October, 2011Archive

Oct 28

“Written in the Wind” is the epitome of what a melodrama is all about.  The definition of a melodrama is a dramatic work, which exaggerates the plot and characters in order to appeal to one’s emotions.  Director Douglas Sirk production of “Written in the Wind” exemplifies how a melodrama should be made.  This movie contains many features of a melodrama; some of which include love, despair, backstabbing, and death.  “Written in the Wind” ushers in a new type of film genre (melodramas) while dismissing another type of film genre (film noir). “Written in the Wind” utilized two elements in the movie that was considered revolutionary at the time. One of the elements was the exaggerated use of colors, and the other was the use of high key lighting.

“Written in the Wind” portrays the stories of four different people. These four people are Kyle, Marylee, Mitch Wayne, and Lucy Moore.  Kyle, who is the heir to the Hadley oil empire, is a spoiled, and dangerous alcoholic.  Kyle meets Lucy Moore, an executive secretary.  He charms her so much that they end up getting married.  They seem to be very happy initially and Kyle had stopped drinking.  Problems arise between Kyle and Lucy, after his doctor tells Kyle that he has a low sperm count.  When Kyle hears this, he keeps it a secret from Lucy, and begins to drink again, and becomes depressed.

Kyle’s sister, Marylee like her brother, is spoiled and an alcoholic.  She also has a bad reputation around the town for propositioning men.  Marylee is in love with Mitch Wayne. Mitch has no desires to be in a relationship with her, and this is her excuse for acting the way that she does.

Mitch Wayne, a geologist for the Hadley oil company, is Kyle’s best friend; Mitch keeps the Hadley family in order.  Mitch Wayne is in love with Lucy, but he keeps it a secret because she’s his best friend’s wife.  Mitch even contemplates leaving the oil company and working for another company, because of his love for Lucy.

Everything starts to take a turn for the worst when Kyle and Marylee’s father has a heart attack and dies.  When the father heard his daughter is with a gas attendant in a motel and that Kyle is drinking again, it is too much for him to bear and his heart gives out.  Another bad situation that occurs is when Kyle finds out that, Lucy is pregnant, and hits her because he thinks its Mitch’s baby, which causes her to have a miscarriage.  Mitch runs to help Lucy and threatens to kill Kyle.  Later that evening, Kyle gets his father’s gun and threatens to kill Mitch, Marylee wrestles Kyle for the gun, and while wrestling for control of the gun, the trigger is pulled and Kyle is killed.  Mitch is accused of murdering Kyle and has to stand trial.  Marylee acts in a way that is not characteristic of her behavior throughout the story, she acts with compassion, and tells the true story of what happened to her brother.  Mitch is exonerated of all charges, and drives off with Lucy, while Marylee is seen sitting by herself.

There are many different elements that are present in this film that are not demonstrated during the film noir period; these elements include the use of bright colors and high key lighting in the film.  During the film noir period, the films utilized elements of darkness with low-key lighting, and the use of shadows was exhibited.  In this film there is a shift in directorial technique, utilizing elements such as high key lighting.   All the characters are well lit and there is no evidence of any shadows on them.

A key directorial technique used in this film is the vibrant colors presented throughout the film.  Sirk took full advantage of the Technicolor film that was available to him.  Many different colors like red and yellow are seen in this movie. The color yellow is used primarily to show Marylee’s car, and the color red is obvious in many scenes to show objects such as seats, table clothes, men’s ties, walls of the hotel room (that Kyle and Lucy stayed in), drinks, and telephones.  In this movie, as opposed to the other movies introduced to the class are number African-American actors.  The African Americans actors present in this movie are the roles of low paying jobs that don’t require higher education such as a bartender, gatekeeper, and butler.

“Written in the Wind” does a wonderful job in defining a melodramatic film.  The film demonstrates a significant characteristic of a melodramatic movie, namely an exaggerated story line with many different emotions being portrayed throughout the film.  Douglas Sirk does an amazing job of directing and utilizes many other important elements such as high key lighting and use of many colors.  Which was considered revolutionary at that time and truly enhanced the movie.

Oct 13

Jason Greenfield                                                                        10/13/11

Film analysis #1

Scene analysis: from Citizen Kane (director Orson Welles, RKO, 1941)

5 shots from the Declaration of Principles scene, where Kane writes down his principles on how he will run the Inquirer.

Shot #1: LS, camera is angular, large depth of field (able to see many buildings), but the camera is focused primarily on the Inquirer building.  The viewers are able to see what is going on in the street.  There are two types of sounds in this shot, there is a man on the street selling newspapers (diegetic sound).  Additionally non-diegetic music is present as well.  The shot ends with the camera moving to the top of the Inquirer building.

Shot #2: MS, the camera is straight on, large depth of field (the audience is able to see the whole room as well as what is outside of the room).  Camera goes from outside of the window to inside the building where the three men inside of the top floor of the Inquirer building. The three men are Kane, Mr. Leland, and Mr. Bernstein.  Kane is standing up, writing something on a piece of paper against the window, Mr. Leland is sitting down and smoking, and Mr. Bernstein is sitting off to the side by himself. There is also a light right next to Kane and Mr. Leland

Shot #3: MS, large depth of field (able to see buildings outside of the window), camera angle is low (able to see ceiling) music halts, its an extremely long take. The three men, Kane, Mr. Leland, and Mr. Bernstein are sitting down. The viewer is able to see the light from shot #2, the lights reflection is present.  The three men are talking about the newspaper they are going to produce for that day.  Kane turns around from the window (puts his pencil on top of his ear), and the men continue to discuss the newspaper.  Kane shuts off the light to his side, after he gave an analogy in which he said, “just as important as the light needs that gas to work, the New York Inquirer needs to be just as important to New York.” Kane now starts to move to the front of the room.  As he moves to the front there is no longer such a large depth of field.  Kane then starts to read what he wrote on the paper at the beginning of the scene.  What he wrote was his Declaration of Principles for his newspaper.  As Kane starts to read what he wrote in his declaration there is a dark shadow on him.  The camera angle widens as Mr. Leland gets off his chair and talks to Kane.  Camera angle changes again when Leland takes a seat on the table where Kane’s Declaration of Principles rests.  The shadow remains on Kane the whole time he is speaking about what’s in his declaration.  When Kane signs his document the shadow is off him, he then calls a man named Solly to publish his declaration in that’s paper.  When Solly enters, the camera angle moves and one is not able to see Mr. Bernstein for a couple of seconds (until Solly leaves the room).  When Kane handed his document to Solly to type, as Solly is about to exit the room, Mr. Leland asks Solly to make him a copy of Kane’s document.  Kane appears to be angry and bewildered at Leland’s request for a copy of the Declaration of Principles.  It also appears that Solly was not happy at Leland’s request for a copy of the document.  It appears as though Solly rolls his eyes and gives a Leland a look, before he exits the room.  Mr. Leland justifies the reason he wants the document.  He looks directly at the camera when says about why he wants a copy. (It looks as if Leland is foreshadowing that this Declaration of Principles will come up again later on in the film.)

Shot #4: ECU, straight on, the depth of field is very limited.  Only is Mr. Leland is in the shot.  He says that he wants a copy of the document, because he wants to hold onto it because it’s something special.  He gives examples of important documents that need to be held on to, for example the Constitution, and his first report card from school.  When he says his first report card in school, there is an extreme close up of his facial expressions. (He appears to be showing happy emotions, he smiles.)

Shot #5: ECU, straight on, depth of field is very limited.  The camera moves directly to Kane after Leland mentions his first report card.  Kane’s emotions seem to change from anger towards Leland, to an emotion of amusement and joy towards Leland.  We now begin to hear non-diegetic music in the background after the extreme close up of Kane smiling.  The scene now fades to the Daily Inquirer’s front page, and it has Kane’s Declaration of Principles on it.

This scene is rich with different types of movie making techniques. One of the most profound elements in this scene is the shadow on Kane when he reads his Declaration of Principles.  Throughout the movie we see the use of shadows.  For example, when Susan Alexander tried to commit suicide there is a shadow on her, and also when Kane forced Susan Alexander to continue singing there was a dark shadow over him.  There are also close-ups in this scene (one on Mr. Leland the other on Kane). We see some great camera work with low angle use; from this use of this technique, we are able to see the ceilings of the room.  Another feature incorporated is the use of large depth of fields. (In one instance, the viewer can see the surroundings of the room the men are in, and in another instance Kane is writing his document against the window one is able to see buildings in the distance.)  One last great feature briefly used by Welles is the use of reflections, as seen from the light in the room, which Kane ultimately shuts off.

The use of shadows in this scene and all the other scenes are to show that a character is troubled and not the way they appear.  In this scene the reason the shadow was on Kane, was because he was lying in the declaration he put in his newspaper.  He said he wanted to “provide the people of this city with a daily paper that will tell honestly.” This is obviously false because if Kane would stumble upon an interesting story like the story of the man’s wife missing, he would fabricate the story and say the husband killed her, and put that as the headline to sell newspapers.          The use of the low angle shot of Kane’s camera is seen throughout the movie.  This was a revolutionary idea that most directors did not utilize because camera crews tended to leave all their equipment all over the place, so if they would use a low angle camera view the audience would be able to see all their equipment.  Welles uses deep focus in many scenes throughout the movie.  The use of deep focus tries to demonstrate to the audience the significance of the characters or location in that shot.  In this scene I think Welles wanted to show that the Inquirer building was a really nice big building.

Close-ups are not really utilized very often in the movie, but in this scene it was used it twice.  One possible reason Welles used close-ups here was possibly to break the tension that was building in the room between Kane and Mr. Leland, over the copy of Kane’s document.  The close-ups show both men with a smile on their face before the scene ends.  The use of reflections in this scene was briefly shown, but throughout the movie we see more of it.  The classic example of reflections is seen when Susan Alexander left Kane.  Kane walks through his hallway, and we see him walking as if there is multiple Kane’s walking.  I think the use of reflection show the audience that something is missing.  When Kane was walking in his hallway, he saw his reflection but something was missing, namely his wife.  As a result we do not see the full Charles Kane, we see a reflection of him.  From this point on, until Kane shut off the light we see something missing from Kane, specifically Kane’s honesty.  After Kane shuts the light he starts to read his Declaration of Principles.  In it he describes what he is going to do in his newspaper, to provide the city with honest news, which was a lie.

Oct 10

“Umberto D” is a perfect example of how an Italian Neorealist film should be made.  Italian Neorealist films show poor and working class people in Italy after World WarII.  Italian Neorealist films also portray involves everyday life in Italy, at that time which involved depression and poverty.  Umberto D is great example of an Italian Neorealist film because you experience all the elements of Neorealism within the movie through the characters of Umberto and the maid.

Umberto classifies the typical character in any Italian Neorealist film.  Umberto is the main character of the film.  As viewers we see the sad experiences of Umberto a man that has almost nothing in the world, except for his dog Flick and his friend who is the maid.  The movie is primarily about Umberto trying to get enough to pay off his debt to his landlady.  Umberto does everything he can to accrue the money for his rent, including selling his most prized possessions.  He was never able to repay his debt to his landlady because the money he thought he was going to get from the government for his time as a civil servant never came, because the Italian government could not pay him.  The issue of not receiving his pensions did not only happen to Umberto, it happened to many people like him. Italy was in a financial crisis after the war, and was focused on paying back war debt.  As a result the Italian government could not pay back their citizens for work they performed.  This forced many people to get money any way they could, which included begging on the street.  Umberto did not want to beg, but he had no choice. He was happened not very good at begging, because his pride got in the way so he had Flick beg for him for a while.

The maid is also a good example of a neorealist character.  The maid is a very young girl working for the landlady and also does not have many friends besides Umberto.  The maid is a good example of a neorealist chanter as she is a person who is both depressed and poor.  The maid is over three months pregnant and she is not sure who the father is.  The father could be a man from a Naples, or a man from Venice.  Both men deny that they are the father and show no interest in raising the child.  It is evident how depressed she really is, when she breaks down and cries while making coffee by herself in the kitchen.

The maid is stuck in a poor life, for two different reasons: One of the reasons being that she does not understand the language and people would take advantage of her.  Umberto tried to teach her some grammar but it wasn’t successful.  The other reason is that even if she wanted to go back to her original home, she cannot because she is afraid her father will beat her.  She is therefore forced to stay in the landlady’s house.  Unfortunately she knows that when the landlady finds out she is pregnant, she will fire her, leaving her with a baby to support and no immediate job.

Even though Vittorio De Sica did a wonderful job of demonstrating the elements of Italian Neorealism throughout “Umberto D”, Vittorio includes something at the very end of the movie that is not characteristic of Italian Neorealism, and that is hope for the future.  After not being able to meet the rent for his room, Umberto was forced to leave.  With no money and no loved ones except for his dog, Umberto was considering suicide.  The only thing that he was concerned about was that his dog be cared for and loved.  When he realized that there was no one to do this, he tried to commit suicide with his dog.  He was almost successful, but at the last second Flick jumped out of Umberto’s hands.  At first Flick seemed angry at Umberto for even thinking about killing both of them, but he got over it quickly.  At that point, Umberto realized that maybe he does not need to have money to be happy. He surmised that if he has a dog who loves him, maybe the future can actually be bright and something to look forward to.

media studies