Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Bicycle Thief That Blows

"The 400 Blows" and "The Bicycle Thief" are two films that had a huge influence on the European Movement era. The difference between the European Movement films and other narrative films are three main points: the characters have no real goal even if there is a conflict established, there are moments in the film that have no true meaning and don't move the story along, and finally they end ambiguously and don't resolve anything. Theses two films were so influential because they were the most realistic of the films out there and the most popular.

"The 400 Blows" is about the childhood of Antoine Doinel, a problem-causing little French boy who deals with abuse from his teacher and struggling with his parents to survive. Antoine makes poor decisions in school and at home resulting in more abuse, and he decides to run away. We follow him through his adventures that lead him to military school. In the ending of the film, his parents don't forgive him or show him any love or comfort. The main want for Antoine is to be understood and loved by his parents, and the conflict is that he misbehaves and runs away, but his parents don't chase after him. There is no climax because the escalation is not motivated and the want is not resolved in any way, so there is no real resolution. My thoughts of this film is that it's not a true story, but more of a hyper-realistic take on life. There is never a guaranteed happy ending in life, and a lot of times it ends poorly. A lot of people relate to this film because we all felt at some time in our childhood that we needed to run away, and we thought we were not loved by our parents. This is a very relatable film, but it is not necessarily a story, or per say, not a conventional story.

"The Bicycle Thief" is about the struggles and hard times of Antonio Ricci and his family. They are very poor and can barely put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads. Antonio is offered a job as a poster hanger, but the problem is he needs means of transportation other than walking, you guessed it, a bike. Antonio scrapes up money to purchase a bike and begins the job. As we are watching this, we know what's coming next (mostly because of the title), somebody is going to steal the bike. Before  his first day at work is over, somebody steals the bike and gets away rather easily. The rest of the film follows Antonio and his son, the cute, little Bruno on their "adventure" trying to find the bike. The clear want of this film is to find the bike, and the conflict is they have no way of finding it and if they don't, he's screwed. The entire second act and most of the third act is this "adventure" that lasts an afternoon. After a scuffle with a suspect who turns out to be innocent, the escalation escalates rather too quickly: he becomes sad a desperate and steals somebody else's bike right in front of his son. He immediately gets caught and almost gets arrested. The film ends after a final scene where Antonio and Bruno walk off into the distance depressed and have given up on finding the bike. There is clearly a want, conflict, escalation, climax, but there is absolutely no resolution. We never know if they find the bike! But in keeping with the theme of the European Movement, this film is hyper-realistic and in life there is not always a resolution or happy ending. We have all lost something and hoped to find it by searching for it, but give up after a while because we have lost hope.

The theme with these films is the sense of hyper-realism. Life is messy, there is not always a resolution or happy ending and we as humans have to deal with it. We are so used to seeing movies or hearing stories that end with some sort of resolution. That is why these films are such a culture shock, because they just end. Nothing has been resolved and there is no happy ending, that's just the way it is. That is why, in my opinion, theses films are so fantastic and are also terrible at the same time. I want there to be a story and I want it to have a happy ending/resolution. But the way it ends is why I think is fantastic, they're rebel films, they take the rules of story and throw them out the window.  Not many films that have no story are well done, but these two are, because they are strategically planned and not just put together poorly. These two films are so influential because of all these reasons, and I have great respect for the films and the directors.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Soviet Montage

Sergei Eisenstein was a director, writer and editor of the Soviet Montage era. He was born in 1898 and died in 1948. His parents were blue-collar workers and grew up in the lower class of the Soviet Union. He attended a science-based school to prepare him for Engineering University. Even though he was interested in science and mathematics, Eisenstein had a love for drawing, literature and theater. He quit engineering school in 1915 and took a job at a local newspaper as a cartoonist. After he sold his first political cartoon Sir Gay, he quit his job and volunteered in the engineering corps in the Russian Army. During his time in the army, he still managed to be in theater productions and sell his drawings on the street. He also studied philosophy, psychology and linguistics at the army’s local college. In 1920, he was hired to be a set and costume designer at the First Worker’s Theater of Proletkult. In 1923, he produced his first play The Sage, which was a huge success for propaganda and entertainment. The play was adapted into the short film Glumov’s Diary, which he wrote, directed, edited and produced.

Eisenstein thought that "filmmakers could manipulate time and space to create new feelings and meanings." He believed that film was the best tool for propaganda as well as the highest form of entertainment. His first feature film Strike was a leader in propaganda as well as highly praised as a great film. The film is loaded with dutch camera angles and visual metaphors. It was the first film that displayed his new editing style, a series of unsettling and conflicting shots that told a story in a realistic and disturbing way. He once said that “art could be even more powerful when it could achieve a balance between experimental and traditional narrative forms.”

Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin editing style is ground basis of montage editing. He invented the technique of cutting different shots of close-ups, action and reaction shots to tell a story in a fresh and intense way. The way Battleship Potemkin looks is one of main reasons this film is so influential. Films in that time were shot in sound stages and their actors were painted with heavy amounts of makeup and prosthetics to make them look pretty. Eisenstein wanted the film to be as realistic and relatable as possible, thats why there are so many close-ups of laborers wrinkled and stressed faces, to give the audience perspective on what was happening in those times. 

This film was a cinematic landmark, but people would not have thought that if it weren’t for the editing. All the close-ups of civilians going through tragedy, the dutch angles of soldiers in battle, and the pans over the city to see the entire war makes this one of the most relatable and realistic films of it’s time. Besides the disturbing and haunting scenes and images, Battleship Potemkin is also a thrilling ride to go on. Eisenstein made this film in a way that the audience member would always be on the edge of their seat not knowing what to expect next. People were so used to seeing films edited in a simple way to convey the most general terms of a scene, so when they would see a wide angle of civilians running down steps and then cut to a close-up of a dying woman, it caused the viewer anxiety. Eisenstein took a huge risk shooting this film the way he did, but it paid off and earned him the title “The Father of Montage.”


Girl remembering times with her boyfriend. Going through withdrawal.

Shivering, teeth chattering, leg shaking, scratching, wide eyed, fingers tapping, rocking back and forth.


Boy and Girl talking, kissing, hands intertwining, snuggling.

A PILLS, her eyes, them kissing, him, her swallowing pills.

HER FACE, a cup. Beat. Falling down, dead, cup rolling off the table.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The wrestling match movie was unlike anything I have ever seen. I don't know how they did it, but I thought that the man actually tore off the other man's head, it scared me so much! I really want to know how they tricked me into thinking that the man was flattened into paper, I don't think it was real though. It was the longest movie I have ever seen, even though I have only seen six, this was the best one yet. I still don't know how they use that moving camera thing, how does it take a moving picture? Its like magic or an illusion. I really hope that there will be a lot more movies to come that are longer and that have more special tricks and illusions. I was thoroughly entertained.


I chose to write as this person because I imagine back then that people were so confused on the editing tricks and visual effects. How did that man get his head torn off and not die? How did he get flattened and then blown back up? How did a man turn into a woman? These are all questions that I think people  were asking when they saw movies like this. I think they were also thinking what filmmakers will do next.