Articles on French Cinema

Pulver, A. (2011) A Short History of French Cinema. [Online] The Guardian. March 22nd. Availabe from: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/mar/22/french-cinema-short-history [Last Accessed: 10/01/2017]

Renee, V. (2014) Infographic: Your Guide to the History of French Cinema. [Online] No Film School. Available from: http://nofilmschool.com/2014/11/infographic-your-guide-history-french-cinema [Last Accessed: 10/01/2017]

Passengers (2016)

passengers-367242067-largeIt’s becoming rare these days to find block buster science fiction films that focus more on the characters and setting, than just an all-out battle of world ending proportions. Preferring to focus on deadly alien invasions set to wipe out the planet, ala Independence Day: Resurgence, Edge of Tomorrow and Pacific Rim,  intergalactic war, such as Rouge One: A Star Wars Story and Star Trek Beyond,  or our own technology turning against us in ways we couldn’t possibly have planned for (I’m just saying, a contingency plan would be nice), also known as Terminator Genesys. We seem to have an innate fascination with our future being a dark and an almost dystopian wasteland, brought about by our own stupidity. Films that focus on humanity thriving are surprisingly hard to come by in the 21st century, especially ones with big name actors, set to make millions at the box office. In a world where Superhero movies rule the box office, and film makers are focusing their films to work on an international level, particularly the Chinese market, character driven sci-fi is a welcome breath of fresh air.

The focal point of Passengers is the characters themselves, and a single moral choice. The Star ship Avalon, carrying over 5,000 passengers in cryosleep, suffers a malfunction during its 120 year journey to the newly colonised planet of Homestead II. While the ship remains on course, a single passenger is awoken 90 years early with no hope of re-entering cryostasis. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) has to come to terms with the lonely existence he finds himself with, and choses to make the most of his situation, but when he falls in love with Aurora (Jenifer Laurence), a woman still in cryosleep, he is faced with an irreversible moral choice. Does he remain alone, and let her sleep, or wake her up, and doom her to the same fate as his? The moral question at the centre, is one that the viewer will no doubt have an opinion on, and will affect how you see the film as a whole.

The chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence is well founded, with both actors playing off each other well, but their actual relationship in the film raises a question. Do they actually love each other or are they only together because they are the only two people. They both frequently state that they would probably have never met under regular circumstances, with both their career and social standing being diametric opposites.

The manner to which both characters initially deal with the situation you find yourself in, is quite powerful, dealing with the realisation that the life they knew, and the one they had planned was over, the desperation to fix the problem at hand, and how they come to terms with it, are all handled well, showing a somewhat different response from both characters. How differently the situation effects both characters.

The android bartender, Arthur (Michael Sheen), provides a wonderful, almost deadpan at times, counterpoint to both Jim and Aurora, as someone who is serving his purpose while doomed to the same fate as them, he is unable to leave the ship, and has no destination to arrive at. When discussing death with Jim, he points out that androids are doomed to die as well, they cannot run forever, just as humans do.

Visually, the film is stunning, the design of the ship, while reminiscent of some earlier designs (the somewhat cylindrical shape does bring to mind evolutions of 2001), is easily recognisable, giving the film an iconic image for viewers to latch on to. The general layout of the ships decks and halls, brought to mind films such as WALL.E. and specifically Moon, a film that Passengers seems to take a large amount of inspiration from story wise, particularly when dealing with the topic of isolation and loneliness in space.

How the film sits with you in the end, does very much depend on your views regarding the moral question. Your answer to the question, will colour how you see the character of Jim, even if only marginally. The weight of his choice is the films driving force, even beyond the films destructive climax. Aurora’s character is even somewhat named for the situation Jim finds himself in, Aurora, the princess of Sleeping Beauty. A welcome break from the popular science fiction films of late, but the films enjoyment as a whole is heavily subjective, providing possibly hours of discussion with other viewers just on the films question. However, the films third act feels almost tact on, as though the studio worried that a film focusing solely on a moral choice, was not enough to bring in the general public. Needing a climactic life or death situation to bring the film to a close. I feel that, while the film was far less successful at the box office, the director and writer should have taken a cue from films such as Moon and Gattaca. Providing us with a conclusion based on the characters as a whole, rather than just a Hollywood, disaster driven finale.

Further Recommendation: Moon (2009)

Intertextuality and Parody – Sources to check through

Close Reading Practice – Brief Encounter (1945)

brief-encounter-4420

Close reading:

A man and woman, stood closely in the shadows. They are hidden away from others, their close embrace is one that could be seen as romantic or has a strong sexual tension. Her hand holding him back denotes the need to be restraint. The choice of location and a lack of light suggests a need to keep their relationship a secret from the world. Their relationship is perhaps forbidden, or inappropriate, though their connection is strong. Their eyes intensely focused on one another, their relationship, though one of love, may actually be causing pain. His expression is intense, almost longing to move past her hand and embrace her fully, fighting to restrain himself.

  • Brief Encounter (1945) Film. Directed by David Lean. [Blu-Ray] UK. Eagle-Lion Distributors Ltd.

Distant Reading Practice: Metropolis (2001) – Rooftop Scene.

Binary opposites:

  • Light and Shadow,
  • Robot and Organic,
  • Angelic and Mortal,
  • New and Old,
  • Clean and Used,
  • Innocent and Corrupted,

Tima begins sat in the shadows, and is suddenly enveloped in light, her body glowing. The radiating light gives her an angelic quality. She is situated above the residents of the underground, in addition to the light radiating from her, this positioning shows her as a higher being, the bird landing on her shoulder, providing her wings. An Angel, looking down on the poor mortals. Tima, while appearing human, is a robotic being, created with a greater purpose than to simply live as a human, this moment of angelic purity, looking down on the citizens, helps to emphasis Tima’s position among them. She appears the same, but stands apart.

  • Mishcat (2016) Metropolis (2001) – Tima Rooftop Scene. [Online Video] June 4th. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BruJQz8LCM [Last Accessed: 28/11/2016]
  • Metropolis (2016) Film. Directed by Rintaro. [DVD] JP. Madhouse Production.

Comics for Film, Games, and Animation. Using Comics to Construct your Transmedia Story World by Tylor Weaver

518k7sxclvl-_sx373_bo1204203200_While specified in its core subject, Comics for Film, Games, and Animation is a well thought out and paced piece of research. The book goes into great detail to chronicle both the history of comics and their relationship with other media, the latter half uses a series of franchise examples to make their point about what makes a good transmedia story, or what can ruin the attended impact. Weaver uses a mixture of history, interviews and critical analysis to make his points, and when addressing more complex franchises, he provides colour coded diagrams to make his point more clear.Weaver’s work has come in handy before, providing a useful basis for my undergraduate dissertation.

 

Weaver, T. (2013) Comics For Film, Games, and Animation. Using Comics to Construct your Transmedia Story World. Focus Press. Burlington.

Revisiting Batman Begins (2005)

Breaking through the fear, and becoming a legend. A symbol.

Batman_Begins_poster6

 

With the release of the abysmal ‘Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ earlier in the year, it seemed only fitting to revisit Batman’s previous outing, beginning with Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’. Nolan’s trilogy has been held by many as quintessential viewing when it comes to superhero films, as it delves deep into Batman’s long history and presents it in a grounded fashion, making it more accessible to a non-comic reading audience, leading to its success at the box office, as well as pleasing to the long time Bat fans.

Batman Begins brings Batman’s already well known origin to the big screen, but places a much larger emphasis on Bruce Wayne, rather than Batman. Allowing us to emphasis with Bruce and attempt to understand why a character like Batman would exist. The film’s opening and subsequent flash backs to childhood build up the ongoing presence of Bats throughout Bruce’s life, as well as his happy and fulfilling childhood and his relationship with his parents, especially his father. This gives a far greater weight to his parents death, as we have a greater understanding of how pivirol a role they played in shaping him. He reminds Bruce that when we fall, we must pick ourselves back up. While 2016s ‘Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice’ places a large, and somewhat convoluted, emphasis on mothers, Batman Begins develops Bruce’s relationship with his father and the respect he has for him. His father is the one to initially pull him back out of the cave, surrounded by his fear, and tells him that it’s ok. The inciting incident that causes his parents death, comes from his father wanting to keep Bruce feeling safe. The change from ‘The Mark of Zorro’ to a play featuring Bats, allows Bruce’s fear to get the better of him and leads directly to the meeting with Joe Chill in crime alley. This adds a level of guilt to Bruce’s fear, and already tainted perception of Bats. Bruce even confides in Ducard that his “anger out ways [his] guilt”. The image of Bruce sat, almost centre screen, in the alley, perfectly mirrors the depictions in Frank Millar and David Mazzucchelli ‘Batman: Year One’, which the film takes heavy inspiration from.screen-shot-2013-01-18-at-1-55-05-pm

At its heart, Batman Begins is a film about fear. How our fears can rule us, the importance of overcoming it and using it to grow stronger. Several characters throughout the film remind Bruce of the power of fear, Ducard reminds Bruce of what fear can do to us, “What you really fear, is inside yourself. You fear your own power, you fear your anger. The drive to do great and terrible things”. Bruce’s meeting with Falcone provides him with the proof that being feared gives you a power that “money just can’t buy. The power of fear”. With Scarecrow being the culmination of fear as power in the hands of a villain, “I respect the minds power over the body. It’s why I do what I do”.

batmanbegins2Bruce’s devotion to his father is further emphasised in two later scenes. During his training, Ducard tells Bruce that his parents death was not his fault, it was his father, enraging Bruce. “Your anger gives you great power, but if you let it, it will destroy you.” Later, during a flashback to the day of Joe Chill’s trial, Bruce reveals to Rachael that he planned to kill Joe Chill himself and presents the gun that he had been hiding. Rachael slaps him and reminds him that his father would be ashamed of his decision. The earlier devotion shown towards his father, and his father’s profession as a doctor (a healer), instils in Bruce the idea that killing is not the answer, that it makes you no better than the criminals that took his parents away from him. Cemented when he throws the gun away into the ocean.

These early interactions and conversation shape the idea in Bruce’s mind of what he needs to be to insight any change in the city, and bring the criminals of Gotham to their knees. Bruce’s trek to the League’s hideout and his immediate fight with Ducard hit hard as reminders that he must be ready at all times. The villains will not wait for him, they will come at any time. He must be prepared to be the Batman at all times. The lessons he learns from Ducard allow him to not only understand his fears but understand the power it has over others, “to manipulate the fears in others, you must first conquer your own”.

“As a man, as flesh and blood, I can be destroyed. But as a symbol. As a symbol, I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.” “Something terrifying.”

Crane02The use of the Scarecrow and Dr. Jonathan Crane is a bold choice as a lead villain in Nolan’s first outing with Batman. The character is little used outside of the comics, making him far less known than some of the other members of Batman’s rouge gallery, such as The Joker, Catwoman, Penguin or even the Riddler. This allows actor Cillian Murphy to leave an impressive mark on the character and define him in the public consciousness. The implementation of Scarecrow in to Batman’s origin story, plays largely into the films theme of fear as Bruce must overcome his own fear, become fear in the hearts of criminals, and defeat fear in the form of Scarecrow.

The Films portrayal of Jim Gordon borrows heavily from ‘Batman: Year One’, with Gordon acting as a moral centre for a corrupt Police Department. Oldman plays Gordon incredibly well, as a man who emphasises with the Batman, hating the corruption that runs through the Gotham PD and the city, but wants to change things from the inside. Becoming a lawful counterpart to Batman. Michael Caine brings a great depth of emotion to his portrayal of Alfred, giving Alfred a far more apparent position as a surrogate father figure to Bruce. One that emphasises the importance of that relationship more for Alfred then to Bruce, as appose to previous incarnations.

batmanbegins_1600The city of Gotham is grounded much more in reality compared to previous incarnations, feeling much more like a living breathing city, helped by its influences from the real life cities of New York and Chicago, as appose to the sound stage hell created for the Burton and Schumacher films.

Batman Begins takes heavy influence from several key Batman stories throughout his almost 80 year history. With ‘Batman: Year One’ by Frank Miller and Dave Mazzucchelli, being the largest contributer to both Bruce’s origins, Gordon’s characterisation, as well as heavily influencing visual aspects of the film. Details of Bruce’s training in the mountains take its lead from the 1989 one-shot ‘The Man Who Falls’, and the films depiction of Scarecrow borrows heavily from the works of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale in ‘Batman: The Long Halloween’ and ‘Batman: Haunted Knight’. Other titles the film could possibly take influence from are ‘Batman #232’, ‘Batman: War on Crime’, ‘Batman Annual #8’, ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘Batman #400’.

Batman Begins is a strong opening to The Dark Knight Trilogy, and a fine example of an origin story done right, though origin story films have become somewhat over saturated since the film’s release. The depth to which the film borrows from Batman’s long history and the extraordinary casting, gives us a faithful and interesting look and the Caped Crusader on the big screen, excisable for both long time fans and the general public. While Batman Begins works largely as an origin story, and does it well, it would have been interesting to see the evolution of Batman’s detective abilities as he is the Dark Knight Detective, something I feel few films have explored about the character and could be an interesting premise for future outings.

 

– Barr, M. Eeden, T. (1982) Batman Annual Vol. 1 #8. DC Comics, New York.
-Dini, P. Ross, A. (1999) Batman: War on Crime. DC Comics, New York.
-Loeb, J. & Sale, T. (1996) Batman: The Long Halloween. DC Comics, New York.
– Loeb, J & Sale, T. (1996) Batman: Haunted Knight. DC Comics, New York.
– Miller, F. (1986) The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics, New York.
– Miller, F & Mazzucchelli, D. (1986) Batman: Year One. DC Comics, New York.
– Monench, D. (1986) Batman Vol. 1 #400. DC Comics. New York.
– Nolan, C. (2005). Batman Begins. Syncopy. Warner Bros.
– O’Neil, D. Adams, N. (1971) Batman Vol. 1 #232. DC Comics, New York.
– O’Neil, D. Giordano, D. (1989) Batman: The Man Who Falls. DC Comics, New York.

Her (2013)

shortlist-her‘Her’ has been recounted by many as a masterpiece in modern romance films. Depicting a lonely man, recovering from the breakdown of his marriage, as he begins a new relationship with a woman that only exists as voice in a machine.

Theodore’s profession, and introduction to the film as a surrogate letter writer, portray a man that embraces and romanticises the relationships of others, inserting himself into their lives, only for the briefest and sweetest of moments. Contrasted with his own situation, and his long failed marriage, Theodore’s everyday life is one of loneliness, rather than solitude. Only interacting with others when he needs to, the frequency to which his friends repeat the line, “We haven’t seen you in a while”, compounds his self inflicted isolation. At this stage in his life, the closest thing to a relationship he is capable of is anonymous phone sex, that at times, is just as disturbing to him. The introduction of Samantha to his world, not only excites his curiosity as to how such a being could exist, but broadens his world by giving him someone completely new, in a form that he has become familiar with, but under a new paradigm, a genuine connection rather than just one of necessity or carnal comfort.

HER

Theodore and Samantha are opposites in regards to their treatment of a relationship. While Theodore carries the scars and pain of his previous loves, almost traumatised by them, Samantha can approach it with a completely new and fresh perspective, with a million questions and curiosities that she feels compelled to explore. Samantha’s drive and passion drags Theodore out of the mundane existence he had built for himself and gives him something to feel excited about. While the relationship is between that of a man and a machine, they stand as equals. The physical aspect of their relationship is a stumbling block along the way, leading to scenes that can be equally as uncomfortable for the audience as they are for Theodore, they use the incident to grow as a couple. Giving Theodore a whole new perspective on life and love when it’s all over.

The fact that Theodore is human and Samantha is a machine, is treated with far more understanding by many than one would initial assume. The films near future setting takes our current position into account. A world where communication across vast oceans is as simple as pressing a button, where a friendship or even a relationship can be built with the two parties having never physically met, and a pop culture rich with stories of human/A.I. relations, both good and bad. It is not hard to see why someone would fall in love with another that they never see, or how A.I. can come to develop their own understanding of emotion, want and desire. They are all deeply personal aspects of ourselves. Cultivated and developed through our experiences. While Theodore re-examines his, Samantha discovers her own. Allowing both to grow beyond what they believed was their limits.

herThe film is wonderfully scored by the music of Arcade Fire, giving a beautiful and haunting soundtrack that is equal parts loving and isolating. Becoming a perfect companion to the film and for external listening. Highly recommended for relaxation.

The film tackles the idea of love in the digital age, with the same serious thought and stunning cinematography as the classic works. Approaching a topic that not all may be comfortable with, but is a necessity to consider, as the digital world continues to become physical.

Revisiting Man of Steel

man_of_steel_ver2_boxartWith the upcoming release of Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I decided that it may finally be time to revisit Man of Steel. A film that I had avoided heavily re-watching since its first release. Let’s just say that like a large portion of the general public, the film did not sit well with me. However, now that some time has passed and my initial rage has subsided (mostly), it’s time to answer the question. Was Man of Steel any good?

In short, no. The critics and general public alike have made no secret of the films flaws. Given the length of time between viewings and the changing of your perceptions over time though, I had to wonder. Had my hatred of the film been sharpened by the constant criticism the film was receiving? If only the flaws are being discussed, are they the only memories I will retain and revisit? Causing a deeper hatred than the film may have disserved.

screenshot_1244With a character such as Superman, or even Clark Kent, there is a certain weight and expectation that exists in the mind of the viewer, even before the film is experienced. This makes the film incredibly hard to separate from the character’s history. Cavill will always be compared to Reeve. Reeve is the definitive Superman to a lot of people, even to those that do not read the comics, this already stacks the deck against Cavill before we even saw him in action. One can’t help but feel sorry for the actor, for the fact that he is not being judged on his own ability, but by his predecessor. The darker tone of the film only hinders this fact, as the films blatant attempts to cash in The Dark Knight‘s success, forces the character into an atmosphere and tone that, while can and has been explored throughout Superman’s history, is not his natural state. The tone and format, retelling Superman’s history in a miss matched order, are elements taken directly from that of Batman Begins in the hopes that the familiar storytelling devices and now bankable formula, would win the film some good graces. One would hope that this was done to allow the creators to use the format to complement the differences between the two films, but sadly all it does is create a Batman clone in Kryptonian garb.

9053_4Superman is not Batman. While both characters can be equally enjoyed by the audience, their motivations and raison d’être’s are separate. Leading to a difference in personality and appeal. While the brooding superhero has undoubtedly become popular in recent years, what Hollywood must remember, is that it is not a necessity. Something that I fear Batman Vs. Superman will unfortunately reinforce.

Throughout Man of Steel, the man we watch grow and supposedly root for, stands as neither the classic Clark Kent nor the traditional Superman. The films decidedly dark tone 106056_zpsac36da8b.png~originalplays a key role in this matter, depicting a man that attempts to embody the icon but fails to comprehend it. Though glimpses of childhood embrace Clark’s frustration and attempts to appear normal to the world, providing some of the films greatest (and briefest) moments, remain promising as they play off the mood well. Clark as an adult, shows a man far more self centred and arrogant than previous incarnations. While it’s only natural for children, particularly those that are adopted, to have moments of friction or argue over their future, Clark’s interactions with his parents, particularly Jonathan, are cold hearted and do little to ground him to his life in Kansas. Rather than a being of two worlds, equal in his loyalties, Clark stands as simply a Kryptonian living on Earth. At multiple times, reminding Jonathan and Martha that they are not in fact his real parents and simply found him. Compounded by the fact that his first words to Martha after being gone for a considerable time, based on her reaction, is to state that he “found his real parents”. In order to sell an actor as Superman, you must also convince the world that he is Clark Kent, Something Cavill fails to do. It is in fact more tempting to refer to him as Kal than Clark, for the mere fact that his preoccupation with Krypton outweighs his bonds to the Earth.

Man_of_Steel_teaser_trailer_screenshot_10_460x259The controversial “neck snap” scene, while originally anger inducing for its general existence, brings about more controversy in hindsight. The taking of a life is seen in Superman’s eyes as crossing the ultimate moral line, in the few previous crossings, the weight bears so heavily on his mind that he exiles himself from society. In the case provided, the situation does become dire enough that crossing that line becomes morally expectable, even if it feels wrong. However, taking into account the previous destruction of the city and the countless lives most likely lost in the incident, the fact that a single family becomes his deciding factor creates a hypocritical flaw in his own judgement.

While Cavill bears the brunt of the backlash, it is clear that he has the ability to portray a true Superman, as well as an honest Clark. If only the darker tones enforced upon the project could be loosened. Allowing him to break free of the Kryptonite shackles that is studio mandate, could provide us with the next definitive Superman actor.

man-steel-sequel-superman-lois-laneIn contrast, Amy Adams’ portrayal of Lois Lane provides not only a strong willed centre, but a faithful embodiment of everything Lois has stood for overtime. She’s not afraid to put herself in harm’s way for a story, charging in when she knows it’s the only way she will get her answers. In contrast to the hollow shell of a Superman story the film becomes at times, Adams plays an honest character, a stand in for those as curious enough to investigate Cavill’s Superman rather than a scared onlooker, too frightened to comprehend a world beyond the familiar Reeve.

Screen-Shot-2013-04-17-at-4.11-600x369The film is most definitely a flawed production, confusing a stand in of Superman with embodying his principles and life. It’s stigma in the media proves that its missteps have not gone unnoticed, and with Batman Vs. Superman on the horizon, it is hopeful that the criticism from Man of Steel has been taken on board. However, with Snyder’s continued defence of the film, it seems that the ‘Batman-afying’ of Superman sees no clear end. The fact that Superman has been sidelined in his own sequel unfortunately, leads us to conclude that the dark and gloomy times are yet to see an end. May Dawn of Justice, shed some much needed light onto the character and franchise, so that once again Superman can bask in the sun.