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In her essay “Tales of Upward Mobility: The New Verticality and Digital Special Effects,” Kristen Whissel discussed how the advancement of technology has led to the increased use of the vertical axis in recent films. Whissel argues that “at its most basic level, the new digital verticality is a technique for activating polarized extremes.” (Whissel 836) I think it is very true that the verticality is capable to do so, but I have never before thought of this concept of activating polarized extremes by using verticality. So I found it very innovating and interesting. However, it was a little bit confusing while I was reading this article, I wasn’t very sure, at some point, that she was saying about the vertical movements of the subjects or the settings. But I think she has linked the verticality to the issues and deeper meanings that the film wants us to see, if I didn’t misunderstand her. She talked about Titanic as an example, and mentioned in her argument, “Gravity therefore acts as an historical corrective in this film: it violently undoes the flattened hierarchy of the ship’s two-tiered class configuration by turning the first and third class decks into equivalent parallel lines aligned upright, side by side.” (Whissel 841) so here Cameron used CGI to create a verticality that reflects the overthrow of the hierarchy, which is an issue of our society, and I think was being addressed in the film as a deeper meaning. Also, when Whissel used Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon as another example, she said, “Whereas the dutiful Shu Lien acts as with the force of gravity throughout the scene, Jen defies gravity much as she desires to defy duty and tradition.” (Whissel 846) this example also deals with the deeper concerns that the film was trying to say, the rebel of feudalist tradition, I think.

 Michael Allen talked in his essay about the impact of digital technologies on the film aesthetics. From a couple of aspects, shot length, framing, camera movement, live and virtual, finally the place and timing of CGI sequences; Allen has provided us a view of the aesthetics of filmmaking by using the CGI technologies. As the technologies develop, the aspects mentioned above all become better utilized. For example, Allen has mentioned that the shot length of the CGI sequences, from the earlier The Abyss, to later Jurassic Park, have become longer because the CGI technologies has developed to support a longer time of display of the subjects, but not losing their realness. Therefore, the audiences could stare at them but still be amazed. This improvement of CGI images in the film could all be found in the other mentioned aspects too. The technologies are still developing, becoming better and better, and last year’s Avatar had just achieved another peak of the technologies, by creating a whole new world with the CGI technologies, throughout the whole film.

Allen concluded that “each of these elements has continued to be varied and determined according to the dramatic requirements of the scenes which they are used.” (Allen 832) I found it is very true, the use of digital technologies, to me, does not change the nature of the films, everything should stay the same; more over, the digital technologies should be able to modify some of the conventions of the “old” filmmaking, as Allen also mentioned in the reading, and I think, it is done to actually make the films better.

Lev Manovich discussed in his essay that “Realism is the concept that inevitably accompanies the development and assimilation of 3D computer graphics.” (Manovich 785) indeed, people pursue the realism in 3D images, not matter in game or movies, although the world it creates might be completely fictional. As the technologies develop rapidly, the realness of the 3D CGI becomes more and more real, as an example Manovich used, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park had already been very real to the audiences, even for us to look at today. Later films have only improved more. Until today’s Avatar, the realness of the 3D CGI has become truly amazing, especially with the extra aid from the 3D projection technology. I couldn’t imagine what will the future be like, how real can the CGI be?

Tom Gunning introduced the term “cinema of attractions” to us in his writings. As he mentioned: “the cinema of attractions solicits a highly conscious awareness of the film image engaging the viewer’s curiosity.” Instead of having the audiences focusing on the narrative, I think the films from cinema of attractions encourage the audiences to remain aware of the act of looking, the impulse and excitement from the image. Obviously, this is very true for the early cinema, when there is not really a narrative involved in the films. Film was first invented to create visual pleasure, we can clearly see this idea from the film we saw in film history class (but I can’t recall the name of the film), it was a series photographs demonstrating the movements of a naked lady. The reason it was a naked lady, as I remembered, was to create pleasure for the audiences, which in my opinion, also fits to the idea of cinema of attractions. Other early films from Lumiere brothers and Georges Melies can all be the examples for cinema of attractions; another film I immediately recall was the Hepworth Manufacturing’s “How It Feels To Be Run Over”, it definitely created visual impulse and shocked the audiences when they were watching, it is very similar to the example Gunning used in the essay (the arrival of a train).

One thing I found very interesting is that Gunning mentioned the dominance of the cinema of attractions ended around 1906-1907, but that attractions did not simply vanish, it went ‘underground.’, here he claims that there are still cinema of attractions involved in the later films, even though with the introduction of editing and narrative cinema. I totally agree with this, I believe the attractions are still one of the most important elements in later films even though it might not be weighted much as before. Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr., which we watched at the beginning of the semester, was a film that has a story told, a narrative film. However, it was easy to notice that Keaton’s amazing stunt actions had become the greatest attraction of the film, by going under the main narrative, it grabbed the audiences’ eyes, created visual pleasure and curiosity when they were watching. Further more, many Hollywood blockbusters can also be seen fitting into the cinema of attractions, special effects, actions, etc. are all forms of attractions. There are many forms of attractions, so I think the cinema of attractions can actually be interpreted differently by each individual, but not matter what form it is, the cinema of attractions will always exist, in my opinion. Or it may exist at least in a new form, as I remember Linda Williams had termed it “new cinema of attractions”.

In the essay “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess,” Linda William wrote about the three genres of films with the fundamental elements of sex, violence, and emotion. There are different kinds of pleasure that are created from each type of element in pornography, horror, and melodrama. The pleasures are the convulsion in porn, the screams of fear in horror, and the sobs of anguish in melodrama. These genres have long existed in the film industry, the reason I believe is that they create those pleasures to the audience. As I mentioned in Gunning’s part, visual pleasure creates attractions, and attractions keep the audience interested in the film. Therefore, in connection with the cinema of attractions, it is not hard to understand the power of these genres. We all have our sensation, emotion and fantasy, and this should be what we are looking for in the films, despite the narrative, and thus we are attracted to these genres of film. Moreover, these genres may address the basic problems in our culture, but they have a distinct function due to the way they are portrayed.

Metz in his essay, discussed three areas with psychoanalysis: mirror identification, voyeurism and fetishism.  He brings up the idea of film being a mirror, only that everything may come to be projected, except the spectator’s own body. In this sense, he further explains the audience as all-perceiving subject since we are only looking without being perceived. Thus, cinema becomes very similar to voyeurism, as we the audiences look at the object(s) from a distance, without being noticed (perceived), even though it does not have to be baleful. So the cinema gives us the sense of voyeurism, which creates pleasure when we are watching. But I am not sure if it is because the voyeurism that we are watching films, could we be only looking at films as a form of narrative and portrayal of reality, or there must be that kind of pleasure involved? Same to fetishism mentioned by Metz. However, fetishism seems more usually involved in films. Everyone has their own fetishistic objects, by the framing techniques, the director can direct the spectator to those objects, and thus the audiences get attracted despite the quality of all other aspects in the films. Indeed, watching film is voyeuristic and fetishistic in its form, so I couldn’t deny the fact that there is pleasure to keep us watching films, but should there be any exceptions?

Mulvey in her essay also discussed some ideas similar to Metz’s. One thing she discussed is woman as image, a passive object which is looked upon by the active gaze of male figures. Thus women in film are seen as objects of sexual desire. This phenomenon could still often be seen nowadays, it is not hard to find some films with male audience as the target audience; and in most of those films, story and plot become less important since women have become an icon which creates pleasure for the films. This aspect is also brought up by Mulvey as she claims that the visual presence of female tends to stop the story line to dwell on the image.

Doane proposed an opposite idea to the male gaze, in her discussion of the female spectatorship. She suggested the idea of female gaze which is that the female spectators gaze at the male figures to receive pleasure. It is a very interesting idea, and I found it very true. As we can see in those kind of films I mentioned above which focus on visual pleasure instead of story, not only female has become an icon, but also male. Therefore, we can find the male and female are all good looking actors, in this way, both female and male audiences are satisfied.

the film i am going to write about for the final project is Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. As i found several aspect/themes in the film very interesting. First and the most obvious one is the discussion over humanity, since the story deals with human and replicant (robot), and it has been ambiguous in distinguishing these two. Secondly, the issue of technology is also been brought up in the film, as the technology causes paranoia, fear and other problems. other than these, i also think the elements of film noir and set design are interesting topics in this film. i would also like to compare this film to one or two other robot films that is similar, for example, I robot, Terminator, etc.

Third Cinema

I used to be confused about the definition of third cinema, which I thought was that it is the cinema of third countries. However, upon reading the articles, I have gotten a clear sense of the meaning of third cinema, which is that, in my opinion, it is a rejection to the first cinema style; a fight against “the system”, which sees itself as a struggle against the racism, colonialism and capitalist dominant.

As a liberation of oppressed, especially from racism and colonialism, third cinema seems to me a very necessary product, since film might be the best way to convey messages and ideas to the others, even though there should have been many other forms of art before film that was to liberate the oppressed people. What I understand from the readings, the third cinema is a language to speak out for the ones who experienced/experiencing racism, colonialism or any other kind of oppressions. It is not likely that everyone of oppressed could speak out for themselves, so then the third cinema makers seemed to be very important to be the representative who speaks out for them, or at least, conveys sympathy.

In Rocha’s “An Esthetic of Hunger”, it is interesting that he points out that “the normal behavior of the starving is violence, and the violence of the starving is not primitive.” “An esthetic of violence, before being primitive, is revolutionary.” In my opinion, he is not ashamed to reveal hunger, like the “civilized” world did, in fact, he believed that through the expression of hunger, the deeper meaning of revolting against the colonialism could be presented to the others. In contrast with Espinosa’s “for an Imperfect cinema”, we can somehow see the importance of the third cinema committing to the revolutionary struggle so that its audience can understand that their world is transformable, in the way of illustrating the problems of the world and the process by which they were created and encouraging the audience to analyze it and come to its own conclusions. I think Rocha and Espinosa shared the same principle, like Rocha states, “…… an evolving complex of films that will ultimately make the public aware of its own misery.”

While reading through the articles, I found that it is a little confusing about drawing the line between second and third cinema, since both of their intention seemed to be breaking out of the rules/codes of first cinema, which is the Hollywood cinema. The only difference I see is that the second cinema breaks the rules to get attention from the audience in order to have them notice the artistic aspects, the auteur. And the third cinema instead of being artistic stands on a more political side.  From Wollen’s reading on Godard, I was also a little confused that which cinema category does Godard fits in, but it seems to me that he is more like an auteur, as the only film of his I have seen is Breathless, which I interpreted as an art film, instead of political film. However, it was very obvious that this film had broken most of the rules of Hollywood style filmmaking, and that’s why I found the French new wave interesting.

Auteur theory, as I see, does not have a certain definition, so it might not be easy to understand. Generally, it could be described as a personal style and characteristic of one film director.

As Andrew Sarris mentioned in his essay Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962, the auteur theory is made up with three things: director’s technical competence, director’s personality to how the film unfolds and the interior meaning. He described these three things as a concentric circle, which the “technique” is the outer circle, the “personality” is the middle circle and the “interior meaning” is the inner circle. He also claimed that this concentric circle can be achieved either beginning from the outer circle or the inner circle, but all three of them must be fulfilled, in my understanding, to become an auteur.

I think Andrew Sarris has somewhat consummated Bazin’s explanation of auteur theory (“le politique des auteurs” according to Bazi), since it appears that Bazin only brought up the general idea of it, which is that “auteur theory was a way of choosing the personal factor in artistic creation as a standard of reference, and then assuming that it continues and even progresses from one film to the next.” (Bazin) It is true that auteur theory is the body of a director’s works instead of the direction of one film, there is no way we can tell if the director has a specific personality for his works until we have seen a series of his works.

I believe it is very important for a director to be an auteur in order to become a great director, or at least a memorable one. It is not hard to imagine that if one directs films in all different kinds of styles, he might not even be remembered by many audience since we might not able to find a focus point on him, therefore, we might not remember him as we do for those who continuously presenting similar style of works. As we can see, great directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg, etc. could all be considered auteur. Despite the directing style, I think even the fact that Hitchcock appears in every film he makes can be his style which fit into the idea of auteur theory. Nevertheless, I don’t deny the possibility of exceptions.

Peter Wollen, in his essay, used Howard Hawks as an example, which is a very good one, to explain auteur theory. According to Wollen, even though Hawks worked in almost every single genre, he still had a particular visual style and tempo, which seemed like a world with his own styles created by himself, and that, made him an auteur. As I mentioned above, in my opinion, Tim Burton is also an example. Despite other works of his, we can see especially through two of his films, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the new released Alice in Wonderland, which both have the similar style.

Another idea I found interesting is what Dyer presented in his writing Stars. As what I understand, he brought up the idea of stars in the films being auteur. It is very different because auteur as we usually talk about is for directors, we normally ignores the fact that stars could possibly be auteur either. In the case which stars are auteurs, director then become less visible as an auteur, as I could conclude from some examples such as Bruce Willis, Jacky Chan, etc., who has bring their style (action hero) to the films, although they could have been the director themselves. So I guess there is a limitation of the number of auteur in films.

 *Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjMkNrX60mA

 and Tim Burton’s Exhibition @ MOMA until April if any of you are interested.

readings for 3/3

Bela Balasz mentioned that the close ups reveals the most hidden parts in our life, also, it does not only widen out vision of life, but also deepen it. Indeed, in real life, as well as in films, we usually are not able to notice some detail things that might be very important, but a close up on these things can bring our attention to them. Therefore, according to Balasz, we can see the hidden parts, wider and deeper. As we see in films, a close up on something that seems irrelevant might always happen to be a very important clue to lead us to a later plot.

As Balasz mentioned in the reading, close ups is a very important tool to reveal the facial expression of the characters, which is, according to him, an expression that words can never exceed. However, in my opinion, even though facial expression is very important, it may not exceed the expression with words. Since film is a visual presentation, we will be focusing on the facial expression no matter what, and with the assistant of words, we could get a more clear sense of the expression.

Benjamin presents the concept of “aura” in his writing, and he claims that the aura will be disrupted due to the mechanical reproductions, but he also claims that it is not a bad thing since the art work will be more accessible to people. It might not be true to some traditional arts such as theater and painting, because I think such art works which there are originals do have the issue of aura and of course the originals are the best. However, film as an art that does not have original might not have the issue of aura, and in this case, Benjamin’s concept seems accurate. Therefore, as for mechanical reproduction, it should not be a bad thing in the case of film, in fact, like Benjamin said, it can be more accessible to the audience.

Bazin claims that the introduction of sound did not destroy films as an art form, but enhanced it as an essential element of reality. I found this statement very true, not saying that silent films can not express things clearly, but in my opinion, sound is a very important element to explain things better in films. As I mentioned above, sounds can assist the visual presentation in a positive way.  As one of the five senses of human, sound is irremovable. Therefore, since film is the art form which most likely to be the true reflection of reality, sound is an essential thing. Not only the dialogues, the soundtracks, music and scores could also be very important, a nice score can give the film good atmosphere, which will be more easily to get audience involved. For example, in 28 weeks later, the music itself gives the audience the sense of horror and tension, so while we are watching, we can actually feel the thrill.

Theme song for 28 weeks later, i loved it, very impressive, enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMyIG2EKPoE

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