Category Archives: colour

My next ten.

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

10. Joint 90th – ‘Aguirre, God of Wrath’ (1972)

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.

Watching Aguirre

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.

Thoughts:
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.

Creative:
Diary format
Landscapes with obscured parts
Too close or tilted images of the world.

9. ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ creative

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:

'A Matter of Life and Death' Creative

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.

9. Joint 90th – ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ (1946)

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.

A lovely, comfy Sunday afternoon

A lovely, comfy Sunday afternoon

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!

Creative:
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

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.

French film lesson – ‘Être Et Avoir’ (2002)

Kate, Françoise  and I had a lovely couple of French lessons on the 14th and 21st March when we watched a French documentary, Être Et Avoir.

French films

 

French lessons are always great anyway as Françoise  is very patient about our ability and often gives out some snacks and champagne.  What’s not to love?  However, we have decided to watch some films without subtitles to help our listening comprehension.  This was a brilliant film to start with as Être Et Avoir is set in a primary school in the middle of the very rural Auvergne region.  One teacher, George Lopez, teaches all the children (from 4 to 11 years of age) and is the epitome of patience and kindness.  I will remember him when I lose my temper with teaching… Some of the children were completely adorable, my favourite was JoJo who had a cute face and couldn’t quite manage to clean his hands.

Unfortunately, I didn’t understand that much of the language (children’s voices are quite hard to hear), but Françoise very nicely translated and the film was lovely to watch.  We also had to do some research and present it in French as homework, which was nice to prepare. We’re now planning our next film, do suggest anything you think we should watch…

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.

What a weekend!

I’m not very good on my own.  Never have been.  I finally lived alone at 28 for a year and learnt ways to enjoy it.  Most of them involved making my house obsessively neat and pretty, watching a lot of films, reading compulsively and having a drink or two.

I had the opportunity to re-live that time this weekend as M went away to London to see a gig.  I set myself up with an excellent film marathon on the Saturday afternoon and night, had a stash of film magazines to get through and watched one of my Top 100 films

.  film mags pic

3 dvds picture

 

I’m not going to gild the truth.  I didn’t get out of my pyjamas, I did employ the duvet, I did drink one too many Singapore Slings and I did review the films with my crocheted Hobbes.  I’m not ashamed, it was a great day.

Anyway – the films!  My Man Godfrey is amazing – I love William Powell and have added The Thin Man to my wishlist.  The two other films weren’t as amazing, but Jack Lemmon is in them so I don’t really care.

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.