Category Archives: 93rd

8. ‘A One and A Two’ creative

I used my family for this creative to reflect the multi-generational aspect of the film.  My dad, my sister La and her son Arthur were pleased to model and I wanted a vibrant colour palette.  I have also copied Yang Yang’s style of portraits – from the back!

Dad, Arthur and La

Dad, Arthur and La

8. Joint 93rd – ‘A One And A Two’ 2000

A One and a Two is a Taiwanese film released in 2000 . It was produced and written by Edward Yang. I have never seen a Taiwanese film before and so this top 100 list is already helping me see a lot of films from amazing places.  It shows one of the most impressive powers of film in that I am able to see different cultures and lives and it inevitably makes me realise that I should travel much more!

A One and A Two

I had researched this film a little before I started.  It is the youngest film I have watched so far and when it was released it received plaudits from Cannes and Cahiers du Cinema among many others.  However, when I first started watching it, as I came in from work on Friday, it seemed initially quite cheap, maybe shot on video and the domestic setting made it look like a fairly low-budget TV soap.
However, as you got involved in the nearly three hours of story-telling, it was heart-breakingly moving and had unforgettable performances.  It is told through three characters from the same family: NJ, the father, Ting Ting the thirteen year old daughter and Yang Yang the eight year old son. They are all so engaging and rounded.  Yang Yang’s expressions are so infectious and his interactions and questions with the the adults are adorable.  His little unexplained adventures lend a softer, humourous side to the film that is necessary and I always love a child with a camera, especially as he is taking photos for a very benevolent reason.  Ting Ting’s story of first love is so movingly acted and when NJ is finally able to express his feelings that have clearly been eating at him for thirty years, the quiet heartbreak  made me cry – stoic men always get me.
Throughout there is a brilliant use of parallelisms between all the stories.  These are shown in graphic matches, but also through the brave use of reflections and windows that gave a shiny, but untrustworthy quality to the film.
This is the first film on my list that I have watched since I got my new job.  I am now going to be Head of English at another school, so will no longer be watching these for my teaching self-esteem, but to enjoy them as a hobby, as they always had before.  I think with this new even more demanding job, I am definitely going to need the distraction!  This is also the last 93rd film – I can start watching the 90th films now!
Creative:
Something with reflections and lights – a photo.
Using family – I am going to visit my family at the weekend, so I could easily use them and maybe combine the reflection.  Possibly a film or still image.

7. Joint 93rd – The Seventh Seal’ 1957

I have seen The Seventh Seal before and actually used it in lessons when teaching Chaucer’s context and my recent Medieval lyrics lecture. I love the feeling of the middle ages that it gives – harsh and sparse and it is also really useful when describing the black death, the dance of death and death poetry (that I did for my dissertation) However, although I love Scandinavian pretty much everything, Ingmar Bergman is director I am not that familiar with, although one of Uncle John’s books was about him, so I will try to rectify that.  I already like that his favourite American director was Billy Wilder.

Doing my lecture on Medieval poetry.  I used a clip from this film.

Doing my lecture on Medieval poetry. I used a clip from this film.t

Of course my first knowledge of it was from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey when I was about seven. The opening sequence on the beach is still great and so iconic and I love that my enjoyment is a mix of high-brow and low-brow. I have also recently been teaching The Exorcist and it is great seeing Max Von Sydow so young and virile, even though it was only sixteen years before. It is also a parallel role, he is still concerned with the reality of God, but this time he is the doubting Agnostic.  I love the questioning of religion. Bergman seems to have picked this period as so heightened and intense that everyone must have been questioning it. It’s an endless question and the chiaroscuro seems to heighten the philosophy.

Watching The Seventh Seal

Watching The Seventh Seal

I really like how dry and funny Death is. When my inevitable death does happen, I kind of hope it is like that. It’s great when the knight thinks he is confessing to him and he gets him to reveal all his chess moves and when he starts cutting down the tree while someone is still in it.  His impish face and glinting eyes are suitably mischievous.

The black and white cinematography is beautiful. A shiny black and pure white, I think the Swedish white light must be helping it. A Scandinavian summer is so beautiful and the scenes of the circus performers enjoying it are idyllic.  Mixed with that the large landscapes with cloudy skies are beautiful.

One of my favourite scenes, and the one I used in my Medieval poetry lecture, is the chanting procession.  I love the contrast created by the juxtaposition of performers and the religious flagellation party. That scene could be ancient, it has feelings of Griffith’s Intolerance and the 1928 The Passion of Joan  of Arc by Dreyer. Some of the close-ups, especially of women crying and the long high angle shots create a timeless feeling.

Other thoughts:

  • The scene where the actor is bullied in the tavern is horrible and made especially frightening by the oppressive camera framing and heavy shadows.
  • This is continued with the dark scenes of the girl who has been accused of bringing the plague.
  • The reactions of everyone at the knight’s home when death finally appears is amazing. The way they are so calm with almost angelic close-ups and are then taken off on the dance of death across the skyline is a great moment. No-one can resist it forever.

Creative:
Black and white
Huge landscapes
Period setting
Game playing
Holy relics and questioning faith

6. Joint 93rd – ‘Intolerance’

1916, D. W. Griffiths, starring up to 3,000 extras, but also Lillian Gish and Constance Talmadge (who I still have a thing against because she was the sister of Buster Keaton’s mean wife Natalie).  I watched this online and at school waiting for my French class.  I have to admit that I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to the three hour run time, but realise that it is a crucial film to help me understand the progression of film.  This is the only D W Griffith on the BFI list, I presume the distasteful nature of The Birth of a Nation made sure it wouldn’t make it.

Intolerance

This film constantly refers to itself as a ‘play’.  I’m not sure if that is because it considered itself a photoplay or that it added some more gravitas.  The idea of a play is continued in the stagey (if lush) sets and the mostly long-shot static camera (although excited to read the book I have just got on the cinematographer Billy Bitzer)  However, there are some great forward tracking shots (to create the zoom effect that wasn’t around until 1932 for film cameras) and close-ups.  I really like the painterly, soft-focus way that faces, especially the female faces have been filmed. I can see an enormous influence for F W Murnau in them. It feels like an ancient religious icon and you can see why people have classed this as a great piece of universal art, along with Beethoven’s 5th.  It does have a timeless quality to it, despite not being well-received initially.

The narrative involves four different plots, that of ancient Babylon, Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, Renaissance France and modern America.  I’m not sure that I would have spent my energy on all four as the modern day story is by far the most engaging because of the human interest.  The Babylonian one has some amazing sets and I love the slaves opening the enormous gates and some of the fight sequences, but the French and Jerusalem settings do seem to  be filling in time (oh so much time!) without adding much to the response.  I definitely think I would agree with David Thomson’s analysis:

‘The cross-cutting, self-interrupting format is wearisome…. The sheer pretension is a roadblock, and one longs for the “Modern Story” to hold the screen…. [That story] is still very exciting in terms of its cross-cutting in the attempt to save the boy from the gallows. This episode is what Griffith did best: brilliant, modern suspense, geared up to rapidity — whenever Griffith let himself slow down he was yielding to bathos…. Anyone concerned with film history has to see Intolerance, and pass on’.

Other key things I liked or noticed:
  • Griffiths creates easy pathos – ‘the little dear one’ and ‘brown eyes’ as names for some of the female characters.  It also means it is universal, but also makes sure the spectator is aware of the response they should be having.
  • Recurring theme of the cradle rocking to indicate universality.
  • Impressive editing – love the irising, the complex cross-cutting and cross dissolves
  • A lot of intertitles – have recently re-watched ‘Sunrise’ and am so impressed in the ability to not use them. Amazing matte paintings
  • The dear one reminded me of Emily Watson
  • Typical view of Jesus, liked the use of lighting on him
  • In the harem dancing sequences, I liked the more realistic female bodies
  • It is weird to think that this was going on at the same time as WW1
  • Gets really exciting towards the end when they are trying to stop The Boy’s execution. Loved the camera following the speeding train.

Creative ideas:

A list of my intolerances (probably not as serious or universal, but I have many…)

A picture in soft focus.

A moving image that focuses on the set.

5. Joint 93rd – ‘Un Chien Andalou’

Un Chien Andalou (1927) by Bunuel and Dali is a shocking, challenging and confusing watch.  I have taught this film at least three times and probably watched it twenty times so it is difficult to create an independent response and remember how I initially felt about it.  I actually used this film today, along with some art by Picasso, to explain Modernism, before we started learning about Post-Modernism.  It’s all high-brow around me don’t you know!  It isn’t a film I would watch this regularly if I didn’t teach it, but I definitely appreciate its place in the canon.

Watching it in class this afternoon

Watching it in class this afternoon

I really love watching this film with students and have used it as part of the showreel to sell film studies this year.  It quickly got around school that I was showing the most disgusting clips, which surely can only help!  The student reaction to the eye-cutting sequence is brilliant.  The most hardened horror fan will still squirm when the eye is cut in to.  I don’t think they expect it to really happen.  It’s amazing how quickly people forget that film is a construct and that it can’t really be happening.  On the viewing this afternoon one of my students sat open-mouthed throughout the entire thing.  Perfect.

Obviously, I love the initial eye-cutting sequence and all its references to the hypnotic and damaging power of mainstream cinema.  I also love the close-up on the beach sequence where the man’s hand is held up next to her face and she seems to stare at his watch.  However, my favourite sequence is the one that Dali seemed to be most in charge of.  I love the male character trying to drag the two pianos, two priests and two dead horses.  It’s such a perfectly visual image and I would love to imagine what it would look like in colour.  Although I love the grainy black and white generally, it’s nice to imagine this as a Dali painting.

Horses on pianos.

Horses on pianos.

This short film is clearly about a break with narrative structures and no matter how often you try to suggest to a class that there isn’t a clear plot and the narrative is deliberately confusing they won’t have it.  I love how it plays around with time, including the intertitles that say ‘eight years later’, ‘in the spring’ in an illogical way.  The changes in tempo are dramatic and unnerve the spectator, clearly a plan.

Creative:

A close-up on the eye.

A short film that disrupts time and place.

A chaotic written piece.

4. 93rd – ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’ creative

I have created a word collage of what I feel is Britishness:

Britishness wordle

Tagged

4. Joint 93rd – ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’

The life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is a classic of British cinema.  It stars a wonderful Roger Livesey as Colonel Candy, Deborah Kerr as a variety of great women and Anton Walbrook as a complex and sympathetic German character.  Something that caused controversy at the time, but reveals a liberal and cosmopolitan view that is lovely to see.  My ace friend Nat had given me a box set of eleven Powell & Pressburger films about three years ago so I have seen it before.  I have to admit that it isn’t one of my favourites (I much prefer A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes), but it is always nice to see wartime British films.  I used to collect Utility/CC41 clothing and furniture and have always had an interest in that period of history.  I also enjoyed this film a lot more on the second viewing.

Colonel Blimp

I loved the tapestry opening sequence.  It was a weekend of good opening sequences, I especially enjoyed the neon lights in My Man Godfrey.  A good opening sequence is crucial in a film and sets the tone.  Obviously the Saul Bass era was especially rich, I will always remember dad showing me the opening of Walk on the Wild Side, but there are some great ones being made now.  The Catch Me If You Can  titles were lovely and lots of telly programmes make an effort with them – Mad Men, Dexter – that always makes me happy.
For some reason I never remember it being in colour and yet, of course, the beautiful Technicolor cinematography is crucial to its success.  It photographs the lush mise-en-scene perfectly.  I guess I think that Britain in the middle of the century was black and white.  I still have to check that The Ladykillers is in colour, it seems wrong.
The narrative is beautifully structured in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.  From the very complex initial present day Turkish bath sequence and transition in him coming out of the bath, weaving the cloth in a factory to show they are getting married to the use of taxidermy to show movement of time.  Surely the only time this has ever been done in a film?
Although this film has a focus on the male protagonist and war, there is a lot of proto-feminist ideas from Kerr’s character, such as what roles where left open to women and why she is a Governess.  I love that she is accused of being a Suffragette as an insult.
This film has some lovely messages.  It is obviously about friendships crossing borders, but it is also about lives past and to not let the young judge the old.
Creatives:
I think I want to focus on what is Britishness.  I could do this through words (I like the idea of British and American English being confused in the film), or images or moving images.

3. ‘Touki-Bouki’ creative

I thought I would try to write a poem to represent the creative side to Touki-Bouki.  I found the long, handheld shots on the abattoir scenes upsetting and tried to represent that with the refrain and the single long sentence.  As I have said in a previous blog post, I am not a fan of writing, but I think it is good to test yourself.

 

Touki-Bouki

The rope cuts in to his side as
He is laid on a brown, caked floor
And his wild eyes glint in
industrial lights as the men hold his head back
To reveal his sinuous grey neck
And hack with the unsharpened knife
To reveal the red muscular pipe
That moves and breathes
And gushes with a thick, viscous redness
As the rope cuts in to his side.

3. Joint 93rd – ‘Touki-Bouki’

I have never watched a film from Senegal.  Shamefully I have seen very few films from the whole continent of Africa, which this top one hundred list will hopefully change.  Touki-Bouki is the very reason I started this blog – to try something new and see films I had never heard of.  Brilliantly, I also watched  a restored version of it free on mubi.com.  I have been  a member of this site for a while and it is absolutely amazing.

Touki-Bouki

Touki-Bouki was made in 1973, directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty with a Government grant of $30,000.  It stars Aminata Fall as Aunt Oumy, Ousseynou Diop as Charlie, Magaye Niang as Mory and Mareme Niang as Anta.

The film starts with a rural scene and pipe music, immediately contrasted with a hideous abattoir scene where they slaughter cows by cutting open their windpipes and then city scenes.   Throughout the film there is a contrast between ancient ways and modern life and in the early scenes they kept using sound bridges of modern sounds (traffic, planes) over images of timeless farming or nature.

The style of the film is unusual.  It is really split between a naturalism and consciously filmic.  At some points there doesn’t seem to be any obvious sets or lighting.  The shots (very often long shots or close-ups) linger and frequently handheld.  There is often very little dialogue.  At these points it has a feeling of Cinéma vérité or even Dogme 95 about it.  However, at other points it has a frenetic energy with a pounding soundtrack and juxtaposing montage.  You can really feel the heat and dust of the market scenes and it feels like a French New Wave film, especially when we are following Mory and Anta around – it almost seems a parallel to À bout de souffle.

I loved the way the film never clarified what was dream and reality and instead consistently paralleled the suffering of humans and animals.  There was an hypnotic quality to the montages of cruelty and violence and a desperately heartbreaking ending.  It was made even more so by the stoic and under-played performances.

I found some of the film difficult to watch.  The killing of the animals, although clearly important to the film, was harrowing.  I also found the representation of women, African poverty and gay men difficult to deal with.   The stereotypes were obvious and worryingly negative – especially the portrayal of the gay, rich Charlie.

Creative ideas-
Poem – particularly of the abattoir juxtaposition scene – long sentences, a refrain
Word cloud – chaotic and confused
A juxtaposed portrait of age and modernity.

 

 

 

2. ‘Imitation of Life’ creative

On holiday in Norfolk I realised I had a good set of props to create my ‘Imitation of Life’ creative task.  In the lovely National Trust cottage they had a very cheesey still life print, some beautiful red roses and Mark had bought a retro butter churner.  These gave me the correct impressions of working class life, glamour, red and  a painted backdrop.  I tried to keep it fairly minimal and give that Technicolor static quality.