Saturday, December 19, 2009

An Inside Look At Film Direction


Scorsese began to find his niche in American cinema as he intertwined old 20s to 40s camera movements such as Citizen Kane where the direction is theatrically based and not solely directed with the edit in mind. This approach to directing would make the use of long pans and camera movement rather than fast cuts to display a certain pace. Scorsese has faith in the actors and lets them exhibit the drama which results in brutally honest cinema. Taxi Driver (1976) tells the story of Travis Bickle just out of the Vietnam War, is overwhelmed by war, insomnia, and the dirty streets in which he drives a cab around at night. Sick of the ‘scum’ Travis takes law and order into his own hands. Scorsese received Academy award recognition with five nominations. Scorsese was making a name for himself, telling a story through camera techniques. In one scene Travis is on a lobby phone in pursuit of a woman, the camera slowly pans away from Travis to an empty corridor that leads to the street, as to say to Travis you part of the ‘scum’ and we really don’t care for you. Scorsese was really expressing himself as a director using slow motion, jump cuts and expressionist lighting.

Scorsese eventually turned his hand to the biopic, a story of Jake La Motta based on his autobiographical novel Raging Bull (1980). Scorsese went inside the mind of this fierce, hated, enraged and self-destructive boxer and came out on the otherside with his audience sympathizing with the man. As with all film-making it is a collaborative piece and Scorsese is not without his team, Thelma Schoonmaker’s edit of the fight sequences are some of the best work in cinema history, understandably as she goes on to edit most of Scorsese’s pictures. Do not underestimate this lady, they make a formative team, Thelma is an expert in what she does, her work allows Scorsese to think solely about deriving emotion from his shots. Thelma gets the raw footage and creates a scene “I designed the fight scenes a certain way, all from the point of view of the fighter inside the ring, not outside”

The cast was chosen from mainly unknowns apart from de niro this is a “most important factor creating realism”. He opted for the film to be shot in black and white, and to only have Jakes home movies in color as to display to the audience all that these were the happy times, or that only good times are caught on camera. Some May say that using black and white cinematography could be an example of non-realism, I believe that the use of balck and white in Raging Bull is used totally as periodic. It places the film in a non contemporary time and is a statement of the brutality and truth of the picture as Scorsese boldly puts it "Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out”

"Scorsese loves the visual effects and the powerful melodramatic moments of movies such as Body and Soul, The Set-Up, and Golden Boy. He makes the movie out of remembered high points, leaping from one to another." –Pauline Kael-

1990s Goodfellas based on a true story. It is about the lives of three men in the mob. The film spans over 20 years and stays true to the changing of decades. In a shot where Ray Liotta escorts Lorraine Bracco his new girlfriend into the copacobana, Scorsese uses a steadicam to move with the couple through the back door, kitchen and bouncers to the inside of the nightclub. The movement of the camera instills in the audience that Ray Liotta’s character is moving up in the world. The grandiose camera movement displays the ease the protagonist has to enter this prestigious and exclusive night spot, all resulting in his girlfriend being swept off her feet.

Scorsese is completely at home with this film. Another aspect is the music he uses helps time change by, and it seems like there is always a golden oldie that is rejuvenated through his visuals. An inspiration for Scorsese is the 1910 film Musketeers of Pig Alley This film also influenced him in the filming of Gangs of New York (2002).

In 1991 Scorsese chose to re-make the 1962 classic Cape Fear. A dark thriller starring Robert de Niro as a man just released from prison who goes on a revenge mission to ruin the family of the attorney that initially put him away. For cinematography Scorsese used Freddie Francis as he has shot many thrillers before. "He knows the atmosphere that I want for this picture. He knows the lighting. Whatever it takes to get that incredible, Gothic thriller look” Scorsese understands that a thriller must have that gothic look, it must look like the characters emotions as most good thrillers will shoot the film from the villans point of view to a certain extent.

The main themes of Scorsese's work are always visually apparent, He has never totally broken away from the place where he grew up, New York. His films are immersed with content from his upbringing, his early attraction to the priesthood, and the street life. Scorsese had once said that when he was growing in up New York, the most powerful people in his neighborhood were the gangsters and the priests and that as a filmmaker he is in some ways a combination of the two. Scorsese through his past films brought audiences into the world of brutality, crime, gangsters, volatile beings and painted the picture as honest as he could, like a priest who loves all sons and daughters of God, no matter a criminal or saint.

To Return

Beautiful music in the distance,
I'm elated, I can hear your articulation.
She floats over in an instance,
Time's sedated, I see now with glasses made for animation.

Drowning out all other conversation,
Retina fixated on the color of her eyes.
Goosepimples back from vacation,
No, already? it's not time for good-byes.

A touch from her palm,
Electro colored shiver.
A note sends a calm,
We part like a tide in a river.
To return

To Sir, With Love (1967)

Mark Thackery "I am sick of your foul language, your crude behavior and your sluttish manner. There are certain things a decent woman keeps private, and only a filthy slut would have done this and those who stood by and encouraged her are just as bad. I don't care who's responsible - you're all to blame. Now, I am going to leave this room for five minutes by which time that disgusting object had better be removed and the windows opened to clear away the stench. If you must play these filthy games, do them in your homes, and not in my classroom! "

I'm not sure if I have seen a film about a teacher and their pupils made prior to 1967. I'm sure there was, but this is probably all I need to keep me satisfied that this one here writes the rules on how to do it. I won't say very much about the storyline here as in all honesty If you have seen a film about a teacher and their pupils, you probably can guess as to how the film pans out.

Set in the 60s, it's a booming London, the kids in this classroom are near graduating, they are the rejects from other more sought after schools. These are the next men and women, in the real world they can either change the world or add to it's problems. The females with their mini dresses and attitudes are foul mouthed and the males have no respect for female kind, dressed with attitude that was eventually replicated in the 80s and in the future by punk rock bands. The kids dance to quite provocative music for the sixties, in their lunch breaks, in between in the school yard conversations are loud and in a cockney accent.

In enters an Engineer graduate, Mark Thackery (Sidney Poitier) taking a job as a teacher as there is no work in his field. A man of great morals and principals. Poitier is quite amazing here as he is in many films, great line delivery, eyes that deliver and array of emotions, he connects with the audience from the very first scene.

The film is centered around the Lulu song "to sir, with love" which is a beautiful backdrop, she also takes a part in the film as a student.

This film is what many directors look to when trying to create a film about the Teacher/Student film. So many lessons you learn along the way, they are so relevant to this day and age and will never change. I'm not sure if they do but, this film has to be made a concrete film to view in high schools all around the world.


To Sir, With Love Trailer Here

New York Stories (1989)

New York Stories is made up of three short films that run approximately forty minutes each. All the film's are central to the city of New York. You get a sense that these films are almost made by film students. Nothing to do with lesser production values, but that of creative freedom. The three director's Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen use this opportunity to be totally creative.

Paulette to Lionel "Sometimes I feel like a human sacrifice!"

Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Departed) directs "Life Lesson's" which stars Nick Nolte as Lionel Dobie, a painter, sorry, an artist. He live's in a warehouse with his "assistant" and a young Rosanna Arquette as Paulette, who is an aspiring artist. We meet them in the middle of Paulette wanting out of their little arrangement. Lover's they were, Paulette agrees to stay with Lionel with certain new rules. Lionel in love with her, agrees but gives her a hard time at the moment.

The first thing you notice about this film is the use of camera movement. There are a lot of tracking shot's that Scorsese uses to great effect in portraying the emotions between the two characters. It serves as a lesson on how to derive emotion an excellent example is when Nolte is staring up at his love Arquette in bed with another man. It is like double the Scorsese in a smaller amount of time. But it never is too much, the camera movement has it's place and more than any other of his films have I seen better use of this specialty.

This story could be written as the tale of the muse and their artist. The performances are quite impressive and powerful.

Zoe "A woman shouldn't have bigger shoulders than a man. "

Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather I,II,III, Apocalypse Now) and his daughter Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette) wrote the screenplay together for this short. Sofia has a heavy influence here on the script. From what I gathered this definitely is a tale, a dream-scape. Francis directs here and it really reminds me of a The Great Gatsby in which he adapted the screenplay for.

The film is very dry and the central character, a young Heather Mc Comb who plays Zoe, is not the cute, interesting character I thought she would be.

Zoe stays at a New York hotel, while her parents travel the world. Her parents played by Giancarlo Giannini and Talia Shire, Carlo and Charlotte respectively don't have much screen time and it is very hard to get to know them. The one scene with Giannini and a young Zoe is quite special I must say.

It's a nice story, but even with unsuspected hotel robbery, the short never makes an impression. I did love the relationship Zoe has with her butler Hector played by Don Novello.

Sheldon "I'm 50 years old. I'm a partner in a big law firm. You know I'm very successful, and I still haven't resolved my relationship with my mother. "

I will preface this part of the review by stating that I am a Woody Allen fan. I love everything he does. I love how he can throw irrational and quite unbelievable situations and still make me believe in the reality he creates. Here in "Oedipus Wrecks" he is at his best.

The film is quite simple, Woody Allen (Whatever Works, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Match Point) who plays Sheldon has an overbearing mother, played by May Questal, she is the stereotypical loud mother with an opinion on everything and loud. She is not approving of Sheldon's fiancee' Lisa (Mia Farrow). Upon an outing to a magic show with both women, the mother is brought up on stage during a sword in the box act. She disappears. Suddenly the mother appears as an apparition in the sky hovering over New York. Sheldon thought he was the butt of all nagging by his mother before!

Allen throws up one of his most surreal of films, the magician scene seems like it was recreated in one of his later films Scoop. In his dry, neurotic sense of humor you go along for the ride. Oedipus Wrecks is not very different to all of Allen's films, you know what to expect, but it never gets boring. This is a hilarious look at Mother knows best.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Jeux d'enfants (Love Me If You Dare) (2003)

This french film from director/writer Yann Samuell has a serious case of "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain" (Amelie) (2001) Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, about it. The introduction to this film notoriously mirrors Amelie exceptionally well, making it its own, and feeling fresh, Something that has crept into French filmmaking I have only recently noticed.

Julien (Guilliaume Canet) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard) are the central characters. They become school friends at a very early age, all because of a dare involving a merry-go-round themed biscuit tin, Julie inherits from his dying mother. They dare each other to commit absurd acts, vice-versa, to obtain that biscuit tin.

Getting past the long introduction, Jeux d'enfants delivers to the audience a very straight narrative. It does deliver some very strange and irrational scenario's to their dare's of love, but you accept it and enjoy the storytelling, understanding the message is about two souls that can never part.

Probably will be let down at times if your dealing with reality vs. storytelling. An excellent piece, wonderful acting and a beautiful cinematography.

Jeux d'enfants trailer here