Friday, March 27, 2009

My Latest Masterpiece!

Ok, Masterpiece is a little strong.  This was for our class's sync shoot project, which means we were recording the sound at the same time as the video.  The whole class worked on it together, and it was a lot of fun (and not much work for me, as you will see!).  The real work began when we each had to edit our own version, and it was really fun to see how different they all were!  This is actually a slightly improved version from what I showed in class... and remember, I wasn't on the production side of things, so any shadows or other odd camera work are not my fault!  Not that I'm complaining - another class did theirs a bit differently and didn't even get to finish, not to mention that apparently their lighting sucked too, all of which I've heard from students in that class, I myself have yet to see their footage.

Anyway, on to my video!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bergman Part II or Passion: Lying Truthfully

The second film I watched for my Bergman paper was The Passion of Anna, or just Passion in Swedish.  This is a film about a man, Andreas (Max Von Sydow), who lives a semi-secluded farm life on a small island.  His wife has left him, though we don't learn that right away.  He meets a woman, Anna (Liv Ullmann), and her two friends, Eva and Elis (Bibi Andersson and Erland Josephson) who are very wealthy and live on the island in more of a staying at the cabin sort of way.  Anna is handicapped after surviving a car crash which killed her son and her husband, whose name was also Andreas.  After an interesting start, Andreas and Anna begin living together, until they both completely fall into the insanity that has haunted them from the start.

I think Passion stands out from some of Bergman's other films because of two opposing themes; its chaos and its mainstream plot.  First, the chaos.  Bergman tried something he had never done before, and that was improvisation.  Many of his films contain the feeling of chaos because the character's lives are spinning out of control, as we see in Persona.  However, that chaos is precisely scripted by Bergman, and strictly adhered to by his "collaborator's" (Bergman's own word for the actors and crew who moved from project to project with him).

However, in Passion he decided to try some improv, having the four main actor's sit around a table as though at a dinner party.  They then talked about various things, supposedly in the voices of their characters,.  However, in an interview done many years later (included on my DVDs extras) Ullmann says that she was trying to make a point during her speech about the importance of truth... not just for her character (who, coincidentally is lying through her teeth through much of the film), but for herself the actress.  You see, Passion was being filmed during Bergman and Ullmann's somewhat messy and painful break-up.  

An aside here...  With a lot of director's and actors, it may not pay to look at what was happening in their lives at that precise moment when the film is being produced.  However, when you're talking about Bergman, or any number of other directors for whom I cannot spare the time at the moment, their lives and their work are closely intertwined, reflections of work showing up in their lives, and, in the case of Passion, vise verse.  So, don't worry, I'm not a Hollywood hound, looking for the dirtiest gossip.  I promise, Ullman and Bergman's relationship played a large role in the way that passion played out.

Back to the chaos...

So, Ullmann and Bergman are breaking up.  Ullmann decides to use that in her improve...but the way the story unfolds, we know Anna is lying right away.  Andreas has already seen a letter written by her late husband, discussing how they shouldn't be together because of the ways they hurt each other, and then we see Anna expounding on how truthful and peaceful their marriage was.  At first this is taken in a sort of don't speak ill of the dead kind of way, but it becomes clear that Anna is lying to herself, and more effectively since everyone she tries to lie to already knows the truth.

Bergman also decided to break the fourth wall in Passion.  Early on we cut from a seen with Andreas to a slate and the title, Max von Sydow, the Actor, and we see von Sydow discuss his interpretation of Andreas the character.  One thing I found really interesting was how he had a very different interpretation of who this man was then I did at this point... but then, he knew the whole script and I had only seen the first 20 min.

So, we come to another lie of sorts.  Andreas has been lying to the audience about who he is, and we, most likely, have bought it.  When von Sydow tells us the truth about Andreas's actions, it's somewhat hard to believe.  

Hmmm...I'm gonna leave it there for now, because I still want to get into the Vietnam stuff, and that would make this even longer then it already is.... so stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bergman, Part 1 -- or Persona: Portrait of a Women

I have been watching my new Ingmar Bergman films, preparing to write a 6page paper for midterms. The films I am watching are Persona, Passion of Anna (just Passion in Sweden), and Saraband, which is the one I have yet to view.

Persona is one of my favorite films of all time, I'd say it's about second. It's also totally messed up. I am not entirely sure what I think it's all about, but I have some ideas, so let me share them with you:

The story follows an actress, Liv Ullman who is choosing, after some sort of nervous breakdown, to be mute. The subtitles have the doctor saying she is also "immobile," but it isn't meant in the paralyzed, physical sense. Instead, she chooses not to care for her son, see her husband...she just doesn't want to do much of anything. The story is also about her nurse, Bibi Andersson, who accompanies her to a seaside cottage for rest and relaxation. The nurse is younger and talks a lot, seemingly at the behest of Ullman.

Some of the core themes are lying and identity, specifically female identity. Bergman paints a well rounded portrait of these women, zeroing in on three characteristics of femininity - the mother, the sister, the lover.

Throughout the film the characters interchange who plays the role of caregiver. Although Andresson is younger, she is the nurse, there to do the job of meeting Ullman's needs. However, Ullman is older, possibly wiser, and often treats Andersson as though she is someone who needs looking after.

The two form a close bond, spending there days together, comforting each other, and for the most part in a very sisterly manner. Here Bergman does something that astounds me; he is able to capture the way in which feelings of sisterhood between women are carried out through mutual maternal actions. I'm not sure if I can explain that right now, I just feel it to be true. I'll keep working on it.

The part of Bergman's films that it seems people wish to shy away from, but which he absolutely refuses to let you do, is the aspect of "women as lover" -- and not just the lover of men, but also other women. If Persona were made today, by some hack in Hollywood, it would probably be called Obsession. The two women develop a relationship in which they blend into one another (figuratively and literally, by way of an awesome shot of halves of the two women's faces taking up the entire screen), but with very strong sexual undertones. Bergman does this again in Cries and Whispers, to a much greater extent...but this is about Persona, not C&W.

So often, in new and old films, we see female characters portrayed as one, possibly two, dimensional - the stupid-girly-flirt, the mean-old-boss, the smart-yet-slightly-unattractive-sidekick, the overbearing-mother, the seductress, the list goes on - but never are the stereotypes combined the way they are in real life. To be sure, Bergman's women are kind of f***ed up, but that's how movies are. We don't see films because they reflect our lives exactly as they are every day. Instead we zoom in on the dramatic, crazy times and multiply it by ten...

and that's entertainment.

And with Bergman, it's a kind of introspection for the whole of humanity as well...

I'll leave it there for now, and get into the Vietnam thing next time.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You!

I think I should try to blog more often then twice a month, what do you say?  This one's gotta be a quickie, but just wanted to put you on lookout.  I have a paper due for film history II this week on Ingmar Bergman.

I'm not much for the auteur theory (that looks at a directors body of work as the main way to critique and analyze) because I like to look at filmmaking in a more rounded fashion.  However, in the case of Bergman, he wrote many of the screenplays, he worked alongside stock actors and many of the same technical artists throughout his career, and so in his case I think it safe to compare his works as pieces of a whole.

So, stay tuned for more on what I think are some very compelling subjects!  

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dirty Confessions

I just saw Confessions of a Shopaholic, the latest chick-lit turned chick-flick box office pleaser featuring Isla Fisher, along with two gaggles of girls and two boyfriends (who seemed to enjoy themselves).

I read a couple reviews online, and one talked about how tasteless the movie is because it, "masqurades as a moral tale about living within one's means after devoting most of its running time to fetishizing the labels that landed the heroine in the red in the first place." (Melissa Anderson)  I, however, beg to differ.  Here's a couple reasons I think that was a fairly un-thought out statement:

1) Obviously this is a film trying to bank off the success of The Devil Wears Prada (and btw, this one's actually a bit better, but I could just be saying that because I really dislike Anne Hathaway), and so we expect to see prada, and gucci and Ives Sant Laurant (did I spell that right?  I don't care enough to hit search) etc.

2) There are people like this. I am not one of them, you are most likely not one of them, but they do exist, and you do find them in NYC.  If the movie had focused on her big spending excursions to Target and JCPenney... well, we wouldn't really care would we?  At least not unless it was a documentary... or an episode of MTV's True Life.  For us to believe it, she has to be buying all the big name crap.  

3) And besides, they really only talk about the designers; it isn't like every scene begins with a run down on who she's wearing. 

So I guess what I'm saying is that it was a pleasant way for me to unwind after a full day, and if you like slightly (OK, super) embarrassing rom-coms, then this may be a good one to see.  Also, the sound was pretty fantastic.  They use Amy Winehouse's Rehab song three times, once straight on, once as elevator music (! I almost screamed I was so excited) and lastly re-mixed with an upbeat tempo when our heroine is on her way to getting her life back on track- in essence when she is in the process of her rehab.  Rule of three and clever use of sound, who could ask for more?

Oh, and one more thing - the reason for the title of the post - I have to admit to a soft spot for the film because I myself have been afflicted by the lure of shops and credit.  I have it under control now, but I wonder if it has something to do with my liking the film because I completely believed her when she was talking about how shopping made her feel because I have been there.  Comedy's aren't funny unless without underlying truth of pain.

p.s. check out my side bar... I added a rating system to the movies I've seen column - it's out of a possible 5 !'s