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.
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…
Steadicam on a swing
Tracking of rain shot
Recreating an old painting
A full page on The Search
Lara is a 28 year old primary school teacher who is married to Rob, an ex-soldier and current UN peacekeeper, who is in Afghanistan. She appears neat, dedicated and a perfect wife. She is having an affair with a colleague, James as she is desperate for attention and enjoys the romantic cliches. She spends a lot of time on her own in the evenings in her tidy, sparse home often not reaching out to friends and family as she feels they don’t want to be concerned.
Images I Like:
Cross-cutting of sex with explosion as the opening image. Close-ups on both so they seem abstract and confusing.
A long shot that zooms in to a close up on an empty house with a separation letter from Lara while the phone rings and rings. We focus on a photo of him proposing with a heart shape of candles with ‘will you marry me?’ in stones.
Gets in to the car passionately kissing James as her mobile goes. She ignores it, until she can’t any longer. The sound and visuals become blurred and we see her pained reaction.
Shot looking from her pov at the airport waiting to see what he looks like, be shielded (by people and screens) for a long time until a reveal of his damaged face and that he is in a wheelchair. He doesn’t need all of this for long, but it’s the initial trauma. The camera spins to see her muted reaction, although she looks happy and ecstatic to see him, her eyes reveal her turmoil.
A montage of dealing with the physical rehabilitation and how she throws herself in to it because she feels so guilty.
Slow reveal of the mental damage that has been done – nightmares, flashbacks and anger outbursts interspersed amongst the montage. Scenes in which he doesn’t understand how he is hurting her feelings, that he is cutting her off or almost getting violent. We continually see her reaction in close-ups and how she is struggling to cope. The relationship keeps deteriorating and she meets up with James one night after saying she was going to a ‘wounded wives’ support group. They have an angry and sad sexual encounter in a car. We see a close-up of her face that shows a mixture of disgust, lust, desire and pain.
While she is away, we use a tracking shot in the house to find Rob having discovered her leaving note. She had tucked this in to a book when she brought him back from the airport.
She comes back to a seemingly empty house and in a panic looks all around to find him. He is out in the garden, which is covered in candles and he recreates the engagement picture, but with ‘I’m sorry.’
She realises that her husband is in there somewhere and they look at each other properly for the first time.
Communication and lack of
Rehabilitation – emotionally, physically and of relationships.
Primary school teacher, wife of a soldier (UN peacekeeper)
Having an affair with a colleague who showers her with romantic cliches and physical attention.
Does the character have a nickname?
Only with her boyfriend James – Lulu
What is your characters hair color? Eye color?
Brown, deep and dark.
What kind of distinguishing facial features does your character have?
A biggish nose, which she is embarrassed about and tries to cover up with a fringe and short bob. Her brown hair is beautifully shiny and straight. Big and deep eyes.
Does your character have a birthmark? Where is it? What about scars? How did she get them?
A birthmark on her foot and scars under her chin from a bike accident when she was seven.
Who are your characters’ friends and family? Who does she surround herself with? Who are the people your character is closest to? Who does she wish she were closest to?
Lara has a sister that she doesn’t live near, but rings fairly regularly. She has both parents still, but they have an active social life and she speaks or now more frequently texts them once or twice a week. Her mum keeps up with her personal life via Facebook. She has a few friends from work who she has ignored recently, because she doesn’t want to talk about her affair with Phil. She has a couple of girlfriends from university who have babies and she has fallen out of touch with them. Rob is away for stretches of time and she is often by herself in the evenings. This regularly involves film watching, her cat and a glass of wine.
Where was your character born? Where has she lived since then? Where does she call home?
Lara was born in York and lived near the Yorkshire Coast until she went to university. She now lives near Bristol to be near army bases.
Where does your character go when she’s angry?
To bed, balled up in the duvet.
What is her biggest fear? Who has she told this to? Who would she never tell this to? Why?
Loneliness. She would never tell this to anyone, it just seeps out in her desperation for attention from James. However, with her husband Rob, she never lets on.
Does she have a secret?
Yes, the affair and the fact that she doesn’t actually like him more than her husband, she just likes the attention.
What makes your character laugh out loud?
Cat GIFs, old sitcoms, chatting in bed.
When has your character been in love? Had a broken heart?
Yes, twice and no, she has never encountered that. It has made her feel fragile as if she is continually waiting for it.
What is in your character’s refrigerator right now? On her bedroom floor? On her nightstand? In her garbage can?
Wine and neat food ready to make specific meals (some tuna steak, leeks, cream, filled pasta, a deluxe pizza). The detritus of this is in her bin. Her bedroom floor and nightstand are neat and tidy and have photos and a book, candle and radio on. Her clothes are tucked away neatly every night. She worries that people would judge, even though it is rarely entered.
Look at your character’s feet. Describe what you see there. Does she wear dress shoes, gym shoes, or none at all? Is she in socks that are ratty and full of holes? Or is she wearing a pair of blue and gold slippers knitted by his grandmother?
She wears neat tights for work and slippers and big socks and slippers when at home.
Your character is doing intense spring cleaning. What is easy for her to throw out? What is difficult for her to part with? Why?
There is very little to throw out as she lives sparsely as Rob doesn’t like mess. She continually chucks out clothes and buys new as a treat. She likes dressing well and neatly and prides herself in her appearance.
It’s Saturday at noon. What is your character doing? Give details. If she’s eating breakfast, what exactly does she eat? If she’s stretching out in her backyard to sun, what kind of blanket or towel does she lie on?
She’s making herself a brunch meal after a slight lie-in until nine. She’s about to meet a friend to go afternoon shopping with and have coffee. She read in bed for an hour.
What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
Ruining her new, beautiful red wool coat by sitting down in oil. The tears and telling off.
Your character is getting ready for a night out. Where is she going? What does she wear? Who will she be with?
She wears dark denim jeans, high heels and a silky top with a cropped jacket. She’s going out for a meal with two girlfriends from work at the local wine bar. She’ll eat fish, drink some champagne and they’all gossip about work colleagues.
These are the first two assignments for my screenwriting course. Any feedback is much appreciated.
The Apartment (1960)
C. C. Baxter, a lowly worker from the masses is squirming his way in to the bosses’ favour by lending them his apartment for their dirty affairs. Miss Kubelik, the cute, damaged elevator girl, is the brightest part of his day. Unfortunately, she knows his home intimately. After cruel misunderstandings and lots of gin rummy, she finally sees the light.
The effects of war on a relationship. Josie has been married for 6 months to Rob, a UN peacekeeper, when he is blown up by a roadside IED. They go on a journey of recovery, which tests them entirely. Initially, this is physical rehabilitation, but the emotional and mental trauma is a more difficult challenge and they have to find and learn about each other again.
A character that resonated with me:
I watched Amadeus at about 4 1/2 when I was meant to be tucked up in bed. I was completely engrossed in it and it led to me thinking I was Mozart for a while and wanting to be addressed as him. However, the character that intrigued me was Saliari. His bitterness and honesty were revelatory and his realisation of his own mediocrity was so brutal and adult.
A 1/2 page of my story:
As we see our protagonist Laura have a seemingly loving and sensual encounter, we cross-cut to a soldier being blown up by an IED in Afghanistan. Laura has decided that her six year marriage to an absent soldier is no longer making her happy after an intense liaison with a man from work. She leaves the marital home after writing a note and taking a final glance at the romantic image of how he proposed (candles, stones on a beach spelling out the question). The phone starts ringing as she shuts the door. As she kisses her new partner as he starts to drive her away, her mobile rings. Her husband has been seriously wounded.
At the airport his facial disfigurement is hidden until he gets very close. He is a shell of a man. They start the physical rehabilitation and she throws herself in to it to hide her guilt. However, the mental wounds are harder to heal and he is having continual flashbacks, nightmares and outbursts of anger. She is feeling increasingly isolated and pressured and is thinking of leaving. He finds the letter she wrote (in her panic she had just tucked it in to a book) and is devastated. He recreates the engagement scene in the garden, but with ‘I’m sorry’ and she realises that her husband is in there somewhere and starts a reconciliation.
Right, I’m making a pledge to get back on my BFI list and I will do one this half-term. I can’t promise that once I get back in to the madness of the term I will be able to keep it up, but I’ll do my best.
Partie De Campagne (1936) – Jean Renoir
The Wild Bunch (1969) – Sam Peckinpah
A Brighter Summer Day (1991) – Edward Yang
Greed (1925) – Erich Von Stroheim
The Colour of Pomegranates (1968) – Sergie Parajanov
Casablanca (1942) – Michael Curtiz
Fanny and Alexander (1984) – Ingmar Bergman
The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) – Victor Erice
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – David Lean
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) – Orson Welles
Despite my lack of Top 100 film watching and assigned creativity, it’s not been all bad. Nearly two weeks ago, Mark and I started a screenwriting course at The Phoenix (we seem to be going there a lot lately…).
It’s an eight week programme and by the end we should have written a screenplay and investigated structure, dialogue, character building and industry techniques. We have also been given a reading list and we’ve got two William Goldman and one Stephen King books on writing to read.
The first homework was to write your favourite movie’s plot in four lines and then your idea in four lines. This week’s assignment is to flesh that initial four lines out in to half a page and decide on a character that made an impact on you as a child.
My idea is based on the Simon Armitage poem The Manhunt (http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/simon-armitage-on-his-poem-the-manhunt/13455.html) although I may change the war by moving it to Afghanistan and also add the element of the wife having strayed before he came back wounded and the amplified guilt she would feel. I like the idea of writing about war from a female perspective although I think I will have to do a lot of research first!