Monday, July 21, 2014

Although this blog will focus on the beginnings of surrealist cinema, an in-depth look at its legacy will be given at a one-time-only lecture at the Art Institute of Chicago on July 24, 2014 with Facets director Milos Stehlik.  Click here for more information.

Spellbound (Hitchcock, 1945) - Still from dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali
Introduction

Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision. 
- Salvador Dali
When someone mentions “surrealism”, the word conjures particular ideas in people’s minds: dreams, oddity, abstract, unconscious, subconscious, metaphor, confusion.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, surrealism may be defined as “a 20th century art form in which an artist or writer combines unrelated images or effects in art, literature, film, or theater by means of unnatural or irrational juxtapositions and combinations.”

Surrealism began in France in the 1920s and lasted through the late 1940s.  Some of the most popular surrealist artists were painters Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, and Rene Magritte.  Their work became known for their dream-like quality, juxtaposition of everyday people and objects in irrational forms, and the abstraction of real life, places, and things. Highly influenced by Freudian psychology, surrealism sought to bring the unconscious mind to visual life. Balanced between symbolism and realism, surrealist art commentated on themes of life, death, modernity, politics, religion, and art itself. For instance, Dali used images of clocks to symbolize the unfixed nature of time while he used ants to symbolize death and decay.  Although surrealism gradually declined as a movement in the 1940s and 1950s, surrealism’s legacy is not limited to high-brow art.  Media appropriated its most popular images and style, giving surrealism instant recognition and immortality.  The melting clocks in Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (1931) and the locomotive bursting out of a fireplace in Magritte’s Time Transfixed (1938) are recognizable to nearly anyone.  While pop-culture appropriates surrealist images for humor or satire, cinema uses surrealism in its mise-en-scene, cinematography, and narrative structure subtly and consistently.


Dali's Time Transfixed & a Simpson's appropriation

Surrealism’s role in the history of cinema dates back to the peak of the movement when surrealist artists put down their paintbrushes and picked up film cameras.  Their work became popular within avant-garde film circles and left a lasting impression on the possibilities of cinema and the surreal.

Surrealist Cinema: The Beginnings

It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the determination to realize them.
-  Man Ray
To an extent, almost any stylized film could be labeled ‘surreal.’ From the stark shadows of German Expressionism to the independent neo-noirs of David Lynch, films create visual worlds and experiences unlike reality. However, most of the aesthetics labeled surreal today owe a great deal to the work of surrealist artists during the 1920s through the late 1940s.  During that time, surrealist cinema was its own unique and powerful film movement.

Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986) 
It began in France because of a fortunate combination of easy access to film equipment, film financing, and a plethora of interested artists and audiences.  Surrealist artists realized that the film camera could capture the real world in a dreamlike way that their pens and paintbrushes could not: superimpositions, overexposures, fast-motion, slow-motion, reverse-motion, stop-motion, lens flares, large depth of field, shallow depth of field, and more bizarre camera tricks could transform the original image in front of the lens into something new once exposed on the film plate.  For surrealists, film gave them the ability to challenge and mold the boundaries between fantasy and reality, especially with space and time.  Like the dreams they wished to bring to life, film had no limits or rules.

The Blood of the Poet (Cocteau, 1930)
Since surrealist filmmakers did not desire and often opposed commercial success, their work was screened at limited venues and considered to be avant-garde.  Although surrealist elements can be seen in post-war American avant-garde films (i.e. Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger), surrealist cinema was rooted in the French avant-garde.  Some of the most popular surrealist filmmakers were Man Ray, Jean Epstein, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, and, perhaps most famous of all – Luis Bunuel.  

Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren, 1943)
Luis Bunuel & Un Chien Andalou

…the only absurd thing in Un Chien Andalou is the title.
-          Luis Bunuel
 Bunuel’s filmography spans over thirty years, ranging from the avant-garde to documentary to erotic dramas. Often controversial, his films confront issues of poverty, politics, romance, sex, and race.  Bunuel’s career began when he borrowed money from his mother to make Un Chien Andalou (1929) with his close friend Salvador Dali.  In the film, Bunuel aimed to create a purely visual piece of cinema that challenged conventions of narrative, plot, cinematography, and theme.  The most iconic and disturbing image of the film is the opening sequence in which a man slices a woman’s eye open with a razor blade, foreshadowed by clouds slicing across the moon in the night sky.  However, ants crawling out of a man’s hand, a severed hand in the middle of the street and bleeding cattle on top of pianos being dragged across the floor are equally disturbing images presented in the film.

The women before her eye is sliced in Un Chien Andalou
Bunuel and Dali derived the ‘story’ from a series of dreams.  Like dream worlds, Un Chien Andalou does not obey physical rules of time and space.  For instance, at the end of the film, the woman leaves a dark room where she teases the man and enters another room.  The new room is brightly lit and windy.  The scene then cuts to long shot of a man standing on a beach that turns around and faces screen right.  Then it cuts back to the woman as she waves and runs towards the camera, screen right.  Next is a medium long shot of the man on the beach and then a quick cut to him in a long shot as the women enters from screen right and runs into his arms.  From these five shots, the real dimensions of space (separate locations of an interior room and an exterior beach) are disregarded as the real dimensions of time (the amount of time it takes to move from an interior to an exterior) are disregarded as well.  While most films do break conventions of time by cutting from one scene to the next and omitting unnecessary actions, Bunuel pushes space and time further by eliminating their physical rules and allowing for a cinematic stream of consciousness from one image to the next.

The man on the beach in Un Chien Andalou
Considered a classic of avant-garde and surrealist cinema, Un Chien Andalou continues to shock audiences with its illogical narrative structure and graphic imagery. Although Bunuel’s first masterpiece, it certainly wasn’t his last as he went on to make L’Age D’or (1930), The Young One (1960), and Belle de Jour (1967).  

For Bunuel and other surrealist filmmakers, the camera was more than just a means to capture the world and tell stories; it was the lens through which they could twist and transform depictions of the world into how they truly saw it.

For more on Surrealist Cinema, be sure to register for a lecture with Milos Stehlik at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Luis  Bunuel and other avant-garde filmmakers’ films are available for rental at FACETS.

-  Gina Marie Ezzone


Although this blog will focus on the beginnings of surrealist cinema, an in-depth look at its legacy will be given at a one-time-only lecture at the Art Institute of Chicago on July 24, 2014 with Facets director Milos Stehlik.  Click here for more information.

Spellbound (Hitchcock, 1945) - Still from dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali
Introduction

Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision. 
- Salvador Dali
When someone mentions “surrealism”, the word conjures particular ideas in people’s minds: dreams, oddity, abstract, unconscious, subconscious, metaphor, confusion.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, surrealism may be defined as “a 20th century art form in which an artist or writer combines unrelated images or effects in art, literature, film, or theater by means of unnatural or irrational juxtapositions and combinations.”

Surrealism began in France in the 1920s and lasted through the late 1940s.  Some of the most popular surrealist artists were painters Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, and Rene Magritte.  Their work became known for their dream-like quality, juxtaposition of everyday people and objects in irrational forms, and the abstraction of real life, places, and things. Highly influenced by Freudian psychology, surrealism sought to bring the unconscious mind to visual life. Balanced between symbolism and realism, surrealist art commentated on themes of life, death, modernity, politics, religion, and art itself. For instance, Dali used images of clocks to symbolize the unfixed nature of time while he used ants to symbolize death and decay.  Although surrealism gradually declined as a movement in the 1940s and 1950s, surrealism’s legacy is not limited to high-brow art.  Media appropriated its most popular images and style, giving surrealism instant recognition and immortality.  The melting clocks in Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (1931) and the locomotive bursting out of a fireplace in Magritte’s Time Transfixed (1938) are recognizable to nearly anyone.  While pop-culture appropriates surrealist images for humor or satire, cinema uses surrealism in its mise-en-scene, cinematography, and narrative structure subtly and consistently.


Dali's Time Transfixed & a Simpson's appropriation

Surrealism’s role in the history of cinema dates back to the peak of the movement when surrealist artists put down their paintbrushes and picked up film cameras.  Their work became popular within avant-garde film circles and left a lasting impression on the possibilities of cinema and the surreal.

Surrealist Cinema: The Beginnings

It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the determination to realize them.
-  Man Ray
To an extent, almost any stylized film could be labeled ‘surreal.’ From the stark shadows of German Expressionism to the independent neo-noirs of David Lynch, films create visual worlds and experiences unlike reality. However, most of the aesthetics labeled surreal today owe a great deal to the work of surrealist artists during the 1920s through the late 1940s.  During that time, surrealist cinema was its own unique and powerful film movement.

Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986) 
It began in France because of a fortunate combination of easy access to film equipment, film financing, and a plethora of interested artists and audiences.  Surrealist artists realized that the film camera could capture the real world in a dreamlike way that their pens and paintbrushes could not: superimpositions, overexposures, fast-motion, slow-motion, reverse-motion, stop-motion, lens flares, large depth of field, shallow depth of field, and more bizarre camera tricks could transform the original image in front of the lens into something new once exposed on the film plate.  For surrealists, film gave them the ability to challenge and mold the boundaries between fantasy and reality, especially with space and time.  Like the dreams they wished to bring to life, film had no limits or rules.

The Blood of the Poet (Cocteau, 1930)
Since surrealist filmmakers did not desire and often opposed commercial success, their work was screened at limited venues and considered to be avant-garde.  Although surrealist elements can be seen in post-war American avant-garde films (i.e. Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger), surrealist cinema was rooted in the French avant-garde.  Some of the most popular surrealist filmmakers were Man Ray, Jean Epstein, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, and, perhaps most famous of all – Luis Bunuel.  

Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren, 1943)
Luis Bunuel & Un Chien Andalou

…the only absurd thing in Un Chien Andalou is the title.
-          Luis Bunuel
 Bunuel’s filmography spans over thirty years, ranging from the avant-garde to documentary to erotic dramas. Often controversial, his films confront issues of poverty, politics, romance, sex, and race.  Bunuel’s career began when he borrowed money from his mother to make Un Chien Andalou (1929) with his close friend Salvador Dali.  In the film, Bunuel aimed to create a purely visual piece of cinema that challenged conventions of narrative, plot, cinematography, and theme.  The most iconic and disturbing image of the film is the opening sequence in which a man slices a woman’s eye open with a razor blade, foreshadowed by clouds slicing across the moon in the night sky.  However, ants crawling out of a man’s hand, a severed hand in the middle of the street and bleeding cattle on top of pianos being dragged across the floor are equally disturbing images presented in the film.

The women before her eye is sliced in Un Chien Andalou
Bunuel and Dali derived the ‘story’ from a series of dreams.  Like dream worlds, Un Chien Andalou does not obey physical rules of time and space.  For instance, at the end of the film, the woman leaves a dark room where she teases the man and enters another room.  The new room is brightly lit and windy.  The scene then cuts to long shot of a man standing on a beach that turns around and faces screen right.  Then it cuts back to the woman as she waves and runs towards the camera, screen right.  Next is a medium long shot of the man on the beach and then a quick cut to him in a long shot as the women enters from screen right and runs into his arms.  From these five shots, the real dimensions of space (separate locations of an interior room and an exterior beach) are disregarded as the real dimensions of time (the amount of time it takes to move from an interior to an exterior) are disregarded as well.  While most films do break conventions of time by cutting from one scene to the next and omitting unnecessary actions, Bunuel pushes space and time further by eliminating their physical rules and allowing for a cinematic stream of consciousness from one image to the next.

The man on the beach in Un Chien Andalou
Considered a classic of avant-garde and surrealist cinema, Un Chien Andalou continues to shock audiences with its illogical narrative structure and graphic imagery. Although Bunuel’s first masterpiece, it certainly wasn’t his last as he went on to make L’Age D’or (1930), The Young One (1960), and Belle de Jour (1967).  

For Bunuel and other surrealist filmmakers, the camera was more than just a means to capture the world and tell stories; it was the lens through which they could twist and transform depictions of the world into how they truly saw it.

For more on Surrealist Cinema, be sure to register for a lecture with Milos Stehlik at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Luis  Bunuel and other avant-garde filmmakers’ films are available for rental at FACETS.

-  Gina Marie Ezzone


Thursday, July 17, 2014

 I'd like to be for cinema what Shakespeare was for theatre, Marx for politics and Freud for psychology: someone after whom nothing is as it used to be.
- Fassbinder


Perhaps one of the hardest working filmmakers in cinema history, Rainer Werner Fassbinder made over 30 films before he died at the age of 37 in 1982.  Born into postwar Germany in 1945, Fassbinder grew up watching movies and writing short plays, poems, and stories.  He began his career in Munich where he formed the Anti-Theater group with other playwrights and artists. During his time with the Anti-Theater, he wrote four plays and directed twelve.  His strong work ethic grew immensely once he started making films.

Funded by the Anti-Theater, Fassbinder made his first feature film in 1969, Love is Colder Than Death. From there, he went on to make two or more films almost every year until he died.  Although popular in Germany, he didn’t gain international success until he made Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) which tells of the forbidden relationship between an old German widow and a young Moroccan immigrant.  Critics across the world gave it strong reviews, noting Fassbinder’s influence from fellow German (but Hollywood director) Douglas Sirk.  Sirk’s All that Heaven Allows (1955) provided narrative inspiration for Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, while Sirk’s other melodramas continued to subtly influence the rest of Fassbinder’s filmography.  
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
While not every film was a hit, Fassbinder’s work was deeply personal and rebellious.  He often borrowed from his own experiences, using film to confront alienation, terrorism, racism, class exploitation, trans-sexuality, masochism, and political differences between the West and the East.  Although provocative, his subject matter was never too explicit or sensational.  For instance, the film The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) features complex lesbian relationships.  Petra von Kant is a successful fashion designer who lives with her assistant Marlene. When Petra meets young and beautiful Karin, she instantly falls for her.  The rest of the film follows the turbulent triangle of relationships as Petra and Marlene hold a masochistic relationship while Karin and Petra are cruel to each, too, using and abusing each other for love. Fassbinder’s background in theater clearly influences the mise-en-scene through the bourgeois set design, contrasting and colorful lighting, and static long takes that capture the intricate relationships and melodramatic dialogue between characters.   Although not realistic to all homosexual relationships, the story depicts the ends to which people will go to avoid loneliness and find love.
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Besides the scandalous, yet human plots of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, many of Fassbinder’s other films depicted life in Germany after World War II.  Germany in Autumn (1978) joins fictional and documentary footage to address the politics of Germany in the 1970s while Veronika Voss (1982) depicts a downtrodden actress trying to resurrect her career.  For Veronika Voss, Fassbinder drew stylistically from film noirs and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950).  Whether intentional or not, the film serves as a metaphor for post-war Germany: a once booming country whose character and dignity was taken away and needs to be rebuilt.  For Fassbinder, cinema was the mode to reinstill Germany’s respect in the world.   

Fassbinder, along with other filmmakers like Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Alexander Kluge, abandoned the cinema of Nazi Germany’s past (rooted in propaganda and nationalism) and sought to make high quality, raw films about the German-experience and its history.  As Kluge said in the 1962 Oberhausen Manifesto, “The old film is dead. We believe in the new one.”  Together, these filmmakers and several more made up the New German Cinema that re-invigorated Germany’s place in film and established Herzog, Wenders, Kluge, and Fassbinder as film auteurs.   
Wings of Desire (Wenders, 1987)
During the 1970’s, Fassbinder developed an addiction to cocaine and alcohol, which helped him work tirelessly from project to project.  In 1982 his lifestyle caught up with him as an overdose of cocaine and barbiturates killed him.  Many consider his death to be the end of New German Cinema; filmmakers like Wenders and Herzog moved on to pursue other projects in other countries. However, Fassbinder’s legacy as an auteur of German cinema and as a rebellious filmmaker persists to this day as his films continue to be admired by audiences around the world.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films are available for rental at FACETS.


 - Gina Marie Ezzone

 I'd like to be for cinema what Shakespeare was for theatre, Marx for politics and Freud for psychology: someone after whom nothing is as it used to be.
- Fassbinder


Perhaps one of the hardest working filmmakers in cinema history, Rainer Werner Fassbinder made over 30 films before he died at the age of 37 in 1982.  Born into postwar Germany in 1945, Fassbinder grew up watching movies and writing short plays, poems, and stories.  He began his career in Munich where he formed the Anti-Theater group with other playwrights and artists. During his time with the Anti-Theater, he wrote four plays and directed twelve.  His strong work ethic grew immensely once he started making films.

Funded by the Anti-Theater, Fassbinder made his first feature film in 1969, Love is Colder Than Death. From there, he went on to make two or more films almost every year until he died.  Although popular in Germany, he didn’t gain international success until he made Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) which tells of the forbidden relationship between an old German widow and a young Moroccan immigrant.  Critics across the world gave it strong reviews, noting Fassbinder’s influence from fellow German (but Hollywood director) Douglas Sirk.  Sirk’s All that Heaven Allows (1955) provided narrative inspiration for Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, while Sirk’s other melodramas continued to subtly influence the rest of Fassbinder’s filmography.  
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
While not every film was a hit, Fassbinder’s work was deeply personal and rebellious.  He often borrowed from his own experiences, using film to confront alienation, terrorism, racism, class exploitation, trans-sexuality, masochism, and political differences between the West and the East.  Although provocative, his subject matter was never too explicit or sensational.  For instance, the film The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) features complex lesbian relationships.  Petra von Kant is a successful fashion designer who lives with her assistant Marlene. When Petra meets young and beautiful Karin, she instantly falls for her.  The rest of the film follows the turbulent triangle of relationships as Petra and Marlene hold a masochistic relationship while Karin and Petra are cruel to each, too, using and abusing each other for love. Fassbinder’s background in theater clearly influences the mise-en-scene through the bourgeois set design, contrasting and colorful lighting, and static long takes that capture the intricate relationships and melodramatic dialogue between characters.   Although not realistic to all homosexual relationships, the story depicts the ends to which people will go to avoid loneliness and find love.
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Besides the scandalous, yet human plots of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, many of Fassbinder’s other films depicted life in Germany after World War II.  Germany in Autumn (1978) joins fictional and documentary footage to address the politics of Germany in the 1970s while Veronika Voss (1982) depicts a downtrodden actress trying to resurrect her career.  For Veronika Voss, Fassbinder drew stylistically from film noirs and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950).  Whether intentional or not, the film serves as a metaphor for post-war Germany: a once booming country whose character and dignity was taken away and needs to be rebuilt.  For Fassbinder, cinema was the mode to reinstill Germany’s respect in the world.   

Fassbinder, along with other filmmakers like Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Alexander Kluge, abandoned the cinema of Nazi Germany’s past (rooted in propaganda and nationalism) and sought to make high quality, raw films about the German-experience and its history.  As Kluge said in the 1962 Oberhausen Manifesto, “The old film is dead. We believe in the new one.”  Together, these filmmakers and several more made up the New German Cinema that re-invigorated Germany’s place in film and established Herzog, Wenders, Kluge, and Fassbinder as film auteurs.   
Wings of Desire (Wenders, 1987)
During the 1970’s, Fassbinder developed an addiction to cocaine and alcohol, which helped him work tirelessly from project to project.  In 1982 his lifestyle caught up with him as an overdose of cocaine and barbiturates killed him.  Many consider his death to be the end of New German Cinema; filmmakers like Wenders and Herzog moved on to pursue other projects in other countries. However, Fassbinder’s legacy as an auteur of German cinema and as a rebellious filmmaker persists to this day as his films continue to be admired by audiences around the world.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films are available for rental at FACETS.


 - Gina Marie Ezzone

Monday, July 07, 2014



Louis C.K.
Showrunners: Television Auteurs

Wiki Bio Breakdown:

Louis Szekely was born in Washington D.C. in 1967 to Luis Szekely, an economist from Mexico, and Mary Louise Szekely, a software engineer from Michigan. A year after Louis's birth the family moved to Mexico City, where he learned Spanish as his first language and did not learn English until his family moved to Boston when he was seven. Three years later his parents divorced, and Louis and his three sisters were raised by their mother alone; he decided at a young age that he wanted to be involved in television because his mother only had bad TV to watch when she came home from work. In middle school, Louis became addicted to drugs and alcohol, later noting, "By the time I got to high school, I was a recovered drug addict." After graduating from high school Louis worked at a public access TV station in Boston where he learned how to make short films.


Louis performed his first stand-up set in 1984 at a comedy club in Boston; was given five minutes to perform, but only had two minutes of material. The experience was so discouraging that he didn't perform again for two years. After his slow start, Louis Szekely became successful in the Boston and then the Manhattan stand-up scenes opening for Jerry Seinfeld and performing on Late Show with David LettermanLate Night with Conan O'BrienThe Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. His stage name, Louis C.K., is derived from the English pronunciation of his Hungarian last name, Székely. Louis C.K. independently produced and digitally distributed his one hour special, Live at the Beacon Theater, on his website at a low cost to deter piracy. This business model has set a precedent of distribution for other stand-up comedians and has earned Louis over one million dollars. Louis C.K. is known for his consistent hard work and completely refreshing his material every year.


Louis wrote for the Late Show with David LettermanLate Night with Conan O'BrienThe Dana Carvey Show, and The Chris Rock Show. He also wrote and directed the features films Pootie Tang and Tomorrow Night. In 2006 HBO produced his sitcom, Lucky Louie, but it was cancelled after one season. Louis has also acted in NBC's Parks and Recreation and played supporting roles in Blue Jasmine and American Hustle. In 2009 FX picked up Louie, his series about the life of a divorced father with segments of his stand-up routines interspersed in offstage experiences. Louis C.K. stars in, writes, and directs every episode of Louie along with editing some episodes and executive producing the series. Louie has won one Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and has earned many other Emmy nominations and one Golden Globe nomination. Louie has currently run four seasons to critical and fan acclaim.




Louie and Television Auteurs:

Although auteur theory does not typically apply television directors or showrunners, Louis C.K.'s work features auteurism. Louis C.K's complete involvement in Louie  as a writer, producer, director, and star allows him to present his creative vision as an auteur for the series as a whole. One of the main reasons showrunners or television directors are not considered auteurs is the great number of collaborations involved in most series. It is common for TV shows to have different writers and directors due to the demanding production schedules. Louie and True Detective, the first season of which was completely directed by Cary Fukunaga and written by Nic Pizzolatto, are some of the exceptions. Fortunately, FX allows Louis C.K. to retain his creative control, which is felt in the show's brutally honest humor. The network allowed C.K. to take a 19 month hiatus between seasons three and four in order for Louis to recharge his creative batteries. FX also does not make Louis adhere to television norms such as show acts emphasized for commercial breaks or season long arcs. Once you look at Louis C.K.'s creative presence in Louie, his role as an auteur is unquestionable.

Do you think showrunners can be auteurs? Know other television writer/directors who deserve recognition as auteurs? 

The first two seasons of Louie and Pootie Tang are available for rental at Facets.

-Miranda Brickner






Louis C.K.
Showrunners: Television Auteurs

Wiki Bio Breakdown:

Louis Szekely was born in Washington D.C. in 1967 to Luis Szekely, an economist from Mexico, and Mary Louise Szekely, a software engineer from Michigan. A year after Louis's birth the family moved to Mexico City, where he learned Spanish as his first language and did not learn English until his family moved to Boston when he was seven. Three years later his parents divorced, and Louis and his three sisters were raised by their mother alone; he decided at a young age that he wanted to be involved in television because his mother only had bad TV to watch when she came home from work. In middle school, Louis became addicted to drugs and alcohol, later noting, "By the time I got to high school, I was a recovered drug addict." After graduating from high school Louis worked at a public access TV station in Boston where he learned how to make short films.


Louis performed his first stand-up set in 1984 at a comedy club in Boston; was given five minutes to perform, but only had two minutes of material. The experience was so discouraging that he didn't perform again for two years. After his slow start, Louis Szekely became successful in the Boston and then the Manhattan stand-up scenes opening for Jerry Seinfeld and performing on Late Show with David LettermanLate Night with Conan O'BrienThe Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. His stage name, Louis C.K., is derived from the English pronunciation of his Hungarian last name, Székely. Louis C.K. independently produced and digitally distributed his one hour special, Live at the Beacon Theater, on his website at a low cost to deter piracy. This business model has set a precedent of distribution for other stand-up comedians and has earned Louis over one million dollars. Louis C.K. is known for his consistent hard work and completely refreshing his material every year.


Louis wrote for the Late Show with David LettermanLate Night with Conan O'BrienThe Dana Carvey Show, and The Chris Rock Show. He also wrote and directed the features films Pootie Tang and Tomorrow Night. In 2006 HBO produced his sitcom, Lucky Louie, but it was cancelled after one season. Louis has also acted in NBC's Parks and Recreation and played supporting roles in Blue Jasmine and American Hustle. In 2009 FX picked up Louie, his series about the life of a divorced father with segments of his stand-up routines interspersed in offstage experiences. Louis C.K. stars in, writes, and directs every episode of Louie along with editing some episodes and executive producing the series. Louie has won one Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and has earned many other Emmy nominations and one Golden Globe nomination. Louie has currently run four seasons to critical and fan acclaim.




Louie and Television Auteurs:

Although auteur theory does not typically apply television directors or showrunners, Louis C.K.'s work features auteurism. Louis C.K's complete involvement in Louie  as a writer, producer, director, and star allows him to present his creative vision as an auteur for the series as a whole. One of the main reasons showrunners or television directors are not considered auteurs is the great number of collaborations involved in most series. It is common for TV shows to have different writers and directors due to the demanding production schedules. Louie and True Detective, the first season of which was completely directed by Cary Fukunaga and written by Nic Pizzolatto, are some of the exceptions. Fortunately, FX allows Louis C.K. to retain his creative control, which is felt in the show's brutally honest humor. The network allowed C.K. to take a 19 month hiatus between seasons three and four in order for Louis to recharge his creative batteries. FX also does not make Louis adhere to television norms such as show acts emphasized for commercial breaks or season long arcs. Once you look at Louis C.K.'s creative presence in Louie, his role as an auteur is unquestionable.

Do you think showrunners can be auteurs? Know other television writer/directors who deserve recognition as auteurs? 

The first two seasons of Louie and Pootie Tang are available for rental at Facets.

-Miranda Brickner




Tuesday, July 01, 2014

To search for human visual realities, man must, as in all other homo motivation, transcend the original physical restrictions and inherit a world of eyes.

-Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision

Wiki Bio Breakdown:
Stan Brakhage was born and adopted in Kansas City, Missouri on January 14, 1933.  Brakhage spent most of his time singing on the radio, in church choirs, and performing in a drama group in high school.  He briefly attended Dartmouth College until he dropped out to make his first short film Interim at the age of 19.  Then he attended the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), preferring the atmosphere of fellow artists and poets.  Instead of finishing his education, he moved to New York City where he met various artists, including Maya Deren and John Cage.  After living in poverty for a while, Brakhage moved to Colorado, married his first wife Jane, and had their first son.  He worked making industrial shorts to support his family while making his own films on the side.

In the 1960s, Brakhage began to gain recognition for his experimental films, most notably Dog Star Man (1-5) and Songs.  He made films in color, black and white, with and without sound, and with and without people.  He preferred film stock, utilizing 16mm, 8mm, clear leader and tape that he painted or pasted objects onto to create visual masterpieces unique in every frame.  During the course of his lifetime, he made over 300 films ranging in length from a few seconds to a few hours. He lived to be 70 years old and died on March 9, 2003. His complete works in their original form are stored at the Museum of Modern Art where they will be preserved and re-stored over time.

Dogs Star Man

Experimental Cinema – The Plasticity of Film

Brakhage challenged conventional film techniques as his films transformed how people saw and experienced life through their own eyes.  Although his early work included loose narrative structures revolving around a central character (such as The Way to Shadow Garden, 1954), some of his most well-known work is what he did without a focus on human characters. Brakhage chose to exploit the characteristics of the celluloid he used: exposure, colors, grain, light and shadow.  By using film not just as a capturing device but as a plastic medium, he was able to create a new visual experience that was never seen before.

For instance, in Mothlight (1963), Brakhage never used a camera and instead pressed insect wings, flower petals, stems, and blades of grass in between two pieces of 16mm splicing tape.  He then contact printed the tape onto film for projection. In its most simplistic and purest form, a film is the projection of light on walls to create highlights and shadows; Mothlight blows up and re-envisions nature as light travels through the insect wings and petals, creating textured pools of light on the screen.  Like all films, this four minute short creates a visual experience for the audience.  However, by abandoning the camera lens, Brakhage rejects mainstream conventions of what films look like and notions that the power of cinema lies in the camera.
Film Strips from Mothlight 
Another film that abandons the camera is the 1987 short The Dante Quartet.  The film took about six years to make and was made entirely of hand-painted film frames.  The film was inspired by Dante’s The Divine Comedy and is divided into four parts: “Hell Itself, ““Hell Spit Flexion,” “Purgation” and “existence is song.”  Each section of the film conveys the emotions and struggles that Brakhage was experiencing at the time.  While “Hell Itself” features sweeping strokes of color paint threatened by pools of black paint, “Purgation” blasts bright, rich colors intricately mixed together onto the screen.  The effect is literally of a Pollack painting come to life.  Additionally, the film has moments where the cracked paint creates organic, cell-like patterns on screen.  Similar to Mothlight, The Dante Quartet creates a visual world for the viewer to immerse him/herself within.  By exploiting the plastic qualities of celluloid, the films challenge notions of visual reality and cinematic reality.  Ultimately, Brakhage forces viewers to reject their notions of what it means to “see,” and instead opens a door for viewers to experience a new mode of looking at the world.
Film Still from The Dante Quartet

For more on Stan Brakhage, rent an anthology of his work at Facets or check out the Film Portal.

- Gina Marie Ezzone

To search for human visual realities, man must, as in all other homo motivation, transcend the original physical restrictions and inherit a world of eyes.

-Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision

Wiki Bio Breakdown:
Stan Brakhage was born and adopted in Kansas City, Missouri on January 14, 1933.  Brakhage spent most of his time singing on the radio, in church choirs, and performing in a drama group in high school.  He briefly attended Dartmouth College until he dropped out to make his first short film Interim at the age of 19.  Then he attended the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), preferring the atmosphere of fellow artists and poets.  Instead of finishing his education, he moved to New York City where he met various artists, including Maya Deren and John Cage.  After living in poverty for a while, Brakhage moved to Colorado, married his first wife Jane, and had their first son.  He worked making industrial shorts to support his family while making his own films on the side.

In the 1960s, Brakhage began to gain recognition for his experimental films, most notably Dog Star Man (1-5) and Songs.  He made films in color, black and white, with and without sound, and with and without people.  He preferred film stock, utilizing 16mm, 8mm, clear leader and tape that he painted or pasted objects onto to create visual masterpieces unique in every frame.  During the course of his lifetime, he made over 300 films ranging in length from a few seconds to a few hours. He lived to be 70 years old and died on March 9, 2003. His complete works in their original form are stored at the Museum of Modern Art where they will be preserved and re-stored over time.

Dogs Star Man

Experimental Cinema – The Plasticity of Film

Brakhage challenged conventional film techniques as his films transformed how people saw and experienced life through their own eyes.  Although his early work included loose narrative structures revolving around a central character (such as The Way to Shadow Garden, 1954), some of his most well-known work is what he did without a focus on human characters. Brakhage chose to exploit the characteristics of the celluloid he used: exposure, colors, grain, light and shadow.  By using film not just as a capturing device but as a plastic medium, he was able to create a new visual experience that was never seen before.

For instance, in Mothlight (1963), Brakhage never used a camera and instead pressed insect wings, flower petals, stems, and blades of grass in between two pieces of 16mm splicing tape.  He then contact printed the tape onto film for projection. In its most simplistic and purest form, a film is the projection of light on walls to create highlights and shadows; Mothlight blows up and re-envisions nature as light travels through the insect wings and petals, creating textured pools of light on the screen.  Like all films, this four minute short creates a visual experience for the audience.  However, by abandoning the camera lens, Brakhage rejects mainstream conventions of what films look like and notions that the power of cinema lies in the camera.
Film Strips from Mothlight 
Another film that abandons the camera is the 1987 short The Dante Quartet.  The film took about six years to make and was made entirely of hand-painted film frames.  The film was inspired by Dante’s The Divine Comedy and is divided into four parts: “Hell Itself, ““Hell Spit Flexion,” “Purgation” and “existence is song.”  Each section of the film conveys the emotions and struggles that Brakhage was experiencing at the time.  While “Hell Itself” features sweeping strokes of color paint threatened by pools of black paint, “Purgation” blasts bright, rich colors intricately mixed together onto the screen.  The effect is literally of a Pollack painting come to life.  Additionally, the film has moments where the cracked paint creates organic, cell-like patterns on screen.  Similar to Mothlight, The Dante Quartet creates a visual world for the viewer to immerse him/herself within.  By exploiting the plastic qualities of celluloid, the films challenge notions of visual reality and cinematic reality.  Ultimately, Brakhage forces viewers to reject their notions of what it means to “see,” and instead opens a door for viewers to experience a new mode of looking at the world.
Film Still from The Dante Quartet

For more on Stan Brakhage, rent an anthology of his work at Facets or check out the Film Portal.

- Gina Marie Ezzone

Monday, June 23, 2014


Today, many know Mohsen Makhmalbaf as a prolific filmmaker, novelist, screenwriter, editor, producer, and human rights activist.  However, his rise to international recognition began humbly. Born in Teheran in 1957, Makhmalbaf spent much of his youth protesting the ruling Shah dictatorship.  Sent to prison for his protests, he spent most of his time there writing stories.  Once released, Makhmalbaf turned to filmmaking as a mode of resistance and expression.

The Growth of New Iranian Cinema and Makhmalbaf’s Film Reign


I was in jail for four and a half years. When I came out, I continued the same struggle against injustice, but instead of using weapons, I began to use art and cinema.

-Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Upon the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, Iranian cinema began to flourish with the help of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.  Similar to the earlier Production Code in the United States, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance regulates over all media subject matter released or produced in Iran. While the U.S. Production Code was self-regulated and lasted for about 30 years, the Ministry of Culture is government regulated and censors what is produced and released in Iran. It also controls film release schedules, access to film equipment, and production financing. 

Rather than allowing rules and regulations to hinder their productions, Iranian filmmakers utilized these limits for aesthetics. For instance, male and female characters are typically prohibited from having any physical contact on screen.  In Makhmalbaf’s highly-personal film Boycott (1985), the main character, Valeh, is sent to prison during the Islamic Revolution and is separated from his wife.  During scenes in which they are reunited, tight close-ups on each character’s face in mid-to-long takes express more about their love and inner turmoil than the use of words or physical contact, such as holding hands.  Additionally, these drawn-out moments stand out against the quickly-cut tracking shots, zooms, and close-ups in scenes of protest or interrogation, creating juxtaposition between the personal and political struggles of the Islamic Revolution.

Boycott (1985)

As more films were funded, Iranian cinema gained recognition internationally during the 1980s and ‘90s.  This surge in filmmaking, sometimes referred to as New Iranian Cinema, was dominated by a social-realist style, focusing on cultural issues of marginalization, oppression, ethnicity, and class structures.  World recognition gave Iranians great pride in their country and culture, leading the government to fund more and more film productions – even supporting female directors. 

Makhmalbaf made a film almost every year during those two decades, changing his style to fit the story and message he desired to tell. Often visually symbolic, his films were personal expressions of life in Iran.  For instance, The Cyclist (1989) tells the story of a poor man who rides a bicycle in a circular marathon to win money for his wife’s health treatments.  At the end of the film, even though he has won the marathon, he keeps circling and will not stop riding. The camera continuously tracks the cyclist, often focusing the audience from his point of view, as people cheer or harass him.  Consequently, the film suggests the cyclic struggle of poverty and exploitation.  While The Cyclist was not banned by the Ministry of Culture, other Makhmalbaf films such as A Moment of Innocence (1996) were prohibited from release in Iran due to their critical depictions of the Iranian government and society. Before the New Millennium, Makhmalbaf’s films won over 20 awards and screened at hundreds of international film festivals.        

In the late 1990s, Makhmalbaf desired not only to make movies, but to inspire a new generation of filmmakers.  Recognizing the limited educational options for film studies in Iran (Makhmalbaf had no opportunity for formal training), he established the Makhmalbaf Film School. 

The Cyclist (1989)

A Family Affair: The Makhmalbaf Film School and Legacy

…with 14 feature films, 3 shorts, 28 books, and 22 editing credits over a 14-year career, I stopped making films and decided to make filmmakers.

- Makhmalbaf, Chicago Reader, 2001

The Makhmalbaf Film School began in Makhmalbaf’s home.  His first students were his wife, Marziyeh, and his children, Samira, Maysam, and Hana. Together, Makhmalbaf and his family ran the school. Students could choose their field of study, write and direct their own films, and assist on Makhmalbaf’s feature films, including The Silence (1998) and The Door (1999). 

Top: Marziyeh, Maysam, & Samira
Bottom: Mohsen & Hana

Makhmalbaf’s family took advantage of the opportunities provided by the school and each member continued to make films after their studies.  Marziyeh won three awards at the 2000 Venice Film Festival for her film The Day I Became a WomanSamira, who has been compared to Sofia Coppola, made her first film at seventeen years old and has won sixteen awards, including three Jury Prizes at Cannes. Samira’s younger siblings, Maysam and Hana, have made their own features, as well.  Together, the Makhmalbaf family assists each other producing and writing their films.  Their work confronts issues of women’s rights, poverty, political structures inside and outside of Iran, and more.

The Makhmalbaf family has won a combined 120 awards for their films, and they dedicate all of them to their home country of Iran.  Today, they live in exile due to death threats towards their family over the controversy of their films; they moved out of the country as an open protest towards the changes in Iran’s government control.  The Makhmalbaf family continues to make films, support the arts, and participate in human rights activism. 


The Makhmalbaf family’s films are available for rental at Facets.

- Gina Marie Ezzone


Today, many know Mohsen Makhmalbaf as a prolific filmmaker, novelist, screenwriter, editor, producer, and human rights activist.  However, his rise to international recognition began humbly. Born in Teheran in 1957, Makhmalbaf spent much of his youth protesting the ruling Shah dictatorship.  Sent to prison for his protests, he spent most of his time there writing stories.  Once released, Makhmalbaf turned to filmmaking as a mode of resistance and expression.

The Growth of New Iranian Cinema and Makhmalbaf’s Film Reign


I was in jail for four and a half years. When I came out, I continued the same struggle against injustice, but instead of using weapons, I began to use art and cinema.

-Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Upon the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, Iranian cinema began to flourish with the help of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.  Similar to the earlier Production Code in the United States, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance regulates over all media subject matter released or produced in Iran. While the U.S. Production Code was self-regulated and lasted for about 30 years, the Ministry of Culture is government regulated and censors what is produced and released in Iran. It also controls film release schedules, access to film equipment, and production financing. 

Rather than allowing rules and regulations to hinder their productions, Iranian filmmakers utilized these limits for aesthetics. For instance, male and female characters are typically prohibited from having any physical contact on screen.  In Makhmalbaf’s highly-personal film Boycott (1985), the main character, Valeh, is sent to prison during the Islamic Revolution and is separated from his wife.  During scenes in which they are reunited, tight close-ups on each character’s face in mid-to-long takes express more about their love and inner turmoil than the use of words or physical contact, such as holding hands.  Additionally, these drawn-out moments stand out against the quickly-cut tracking shots, zooms, and close-ups in scenes of protest or interrogation, creating juxtaposition between the personal and political struggles of the Islamic Revolution.

Boycott (1985)

As more films were funded, Iranian cinema gained recognition internationally during the 1980s and ‘90s.  This surge in filmmaking, sometimes referred to as New Iranian Cinema, was dominated by a social-realist style, focusing on cultural issues of marginalization, oppression, ethnicity, and class structures.  World recognition gave Iranians great pride in their country and culture, leading the government to fund more and more film productions – even supporting female directors. 

Makhmalbaf made a film almost every year during those two decades, changing his style to fit the story and message he desired to tell. Often visually symbolic, his films were personal expressions of life in Iran.  For instance, The Cyclist (1989) tells the story of a poor man who rides a bicycle in a circular marathon to win money for his wife’s health treatments.  At the end of the film, even though he has won the marathon, he keeps circling and will not stop riding. The camera continuously tracks the cyclist, often focusing the audience from his point of view, as people cheer or harass him.  Consequently, the film suggests the cyclic struggle of poverty and exploitation.  While The Cyclist was not banned by the Ministry of Culture, other Makhmalbaf films such as A Moment of Innocence (1996) were prohibited from release in Iran due to their critical depictions of the Iranian government and society. Before the New Millennium, Makhmalbaf’s films won over 20 awards and screened at hundreds of international film festivals.        

In the late 1990s, Makhmalbaf desired not only to make movies, but to inspire a new generation of filmmakers.  Recognizing the limited educational options for film studies in Iran (Makhmalbaf had no opportunity for formal training), he established the Makhmalbaf Film School. 

The Cyclist (1989)

A Family Affair: The Makhmalbaf Film School and Legacy

…with 14 feature films, 3 shorts, 28 books, and 22 editing credits over a 14-year career, I stopped making films and decided to make filmmakers.

- Makhmalbaf, Chicago Reader, 2001

The Makhmalbaf Film School began in Makhmalbaf’s home.  His first students were his wife, Marziyeh, and his children, Samira, Maysam, and Hana. Together, Makhmalbaf and his family ran the school. Students could choose their field of study, write and direct their own films, and assist on Makhmalbaf’s feature films, including The Silence (1998) and The Door (1999). 

Top: Marziyeh, Maysam, & Samira
Bottom: Mohsen & Hana

Makhmalbaf’s family took advantage of the opportunities provided by the school and each member continued to make films after their studies.  Marziyeh won three awards at the 2000 Venice Film Festival for her film The Day I Became a WomanSamira, who has been compared to Sofia Coppola, made her first film at seventeen years old and has won sixteen awards, including three Jury Prizes at Cannes. Samira’s younger siblings, Maysam and Hana, have made their own features, as well.  Together, the Makhmalbaf family assists each other producing and writing their films.  Their work confronts issues of women’s rights, poverty, political structures inside and outside of Iran, and more.

The Makhmalbaf family has won a combined 120 awards for their films, and they dedicate all of them to their home country of Iran.  Today, they live in exile due to death threats towards their family over the controversy of their films; they moved out of the country as an open protest towards the changes in Iran’s government control.  The Makhmalbaf family continues to make films, support the arts, and participate in human rights activism. 


The Makhmalbaf family’s films are available for rental at Facets.

- Gina Marie Ezzone

Friday, June 20, 2014


Quentin Tarantino 
With his iconic characters, sharp dialogue, beautiful cinematography, variation of genres, and unforgettable stories, Tarantino is a top notch auteur and a resounding influence in modern cinema.

Wiki Bio Breakdown:

Quentin Tarantino was born in Knoxville, TN in 1963. At the age of four Tarantino and his mother moved to Torrance, California and then Harbor City, Los Angeles. Tarantino dropped out of high school at the age of 15 to join the James Best Acting School, only to leave two years later for a job at a video rental story. Tarantino cites this job as his inspiration for directing because he learned what types of films people enjoyed renting and was able to watch as many films as he wanted. Tarantino states, "When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, 'No, I went to films.'"

Tarantino's career in the film industry began after he met Lawrence Bender with whom he and co-wrote My Best Friend's Birthday with in 1987. In 1992 Tarantino's first film, Reservoir Dogs, made a huge splash at Sundance, and was praised by Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times for "Tarantino's palpable enthusiasm, his unapologetic passion for what he's created, reinvigorates this venerable plot and, mayhem aside, makes it involving for longer than you might suspect." Two years later Tarantino wrote and directed Pulp Fiction, which earned him the Palme d'Or at Cannes and an Academy Award in the Writing (Original Screenplay) category.


Conversation:

Tarantino's pop culture laden dialogue can polarize viewers. A professor once advised my class not to write our short film projects with "Pointless dialogue about nothing the way Tarantino does." Naturally, I was appalled and wrote my term paper on Tarantino's intricate use of seemingly offhand conversations to flesh out characters and immerse viewers in their world. In the opening diner scene of Reservoir Dogs Mr. Pink’s speech about why he doesn’t tip displays his ruthless self-interest and inability to sympathize with those less fortunate than him. This ideology shines through after the heist fails. Mr. Pink stashes the diamonds and urges Mr. White to leave the meeting and abandon their plan right away to avoid the risk of being caught. 

In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino devotes minutes to Vincent Vega (Travolta) and Jules Winnifield's (Jackson) discussion on the deeper meaning of foot massages in order to explore Marsellus Wallace's motives for throwing a man off of a balcony. In Django Unchained, Tarantino reserves time for an argument among Klu Klux Klan members about their hoods' poorly cut eyeholes, which further exemplifies their stupidity as racist plantation owners in the Antebellum South. And Kill Bill Vol. 2 has a long conversation about the death of B.B.'s (Haney-Jardine) goldfish and its role in her realization of the difference between life and death before her mother Beatrix (Thurman) kills her father Bill (Carradine).

Cinematography:

There are far too many topics to discuss concerning Tarantino's cinematography, so for this post we'll stick with the "trunk shot." A "trunk shot" is a low angle shot that appears to be filmed from inside a trunk by placing the camera underneath a trunk door and parts of a car trunk. Tarantino popularized this low angle shot mainly used for when characters are reaching for items- mostly guns or prisoners- in the trunk of their car. The "trunk shot" provides a unique and claustrophobic perspective for the viewers.


Trunk Shot from Pulp Fiction

While Tarantino disputes claims that “trunk shots” are a trademark of his, this type of low angle shot nevertheless appears in many of his films. Rather than a trademark, we see the "trunk shot" as one example among many of Tarantino's versatile cinematography.


Trunk style shot from Inglorious Basterds

Tarantino's films are available for rental at Facets, along with many of the movies he cites directly and indirectly throughout his filmography.

Which Tarantino movie is your favorite?
My top three are Pulp Fiction for its writing, Jackie Brown for its cinematography, and Django Unchained for its stellar performances.

-Miranda Brickner


Quentin Tarantino 
With his iconic characters, sharp dialogue, beautiful cinematography, variation of genres, and unforgettable stories, Tarantino is a top notch auteur and a resounding influence in modern cinema.

Wiki Bio Breakdown:

Quentin Tarantino was born in Knoxville, TN in 1963. At the age of four Tarantino and his mother moved to Torrance, California and then Harbor City, Los Angeles. Tarantino dropped out of high school at the age of 15 to join the James Best Acting School, only to leave two years later for a job at a video rental story. Tarantino cites this job as his inspiration for directing because he learned what types of films people enjoyed renting and was able to watch as many films as he wanted. Tarantino states, "When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, 'No, I went to films.'"

Tarantino's career in the film industry began after he met Lawrence Bender with whom he and co-wrote My Best Friend's Birthday with in 1987. In 1992 Tarantino's first film, Reservoir Dogs, made a huge splash at Sundance, and was praised by Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times for "Tarantino's palpable enthusiasm, his unapologetic passion for what he's created, reinvigorates this venerable plot and, mayhem aside, makes it involving for longer than you might suspect." Two years later Tarantino wrote and directed Pulp Fiction, which earned him the Palme d'Or at Cannes and an Academy Award in the Writing (Original Screenplay) category.


Conversation:

Tarantino's pop culture laden dialogue can polarize viewers. A professor once advised my class not to write our short film projects with "Pointless dialogue about nothing the way Tarantino does." Naturally, I was appalled and wrote my term paper on Tarantino's intricate use of seemingly offhand conversations to flesh out characters and immerse viewers in their world. In the opening diner scene of Reservoir Dogs Mr. Pink’s speech about why he doesn’t tip displays his ruthless self-interest and inability to sympathize with those less fortunate than him. This ideology shines through after the heist fails. Mr. Pink stashes the diamonds and urges Mr. White to leave the meeting and abandon their plan right away to avoid the risk of being caught. 

In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino devotes minutes to Vincent Vega (Travolta) and Jules Winnifield's (Jackson) discussion on the deeper meaning of foot massages in order to explore Marsellus Wallace's motives for throwing a man off of a balcony. In Django Unchained, Tarantino reserves time for an argument among Klu Klux Klan members about their hoods' poorly cut eyeholes, which further exemplifies their stupidity as racist plantation owners in the Antebellum South. And Kill Bill Vol. 2 has a long conversation about the death of B.B.'s (Haney-Jardine) goldfish and its role in her realization of the difference between life and death before her mother Beatrix (Thurman) kills her father Bill (Carradine).

Cinematography:

There are far too many topics to discuss concerning Tarantino's cinematography, so for this post we'll stick with the "trunk shot." A "trunk shot" is a low angle shot that appears to be filmed from inside a trunk by placing the camera underneath a trunk door and parts of a car trunk. Tarantino popularized this low angle shot mainly used for when characters are reaching for items- mostly guns or prisoners- in the trunk of their car. The "trunk shot" provides a unique and claustrophobic perspective for the viewers.


Trunk Shot from Pulp Fiction

While Tarantino disputes claims that “trunk shots” are a trademark of his, this type of low angle shot nevertheless appears in many of his films. Rather than a trademark, we see the "trunk shot" as one example among many of Tarantino's versatile cinematography.


Trunk style shot from Inglorious Basterds

Tarantino's films are available for rental at Facets, along with many of the movies he cites directly and indirectly throughout his filmography.

Which Tarantino movie is your favorite?
My top three are Pulp Fiction for its writing, Jackie Brown for its cinematography, and Django Unchained for its stellar performances.

-Miranda Brickner

Thursday, June 12, 2014



 Agnès Varda




Wiki Bio Breakdown

Agnès Varda was born in 1928 in Brussels to Christiane and Eugène Jean Varda. In 1962, she married French filmmaker Jacques Demy, making them the Gallic cinematic power couple to beat. They were married until his death in 1990.


Varda studied photography and art history at the École du Louvre and worked at the Théâtre National Populaire in Paris as a photographer. Varda's skill behind the lens is evident in her shot compositions; her films create a patchwork collection of beautiful shots that provide elaborate depth to the story.



Shot from Vagabond
"I just didn’t see films when I was young. I was stupid and naïve. Maybe I wouldn’t have made films if I had seen lots of others; maybe it would have stopped me. I started totally free and crazy and innocent. Now I’ve seen many films, and many beautiful films. And I try to keep a certain level of quality of my films. I don’t do commercials, I don’t do films pre-prepared by other people, I don’t do star system. So I do my own little thing." -Agnès Varda

Despite her limited film background, Varda rose to prominence as one of the most influential French directors. Her early work toes the line between the French New Wave and the Left Bank Movement in Paris in the 1960s. Her first film, La Pointe Courte, was released in 1955 and is considered a stylistic precursor to the French New Wave. Agnès Varda has worked in many other genres independent of the French New Wave including documentaries, neo-realism inspired works, biographies, shorts, and dramas. She continues to make films and is a professor at the European Graduate School in Switzerland.


Cléo de 5 à 7: Feminism in the French New Wave


Agnès Varda's films have many female protagonists and feminist statements; as the only female director of the French New Wave Varda was able to direct these protagonists from a woman's perspective as opposed to the heroines of other French New Wave films. Cléo de 5 à 7 follows the evening activities of Parisian pop star Cléo while she waits to find out whether or not she has cancer.


Cléo de 5 à 7 is a different kind of feminist film because the ancillary characters, rather than the protagonist, present strong examples of females that are independent of and as equally capable as men. While Cléo waits around for her ambiguous successful businessman boyfriend, a woman in a cafe boldly breaks up with her boyfriend because he refuses to listen to her concerns. Cléo relishes her own appearance in mirrors multiple times throughout the film, thinking to herself, "Trying things on intoxicates me... everything suits me." Meanwhile, her friend Dorothée nude models for an art class for the sake of art, but not for the attention. And Cléo's manager, Angéle, meticulously keeps all of Cléo's affairs in order while Cléo melodramatically mourns over her impending test results.

These strong female supporting characters in Cléo de 5 à 7 are just some examples of the feminist statements and undercurrents in many of Varda's films.


Varda's films are available for rental at Facets.


-Miranda Brickner



 Agnès Varda




Wiki Bio Breakdown

Agnès Varda was born in 1928 in Brussels to Christiane and Eugène Jean Varda. In 1962, she married French filmmaker Jacques Demy, making them the Gallic cinematic power couple to beat. They were married until his death in 1990.


Varda studied photography and art history at the École du Louvre and worked at the Théâtre National Populaire in Paris as a photographer. Varda's skill behind the lens is evident in her shot compositions; her films create a patchwork collection of beautiful shots that provide elaborate depth to the story.



Shot from Vagabond
"I just didn’t see films when I was young. I was stupid and naïve. Maybe I wouldn’t have made films if I had seen lots of others; maybe it would have stopped me. I started totally free and crazy and innocent. Now I’ve seen many films, and many beautiful films. And I try to keep a certain level of quality of my films. I don’t do commercials, I don’t do films pre-prepared by other people, I don’t do star system. So I do my own little thing." -Agnès Varda

Despite her limited film background, Varda rose to prominence as one of the most influential French directors. Her early work toes the line between the French New Wave and the Left Bank Movement in Paris in the 1960s. Her first film, La Pointe Courte, was released in 1955 and is considered a stylistic precursor to the French New Wave. Agnès Varda has worked in many other genres independent of the French New Wave including documentaries, neo-realism inspired works, biographies, shorts, and dramas. She continues to make films and is a professor at the European Graduate School in Switzerland.


Cléo de 5 à 7: Feminism in the French New Wave


Agnès Varda's films have many female protagonists and feminist statements; as the only female director of the French New Wave Varda was able to direct these protagonists from a woman's perspective as opposed to the heroines of other French New Wave films. Cléo de 5 à 7 follows the evening activities of Parisian pop star Cléo while she waits to find out whether or not she has cancer.


Cléo de 5 à 7 is a different kind of feminist film because the ancillary characters, rather than the protagonist, present strong examples of females that are independent of and as equally capable as men. While Cléo waits around for her ambiguous successful businessman boyfriend, a woman in a cafe boldly breaks up with her boyfriend because he refuses to listen to her concerns. Cléo relishes her own appearance in mirrors multiple times throughout the film, thinking to herself, "Trying things on intoxicates me... everything suits me." Meanwhile, her friend Dorothée nude models for an art class for the sake of art, but not for the attention. And Cléo's manager, Angéle, meticulously keeps all of Cléo's affairs in order while Cléo melodramatically mourns over her impending test results.

These strong female supporting characters in Cléo de 5 à 7 are just some examples of the feminist statements and undercurrents in many of Varda's films.


Varda's films are available for rental at Facets.


-Miranda Brickner

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Technology can be a great tool for social interaction, creativity, and sharing, but it is important to stay informed on new advances in order to protect your child when they use the internet and apps. The easiest way to do this is to talk to your child, learn what sites and apps they are active on, make clear behavior expectations, be involved with their “online” activities just as any other daily activities, make sure you have access to any site your child visits and that you can see all the published content, and actively supervise your child when he or she uses technology. Here are some descriptions of sites and what to be cautious about besides the most common Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram:

Snapchat:  allows users to take photos or record videos and share them with friends. The problem of monitoring is that the images disappear seconds after they’ve been viewed. Students often think that this site is risk-free since it’s not posted on the internet, but the recipient can save messages by taking a simple screenshot with their phone.

Kik: free messaging app which is rated for ages 17+ on the app store. Its popular with teens because users are knows by their Kik usernames, and it’s supposed to offer a “private” way to chat. Because it’s easy to stay anonymous, it’s become a favorite tool for cyber-bullies.

 Tumblr: blogging site that lets users share text, photo, video, quotes, and audio posts. It’s full of content that is highly inappropriate for kids. Tumblr blogs are public by default so anyone can read your kids’ blog posts.

Creepy: allows people to pull data from the photos to pinpoint exactly where each picture was taken. Anyone can easily find out where your child lives, goes to school, or hangs out from their shared photos.

Pheed: users can express themselves with text, photos, videos, audio tracks and voice-notes. It even lets users create live audio and video broadcasts. You never know who is watching.

Vine: free “micro-video” app that lets you create short, six second video clips and then share them on the social networking sites. Most videos posted are harmless, however, there’s still a lot with adult content, inappropriate images, and violence.

Ask.Fm:  the site uses a question and answer format. Users can pose questions, or answer questions made by other users. Children can be sharing personal information with the wrong people. The site has been linked to cyber-bullying.
  
Oovoo: free video-chat services that works a lot like Skype or Apple’s Facetime. It’s easy to connect online with people you don’t know.

Path: similar to Facebook where users can share text, photos, and video but Path has a location-tracking neighborhood feature.

WhatsApp: allows users to send unlimited texts, videos, photos, and short audio messages. The app has a built in location sharing feature.

For more information on children's internet safety go to  http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/net_safety.html#cat20069.

Technology can be a great tool for social interaction, creativity, and sharing, but it is important to stay informed on new advances in order to protect your child when they use the internet and apps. The easiest way to do this is to talk to your child, learn what sites and apps they are active on, make clear behavior expectations, be involved with their “online” activities just as any other daily activities, make sure you have access to any site your child visits and that you can see all the published content, and actively supervise your child when he or she uses technology. Here are some descriptions of sites and what to be cautious about besides the most common Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram:

Snapchat:  allows users to take photos or record videos and share them with friends. The problem of monitoring is that the images disappear seconds after they’ve been viewed. Students often think that this site is risk-free since it’s not posted on the internet, but the recipient can save messages by taking a simple screenshot with their phone.

Kik: free messaging app which is rated for ages 17+ on the app store. Its popular with teens because users are knows by their Kik usernames, and it’s supposed to offer a “private” way to chat. Because it’s easy to stay anonymous, it’s become a favorite tool for cyber-bullies.

 Tumblr: blogging site that lets users share text, photo, video, quotes, and audio posts. It’s full of content that is highly inappropriate for kids. Tumblr blogs are public by default so anyone can read your kids’ blog posts.

Creepy: allows people to pull data from the photos to pinpoint exactly where each picture was taken. Anyone can easily find out where your child lives, goes to school, or hangs out from their shared photos.

Pheed: users can express themselves with text, photos, videos, audio tracks and voice-notes. It even lets users create live audio and video broadcasts. You never know who is watching.

Vine: free “micro-video” app that lets you create short, six second video clips and then share them on the social networking sites. Most videos posted are harmless, however, there’s still a lot with adult content, inappropriate images, and violence.

Ask.Fm:  the site uses a question and answer format. Users can pose questions, or answer questions made by other users. Children can be sharing personal information with the wrong people. The site has been linked to cyber-bullying.
  
Oovoo: free video-chat services that works a lot like Skype or Apple’s Facetime. It’s easy to connect online with people you don’t know.

Path: similar to Facebook where users can share text, photos, and video but Path has a location-tracking neighborhood feature.

WhatsApp: allows users to send unlimited texts, videos, photos, and short audio messages. The app has a built in location sharing feature.

For more information on children's internet safety go to  http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/net_safety.html#cat20069.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Here at Facets we can't help but adore auteurs: dedicated directors, writers, and producers who pique our interest and always put a unique mark on their films. In this new series we will explore the life, career, and unique traits of a different auteur every week. This week's director:Yasujirô Ozu.

Wiki Bio Breakdown:
Yasujirô Ozu was born in Tokyo in 1903. He was known to be an unruly boy and poor student who spent more time at the local theater than school. Upon viewing Civilization, Ozu knew he wanted to be a director. After graduating high school in 1921, he failed to pass the entrance examinations for college. Despite these failings, he was able to secure a job as a substitute teacher for a year before pursuing his dream: directing.

Ozu started working in the Tokyo film industry as a cinematography assistant at the Shochiku Film Company in 1923. After a year of military service, Ozu rose in the ranks of Shochiku by creative means: he punched a coworker for jumping the line in the studio cafeteria, and used the ensuing disciplinary meeting with the studio director as an opportunity to pitch a film script. This pitch earned him a promotion to director on the project Sword of Penitence. Ozu's early career as a director produced many low budget, short comedies, but his career matured and gained critical acclaim upon the release of I Was Born, But... in 1932. I Was Born, But... was still technically a comedy, but its social critique on adolescence signified Ozu's shift to pensive, analytical films.

Yasujirô Ozu's film career was further interrupted by military service during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and again in 1943 to make a propaganda film in Singapore. This propaganda film was never finished because Ozu spent his time in the military reading, collecting carpets, and watching American films. At the end of the war in 1945 Ozu destroyed all the footage and writing that was completed on the film.

After the Second World War Ozu worked for Ofuna studios and created films that focused on the slow development of characters and the central themes of familial structures and postwar Japanese society. Ozu's films surpass cultural and linguistic barriers through their emphasis on simple human interaction.

Why we love Ozu:

Yasujirô Ozu used the camera to influence perception by composing thoughtful and geometrically-minded shots. By moving the camera far away from the subjects and zooming he compressed the space between the foreground and background to create beautiful compositions similar to the work of abstract artist Piet Mondrian. (Props to David Bordwell and Michael Grost)

Ozu's clever camerawork reminds viewers of the power of subtlety in the hands of a great director--deciding exactly what the audience sees and influencing how we perceive it without being heavy handed. His presence as an auteur is felt, but not shoved down our throats. His cinematography often violates the 180 degree rule that keeps the camera on one side of the imaginary line connecting two people conversing to maintain continuity. His shots often maintain static and close to the ground to allow the composition rather than the movement of the camera to keep the audience interested.

Here is a perfect example of a traditional Ozu establishing shot and scene. Rather than a wide shot that shows the entire space Ozu shows many smaller shots that draw attention to specific elements in the scene space. This clip also exemplifies Ozu's lack of camera movement. There is no shot-reverse shot during the conversation or fancy editing techniques; the careful composition and camera placement remain static and low to the ground. This lack of camera movement emphasizes the smallest movements from the characters. The head turn at 00:38 draws us in, making us wonder what the characters are looking at. A movement that subtle would not seem as important had the camera been moving. Thus, the genius of Yasujirô Ozu's subtlety is revealed.

Although Ozu is not as well known in the States as, say Kurasawa, his films are treasures that stand the test of time in their own right. We highly encourage you to explore Ozu's films. The sheer volume can be daunting, but Tokyo Story and A Story of Floating Weeds are good starting points.


Ozu's films are available for rental at Facets.
End of Summer is also available for purchase at Facets.

What are your favorite Ozu films and why?

-Miranda Brickner

Here at Facets we can't help but adore auteurs: dedicated directors, writers, and producers who pique our interest and always put a unique mark on their films. In this new series we will explore the life, career, and unique traits of a different auteur every week. This week's director:Yasujirô Ozu.

Wiki Bio Breakdown:
Yasujirô Ozu was born in Tokyo in 1903. He was known to be an unruly boy and poor student who spent more time at the local theater than school. Upon viewing Civilization, Ozu knew he wanted to be a director. After graduating high school in 1921, he failed to pass the entrance examinations for college. Despite these failings, he was able to secure a job as a substitute teacher for a year before pursuing his dream: directing.

Ozu started working in the Tokyo film industry as a cinematography assistant at the Shochiku Film Company in 1923. After a year of military service, Ozu rose in the ranks of Shochiku by creative means: he punched a coworker for jumping the line in the studio cafeteria, and used the ensuing disciplinary meeting with the studio director as an opportunity to pitch a film script. This pitch earned him a promotion to director on the project Sword of Penitence. Ozu's early career as a director produced many low budget, short comedies, but his career matured and gained critical acclaim upon the release of I Was Born, But... in 1932. I Was Born, But... was still technically a comedy, but its social critique on adolescence signified Ozu's shift to pensive, analytical films.

Yasujirô Ozu's film career was further interrupted by military service during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and again in 1943 to make a propaganda film in Singapore. This propaganda film was never finished because Ozu spent his time in the military reading, collecting carpets, and watching American films. At the end of the war in 1945 Ozu destroyed all the footage and writing that was completed on the film.

After the Second World War Ozu worked for Ofuna studios and created films that focused on the slow development of characters and the central themes of familial structures and postwar Japanese society. Ozu's films surpass cultural and linguistic barriers through their emphasis on simple human interaction.

Why we love Ozu:

Yasujirô Ozu used the camera to influence perception by composing thoughtful and geometrically-minded shots. By moving the camera far away from the subjects and zooming he compressed the space between the foreground and background to create beautiful compositions similar to the work of abstract artist Piet Mondrian. (Props to David Bordwell and Michael Grost)

Ozu's clever camerawork reminds viewers of the power of subtlety in the hands of a great director--deciding exactly what the audience sees and influencing how we perceive it without being heavy handed. His presence as an auteur is felt, but not shoved down our throats. His cinematography often violates the 180 degree rule that keeps the camera on one side of the imaginary line connecting two people conversing to maintain continuity. His shots often maintain static and close to the ground to allow the composition rather than the movement of the camera to keep the audience interested.

Here is a perfect example of a traditional Ozu establishing shot and scene. Rather than a wide shot that shows the entire space Ozu shows many smaller shots that draw attention to specific elements in the scene space. This clip also exemplifies Ozu's lack of camera movement. There is no shot-reverse shot during the conversation or fancy editing techniques; the careful composition and camera placement remain static and low to the ground. This lack of camera movement emphasizes the smallest movements from the characters. The head turn at 00:38 draws us in, making us wonder what the characters are looking at. A movement that subtle would not seem as important had the camera been moving. Thus, the genius of Yasujirô Ozu's subtlety is revealed.

Although Ozu is not as well known in the States as, say Kurasawa, his films are treasures that stand the test of time in their own right. We highly encourage you to explore Ozu's films. The sheer volume can be daunting, but Tokyo Story and A Story of Floating Weeds are good starting points.


Ozu's films are available for rental at Facets.
End of Summer is also available for purchase at Facets.

What are your favorite Ozu films and why?

-Miranda Brickner

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

by Danielle Badler

No, the line isn't mine. Although I wish it was. I came across it doing a time waste of a search online for films in which the car is integral to the story…but not what the story is about.

by Danielle Badler

No, the line isn't mine. Although I wish it was. I came across it doing a time waste of a search online for films in which the car is integral to the story…but not what the story is about.