Monthly Archives: September 2011

Experimental Film: Running Water

[vimeo 29378532]

My experimental film has to do with running water and how it compares to water in the natural world. To achieve this effect, I took shots of running water in a shower and an actual person running in a wet environment. By inter-cutting these two different points of view, I was able to convey a feeling of continual movement which is reminiscent of running water unless it is turned off. My color, royal blue, shows up in only a couple of instances – the shoes of the runner and the towel in the bathroom – but it connects the two different scenes in the video. Blue is usually considered the color of water and the items that are blue in the film connect to the theme of running water. The running in blue shoes and blue jeans is physically running and is inter-cut with shots of running water to connect these concepts. In the final shot of the film, the tilt down on the blue towel is meant to convey the feel of falling water which is happening throughout the film in various different places. I was able to connect the feelings and aesthetics of the inside world to the outside world through my editing. There are some shots that are similar (the shot of the drain and of the rain on the puddles) which convey the feeling that the inside is similar to the outside while there are shots that are purposely different (the shots of the shower head and the runner splashing in the puddle) which contrasts the controlled nature of running water and the uncontrollable nature of outside. The overall lighting and feeling of the inside and outside shots highlights the differences between the controlled and natural world.

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Film Critique #2: The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau is the story of a young politician (Matt Damon) who’s relationship with a woman he meets on the campaign trail is altered by a secret organization. As he continues to pursue her, he starts to learn more and more about the “Adjustment Bureau” that has control over the destiny of everyone by adjusting events so the outcome is in line with “the plan” of the head of the organization (referred to as “the commisoner”). After learning the secrets of the organization and with the help of an agent named Harry, he starts to fight the plan that has been predetermined for him. In the process, he learns more about himself and how his entire life has been altered and eventually teaches the bureau a lesson in fate.

In the American Cinematographer article on the film, the Director of Photography John Toll discusses the feel he and director George Nolfi wanted for the film and for the city of New York in particular. Toll says, “The goal was an idealized version of New York that wasn’t so cosmetically beautiful that it looked totally romanticized.” The result of this is a depiction of New York that feels real but also very clean and crisp at the same time. The settings chosen for the film are utilized in a way that makes it seem like the Adjustment Bureau is doing its job of keeping the world in an orderly fashion.

The shots of the people jumping through the doors were shot in a way that made it feel natural while still appearing to be supernatural. Toll shot these in such a way that it was very believable that the action was actually happening. This added to the atmosphere of the film and made it believable to the audience. The most interesting part of the article in American Cinematographer was the picture that the feel of the film was based on. The influence San Paulo, Brazil had on the feel of the film, especially the lighting and heavy use of shadows, is evident in the scene when we are introduced to the Adjustment Bureau and throughout the film.

San Paulo, Brazil by Rene Burri

Overall, the cinematography in the film accomplished its goal of simultaneously having elements of reality and fantasy and it was a beautifully shot film. Where the film fell short was in the writing and story. The elements of fantasy could have been executed in a more subtly and interesting way that would have added to their mystique.

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Film Critique: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is the story of a journalist, Rauol Duke (played by Johnny Depp), in the early 1970s that is sent to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race. He is joined by his attorney, Dr. Gonzo (played by Benicio del Toro), on his journey to Las Vegas. In the trunk of their car is a briefcase full of various types of drugs including LSD, marijuana and ether. Once they arrive in Las Vegas, they spend a little bit of time covering the race, but most of the time is spent partying and enjoying a life style more stereotypical of Las Vegas. The film is an inside view of the 1960s and how the drug culture affected the way people operated.

Duke spends most of the film under the influence of some type of drug. He narrates the film with his thoughts. These thoughts range from what he is thinking about another person to how the drug he is currently on is affecting him. In addition to the narration that comments on the drug use, a lot of the camera work in the film emulates the way in which a drug induced state my look and feel. Throughout the film, there are very few camera angles that are straight on, most are crooked which creates a surreal vision of reality. There are also various different lens that are used to skew the picture on the screen which changes the perception of the viewer. For example, there is a shot of a can of mace where a long lens is used. At the beginning of the shot, the can is in focus and Duke is out of focus in the background. As he picks up the can, the focus racks so that there is a much deeper depth of field. These types of shots tell the viewer what to see in the shot – much like drugs affect the way users see the world.

In terms of shot type, there are a lot of close up shots of Duke which show his emotion and his facial expressions which are the most telling and interesting part of the film. The most powerful sequence in the film comes three quarters of the way through the movie when Duke is reflecting on the 1960s and the drug culture during it. As Duke is typing a story on his typewriter, he begins to reflect on the last ten years and the window seems to fill up with bright white light. The film then cuts to a montage of the hippie culture of the 1960s as Duke has a monologue about how taking drugs and having “free spirits” won’t solve any problems. The shot directly following this montage is of Duke facing to the left and on the left side of the frame – leaving minimal amounts of look room. The combination of him talking about the “high wave crashing” and the physical look of shot makes Duke seem that he has come up against a barrier in his life. The lifestyle of taking drugs and not caring just will not cut it any more.

Overall this film has a lot of nice cinematography and lighting but the because of the nature of the drug culture in the film, it is sometimes difficult to follow.

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