly craving lustful, sensual contact.  James initially wants to talk to her, but she avoids any conversation and is kissing him when he attempts to speak.  She is petrified that he is going to ask her to make a decision or burden her with his problems and a desire to see her more often.  During their encounter, we see her face, which shows a mixture of disgust, lust, desire and pain.

These scenes are combined with scenes of Rob watching her leave the house.  Her seems to initially not mind that he is left and carries on watching television.  We then move through the house with Rob and watch him select some books to read.  He picks one on the hall bookcase and discovers the leaving note she had written on the day he came home. She had hurriedly tucked this into a book when she brought him back from the airport.  We watch him slowly understand the contents and how both flashes of anger and enormous sympathetic pain cross his face.

After her unsatisfying tryst, we see Lara enter the seemingly empty house and in a panic look all around to find him.  He is out in the garden, which is covered in candles and he has recreated the engagement picture, but with ‘I love you’ and asks her to give him time to recover and work out what the post-traumatic stress disorder has done.  He doesn’t mention that he found the letter and never will. He also doesn’t mention the fact that he now knows that she has been cheating on him.  This is a conversation that he is not prepared to have with her and respects her life and what she has also had to go through.

Lara realises that the husband she loves is in there somewhere and they look at each other properly in the eye for the first time since his return.  She has shed the power of her guilt and silently understood that it doesn’t matter anymore and that there is a future.

Cheating, but how could I resist…

The number one film was on this afternoon and I cheated and watched it.  How can you not watch ‘Vertigo’ when it’s on on a rainy Sunday afternoon?  The cats were also enjoying it…

I then was playing with my HarryCAM and found a suitably ‘Vertigo’ inspired piece of set: http://youtu.be/Wkgl1EwYVRE

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11. ‘Partie de Campagne’ Creative

Swing Theory…

I really liked the extended swinging shot in ‘Partie de Campagne’ and thought it would be a good excuse to try out the HarryCAM that Dad made me for Christmas.  I tried a variety of techniques, although I’m not sure that they are completely successful, but it was fun.

Results on YouTube – http://youtu.be/JGKLIHM8NeQ

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What a sweetie!

Thank you Dirk Malcolm and the Dirk Malcolm Alternative Blog (http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/13428146/) for your very kind comments. I hope everyone votes on the next challenge and keeps up with Dirk’s progress.

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11. Joint 90th – ‘Partie De Campagne’ (1936)

During my research and as completely new to Jean Renoir’s work, I was really intrigued to find out that the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and the director Luchino Visconti were assistant directors. I was hoping to see this pedigree in the film and find some hints to their genius. I also found out that the film was unfinished because of bad weather and they released it without Renoir in 1946 at only 39 minutes long.

Unbelievably, I have never seen a Jean Renoir film, which is a little shameful, especially as he is considered the fourth best director by the BFI survey. I am looking forward to exploring what his work is like, although I possibly should have started with his full-length films.

I did find it full of comedy French cliches, including a man with a stripy top and a moustache holder, Pastis, an hysterical mother, the amazing beautiful French countryside, Parisians… I was almost waiting for Maurice Chevalier to turn up!

There were a lovely variety of shots used and, although used for a long time, I liked the shot on the swing, which set up the rest of the narrative.

With the 1860 setting and flattened black and white cinematography (by Claude Renoir, his brother?) it feels like an old world rediscovered and almost as if they are recreating the Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting ‘Chestnut Tree In Bloom’ – see below. It is interesting to think of the effect of Renoir’s father may have made on him.

The story was a perfectly contained narrative and would be all you needed in any film and although the kiss seemed hasty and slightly unlikely, I loved the way it was shot. It was almost like she was staring down the lens and the film got more interesting after it. The tracking rain shot was great.

Not sure I understand the genius yet… And mum and dad certainly found it soporific…

Creativity
Steadicam on a swing
Tracking of rain shot
Recreating an old painting

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