Written on the Wind (1956)

December 16th, 2011

For the first color movie we watched in the class, I thought the colors were pretty bland, except for a few burst of colors here and there. The colors that stood out to me were when the sister, Mary Lee showed up, because she had the wildest pink colors and it just caught my attention. You could tell she was going to be an interesting character to watch because she just stood out so much. From her room to her car to her clothes, the bursts of pink or red colors were just everywhere. The red or pink could have stood for her personality, because red is considered a passionate color. She was very sexual, a troublemaker, and was open about her feelings and it showed in her over-the-top face expressions. People could also tell whenever Mary Lee was there, because the background music that played was just so dramatic that it became her music. It was just so dramatic that it was actually funny.

I know she wasn’t the main character, but whenever she showed up, it just made me get excited because you never knew what she was gonna do. I found myself rooting for her in the end, even though she’s supposed to be the “bad guy”, because she wasn’t as bland as the other female character, Lucy. Lucy was pretty, smart, and successful, but there wasn’t anything interesting that pulled me into liking her. I mean, she liked Mitch at first, then she goes out with Kyle just because she feels sorry for him? Hypocrite? And that’s why Kyle thought she was cheating on him and eventually drove him to almost killing everyone. If she liked Mitch in the first place, she shouldn’t be going out with another guy.

I felt bad for Kyle, honesty, because his best friend basically overshadowed him in everything. His father liked Mitch more; his sister liked Mitch more; now his own girlfriend liked Mitch more? He just wanted someone to love him more than he/she does Mitch, but Lucy didn’t make that clear. That’s why he ended up slapping her and almost killed Mitch, he was jealous. He wanted someone who wanted him equally, but Lucy couldn’t even do that.

The ending was messed up for me, because only Mitch and Lucy became “happy”, but at what cost? Kyle and Mr. Hadley ended up dead, and Mary Lee was unhappy and alone. They didn’t deserve to be happy, because they were the ones who caused this, honestly. If they just got together in the beginning, it would’ve saved everyone their time and death. Mary Lee could have gotten over Mitch faster, Mr. Hadley might have not died in that way, and Kyle might not have become a drunk again and gone crazy.

Analysis Project #2: Formal Analysis

December 9th, 2011

The Lady Eve

Mirror scene

“The Male/Female Gaze”

The male gaze is a theory by Laura Mulvey, that says that women are only objects “to-be-looked-at.” It shows that men have control of the camera, because these types of scenes are shown in their point of view. But in the film The Lady Eve, these ideas are challenged as the character Jean, gets the upper hand by being able to watch the man for once, with him not being able to do anything about it. However, the audience can notice that even though Jean is shown being the stronger power, other women are still shown as objects to be seen. In the end, Laura Mulvey is correct when she states that the gaze enforces male perspective, and it shows with this certain mirror scene.

In The Lady Eve, there is a mirror scene that shows a “female gaze,” instead of the male gaze, and that the man (Charlie) is the one being looked at, instead of a womanThis scene shows Jean looking into a mirror, with Charles behind her reading a book. Jean sees that almost every woman is looking at him, and she makes comments about the ones that stand. One shakes her hips while she passes by Charles’s table; the other drops her handkerchief on the floor; and another goes straight to his table and talks to him, trying to get his attention. However, Charles does not seem fazed at all by their actions. When he finally gets up and walks to leave, she trips him smugly, even blaming her broken heel on him, and he just goes along with it.

The most important clue that the audience is shown that this scene is indeed a female gaze is the use of Jean’s mirror, thus making the known title of the scene. The audience sees that Jean looks into the mirror uninterestingly, her eyes lighting up in amusement only when women do something ridiculus. Her comments towards the other women are sarcastic when they look at Charles, knowing what women are like when it comes to men. The lighting around Jean is bright, showing Jean as the eyes of the viewers. She is also the only person who is speaking during this scene, (besides the brief answer her father gave her when she asked a question) giving her power to create a mood for the audience. The romantic, yet funny music also helps create the mood of the scene, making certain parts funnier.

Then suddenly, we are put into the eyes of Jean looking at the sight behind her. I noticed that in the mirror, Charles looks small and unimportant, because it is a medium long-shot, making him look like the rest of people within the frame. The only difference is that he is in the middle reading a book, not socializing like the others around him. And after he talks to Jean, I see that he is a clumsy and nervous person, not the type of guy that is usually shown in other movies. This is different from the women in male gazes, who are made to seem as seductive and inviting, with them undressing or dancing while men watch them. In this scene, men are portrayed as quiet, as opposed to being sexual objects, to parallel the way women are portrayed as in other films.

However, even though the scene shows a female gaze, there are obvious hints of male influence, because women are still being focused on. One woman passing by Charlie shakes her hips as she walks, supposedly being seductive. Another drops her handkerchief close to him, yet she ends up picking it up herself. Then, the camera (mirror) follows another woman to the right who is slowly getting up to talk to him. She is wearing a dress that has no sleeves, creating a “sexy” look. But all that time, Charles is shown not paying attention to these women who are basically throwing themselves at him. Even though this is supposed to be looking at a man, Charles is only shown as a boring guy focused on his book, and focuses on the whole frame (with other women more interesting to look at).

So as I’ve stated, I agree with Laura Mulvey when she states that cinema mostly uses the male perspective. Even the female audience doesn’t mind, because we are used to seeing it in many movies. Even when a scene is supposed to be a “female gaze” scene, it turns to a male gaze instead, and focuses more on the women and what they are doing. The mirror scene minimizes the man’s presence and replaces it with women and other distractions. Filmmakers can’t seem to grasp the idea of there being a “female gaze,” as shown.

Analysis Project #1: Shot-by-shot breakdown of a scene in: M

October 17th, 2011

The first scene of M when children are playing, and a mother is taking laundry.

Shot 1: 1 minute 4 seconds

Camera: LS; extremely long take; shot from a high angle, then to a low angle.

Lighting: No light in the early shot, changes to a natural lighting setting. The different angled shadows suggest there is light coming from 2 sources.

Sound: A girl’s voice in the beginning with a black background, and only her voice is heard throughout the shot, until a woman tells her not to sing.

Depth of field: Shallow

At first, the shot has a black background, then light starts to come with the camera looking down at children in a square-like circle. There is a girl in the middle, whose voice was the one speaking, who looks like she is picking someone to be “it.” It focuses on the children for a while after finally moving to the side, showing 2 garbage cans and a window, then moving up to a balcony with laundry hung from strings. A woman comes into the frame and looks down at the children from the balcony. The woman then screams at them, but the camera does not move down. It stays in that background for a few more seconds, and we hear the girl’s voice again.

Straight cut to shot.

Shot 2: 46 seconds

Camera: Medium Long Shot, Long take, Shot straight on.

Lighting: Natural lighting.

Sound: No music, only people’s voices.

Depth of field: Shallow, can only see the 2 women, and part of the walls.

It starts off with the woman who is carrying laundry going up the stairs. The camera stays put for a few seconds before following the woman up the stairs and in front of a door. The railings and the side of the stairs can be shown. It zooms in when another woman opens the door, but far enough to see their whole bodies. The audience can see a dining room setting from this shot, hinting that the woman who answered may be a mother. They talk about the children singing a song about the murderer around their neighborhood, and how as long as they can hear the children, they know they’re safe.

Straight cut to next shot.

Shot 3: 22 seconds

Camera: MS to LS, medium take, shot straight on.

Lighting: Natural lighting

Sound: Only the women’s voices and the sound of the washboard.

Depth of field: Wide. Able to see the whole kitchen/dining room.

The shot starts off as a continuation of the previous shot, when the 2 women are talking. From this angle, the stairs are shown outside the door. The later woman turns around after talking and the earlier woman closes the door. The camera zooms out and follows the woman to the right as she sets down her laundry. It then follows her to the left as she goes to the washboard. Within the frame, there is the kitchen drawers, utensils, a chair, the washboard, thew stove with pots, the woman, and the window with decorations.

Straight cut to next shot.

Shot 4: 5 seconds

Camera: MS, short take, shot straight on.

Lighting: Natural lighting.

Sound: A clock is heard outside the frame towards the end of the shot.

Depth of field: The woman is shown with the washboard, but still able to see some of the background.

The woman is shown scrubbing white clothes on the washboard. She looks up after hearing the clock.

Straight cut.

Shot 5: 5 seconds

Camera: MS of clock

Lighting: Strong shadow of the clock, but other than that, normal lighting.

Sound: The clock

Depth of field: Able to see the clock, a portion of the cupboards, and some utensils hung up.

The clock rings as it is 12 in the afternoon. The strong shadow suggests importance in the time

Shot 6: 4 seconds

Camera: MS, short take, shot straight on

Lighting: Natural lighting

Sound: The sound of the clock and bells, hinting from outside.

Depth of field: Can see woman, the washboard, part of the window, cupboards with utensils.

The woman is still looking from her washing, stops, and dries off her hands.

Straight cut.

This first scene of the film composed of many long takes at first, then changes the pace into short takes. The long takes seemed to create an ominous mood, while the short takes created a sort of everyday-like mood, like it happens normally. The pace seemed to change when the later woman talks about how the children are safe as long as they are heard. The scene goes on as a normal day would, with children playing, the women doing laundry and preparing what seemed to be lunch. The clock shows that this happens probably everyday. Even on a normal day like this, a murder can happen. The children are just playing, thinking nothing can happen to them, even going along with the song.

In the beginning of the scene, the filmmaker chose to put the girl’s voice in the black background first in order to create a dark mood. It was ironic how the girl’s voice was cheerful, yet the background was black and she was singing about a murderer. The girl in the beginning also seemed to be the one who got murdered, Elsie. Only voices and background sounds were heard during this scene. It turned the scene more mysterious because the audience does know what to feel at what moment in the movie. I thought that was why I was surprised when the girl suddenly got murdered.

Umberto D.

October 13th, 2011

Better late than never? I don’t know why I always put things to the last minute. But I just hope that by the 28th I can get 2 good posts in. So, here goes.

Umberto D., like other NeoRealist films, focused on the hardships of life in Italy, after World War I. Umberto, as the title suggests, was the main character of the film. However, during the opening scene, with many closeups of the random people striking to pension wages, it was hard to tell who this person actually was. It wasn’t until other characters started saying his name that I figured out who Umberto was. When I saw him, though, I doubted him being the main character, because he was just an old man in debt with a dog. Not really “main character material.” He seemed like a tricky person at first, trying to sell his belongings to random people, but I saw that he was just trying to earn money to pay for his rent. And that’s basically what the whole movie was about, Umberto trying to earn money to pay for it. The landlady was unreasonable though, and didn’t get that the government did not give him enough money. She always never accepted some of the cash that he gave to her, and eventually kicked him out of the house.

Umberto’s only real friend in the film, excluding his dog, Flike, was Maria, the maid of the house. They both cared a lot about each other, but each had troubles of their own; Umberto, having debt and getting a fever, and Maria, being pregnant and not knowing who the father was. With all these things in their minds, they barely helped each other out. That’s why Maria lost Flike when Umberto asked her to take care of him. But luckily, he ended up finding Flike. His dog was the only one Umberto truly cared for, as he thought that both their lives should end together. But Flike had other thoughts about dying and ended up running from the tracks. Umberto thought Flike was right and he finally thinks that his life is good as long as his dog is there with him.

In all, I thought it was a pretty good movie, considering the fact that the time period was set in less than a week. Since Zavattini wanted to de dramatize, the film was set as an everyday thing. It focused on an ordinary person dealing with daily life. It ends on a hopeful note, a characteristic not common to Neorealism.

Hello world!

August 30th, 2011

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