Saturday, July 05, 2008

Oh for a book and a shady nook...

The Grandson: A book?
Grandpa: That's right. When I was your age, television was called books.

Clarisse: But why do you burn books?
Guy Montag: Books make people unhappy, they make them anti-social.

Gaston: How can you read this? There's no pictures!
Belle: Well, some people use their imagination.

Groucho Marx: I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Transsiberian Film Before the Beach

I was at the Nantucket Film Festival this past weekend to screen Meerkat Media's film Every Third Bite. While there I only caught one film at the actual festival (it seemed a better use of my time to enjoy the outdoors). The film I saw was Brad Anderson's Transsiberian. I've always been a fan of Anderson and usually enjoy his intelligent and uncommon approach to commonplace genres. Perhaps it's been a while since I saw one of his films and in that time my viewing preferences have changed, but I found Transsiberian to be somewhat disappointing in a few ways.

1) Continual flashbacks to remind you of the importance of a moment. Over and over as the story moved forward, Anderson thought it necessary to flashback to the past moment that made the present moment significant. In no way was this needed, when the inspector asks to see the main characters camera after she has lied to him we of course remember (or should) that there is a picture on her camera that proves her story false. I resented him needing to show me. Also, he should simply trust himself as a storyteller, all the information we as an audience need is there

2) Gratuitous use of torture. I found the scene where the main characters confront a woman who has been tortured almost completely without merit. It didn't add to my tension with the story and just made me uncomfortable with the images on the screen. Jonathan Rosenbaum has a nice little piece he wrote about torture in films, perhaps Anderson should have read it :

That being said, there are some extremely beautiful images in the film, good performances from Kinglsey, Mortimer and Harrison and some truly thrilling moments. I was definitely on the edge of my seat for parts of the film. Also, the "theater" I saw the film in was actually just a room and the daylight was peaking in in a very real way and the speakers had ridiculous feedback. So it should be noted that the technical ridiculousness that I couldn't stop thinking about when the film started escaped my mind by 20 minutes in- which obviously means the film worked on some level.

Ahh well. I did enjoy my weekend of beaching, eating good food, and the gentle breeze that evened out the sun as I read.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fassbinder That's Fun?

Of course he does humiliate a woman - but overall this is light and fun and Fassbinder looks so young!

It's interesting to think that both Godard and Fassbidner got their start by making gangster films based on American cinema and went on to make some of the most political cinema there is - each going to extremes in their own ways:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Meditations on Color, Light and Object in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Lola

[This entry is is part of the Production Design Blog-A-Thon, which begins today and runs through May 25th. Please consider joining us with your own post on the topic.]

Fassbinder was always very particular in how his films looked, especially as his career went on. Interestingly enough, as his films got more visual and specific, he stopped using a regular production designer. In terms of consistency, Kurt Raab, along with acting in many Fassbinder films, did production design on a good deal of Fassbinder films during the middle of his career including The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Fox and his Friends and Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven.

For Lola though, Fassbinder used Raul Gimenez and Rolf Zehetbauer. Gimenez doesn't have much of resume (although he did act in Lola) and Zehetbauer, who previously worked Fassbinder on Despair, went on to do production design for Querelle ( this makes complete aesthetic sense) and after went on to work in Hollywood.

Lola is a movie of image and action. The story revolves around Lola - a high priced call girl, von Bohm - the town's new building commissioner, and the rest of the town - which mostly consists of corrupt white businessmen and prostitutes. It's a satirical look at capitalism, specifically the effects of the German economic miracle on Fassbinder's homeland of Germany, the images of Lola create a sense of fantasy for what would otherwise be a story of realism. With this, the supposed "happy ending" of the film is called into question and one can begin to read the piece as a satire.

The majority of the action in the film takes place in the local brothel. The brothel is bathed in reds and blues and is decorated with shiny, frilly and blatantly material-esque goods. Lola's room in particular is full of dolls, frill and an overwhelming sense of frivolity. Combine this with the cotton candy hues and you have a visual story that outweighs the practicalities of plot.

As Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times:
One of the more striking aspects of ''Lola'' is Fassbinder's extraordinary use of color. Scenes are sometimes shot in the subtle ways of chiaroscuro and sometimes with the blatancy of a piece of Pop art, as when, near the end, von Bohm is always seen in an electricblue light and Lola is drenched in pinky-lavender, even when they share the same film frame.

Likewise, outdoor scenes are filled with simplicity in terms of set design and light. Innocence is achieved and we understand briefly that the visual clues in Lola are more indicative of Fassbinder's point than perhaps the actual outcome.

As Canby said above, von Bohn is lit with blues and Lola with pinky-lavenders. The scene where he realizes who she really is (and she thus gains her power - although she won' be aware of it herself until later) demonstrates how light plays a role. The realization features both characters in a light blue, lavendar-esque light and then proceeds to feature Lola's strip tease in harsh reds:

The violent nature of her dance in spirit and in aestheic signifies a major change for her - her chance (and von Bohm's for that matter) for an honest life, one of virtue and love, is over. The seedy underworld, a world of harsh red light, has won over. It is up to Lola to rise to the occasion and enter that world fully - otherwise she risks becoming an object totally and completely.

I think a good way to close this up may be to end with two quotes from Fassbinder himself:

It isn't easy to accept that suffering can also be beautiful... it's difficult. It's something you can only understand if you dig deeply into yourself.
Rainer W. Fassbinder

The more real things get, the more like myths they become.
Rainer W. Fassbinder

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Cinema Today, Godard Then


(we are,
i am defined) "by regret, nostalgia for the cinema which no longer exists. At the moment we can do cinema, we can no longer do the cinema that gave us the desire to do it"


5/508 : The Thin Blue Line @ DCTV for more information