In space, no one can hear you scream.

Silence seems to have become a key cue in the science fiction film, from Scott and Cameron's iterations of the Alien franchise (Alien UK/US 1979 and Aliens US 1986), through Nolan's Interstellar (US 2014), and Cuaron's Gravity (US 2014) to the recent outing Arrival (US 2016 dir: Denis Villeneuve). Silence is a of course a feature of a vacuum, but is this why it is also a feature of some science fiction film? There are obvious connotations one could read into ...

Two german films, different histories

Last week I attended a film presentation at the London Reviews of Books bookshop by the novelist Ali Smith (her novel ‘How to be both’ is extraordinary, try to read this). The film was Mädchen in uniform (Germany 1931 dir: Leontine Sagan). I mention this as the film was an interesting descendant of the expressionist film making from the previous decade, in many of the same ways that ‘M’ (Germany 1931 dir: Fritz Lang) was. Both films were popular in their ...

Spectre’s Touch of Evil

The opening shot of Sam Mendes second James Bond movie, the 24th iteration 'Spectre', appears to be an unbroken take of about seven or eight minutes. This is a fluid master shot which at first that appears to have made using a Steadicam, although later in the take it may have fairly seamlessly cut to a drone shot (as there are elements to this shot which would have been impossible with a crane). Anyhow this particular opening piqued my curiosity, because unlike ...

A quick glimpses over some of the key ideas revealed in Visual pleasures and narrative cinema

The purpose of this article is to offer a brief explanation to some of key elements of Laura Mulvey's Visual Pleasures and narrative cinema. With particular reference to her points about how modes of cinema spectatorship and the suturing of audiences are inflected with masculine desires and pleasures, within films from the classic Hollywood period. This is a snapshot, and is no substitute for reading the original essay which provides far broader and clearer insights, and will offer a far stronger ...

‘Drones’ (Rosenthal US 2013): the rarest of things in popular cinema. An allegory.

This one is just a relatively quick post. More by way of recommendation than anything else. I was pleasantly surprised this week to discover a film called 'Drones' (Rosenthal US 2013). Essentially I was searching for some kind of guilty pleasure to pass a lonesome evening by, and such a contemporary take on the 'war on terror was potentially diverting. This film promised a fairly conventional low budget fare, the action being confined as it was to a simple functional box of ...

Tarkovsky’s Solaris and the Frailty of Perceptual Certainty

My interest in this was piqued while watching Adam Curtis's excellent documentary Bitter lake (available to watch here or here). He used the main narrative motif of Tarkovski's film as a metaphor to explain the impact of the Afghanistan campaign on Soviet Russia in the 1980's. Curtis's thesis was that like the living planet Solaris, the Afghanistan campaign led many Russians to question the certainties of their perceptions of the world as they had understood it for 70 years. What had ...

Django Unchained, representations and ‘positioning the audience’

The following is an exchange between one of my students and I, broadly made on the topic of psychoanalytical approaches to film analysis. Her contribution attempts to describe and explore the nature of representations in Django unchained (Tarantino US 2012), which my response attempts to take these ideas in to the realm of how audiences engage with these representation and what I believe to be the true intended meanings of the film makers, based on the experience of their oeuvre. Quentin ...

More on film genre

My attention was drawn to this infographic this week following my post on the teacher's blog exploring some key generic repertoires in three classic Hollywood genres (Gangster movies westerns and musicals), looking at patterns evident in mise-en-scène, cinematography, narrative, editing and theme common to the classics of each genre. This infographic is a useful introduction to generic hybrids and sub-genres, and encourages further research into how a movie might be categorised in more than a single genre.

Evolution of the American Gangster Movie – Part one

The 'Godfather' movies are a significant step in the evolution of the American gangster film, in that many of the repertoires of elements conform to the classic conventions but present them in interesting and innovative ways. As films they  (well at least GF 1 &2) stand above the genre, and seemed to revivify it and set an new agenda for all gangster films to follow that is at least until Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas of 1990. Unlike their antecedents from the 1930's the ...

An interesting topic for discussion or research

Recently my group have been exploring the relationship between documentary and propaganda films. One of our key points of reference has been Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the will 1934. And our discussions has raised the problematic of the amorality of formalism as a means for constructing or reading movies. It seemed to me that the main evidence against formalism is the distortion of apparent narrative economy and elegance by racist and morally bankrupt ideological perspectives. The films which spring most readily to ...