August 14, 2011

From The Believer, a great article by C.S. Leigh on the way cinema is evolving.  With the decline of movie theatre attendance, and a move towards digital viewing on ever more portable devices, the time when a viewer was trapped in a nearly one-on-one dialogue with a film is fading away.  We can now pause, rewind, skip ahead, and sometimes altogether ignore a movie.  We can perform other tasks, like texting or surfing the internet while “watching” a movie – moving our attention back and forth from the screen.  The power of a film/filmmaker to hold our attention, and thusly, to physically activate our viewing experience is drained from this contemporary form of viewership.  We no longer have to sit through the full 484 minutes of Andy Warhol’s “Empire” (that anyone would ever want to is beside the point) or even Michael Snow’s less lengthy, 45 minute “Wavelength”, we can simply throw it on in the background or catch the highlights on YouTube.

Below are some highlights from the article, but you should definitely read it in full, which you can do by clicking on this link:

Be sure to read to the end of the article, where Leigh lays out a hilarious example of when cell phones meet black & white films from the 60’s in an Atom Egoyan short.

“You could also have a very different relationship with a film depending on where and with whom you watched it. An audience at a university cinema in L.A. had a solemn, nearly funereal reaction to Pasolini’s Salò, based on Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom (they seemed uncertain whether they had just witnessed a film or a crime); later, I watched the same film at the Accattone in Paris with an audience that couldn’t stop laughing.

As cinema becomes more portable, more easily created, and less difficult to acquire, it also runs the risk of forfeiting one of its greatest attributes—its physicality. Its necessary exertions.”

– C.S. Leigh (from his article “Contemplating the New Physicality of Cinema” in The Believer, March/April 2009)


Just for consistency’s sake, here’s a quick and dirty post for the month of June.


So this month has gone by rather rapidly.  I should have been writing the script for my grad project, but instead I bought a bike, took lots of pictures with Nick’s Nikon D60 and worked just enough to pay the bills (barely).

My baby sister graduated high school.  I had a terrible cold.  And Pacific Cinematheque screened Fellini’s fabulous Amarcord – which I won a pair of tickets to go see!

federico fellini's amarcord

And Woody Allen’s new movie, Whatever Works, came out here in Vancouver.  It’s funny.  Larry David is hilariously rough around the edges and Evan Rachel Wood’s character is a kind of homage to Mira Sorvino’s in Allen’s earlier Mighty Aphrodite.  Perhaps not as funny as Small Time Crooks, nor as finely tuned and passionate as Vicky Christina Barcelona, Whatever Works is a charmingly capable comedy that has moments of something more.

jim jarmusch

The Limits of Control is the new film by indie-film-star Jim Jarmusch.  Now, to state for the record, I’m a huge fan of this guy.  At the age of 17, I fell instantly for his 1995 film Dead Man, and since then I’ve watched and enjoyed (to one degree or anther) every one of his films.  His work has inspired me to make movies.

Okay, that’s all cleared up, now we can get down to the nitty gritty.  Not everyone adores Mr Jarmusch’s work as much as I do.  In fact, he’s a rather contentious figure among critics and audiences alike.  Hailed everything from “visionary” and “genius” to “hack” and just plain boring, the director is, let’s say, an acquired taste.  His newest film is no exception.

For your consideration, two vastly differing critiques of The Limits of Control.  The first is by Roger Ebert, who hated it, and the second is by J. Hoberman of the Village Voice, who feels the new work is one of Jarmusch’s best.


March 28, 2009

amy adams

junebug is a great little film.

in a standout performance, amy adams is hilarious and heartbreaking.  the rest of the cast hold their own, save for the guy from the OC … but the awkward acting kinda works with his character.

the style of the film is wonderfully understated, yet so observant.  definitely worth watching more than once.

and the song in the opening titles is so catchy:

Gus Van Sant’s films are always a little bit strange. even when they’re more on the mainstream side, they’ve got an edge to them; something about them feels a little bit odd … in a good way. one of the elements that lends to this feeling is the use of sound in his films.

football field scene, elephant (2003)

his 2003 picture ‘elephant’ is a rather explicit example of how sound can effect the dimensionality of the filmic space. consider an early scene on a high-school football field. the shot is static; we see young men playing football, and they move in and out of the frame. in the background, a cheerleading squad practices their routine. the scene is relatively mundane, and yet something seems off. somehow the cheerleaders sound a bit closer than they should. at moments the boys sound like they’re right next to us and then they could be miles away. at one point a girl walks into the forefront of the shot, and the picture slows down, while the sound follows suit and begins to fade into muffled silence. but then, the moment is gone, and the picture and sound resume their distinct paces. the whole scene almost sounds like we’re listening to it through a seashell. very subtly, the audio is not in sync with the ‘naturalness’ of the picture. what we hear is a heightened reality, a kind of unnatural natural. and there’s also the Beethoven wafting behind and in and out of the soundscape, which adds another ethereal layer to the mix.

the sound designer Leslie Shatz has been working with Van Sant for many years now, and is the sonic mastermind behind a lot of the audio work that goes into the films. even with Van Sant’s latest (and more mainstream) biopic ‘milk’ (2008 ), Shatz and the sound team ensured the audio plays an interesting and unique roll in the storytelling. granted the sound, and the picture as a whole, is a lot tamer and, so, more suitable for a popular audience; however, the filmmakers still incorporated some unconventional sonic techniques. for more on what the ‘milk’ team did, check out this Mix Magazine online article.


March 15, 2008


FUNNY GAMES is Michael Haneke‘s 2007 remake of his 1997 film by the same name. It’s a shot-for-shot replica of the original, however this time with American actors instead of German ones. The plot synopsis is simple: an unsuspecting family is mercilessly tortured and murdered by two young men. And that’s the extent of the film’s action. The film runs just under two hours.

Both versions of FUNNY GAMES are unrelenting in their portrayals of the scenario — and in that way, we as the audience are tortured along with the on-screen family. We are submitted to a rather unflinching gaze, although very little of the violence is directly shown, but it is nonetheless viscerally portrayed through sound, reactions of the other characters, cuts away, etc.

Because of the intensity of the portrayal, and the seemingly pointlessness of the torture/murders, one is inclined to ask, “What’s the point? Why subject me to such degradation without redemption?” And I think this reaction is valid, and eludes to one of the possible “points” of FUNNY GAMES, that being violence is unnecessary and its portrayal in the entertainment media is often pointless and essentially degrading to the audience and the society that has produced it. FUNNY GAMES illuminates the institution of violence within the world of movies, and by taking its own representation to such an extreme end, exposes the problematic nature of that institution.

Of course, not everyone is going to get that out of a viewing of FUNNY GAMES (either the ’97 version or the ’07 one). Some people are going to dismiss it for garbage, and that’s valid too. On one level, it is garbage. The story events are despicable and the characters of the murderers are equally deplorable. A person might not need to watch this sort of thing to realize that murder is wrong, or that Hollywood is ethically vapid, or even that certain representations of violence within the media are excessive and glorify the subject.

But that should not detract from the importance of FUNNY GAMES as a critical text within cultural discourse. In a dialectical way, Haneke’s films are an antithesis to the thesis that is the standard across the world of entertainment. What is the synthesis? If nothing else, a renewed awareness of one’s own position as a viewer and a consumer of information mediated by popular culture. And hopefully, one will come away from FUNNY GAMES with a newfound propensity to think and be critical of what one is taking in through the movies one watches, the music one listens to, and even the blogs one reads …

As another part of that discourse check out Jim Emerson’s blog about FUNNY GAMES (2007).

on IDEAS, pt. 2

February 27, 2008