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 ...

A guide I use for students to prepare their oral presentations

In my teaching universe we are currently going through the second practice for our students at the oral presentation. Our process introduced them to it in December, where they prepare a series of slides on a sequence addressing the full pressie assessment criteria (well, all except the socio-cultural context). This is a weighted assessment task for semester one and helps determine semester performance grades. At the beginning of semester two our students, acting on detailed feedback from their slide 'presentation', ...

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 ...

Exercise exploring film making techniques – Shot selections

The following is one in a series of simple exercises to encourage film students thinking about the mechanics of film making, and reflecting on creative choices made by film makers as conscious and intentional. My intention is that these exercises slot into the first semester of IB Film. Hopefully they will be a useful resource towards discussions leading to production portfolios, oral presentation and introducing the basic idea of supporting analytical ideas with actual examples of film language, the lingua franca ...

An exercise using The three point lighting system

The three point lighting system was/is the standard approach to lighting in Hollywood films (dominated by the needs for consistent lighting of Stars, the main attraction for Hollywood films - see Richard Dyer Stars). While fairly proscriptive the  system a good framework to begin thinking about lighting. It also permits a broad range of effects merely by the use of different coloured gels in different sources, and setting different strengths for each lighting source.  It can lead to interesting discussions of ...

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 ...

Exploring gender representations in the independent study

This post is an attempt to explain how one can approach the subject of representations in reading movie narratives, and to be taken seriously in the independent study. My primary intention is to offer some weight to those of you who might have students interested in exploring gender representations. Far too many independent study about gender representations confine themselves to the unfairness or narrowness of stereotypes as perceived through plot device. When what they should do is to use the ...

The most eloquent of cuts

By Wednesday, March 19, 2014 , , , , 0

My students were asked to comment on which of the areas of film language they found most attuned to and which they found most difficult to get to grips with, many remarked on how difficult it seems that lighting is to read, others editing.. The truth is that even your teachers will also have difficulty with some texts. Textual analysis requires closely focused attention, and one has to be in the right frame of mind to do it. While it is difficult to ...