Archive for the ‘Film’ Category
Manipulation in film, not only of the objects within the frame but of the audience as well, has been the practice of film makers for decades. In Philip Kaufman?s Quills (2000), a biopic loosely based on the last years of life for the18th century author, the Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush), the audience becomes not just an observer but an active participant in particular sexual acts through overtly suggested voyeurism. For what purpose does Kaufman so conspicuously manipulate the audience into committing these acts? In an ambitious argument for uncensored art, even when pitted against the utmost controversial fiction of the Marquis de Sade (a man who RollingStone.com calls ?one sick twist? (Travers)) Kaufman wants his audience to actively lust for things they cannot have. For this reason, I examine the transition from the experience of fictional freedom in the first scene involving Mademoiselle Renard (Diana Morrison) with the oppression of that freedom within the rest of the film. By beginning the story here, Kaufman demonstrates that in order to understand what can be lost through censorship, one must understand, first hand, what exists prior to that loss.
From the beginning of Berman and Pulcini?s American Splendor (2003), we are presented with many versions of Harvey Pekar:
- A comic strip frames Harvey Pekar (Daniel Tay), an uncostumed kid on Halloween in 1950. When asked what he?s dressed as, we learn that this kid is no super hero. He cranks off, ?I?m Harvey Pekar. I?m just a kid from the neighborhood? and storms off with the voices of kids mocking his name in fading echos.
- If memory serves correctly, we hold that same external comic frame and fade the content to actor Paul Giamatti walking that same street?playing the film?s character “all grown up.”
- A voiceover of the real Pekar tells us Harvey Pekar is also a real guy and we eventually meet that guy in a sound studio being interviewed, documentary style, by Shari Springer Berman.
- Interspersed are comic renditions of the character talking to us in bubbles, telling us about who he is.
- Giamatti thinks in bubble text at the supermarket where the idea for American Splendor was born.
- We meet?the comic renditions?of Pekar again at the the train station when Joyce Brabner (Hope Davis) arrives for the first time.
- Later, we get clips of the real Pekar on ?Late Night with David Letterman.?
- Giamatti?also stages Pekar?s volatile GE/NBC blast on the same show.
- Last but not least, we see one more permutation when Giamatti acts repulsed while watching a play about Pekar played by Donal Logue when the voiceover adds that he, the real Pekar, wonders how he?ll feel seeing Giamatti play him in this movie.
The genious mix of reality and fiction is?enough to make my head spin…
Taking stock, a reflective exercise often assigned at the end of a class, is also a graduation requirement. This is my first draft. Tweaking to follow… although?references to?”navel gazing” and “mental masturbation” are definitely keepers.
The Collegiate Experience and My Intellectual Cosmos
This reflective essay has been assigned to help connect my Senior Seminar experience, with its focus on pre-romantic poetry, to the greater Saint Rose experience and thus my intellectual cosmos. To be honest, I find this task rather difficult. My trouble stems from the Senior Seminar portion of this ponderance. Let me first say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual, in-depth conversation every class has offered and that I find significant value in the exploration of early literary theory and the ability to measure today?s ideas by comparison. Still, I struggle to kindle some sort of greater passion for the subject matter in a present-day application that brings new awareness to light.
In my ideal world, Senior Seminar should be more than an entertaining intellectual exercise. I had hoped for a topic that would engage my passion, inspire me to action in righting some contemporary wrong and raise my own awareness as well as the awareness of those who read what new discoveries my research has to offer. Instead, I am reminded time and again, as we jest about the many ways in which poets have continually pondered their navels, that the struggle of the human experience merely shifts at a snail?s pace. Looking to history offers little more than greater historical knowledge of humanity?s slowly morphing circumstances, faulty attempts at understanding through overly general categorization, and constant repetition of these mistakes. While history is a fantastic place to begin, traveling back in time is not necessarily the best place to finish, at least in the opinion of this Saint Rose senior.
Having selected Philip Kaufman’s Quills (2000) as my ?Writers in Motion? film of choice, I watched it twice, first to take in the entire story and again to take notes. For further insight, I watched the DVD extras on screenplay writer Doug Wright’s commentary, costuming, setting and casting, searched for the text of the screenplay to read for sheer literary value, and hit JSTOR for some scholarly direction. I also found accounts of the Marquis de Sade?s real life on the Time Warner True Crime site and discovered another devoted to PVC fetish wear designed in the Marquis? name. Before I knew it, I had shoved so much material into my feeble little brain that my ability to create a single thesis ground to a screeching halt. I screamed, ?TOO MUCH INFORMATION!? and took a break. This is how I roll.
Reading Barsam?s last chapter of Looking at Movies offers the perfect springboard for this paper I have yet to begin. With graduation looming just 15 days away, that?s what I call salvation in print. One method Barsam suggests is a tracing of dualisms or binary oppositions. In Quills, that could include things such as:
- freedom of speech/censorship
In Brian Gilbert?s Wilde (1997), we discover the early nature of Oscar Wilde?s fame (played by Stephen Fry) from a conversation between the characters of Ada Leverson (Zo? Wanamaker) and Lady Mount-Temple (Judy Parfitt):
Lady Mount-Temple: I know your friend is famous, Ada.
Ada Leverson: Notorious, at least.
Lady Mount-Temple: But I don’t understand for what.
Ada Leverson: For being himself, Lady Mount-Temple.
In Alan Randolph?s Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), this type of fame is said to be true of Dorothy Parker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as well. The repetition of this notion (in?these and other?films)?suggests that writers have a?larger-than-life personality and high social profile in addition to the work they produce. While we know this to be untrue, particularly?since writers lead much of their lives behind a desk?writing about subjects other than themselves, only those eccentric, dramatic?and often tragic figures?lead lives worthy of having films made about them. Unless we look beyond the film portrayals, what an audience is left with is the notion that all authors must experience adventurous escapades to craft good work.
In response to Richard Barsam’s Looking at Movies seventh chapter on sound:
I find the idea of silence equally as important and perhaps even more so than sound. We have been conditioned to accept that the transitions and contrasts?of sound certainly create a sense of drama, and?so much is said too in the space of silence. While I realize this has more to do with music than film, listening to Ani DiFranco in my 20′s is what first alerted me to the importance of both sound and silence. I never much thought about it prior.
On her?1990 album, Not So Soft, the tune “Every Angle” incorporates sound in a way that moves beyond the music itself and into the audience’s imagination via the story.
i’m imagining your laugh again
the one you save for your family
and your very
i’m imagining the way you say my name
i don’t know when
i’m going to hear it again
my friends can’t tell
my laughter from my cries
someone tell this photograph of you
to let go of my eyes
In reference to whether or not the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson as portrayed in the 1997 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas offers any kind of objectivity, my classmate Catherine Dumas says:
Hell yeah, a lot more that the journalism that we get on a daily basis through our media. A lot of our media is controlled by some Australian dude, Rupert Murdoch.
While I tend to agree with Catherine on some level, I think we need to start with whether or not objective truth exists before answering this question.
Truth is constructed via the gathering of facts and means nothing without the connectivity of those facts through narrative. Since narrative is always written from a particular point of view, there can be no objectivity without the influence of culture whether it be race, gender, political affiliation, sexual preference, etc. That said, I say no form of writing offers objectivity. Regardless of any stated effort to achieve it (the phrase “fair and balanced” comes to mind), journalism is used to persuade the public toward a particular viewpoint.
Has anybody seen “The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of the News?”
The question: Substance abuse… Writing fuel or writing substitute?
I say fuel.
Granted, the stigma of alcoholism and addiction adheres itself to the stereotype of writers. What drunks! What freaks! What introverts plagued by the pain and suffering of their own humanity! Sure, we?ve had a few of these throughout history. But really, doesn?t Poe?s addiction produce some amazing literary results? Writers, often referred to as seers, don?t necessarily like what they see. To observe the human condition at a deeply personal level can produce extreme depression, particularly when the writer sees no way out of the social confines that trap him or her. Think Oscar in?Wilde. Addiction, even when detrimental love is the drug of choice, becomes the fuel used to examine the world around him. Narrative requires conflict, and those who are deeply conflicted have a great deal of material to work with.
Having read the chapter on sound rather than film editing for April 3rd (DUH), I have formulated these ideas with our viewing of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in mind. On one hand, this puts me ahead of the game by writing a week in advance, and yet I am also a week behind by missing the freshest corresponding film material made available to class. Please pardon.
I found an original script of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and have included the first portion of the first scene below. Highlighting the sounds mentioned within the text, they include everything from the wind, car tires, music, screeching bats, characters screaming, news, voiceovers and narration. This montage of reference to sound doesn?t include what might be assumed by the action, from slamming car doors and trunks to crinkling plastic and popping tops of bear cans. (Although, in the 70s, these were pull back tabs, they still popped from the pressure of carbonation.)
To illustrate what a sound editor might consider, I marked the direct reference to dialogue in red, narration in green, prerecorded music and news in blue, and implied sounds in orange. In doing so, I found it eye-opening to see just how much editing and mixing is involved in such a short span of film. This, by no means, covers the full spectrum.
I?m fascinated by the ways we, as humans, make meaning from images. Whether presented on their own, in a pair or a group, the story often changes when contextualized by what surrounds that central image. If anyone has ever done scrapbooking, you know that three well placed images on a page, and not necessarily in chronological order, can epitomize an entire event, whether it be a child?s birthday party, a wild night out on the town, or a child?s wild birthday night out on the town.
Welcome to the opening montage of Terry Gilliam?s 1998 film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. A series of black and white images flashes before us: a helicopter, a Vietnam protest, and other faded war time images alternating with a repeated black screen covered with thick, wet and vibrant spattered blood. We immediately think of fresh death, destruction and civil unrest.
Once in that frame of mind, we?re hit with the jarring contrast of a long shot showing a pristine, cherry red convertible flying down the straight and narrow highway. Who is driving? Cut to a humorous image of drug induced driver/journalist, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and passenger/lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro). We not only see the main characters, and I do mean characters, we also enter their LSD induced world as our view of them is contorted through the distortion of a fish eye and barrel lens. Next, Duke repels his invisible bat hallucinations with a fly swatter. The scene then cuts to a real bat casualty lying dead in the road. The audience has just left their own sense of reality and specifically entered that of Duke?s. Welcome to the 70′s.