Tuesday, November 19, 2013

400 Blows (Revised)

What was The French New Wave, you ask? Well, imagine an uprising of new generations of filmmakers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, eager to break free of the typical Italian cinema. Under the rule of Mussolini, the industry stuck to producing "White-telephone films", which focused only on the lives and issues of the upper class. These melodramas felt very artificial and on the surface, which is what sparked a passion for these young filmmakers to start a new realism. Most of the new generations were revolting against their elders in the industry, who believed in French Cinema of Quality. This was a very standardized and precise method of filmmaking, which the directors of the movement hoped to defy and change. Fran├žois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows was a very influential part of this movement, including very distinct aesthetics and narrative styles of the New Wave. This film was an autobiographical story about Antoine, a troublemaking child who runs away, roaming the rundown streets of Paris.

Sloppy? Careless? Ugly? This is how critics of the time saw the cinematography of Trauffaut, and many other New Wave directors. In opposition to studio filmmaking, The 400 Blows was shot directly on the streets of Paris. Along with many New Wave films, Trauffaut chose to use a moving handheld camera in many of his shots. Tracking and panning shots were very prominent in The 400 Blows, especially noticeable at the end when the camera tracks along with Antoine running from the cops. These choices were made possible by the lighter and more portable cameras and equipment invented at the time.

One of the major distinctions of The 400 Blows as a New wave film was its casual look, especially when compared to the Cinema of Quality films. Many of Traffaut's scenes captured the new gritty quality of the movement, such as the cramped apartment and grimy streets of Paris. As sloppy as this seemed to the Cinema of Quality filmmakers, it was an intentional aesthetic choice to give that sense of realism.

The New Wave films had a narrative style of their own, where Neorealist experimentation was taken to a whole new level. It was very common for there to be many details in the film that had nothing to do with its narrative at all. Also, forget about a protagonist with a main goal! Psh, the main characters hardly ever seemed to know what they were doing. Antoine spent the entire story randomly acting out in rebellion, such as playing hooky from school or shoplifting.  Sounds like someone who the audience would root for... This was a very typical kind of hero in New Wave films, one who simply drifted along in spur of the moment actions with no particular wants or goals. Not only does the story seem to be discontinuous, but it literally ends with no closure or resolution at all. At the end of The 400 Blows, the camera follows Antoine running away from the cops until he reaches the sea. At that moment, there is no where else to run obviously. The camera then zooms in on him and freezes as he walks forward, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats but with no answer to what will happen next. This ambiguous ending appeared in almost all of the New Wave films, giving the message that life is confusing and unpredictable. That sometimes, we just don't know what's going to happen. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

The 400 Blows

The French New Wave was an uprising of new generations of filmmakers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The point of this movement was to break free of the typical Italian cinema, which under Mussolini was full of "White-telephone films" focusing mainly on upper class issues. Most of the new generations were revolting against their elders in the industry, who had very particular rules and methods to filmmaking. Fran├žois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows was a very influential part of this movement, including similar aesthetics and narrative style as other New Wave directors. This film was a very autobiographical story about a troublemaking child who runs away, roaming the rundown streets of Paris.

Tracking shots and location filming were very prominent in this film, which was partly due to the new portable cameras that were invented at the time. There were many long tracking shots, especially noticeable at the end when the camera tracks along with the boy running from the cops. In opposition to studio filmmaking, Traufatt, along with many other New wave directors shot directly on location. In the 400 Blows, many of the scenes captured the new casual and gritty quality of the movement. For example, the cramped apartment and grimy streets of Paris portray the realism of the lower class at that time.

Monday, October 7, 2013

In the 1920’s, surrealism was an “anti-rational” artistic movement derived from Dadaism. I chose to explore the filmmaker Man Ray because I found his aesthetic very provocative and interesting. I noticed that he used rhythmic editing a lot in his films, which was thought of as highly experimental in the 1920’s. After watching a few of his films, I created a film of my own inspired by some of his techniques and themes. In Man Ray’s film The Mysteries of the Chateau of Dice, I noticed that he focused mainly on setting and travel. He portrayed this by filming the scenery pass by him as he sat in a carriage moving along. As a modern-day version of this, I chose to film the scenery of streets and traffic passing by me in a moving car. I also filmed the scenery as I walked down the street, another way to give that sense of travel. Another film that inspired me was The Return to Reason, which was very abstract in its images and editing styles. I noticed that he played around with certain patterns and movement, and most of the time you couldn’t even tell what was being filmed because of the close-ups or blurriness. Through the whole film, there was always some kind of movement of shapes, silhouettes and shadows. I incorporated a lot of these aspects in the film I made, but added my own spin on them. For example, I filmed the beam lights of the traffic passing by. However, I set the focus on the camera to where you couldn’t tell what was being filmed and it just looked like moving blurry circles. I also chose to give the audience that same feeling of movement throughout the film. My editing style was influenced by Man Ray, particularly because of his use of repetition of certain clips and his fast paced cuts. Overall, I feel that my film is a good modern-day representation of the styles and techniques found in Man Ray’s films.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Part 2 (Mutoscope Westinghouse Works Factory)

The reason I chose to respond to "Mutoscope Westinghouse Works Factory"is because it addresses the significance of Industrialization of the time period. The fact that the film glorifies the factory work seems like propaganda, persuading the audience to support what seems completely positive and innocent. The workers all seemed happy and content with their jobs. However, in reality it was probably tedious labor in horrible conditions for less than minimum wage. Because I wrote from the perspective of a citizen from the outside, I wanted to capture that feeling of excitement and curiosity that the film gave them. It gave them the impression that the factories were something to celebrate, without showing them any of the negative effects. It seemed as though this film was a glamorized way to cover up what really lurked beneath those factory walls.

Mutoscope Westinghouse Works Factory (Perspective from Time Period)

Never in my life have I seen such an incredible sight. I couldn't believe my eyes as I gazed upon the flickering screen, enticed by the journey through the factory. There wasn't one area on the screen that didn't capture my eye, leaving me hungry for more. The industrial machines were mesmerizing; shiny steel all functioning together in some way. It was astounding how everything was moving so fast. I could tell that they were creating something important, and a lot of it. Every worker looked motivated and joyous, happy to contribute their service. It feels unreal to witness this significant innovation; it's almost otherworldly. After seeing this in awe, I only wonder where we will be years from now.