Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath.
- David Lynch

Wiki Bio Breakdown:

David Lynch was born in 1946 in Montana.  He spent his youth traveling the United States with his family until he graduated high school and studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  During his time at art school, he grew interested in film production and moved to Los Angeles to make his first film, Eraserhead (1977).  Lynch directed, produced, wrote, scored, and designed the film’s sets and props himself. Although it took several years to make due to funding issues and Lynch’s meticulous attention to detail, the film became an instant cult classic and a huge success within the midnight movie circuit.  With Eraserhead’s success, Lynch’s career was launched. 

After Eraserhead, Lynch effortlessly moved between film, television, and the fine-arts.  His second feature, The Elephant Man (1980), was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for John Hurt in the title role. Writing, producing, and directing almost every project, Lynch held extreme control over his work.  He also designed and built many of his own sets.  The 1980’s and early 90’s saw highly diverse, but adored films ranging from the science-fiction Dune (1984) to the neo-noir Blue Velvet (1986) to the cult favorite television series Twin Peaks (1990-91).  Lynch continued to make films into the new millennium, experimenting with non-linear narrative structures and new formats of production and distribution. He made eight animated shorts (Dumbland, 2002) and a nine-episode “sitcom” called Rabbits (2002) that were exclusively released on the Internet until later release on DVD.  He continued to make films, ranging from features to documentaries to shorts, including a promotional short for Dior called Lady Blue Shanghai (2010).  Lynch has helped his children pursue their own film careers by producing their work.  More recently, he has made several acting appearances including small roles on Family Guy and Louie.

The Elephant Man (1980)
One of the most diverse and talented film directors alive today, Lynch continues to move from project to project.  Working in film, television, video art, painting, and even music, he never lets a medium limit him.  Adored for his originality and surreal representations of the world, Lynch has become a household name, a cult favorite, and an inspiration to many young artists.

Beautiful Terror: Lynch’s Mise-en-Scene

Surreal. Striking. Moody. Beautiful. These are all words used to describe the unique look of Lynch’s films.  A perfectionist, Lynch is involved in every aspect of art direction.  From bold colors to sensual textures to high contrast spaces, Lynch’s films stand out. Perhaps most unique about his mise-en-scene is the lighting style of each film.  Purposefully chosen, highly original, and sometimes shocking, the lighting in Lynch’s films contrast expectation and set unique tones for the story. 

Eraserhead (1977)
Eraserhead takes place somewhere between a dream and post-apocalyptic world.  It follows the main character, Henry Spencer, as he copes with the unexpected birth of a child from his girlfriend, who eventually leaves him alone to care for the baby.  Shot in black and white, darkness envelops the world Spencer lives in. Moments in real life that are typically joyful, like meeting your significant other’s family, are shot with low-key, dramatic lighting in the film.  When Spencer goes to his girlfriend’s house for dinner, the interior is dimly lit by small lamps. Bold shadows create abstract patterns on the walls as the blackness from the outside appears to seep in through the windows and consume the gathering family.  Consequently, the viewer feels suffocated and tense, just like Spencer.  The aesthetic of blackness penetrates the rest of the film, making the film’s mood surreal and frightening.

Blue Velvet (1986)
Perhaps Lynch’s most celebrated film, Blue Velvet employs a unique lighting scheme that coincides and contradicts its story.  The film centers around young Jeffrey Beaumont as he strives to solve the mystery surrounding a severed ear he found in a field, leading him to meet the sexy and mysterious Dorothy Vallens.  At the beginning of the film, the small suburban town of Lumberton, with its white picket fences, colorful backdrops, and high-key lighting, gives the appearance of a 1950’s melodrama.  However, not all is as perfect as it seems as Jeffrey uncovers more in the mystery of the severed ear.  When he encounters Dorothy and eventually her abuser, Frank Booth, Jeffery is drawn into the town’s seedy underbelly filled of sexual fantasy and violence.  During scenes involving Dorothy or Frank, the lighting is low-key, muted, and contrasty like 1940’s film noirs.  However, the entire film shifts from the low-key to high-key styles, contradicting the typical mood of film noirs or suspense thrillers. The effect of combining styles to show the well-lit, perfect town by day and dark, ominous town by night is symbolic: beneath a beautiful exterior lies a much darker existence.  Like the beautiful Dorothy or picture-perfect Lumberton, secrets and nightmares can inhabit any person or any place.  Blue Velvet acts as a depiction of such provocative reality and brings inner darkness to light.

Lynch never obeys film rules or styles. Rather, he tells original stories and combines aesthetics to create particular moods or tones.  Mysterious, provocative, and alluring, Lynch’s films attract wide ranges of audiences and place him in film history as one of the most influential directors of all time.

For more David Lynch films, be sure to visit FACETS.

-       - Gina Marie Ezzone



I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath.
- David Lynch

Wiki Bio Breakdown:

David Lynch was born in 1946 in Montana.  He spent his youth traveling the United States with his family until he graduated high school and studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  During his time at art school, he grew interested in film production and moved to Los Angeles to make his first film, Eraserhead (1977).  Lynch directed, produced, wrote, scored, and designed the film’s sets and props himself. Although it took several years to make due to funding issues and Lynch’s meticulous attention to detail, the film became an instant cult classic and a huge success within the midnight movie circuit.  With Eraserhead’s success, Lynch’s career was launched. 

After Eraserhead, Lynch effortlessly moved between film, television, and the fine-arts.  His second feature, The Elephant Man (1980), was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for John Hurt in the title role. Writing, producing, and directing almost every project, Lynch held extreme control over his work.  He also designed and built many of his own sets.  The 1980’s and early 90’s saw highly diverse, but adored films ranging from the science-fiction Dune (1984) to the neo-noir Blue Velvet (1986) to the cult favorite television series Twin Peaks (1990-91).  Lynch continued to make films into the new millennium, experimenting with non-linear narrative structures and new formats of production and distribution. He made eight animated shorts (Dumbland, 2002) and a nine-episode “sitcom” called Rabbits (2002) that were exclusively released on the Internet until later release on DVD.  He continued to make films, ranging from features to documentaries to shorts, including a promotional short for Dior called Lady Blue Shanghai (2010).  Lynch has helped his children pursue their own film careers by producing their work.  More recently, he has made several acting appearances including small roles on Family Guy and Louie.

The Elephant Man (1980)
One of the most diverse and talented film directors alive today, Lynch continues to move from project to project.  Working in film, television, video art, painting, and even music, he never lets a medium limit him.  Adored for his originality and surreal representations of the world, Lynch has become a household name, a cult favorite, and an inspiration to many young artists.

Beautiful Terror: Lynch’s Mise-en-Scene

Surreal. Striking. Moody. Beautiful. These are all words used to describe the unique look of Lynch’s films.  A perfectionist, Lynch is involved in every aspect of art direction.  From bold colors to sensual textures to high contrast spaces, Lynch’s films stand out. Perhaps most unique about his mise-en-scene is the lighting style of each film.  Purposefully chosen, highly original, and sometimes shocking, the lighting in Lynch’s films contrast expectation and set unique tones for the story. 

Eraserhead (1977)
Eraserhead takes place somewhere between a dream and post-apocalyptic world.  It follows the main character, Henry Spencer, as he copes with the unexpected birth of a child from his girlfriend, who eventually leaves him alone to care for the baby.  Shot in black and white, darkness envelops the world Spencer lives in. Moments in real life that are typically joyful, like meeting your significant other’s family, are shot with low-key, dramatic lighting in the film.  When Spencer goes to his girlfriend’s house for dinner, the interior is dimly lit by small lamps. Bold shadows create abstract patterns on the walls as the blackness from the outside appears to seep in through the windows and consume the gathering family.  Consequently, the viewer feels suffocated and tense, just like Spencer.  The aesthetic of blackness penetrates the rest of the film, making the film’s mood surreal and frightening.

Blue Velvet (1986)
Perhaps Lynch’s most celebrated film, Blue Velvet employs a unique lighting scheme that coincides and contradicts its story.  The film centers around young Jeffrey Beaumont as he strives to solve the mystery surrounding a severed ear he found in a field, leading him to meet the sexy and mysterious Dorothy Vallens.  At the beginning of the film, the small suburban town of Lumberton, with its white picket fences, colorful backdrops, and high-key lighting, gives the appearance of a 1950’s melodrama.  However, not all is as perfect as it seems as Jeffrey uncovers more in the mystery of the severed ear.  When he encounters Dorothy and eventually her abuser, Frank Booth, Jeffery is drawn into the town’s seedy underbelly filled of sexual fantasy and violence.  During scenes involving Dorothy or Frank, the lighting is low-key, muted, and contrasty like 1940’s film noirs.  However, the entire film shifts from the low-key to high-key styles, contradicting the typical mood of film noirs or suspense thrillers. The effect of combining styles to show the well-lit, perfect town by day and dark, ominous town by night is symbolic: beneath a beautiful exterior lies a much darker existence.  Like the beautiful Dorothy or picture-perfect Lumberton, secrets and nightmares can inhabit any person or any place.  Blue Velvet acts as a depiction of such provocative reality and brings inner darkness to light.

Lynch never obeys film rules or styles. Rather, he tells original stories and combines aesthetics to create particular moods or tones.  Mysterious, provocative, and alluring, Lynch’s films attract wide ranges of audiences and place him in film history as one of the most influential directors of all time.

For more David Lynch films, be sure to visit FACETS.

-       - Gina Marie Ezzone



Friday, July 25, 2014


At its core, it is romantic because it believes in love in its mysteries.
- Milos Stehlik on surrealism

Last night on July 24, Fullerton Hall at The Art Institute of Chicago was filled with moviegoers and art enthusiasts looking to learn about the influence of surrealism on film. Milos Stehlik, founding director of Facets, gave a lecture in conjunction with The Art Institute of Chicago's exhibition Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary. Throughout the lecture, Stehlik highlighted the birth of surrealist cinema and its legacy.

As with surrealism, France is home to the birth of cinema. From the realist shorts of the Lumiere Brothers to the "fantasy factories" of George Melies, the experience of watching films was new and surreal for audiences.  Still a young art form in the 1920's, cinema, Stehlik noted, "went through a violent transformation led by artists of other mediums." Surrealists gravitated towards film because it allowed them to directly tap into their dreams. "Surrealist film creates its own logic entirely independent of verbal language" as "details and insignificant objects take on independent meaning," said Stehlik.  He went on to discuss Andre Breton and Luis Bunuel as the fathers of surrealism and surrealist cinema, even recommending Bunuel's book My Last Sigh for a master's own look at the movement.

After introducing the beginnings of surrealist cinema, Stehlik dove into a series of clips highlighting the diversity and influence of surrealism on cinema.  First, he showed Man Ray's Emak Bakia (1926), which features solarized imagery created by placing objects directly on film stock and then exposing it to light. Un Chien Andalou (1928), perhaps the most well-known surrealist film, was shown next.  This classic by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali was inspired by dreams both men had and wished to bring to life on screen.  Stehlik even shared how at the premiere of Un Chien Andalou, Bunuel had a small pile of stones in his pocket ready to throw at the crowd if they grew angry over the film's atypical narrative and grotesque imagery. Fortunately, that did not happen for it was well received. 

still from Emak Bakia

Exiled from Spain twice, Bunuel moved back to France in the 1960's where he made the commercially successful Belle du Jour (1967).  Stehlik's third clip featured a scene from this film showing the lead character's masochistic fantasy in which she is shot and tied up, only to be saved by her husband's kisses. 

A clip from Alejandro Jodorowsky's cult classic El Topo (1970) was shown next. It combined violence, comedy and religion into a bizarre allegorical western that became a midnight favorite for moviegoers. Then, Stehlik showed a haunting short from Raoul Servais combining live-action and stop-motion animation - Harpya (1979).  Along with a clip from one of Roman Polanski's earliest films, The Fat and the Lean (1961), Stehlik pointed out some of the key elements of surrealism: a shortened sense of time, a terrifying landscape, and the insecurity that the main character won't survive or cope.  Like daydreams, these films bend the physical rules of time and space while rejecting narrative rules of cinema and writing. 

the harpy in Harpya
Finally, Stehlik explored clips from more recent work including Jan Svankmajer's Conspirators of Pleasure (1996) and David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986).  These two films feature surreal, almost nightmarish stories that depict various sensations and perceptions of pleasure - a favorite topic among surrealists due to the influence of Freudian psychology. Ultimately, as Stehlik emphasized, today's surreal films wouldn't exist without the work of early surrealists. Ranging from the work of Terry Gilliam to recently released Snowpiercer (2013), surrealist cinema's influence, whether subtly or dramatic, can today be seen in all forms of media. 

Stehlik closed the lecture with admiration for surrealism, dubbing it "the romantic movement of the 20th century" because of its focus on "love, freedom, and poetry."  Like dreams, surrealism is odd, nightmarish, and illogical...yet, it is beautiful and liberating all at the same time. 

To rent surrealist films ranging from Bunuel to Jodorowsky to Lynch, be sure to visit FACETS.

- Gina Marie Ezzone


At its core, it is romantic because it believes in love in its mysteries.
- Milos Stehlik on surrealism

Last night on July 24, Fullerton Hall at The Art Institute of Chicago was filled with moviegoers and art enthusiasts looking to learn about the influence of surrealism on film. Milos Stehlik, founding director of Facets, gave a lecture in conjunction with The Art Institute of Chicago's exhibition Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary. Throughout the lecture, Stehlik highlighted the birth of surrealist cinema and its legacy.

As with surrealism, France is home to the birth of cinema. From the realist shorts of the Lumiere Brothers to the "fantasy factories" of George Melies, the experience of watching films was new and surreal for audiences.  Still a young art form in the 1920's, cinema, Stehlik noted, "went through a violent transformation led by artists of other mediums." Surrealists gravitated towards film because it allowed them to directly tap into their dreams. "Surrealist film creates its own logic entirely independent of verbal language" as "details and insignificant objects take on independent meaning," said Stehlik.  He went on to discuss Andre Breton and Luis Bunuel as the fathers of surrealism and surrealist cinema, even recommending Bunuel's book My Last Sigh for a master's own look at the movement.

After introducing the beginnings of surrealist cinema, Stehlik dove into a series of clips highlighting the diversity and influence of surrealism on cinema.  First, he showed Man Ray's Emak Bakia (1926), which features solarized imagery created by placing objects directly on film stock and then exposing it to light. Un Chien Andalou (1928), perhaps the most well-known surrealist film, was shown next.  This classic by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali was inspired by dreams both men had and wished to bring to life on screen.  Stehlik even shared how at the premiere of Un Chien Andalou, Bunuel had a small pile of stones in his pocket ready to throw at the crowd if they grew angry over the film's atypical narrative and grotesque imagery. Fortunately, that did not happen for it was well received. 

still from Emak Bakia

Exiled from Spain twice, Bunuel moved back to France in the 1960's where he made the commercially successful Belle du Jour (1967).  Stehlik's third clip featured a scene from this film showing the lead character's masochistic fantasy in which she is shot and tied up, only to be saved by her husband's kisses. 

A clip from Alejandro Jodorowsky's cult classic El Topo (1970) was shown next. It combined violence, comedy and religion into a bizarre allegorical western that became a midnight favorite for moviegoers. Then, Stehlik showed a haunting short from Raoul Servais combining live-action and stop-motion animation - Harpya (1979).  Along with a clip from one of Roman Polanski's earliest films, The Fat and the Lean (1961), Stehlik pointed out some of the key elements of surrealism: a shortened sense of time, a terrifying landscape, and the insecurity that the main character won't survive or cope.  Like daydreams, these films bend the physical rules of time and space while rejecting narrative rules of cinema and writing. 

the harpy in Harpya
Finally, Stehlik explored clips from more recent work including Jan Svankmajer's Conspirators of Pleasure (1996) and David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986).  These two films feature surreal, almost nightmarish stories that depict various sensations and perceptions of pleasure - a favorite topic among surrealists due to the influence of Freudian psychology. Ultimately, as Stehlik emphasized, today's surreal films wouldn't exist without the work of early surrealists. Ranging from the work of Terry Gilliam to recently released Snowpiercer (2013), surrealist cinema's influence, whether subtly or dramatic, can today be seen in all forms of media. 

Stehlik closed the lecture with admiration for surrealism, dubbing it "the romantic movement of the 20th century" because of its focus on "love, freedom, and poetry."  Like dreams, surrealism is odd, nightmarish, and illogical...yet, it is beautiful and liberating all at the same time. 

To rent surrealist films ranging from Bunuel to Jodorowsky to Lynch, be sure to visit FACETS.

- Gina Marie Ezzone

Thursday, July 24, 2014


We have to keep cinema alive. It's very important to me. It's not just superheroes and romantic comedies. We need a space for serious film. 
- Steve McQueen

Biography and Career

Steve McQueen was born in London, England in 1969.  He attended the Goldsmiths College in the University of London where he studied painting before he became interested in film. He briefly attended the Tisch School of Arts but found their curriculum to be too stifling.

Before breaking into the mainstream making feature films, McQueen spent most of his time creating experimental films and shortfilms.  Early on, he worked exclusively with 16mm black and white film until he began using video in the 1990s.   He made over ten short films featuring elements of minimalism, documentary, and avant-garde with themes exploring politics, racism, and sensory experiences.  Although not distributed for wide audiences, his shorts have been featured in art museum retrospectives in the United Kingdom and the United States, including the Art Institute of Chicago.

McQueen’s first feature film, Hunger (2008), premiered at Cannes where he won the Caméra d’Or Award, honoring him as a first time director. Hunger began McQueen’s close-knit career with actor Michael Fassbender.  The film illustrates the true story of Bobby Sands, an IRA member in 1981 who was arrested, imprisoned, and leader a hunger strike which ultimately led to his death.  Critics around the world recognized the film for its raw look at humanity and unique aesthetics featuring extreme long-takes and sensory images and sounds.  With the success of Hunger, McQueen continued his work with Fassbender and made Shame (2011).   Telling the heartbreaking story of a bachelor sex addict in New York City, Shame gained accolades for its realism and honesty towards a controversial topic.  Although it received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, the film was picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures and well-received by general audiences.  Many believed Fassbender was snubbed at the 2012 Academy Awards when he was not nominated for Best Actor for his role.

Shame (2011)
With Hunger and Shame complete and his name gaining recognition across the world, McQueen directed his most well-known film to date- 12 Years a Slave (2013).  Featuring an all-star cast along with powerful performances from lesser-known actors Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiorfor, the film astounded critics everywhere.  It reveals the terrifyingly true story of a free black man forced into slavery.  Harsh scenes of slavery contrast against beautiful scenes of southern landscape to create a visual and cinematic masterpiece.  Critics and audiences around the world praised the film as it went on to win many directing, best picture, and acting awards, including the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture.

McQueen has not officially stated what his next film will be. Currently, he is working on developing projects for BBC and HBO.  Nevertheless, the world recognizes him as not just a filmmaker, but an artist whose influential career has only just begun.

McQueen and the Art of the Long Take

 In today’s cinema, cuts and fast action are typically favored over long takes and drawn out stories.  They have also become shorter, rarely running more than two hours in length.  However, filmmakers like McQueen continue to challenge the Hollywood-blockbuster prototype by focusing less on the spectacles of cinema and more on the spectacle of the narratives themselves.

Still from the long take in Hunger (2008)
Although all three of McQueen’s feature films include dramatic, drawn-out long takes, perhaps the most impressive use of the long take was in 2008’s Hunger.  Towards the middle of the film, the lead character Bobby Sands meets with a priest to discuss the hunger strike he plans to carry out with other prisoners.  What ensues is a 17-minute long take between the two characters as they small talk before discussing the hunger strike.  Taken in a wide shot, the two men face each from across the table in a dimly-lit room. Natural light backlights them with a white halo.  As they converse, they puff on cigarettes and the smoke permeates the air, filling the space with fluid motion and creating depth in the static shot.  There is no music or other non-diagetic noise to distract the audience. Instead, the audience must gaze and listen to these two men discuss the morality of the hunger strike.  The scene, although cinematic, is therefore more ‘real’ as editing, music, and spectacle are forsaken for body language, dialogue, and the suspenseful juxtaposition of two men with two different beliefs.  Once the audience leans in, listens, and forgets that they are watching a movie, the scene becomes an intimate experience that draws the viewers into the world of the story.

Still from the long take in 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Influenced by filmmakers like Jean Renoir and artists like Andy Warhol who strove to eliminate the distraction of the cinematic “cut,” McQueen allows the story and acting in his films to unfold before the viewers’ eyes.  Another powerful long take occurs in 12 Years a Slave when Patsy (Nyong’a) is tied up and whipped by fellow slave Solomon (Ejiofor), forced against his will by Master Epps (Fassbender).  The scenes lasts for an uncomfortable four and a half minutes as the camera moves on a steadicam from Solomon to Epps to Patsy.  Although the audience does not see the entire lashing, the camera glimpses briefly as flesh is torn from Patsy’s back.  Like a live witness, the long take provides a realistic look at the horrors of slavery that other films have never revealed.  If McQueen were to cut the scene into several shots, each cut would provide an escape from the reality of the terror.  Scenes like this in 12 Years a Slave force the viewer to consider their own moralities and reconsider their perceptions of history. Ultimately, the long take’s power resides in subtlety as it brings stories to life on screen without the interruption of a cut.

For more on cinema’s most popular long takes, click here.

Steve McQueen's films are all available for rental at FACETS.

-- 
Gina Marie Ezzone



We have to keep cinema alive. It's very important to me. It's not just superheroes and romantic comedies. We need a space for serious film. 
- Steve McQueen

Biography and Career

Steve McQueen was born in London, England in 1969.  He attended the Goldsmiths College in the University of London where he studied painting before he became interested in film. He briefly attended the Tisch School of Arts but found their curriculum to be too stifling.

Before breaking into the mainstream making feature films, McQueen spent most of his time creating experimental films and shortfilms.  Early on, he worked exclusively with 16mm black and white film until he began using video in the 1990s.   He made over ten short films featuring elements of minimalism, documentary, and avant-garde with themes exploring politics, racism, and sensory experiences.  Although not distributed for wide audiences, his shorts have been featured in art museum retrospectives in the United Kingdom and the United States, including the Art Institute of Chicago.

McQueen’s first feature film, Hunger (2008), premiered at Cannes where he won the Caméra d’Or Award, honoring him as a first time director. Hunger began McQueen’s close-knit career with actor Michael Fassbender.  The film illustrates the true story of Bobby Sands, an IRA member in 1981 who was arrested, imprisoned, and leader a hunger strike which ultimately led to his death.  Critics around the world recognized the film for its raw look at humanity and unique aesthetics featuring extreme long-takes and sensory images and sounds.  With the success of Hunger, McQueen continued his work with Fassbender and made Shame (2011).   Telling the heartbreaking story of a bachelor sex addict in New York City, Shame gained accolades for its realism and honesty towards a controversial topic.  Although it received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, the film was picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures and well-received by general audiences.  Many believed Fassbender was snubbed at the 2012 Academy Awards when he was not nominated for Best Actor for his role.

Shame (2011)
With Hunger and Shame complete and his name gaining recognition across the world, McQueen directed his most well-known film to date- 12 Years a Slave (2013).  Featuring an all-star cast along with powerful performances from lesser-known actors Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiorfor, the film astounded critics everywhere.  It reveals the terrifyingly true story of a free black man forced into slavery.  Harsh scenes of slavery contrast against beautiful scenes of southern landscape to create a visual and cinematic masterpiece.  Critics and audiences around the world praised the film as it went on to win many directing, best picture, and acting awards, including the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture.

McQueen has not officially stated what his next film will be. Currently, he is working on developing projects for BBC and HBO.  Nevertheless, the world recognizes him as not just a filmmaker, but an artist whose influential career has only just begun.

McQueen and the Art of the Long Take

 In today’s cinema, cuts and fast action are typically favored over long takes and drawn out stories.  They have also become shorter, rarely running more than two hours in length.  However, filmmakers like McQueen continue to challenge the Hollywood-blockbuster prototype by focusing less on the spectacles of cinema and more on the spectacle of the narratives themselves.

Still from the long take in Hunger (2008)
Although all three of McQueen’s feature films include dramatic, drawn-out long takes, perhaps the most impressive use of the long take was in 2008’s Hunger.  Towards the middle of the film, the lead character Bobby Sands meets with a priest to discuss the hunger strike he plans to carry out with other prisoners.  What ensues is a 17-minute long take between the two characters as they small talk before discussing the hunger strike.  Taken in a wide shot, the two men face each from across the table in a dimly-lit room. Natural light backlights them with a white halo.  As they converse, they puff on cigarettes and the smoke permeates the air, filling the space with fluid motion and creating depth in the static shot.  There is no music or other non-diagetic noise to distract the audience. Instead, the audience must gaze and listen to these two men discuss the morality of the hunger strike.  The scene, although cinematic, is therefore more ‘real’ as editing, music, and spectacle are forsaken for body language, dialogue, and the suspenseful juxtaposition of two men with two different beliefs.  Once the audience leans in, listens, and forgets that they are watching a movie, the scene becomes an intimate experience that draws the viewers into the world of the story.

Still from the long take in 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Influenced by filmmakers like Jean Renoir and artists like Andy Warhol who strove to eliminate the distraction of the cinematic “cut,” McQueen allows the story and acting in his films to unfold before the viewers’ eyes.  Another powerful long take occurs in 12 Years a Slave when Patsy (Nyong’a) is tied up and whipped by fellow slave Solomon (Ejiofor), forced against his will by Master Epps (Fassbender).  The scenes lasts for an uncomfortable four and a half minutes as the camera moves on a steadicam from Solomon to Epps to Patsy.  Although the audience does not see the entire lashing, the camera glimpses briefly as flesh is torn from Patsy’s back.  Like a live witness, the long take provides a realistic look at the horrors of slavery that other films have never revealed.  If McQueen were to cut the scene into several shots, each cut would provide an escape from the reality of the terror.  Scenes like this in 12 Years a Slave force the viewer to consider their own moralities and reconsider their perceptions of history. Ultimately, the long take’s power resides in subtlety as it brings stories to life on screen without the interruption of a cut.

For more on cinema’s most popular long takes, click here.

Steve McQueen's films are all available for rental at FACETS.

-- 
Gina Marie Ezzone


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