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
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
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
I have to admit that I have been putting off watching Aguirre, Wrath of God. I had only watched Herzog’s documentaries and enjoyed them, but was slightly nervous about watching this from its legendary, should I say notorious, status. I had heard a lot about this film and Fitzcarraldo, especially concerning the volatile relationship between Herzog and Klaus Kinski. I had also heard about the influence it had had on Apocalypse Now in 1979, which didn’t help as I’m not a huge fan of that film, with its bloated storytelling and self-indulgence, so I started watching with trepidation.
As soon as I did, aided by a very old DVD that immediately started the film, I felt plunged in to the incredible landscapes, actually feel slightly anxious for the actors involved, especially watching them come down the rapids on rafts in full armour or carrying a sedan chair through mud. Herzog seems to like making his actors and crew work for their money, almost as if the suffering won’t be genuine if they aren’t experiencing it. I’m not convinced and this kind of realism debate reminds me of the filming of Marathon Man when Dustin Hoffman was jogging around to appear tired and Laurence Olivier suggested he ‘try acting, dear boy’. Although it does clearly works for this film and I’m not surprised that Cecilia Rivera, the actress playing Aguirre’s daughter, never made a film again!
This style mirrors this physicality of production and some shots have water flying in to the lens or obscuring the shot. These are contrasted with very static shots when focusing on the human story or the controlled spiraling around the boat towards the end. Kinski is also frenetic. He never seems to stand upright, but is constantly leaning over or tilted. It reminds me of Olivier’s Richard III, not sure why he is in my mind so much this week… Kinski is also always so close to the other actors. His face is strangely hypnotic, a constantly invading presence.
The story line is actually a very easy diary format, this simple narrative thread allows an episodic structure and gives some coherence for the audience to allow the madness to unfold. That it contains maniacal, egotistical and ambitious men seems suitably matched to the humble diary format, it shows them off and allows their obsessive dreams to be described, rather than prescribed.
A metaphor of the trap of power, money and religion, shown by the ridiculous difference between the emperor and the soldiers.
I question why Herzog wants to punish himself, his actors and his crew so much? I love that Herzog shot it in sequence to show the deterioration.
Love the oneiric qualities of the final scene, the monkeys are amazing.
The soundtrack felt strange and difficult at first, but seemed to make sense by the end.
Landscapes with obscured parts
Too close or tilted images of the world.
I have made a little film to demonstrate the black and white to colour transition from ‘A Matter of Life and Death.’ It’s on flickr:
I’m especially pleased that I managed to film my Esther Williams swimsuit after hearing about her death last week – she is one of my favourites.
I have been really looking forward to re-watching this film and what a lovely Sunday afternoon matinee it is. A Matter of Life and Death is a romantic fantasy film created by the British writing-directing-producing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and set in England during the Second World War. It stars David Niven, Roger Livesey and Kim Hunter. It is the second Powell and Pressburger film on the list already, which is great. It seems slightly odd that these beautifully made, but rather eccentrically British films are so appreciated. I have heard that Martin Scorsese is a particular fan.
I have seen it before, when my lovely friend Nat bought me a Powell and Pressburger box set a few years ago, but I was interested to see it again after reading Jack Cardiff’s autobiography and looking with a new eye at all his inventiveness with technicolor. There was a great DVD extra on the disc about him too, which was very interesting. A Matter of Life and Death has always been my favourite Powell and Pressburger film, it has such a great concept and is envisioned perfectly. I always like a movie with a court scene, especially Mr Smith Goes to Washingon and An Anatomy of a Murder.
Like The Ladykillers, I always forget that it’s going to be in colour, but the technicolor black and white of ‘the other world’ gives it a strange, pearly quality that is perfect for a heaven type place. It seems so contrary to make ‘the other world’ black and white and earth colour, but it makes a strange sense, especially as the colour of earth is amazing, particularly the early sequences of Kim Hunter on the phone and Niven on the beach. It’s crazy how much make-up they all have to wear to compensate. I love the meta qualities of the film, such as when the incompetent Conductor 71 comes down to earth and watches his lapel flower turn to colour (in a beautiful graphic match) and says ‘we are straved of Technicolor up there.’ The Technicolor cinematography is lovely, Jack Cardiff is suitably revered, but it is generally so crammed full of visual and technical details – the camera obscura, the graphic matches, the cross dissolves, filters and framing, the eyelid closing. Wonderful.
I really like the Communist aspect of ‘the other world’, the American captain has issues after clearly managing to get to the top, but it’s lovely that everyone has a report and all are treated equally. This must have been fairly political then. I also love the look of ‘the other world’, all the Art Deco features and the fact that it seems to be run by beautiful women. It looks like a beautiful, shiny Fred and Ginger musical set. The escalator is brilliant and was constructed to actually work – an impressive engineering feat.
David Niven has always been a favourite, ever since reading his autobiographies as a teenager and Roger Livesey is great and I loved him as Colonel Blimp. His voice is very comforting and warm, like a hot chocolate on the sofa. Pretty much a symbol for this whole film.
I also love luxuriating in such an amazing view of Britain. I know it’s romanticised, but I love the thought of them learning a Shakespeare play or the view of the village and the country house. People cycling around, playing chess and being so polite to each other. And the focus on a British voice and poetry. The attacks on British history in the court room scene are also interesting, its criticism and its support by Livesey. The French man is also an amazing stereotype – very funny, although I imagine a French viewer wouldn’t see it like that!
Something technically interesting
Maybe the same thing in colour and black and white or turning from one to the other in the same shot like the change from the operation to heaven.
Focus on light
Montage of different features
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 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.
Poem – particularly of the abattoir juxtaposition scene – long sentences, a refrain
Word cloud – chaotic and confused
A juxtaposed portrait of age and modernity.
I got very inspired by ‘Madame De…’ and I wanted to try to capture some of the decadent and musical camera work with economical story telling. After a few ideas, I decided on a moving photograph that could tell a quick story in key objects.
I did a few practice shots with random objects (safety pins, my glasses) in colour and then considered how the real textures, colours and props would work in black and white. I’m pleased to report that hot pink slub silk looks excellent!
The hardest part was keeping the camera as steady as possible and holding my breath for long enough.
Clink on the link below to see the video on flickr: