Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Life Lessons

While watching "Life Lessons", I noticed the particular way that Scorsese introduced the women throughout the film. Lionell Dobie's warped and obsessed view of Paulette put her up on a pedestal, romanticizing her as an unattainable ideal. I specifically noticed the way the iris effect was used to evoke this feeling throughout the film. I think these choices worked really well to express Lionell's mindset and unhealthy attachment to someone who doesn't love him back. 

The first time Paulette appears on screen, the iris effect is used as a way to single her out from everyone else. The iris grows bigger and shrinks, giving a kind of warped point of view. Everything is in slow motion, creating a very dreamy and surreal atmosphere. It then cuts to very close up shots of Lionell smoking a cigarette, giving us access to him in that moment of obsession. 

Another time the iris effect is used is when he is admiring her ankle after telling her she wanted to kiss it. This shot is cut back to 2 times, and a third time very quickly (maybe a millisecond) when she pulls the cover over it. It's obviously something that was not going to happen, but the iris effect lets us peek into a fantasy world that Lionell imagines for himself.

When he meets  the new girl at the end of the film, it's another perfect example of a romanticized point of view. It quickly cuts to close-ups of her lips, neck, ear and fidgeting hands. Then it cuts to a wide shot of the entire room where everyone else disappears, and the iris effect closes in on just the two of them.


  1. This is a very thought provoking view on the iris effect. I understood Lionel's obsession with Paulette, or the "idea" of Paulette, but I never correlated it with the iris. It totally fits with the tone and aesthetic of the film, and it also shows Lionel's other loves of his paint and whisky, etc. I enjoyed your very specific analysis and the use of this commonly talked about effect. Great job Abbey!

  2. Nice! I agree that Scorsese emphasized Lionel's obsession over women as an important part of the film, introducing them in a very specific and stylistic way. What ways besides using the iris effect, slow motion, and extreme close ups did Scorsese make clear that Lionel was affected by the women in his life? I would have liked to see you either giving lots of examples of cinematic tools solely used when there is an introduction of a woman character, or pick one tool that was used consistently and explain why it was used at those times. Good job! Very insightful! Wah!

  3. CLARIFY: It appears as though you might be stating that the iris effect is solely used for showing his obsession with Paulette and women, which is misleading to someone who hasn't seen the film to know that the iris effect is used in a few other places, too. I also agree with Karenna that you seem to have your thesis centered around how cinematic technique is used to explore Dobie's obsession with his muses - in which case I might expect you to give more examples of different techniques (which you do, actually, with the mention of slow-motion).

    VALUE: I agree with Demitri - good in depth explanation and analysis with the examples that you bring up! You definitely paint a good picture of the shots you are describing and explain how they are functioning.

    CONCERNS: The iris effect was used in other places not centered on women - so your thesis is kind of flawed. You could easily fix this either by explaining that, but that you are focusing on just the times it relates to his obsession with women, or, as Karenna suggested, giving some other examples of cinematic technique used to illustrate his obsessions (the quick cuts to body parts at the end, for example). Either way your thesis needs a little tweaking to be clear what your post will be about (and so that we don't say, but what about the other use of iris effect?).

    SUGGEST: I'd also suggest adding a brief synopsis of the film's plot to help a reader who has not seen it, as well as a quick explanation of what the iris effect actually is for someone who may not know. You also miss out on an opportunity to actually bring up what Scorsese said he was doing with the iris effect - it was in our reading.