Blog Directory CineVerse: November 2012

Marching in step with evil

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Last evening, CineVerse took a chilling look at the famous propaganda movie "Triumph of the Will." Here are highlights at our group discussion:



WHAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT TRIUMPH OF THE WILL? WERE YOU EXPECTING SOMETHING DIFFERENT OF THIS MOVIE?
·       The crowds at the Nuremburg rally are not all comprised of rifle-wielding soldiers; many are simply citizens carrying shovels, for example
·       No one, including Hitler, makes any overt anti-semitic statements
·       The emphasis is on images over ideas, emotion over action; there really isn’t any “plot” or easily followed linear or narrative structure
·       For these and other reasons, the film is actually considered by many to be quite dull and unimaginative
·       Arguably, it’s not even that dangerous of a film to show to new generations, as it’s likely not very manipulative or persuasive if you’re not already a convert to Nazi ideology

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TECHNIQUES THAT RIEFENSTAHL USES TO MAKE AN EFFECTIVE PROPAGANDA FILM?
·       Long focus lenses to produce a distorted view
·       Moving cameras
·       High angle perspectives from cameras placed very high up
·       Aerial photography
·       Marrying music to the picture in an emotionally effective way, which arguably hadn’t been done to this degree before in film

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THEMES BEING PUSHED UPON THE VIEWER AND THE GERMAN PEOPLE WHO FIRST SAW THIS MOVIE?
·       Religion: Hitler is cast as a messianic deity, a godlike figure who descends from the skies and compares the Nazil party to a holy order
·       Unity and harmony: we see images of uniformity, cleanliness, symmetry, order, perfect alignment
·       Glory and pride: the pride with which the native people worship and adore their leader and love their country, as well as the twisted pride that Hitler espouses, which calls for a purification of the German people which means an extermination of minorities, the sick, frail and feeble.
·       Power: Hitler and his people yearn for the rebirth of Germany as a major world power; we see 700,000 of his worshippers amassed in a mass demonstration of that power

IS THIS FILM A DOCUMENTARY, A PROPAGANDA FILM, OR BOTH?
·       Riefenstahl claims that she was na├»ve about the Nazis when she made it and had no clue as to what Hitler would eventually do; she claims that she was asked to “document” these events as historical events that she didn’t pre-plan or manipulate in any way
·       Yet, there is evidence that film scholars have proposed that some of the footage may have been staged and shot later, after the rallies, and spliced in to look like it was happening live; the massive stadiums were designed to accommodate special cameras
·       It becomes obvious that this movie is evidence of the power of editing: that reconstructing shots and manipulating footage is the key to effective propaganda.
·       As one reviewer stated: this film proves the theory that the most powerful tool of thought control, which is the goal of totalitarian power, is the cinema.
·       It’s almost impossible for a documentary, even a true “fly on the wall” impartially intended one, to be truly objective; every film, even the most neutral documentaries, has an agenda, a point of view, and a tone.

DO YOU THINK THIS FILM IS STILL DANGEROUS? SHOULD IT BE SHOWN IN CLASSROOMS TO AGE-APPROPRIATE CHILDREN? SHOULD IT BE BANNED?

WHAT OTHER MOVIES DOES TRIUMPH OF THE WILL REMIND YOU OF?
·       D.W. Griffith’s infamously racist but cinematically pioneering “Birth of a Nation”
·       The Star Wars films, in their depiction of the evil Empire and its Emperor commanding countless stormtroopers and soldiers
·       The Great Dictator, Chaplin’s parody of Hitler, which actually uses some of this film’s footage
·       “Woodstock”, the acclaimed documentary of the Woodstock rock music festival, another documentary that captures a large mass of followers
·       Busby Berkely musicals, which also choreographed large crowds of people/performers moving in rhythmic unison and creating symmetrical and geometrically balanced shapes and images
·       The films of Sergei Eisenstein, who espoused the socialist and Soviet views of Lenin in a series of propagandistic films like Strike! and Battleship Potemkin

Read more...

A Thanksgiving movie that's no turkey

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Last week, CineVerse enjoyed a movie with all the trimmings: Pieces of April. Here are the talking points of our group discussion:



WHAT ARE SOME IMPORTANT THEMES THIS PICTURE IS TRYING TO PUSH?
·       The universality of Thanksgiving as a racial and cultural American experience: All Americans were immigrants at one time or another
·       The story of the prodigal son, in reverse
·       Reconciliation
·       Coming to grips with death and mortality

DO YOU FEEL, AS ROGER EBERT HAS EXPRESSED, THAT THE MOVIE ENDS TOO ABRUPTLY, AS IF THEY RAN OUT OF MONEY? IF SO, WHAT IS THE PROOF?
·       The closing montage sequence employs photographs, as if they didn’t have time or resources to shoot any final footage
·       The runtime of the movie is only 81 minutes, very short for a feature live action film
·       Themovie was shot on digital (not film) for about $200,000 over 3 weeks, which is a real shoestring budget these days

OTHER FILMS BY PETER HEDGES
·       The Odd Life of Timothy Green
·       Dan in Real Life
·       What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (screenwriter)
·       About a Boy (screenwriter)


Read more...

A chilling peek at Nazi Germany

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Be a witness to history and the rise of one of mankind's greatest monsters by viewing “Triumph of the Will” (1935; 114 minutes), Leni Riefenstahl's brilliantly directed propaganda documentary on Hitler's Third Reich, chosen by Dave Beran, slated for Nov. 28 on the CineVerse calendar.

Read more...

Thanksgiving in "April"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

CineVerse counts its blessings on November 21 with an obscure little Thanksgiving-themed movie called “Pieces of April” (2003; 80 minutes), directed by Peter Hedges, chosen by Patrick McMahon. Plus, join us prior to the screening to partake in a movie trivia game for DVD prizes!

Read more...

Until death (or an aerobics instructor) do us part

Thursday, November 15, 2012

CineVerse enjoyed a thought-provoking discussion last evening on Woody Allen's funny-but-unsettling "Husbands and Wives." Here are some of the highlights of that group chat:


HOW IS THIS FILM A DEPARTURE FROM PREVIOUS WOODY ALLEN MOVIES? WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT “HUSBANDS AND WIVES” COMPARED TO HIS EARLIER WORKS?
·       It employs a shaky, cinema verite style of handheld camerawork
o   This style makes it feel like an impromptu fly-on-the-wall home movie or documentary
o   This shaky, verite-style camerawork would become more prominently used in films, TV shows, music videos and commercials of the time
o   Allen also uses several long, unbroken takes
·       It also is intentionally choppy in its editing style, using jump cuts
·       There’s a contemporaneous “immediacy,” rawness and urgency to the film as a reflection of its real-life artist; It’s an “art imitating life” kind of picture, in which the story and characters mimic the real-life disintegration of Woody and Mia Farrow’s longstanding relationship and Woody’s infatuation with a younger woman
o   in real life, it was Mia’s adopted Asian daughter;
o   this film was shot right before and even somewhat after Mia discovered the famous nude photos of her adopted daughter that Woody had
o   thus, the audience is made to feel like voyeurs seeing a private life dirty laundry airing and also sleuths hunting for confessional clues in the movie that reveal real-life feelings and motivations of Woody and Mia
·       A roughly equal ratio of laughs to winces: This film has, arguably, big laughs that match some of his earlier comedies, but it’s also more painful, raw and uncomfortable than any of his previous works in its depiction of the failing relationships; the comedy springs less from neuroses than from loss, resentment, betrayal, damage and wince-inducing embarrasement
·       This feature utilizes an offscreen interviewer/narrator (presumably a therapist?) as a storytelling device
·       “Husbands and Wives” also marks the end of a remarkable era of consistently high quality movies created by Allen, stretching arguably from 1977’s “Annie Hall” to this film, released in 1992; his works were more mediocre, erratic and somewhat disappointing following this film, although he’s enjoyed a bit of a resurgence since 2004
·       This flick also is the last time Allen plays a leading man and a romantic love interest in one of his movies

WHAT THEMES AND MESSAGES ARE EXPLORED IN HUSBANDS AND WIVES?
·       It asks the question: Is any relationship truly stable and safe? Can you really trust your partner to remain interested and faithful?
·       The confusing, unstable, changing, dizzying nature of love and relationships, as exemplified by the jerky handheld camera
o   The camera seems to be just as perplexed about the characters as the characters are about themselves
o   Just as the story and tone is raw and bumpy, so is the camera work
·       How love and intimacy changes over time
·       Fantasy vs. reality: Is a relationship with a younger, sexier partner just a mirage that can’t last or work?
·       Impotence and sexual frigidity
·       The conflict between the mind and the heart, between irrational feelings and the rational intellect
·       How maturity and acceptance of life’s harsh realities comes with age: a younger Allen in earlier films is more romantic, yearning and hopeful; here, he seems to be accepting of the sense of loneliness and loss that occurs when a love ends

WHAT OTHER MOVIES DOES “HUSBANDS AND WIVES” BRING TO MIND?
·       Ingmar Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night,” on which the story and tone is loosely based
·       Manhattan, in that both films feature an older Allen character smitten by a very young female romantic interest
·       “Breathless,” Jean Luc Godard’s masterpiece of the French New Wave, in the shaky handheld camera and jump cut editing style it apes
·       Crimes and Misdemeanors: the professor whom Allen’s character makes a documentary  about in “Crimes” returns in this film: this Allen character watches that documentary on TV
·       Allen’s earlier “Stardust Memories”, also featuring ellipses and jump cuts when depicting emotional breakdowns by Charlotte Rampling’s character

Read more...

Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage

Sunday, November 11, 2012

If you want to be a firsthand witness to the fascinating disintegration of the relationship between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, check out Woody's last film with his former lover, “Husbands and Wives” (1992; 108 minutes), which will be spotlighted in our CineVerse group on Nov. 14.

Read more...

Order in the court

Friday, November 9, 2012

CineVerse took a trip to court on Wednesday and enjoyed "Witness for the Prosecuction," Billy Wilder's well-crafted take on the Agatha Christie tale. Before you reach your verdict on this flick, here are the closing arguments, as discussed by our group:

WHAT IMPRESSED YOU ABOUT THIS ADAPTATION OF AGATHA CHRISTIE’S WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION?
·       It’s not easy to adapt the intricate structures, characters, plot turns and puzzles of Christie for the screen: the filmmakers have to know what to cut and what to emphasize
·       Director Billy Wilder took what is essentially a stagebound play confined primarily to a boring courtroom setting and made it cinematic, interesting and cynically humorous
o   How? By choosing to insert flashbacks
o   By making Sir Wilifrid, originally just a supporting charcter in the play, into the picture’s male lead
o   By throwing in a subplot about Sir Wilifrid’s need for regular medical care, which builds suspense about whether he can endure the rigorous trial in his condition
o   By introducing the character of Nurse Plimsoll and her nagging skirmishes with Sir Wilifrid for comic relief; also, by casting Charles Laughton’s real life wife, Elsa Lanchester, in this role, which capitalizes on ideal chemistry between the two
o   By employing fluid, kinetic camera movements
o   By casting big name, talented actors for the main parts who could employ effective facial gestures and subtle expressions for dramatic effect

WILIFRID’S MONOCLE IS USED AS AN EFFECTIVE SYMBOLIC DEVICE IN THE FILM. WHAT DOES IT REPRESENT, AND CAN YOU CITE EXAMPLES OF HOW IT IS USED WELL?
·       It is used as an idiosyncratic prop that adds detail and dimension to the character
·       It also symbolizes the peering eye of investigation and, when it glints with light, the blinding light of truth and justice

WILDER GOES FOR SHOCK AND SURPRISE AT THE END, WHILE HITCHCOCK BELIEVED IN BUILDING SUSPENSE BY REVEALING KEY DETAILS ABOUT A CHARACTER EARLY ON. WOULD THIS FILM HAVE BEEN LESS EFFECTIVE AND ENJOYABLE IF THE STORY HAD REVEALED SOME OF ITS SURPRISES EARLIER ON?
·       Hitchcock was a proponent of building suspense: His theory was that if the audience knows that a bomb is under the table and the characters sitting there don’t know it, there is a greater thrill for the viewer than if the bomb suddenly goes off without our expectation of it, which evokes shock and surprise instead of suspense.
·       Arguably, because this is a courtroom drama and an Agatha Christie story, audiences probably expect more of a surprise and plot twist at the end that they didn’t see coming. Such is the nature of dramatic court cases, where surprise witnesses can suddenly be called or last-minute evidence is introduced that blows the trial wide open.
·       You can make the case that Wilder did employ enough suspense by creating doubt around the motives of the characters and worry about Wilifred’s health.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER MOVIES THIS FILM BRINGS TO MIND?
·       A Foreign Affair, another Wilder-Dietrich collaboration where the female lead character is similar
·       Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case

OTHER FILMS BY BILLY WILDER
·       Double Indemnity
·       The Lost Weekend
·       Sunset Boulevard
·       Ace in the Hole
·       Stalag 17
·       Sabrina
·       The Seven Year Itch
·       The Spirit of St. Louis
·       Some Like it Hot
·       The Apartment

Read more...

  © Blogger template Cumulus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP