Category Archives: Film studies – One minute wonder theory: TASK 3 (BLOG)

Film studies – One minute wonder theory: TASK 3 (BLOG)

12th Nov 14

Our tutor Kash was ill.
The class had Paul give us a task – that Kash had set – so that an idea of what was involved in the new project which we were going to be given. We watched the film La Haine (French -> Hate). Whilst watching the film we had to keep an eyes out for
Technical Signification:
Shot: Angle, Depth of Field (this was important in the film), Pull Focus, Movement (Pan, Tilt, Dolly, Handheld, etc.)
Editing techniques: Seamless, Montagem Continuity
Sound: Music, Atmos, Dialogue, Diegetic/non
After watching the film the class was split into two groups. In each group we had to choose on of the Technical Signification, and give an explanation through a one minute Video essay. My group chose to discuss shot. Three shot scenes were chosen for the video. My contribution was giving my view on a scene near the end.
In the film the audience sees the three main characters return home, after a long night in Paris, Vince gives Hubert the gun before him and Said go on their way. Hubert goes the other way until he sees some cops gang up on Said and Vince. Hubert turns and begins to head towards the group (the camera follows his movement) he gains speed as the conflict gets worse.
What I gained from that scene was a sense of rising to a mini climax, or the scene was the climax. I had witnessed the story, the trials and errors that Vinc, Hubert and Said had faced – and now when the friends parted ways it was going to end there. But then the shot where the camera is following Hubert let us knows that it wasn’t over, I almost had a feel of being ‘dragged’ against my will to witness what was gonna happen.
If that particular shot had been done through a long shot; it wouldn’t have been as effective.

17th Nov 14
Kash gave us a photocopy of pages from a film studies book that she wanted us to read. I read the pages and highlighted the information that seemed important – as well as what I understood.

19th Nov
Kash has given us a deeper understanding to our course, as well as given us our brief. The final hand in is to be a video essay that is to be one minute long.
We also discussed in detail about what Kash had given us to read which was about Ideologies, Reception studies, Negotiated readings, Preferred readings and Oppositional readings.
* Ideologies: Ideologies are beliefs – not always acceptable to the rules of logic or evidence. They are formed and influendced by family, cultural background, experience, education and popular culture.
* Reception Studies: Reception Studies scholars survey audience members about their actual responses to film (emotional feeling and thoughts)
Together ideological criticism and reception studies consider the way popular films celebrate and, or, challenge the dominant ideologies of the culture that produced them and asses the ways viewers accept, resist or reinterpret those ideologies.
* Negotiated readings: involves a certain give and take between our own views and experiences, and those presented in the film text. It is a mature and complex response which is dependent on our familiarity with and experience in handling the medium (our competence as spectators).
* Oppositional: involves the rejection of the ideas and points of views contained in the text.
* Preferred: involves the spectator takes the intended meaning, finding it relatively easy to alin with the messages and attitudes of those who created the text.

The class then watched ‘Pulp Fiction’ starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson.
Then after watching the film Kash divided us into groups of three to discuss the following questions:
1. How did you feel about the film, and did it question your ideologies?
2. How did you receive the film?
3. Is it possible to surrender to the film, and remain critically alert?
After discussing with the whole class our answers I went home, and wrote my own answers in depth:

1. The film was dark and gritty – a ‘realistic’ gangster film. There were four scenes that really twitched me out though:
– Vincent taking drugs = the close up shot of the needle going into his arm. (I don’t like seeing needles going into an arm. The disapproval of drug taking, I think, comes from being told nearly all my life ‘don’t take drugs’)
– Mina getting her injection to the heart. (The tension of that film was effective because in a situation like that, which could happen in real life, there is a risk of the person dying)
– The Mob boss and Butch were chained up in the basement, and the ‘punishment’ that was given out. (that part was strange – I am not homophobic in anyway, but in that scene those men weren’t there on their own free will. And that could be felt in my opinion.)
– Vincent, John Travolta, blew up a guys head by shooting him. (That scene just took me by surprise because he accidentally shot him. Also Vincent was meant to be an expert yet he made a rookie mistake. And in general I disapprove of killing – but especially if there is no reason to)
On a whole the film was good – but these scenes made me feel uncomfortable.

2. I thought that it was good and I can see why it was a classic. I think the parts where I twitched out were effective. There some funny parts – Samuel L Jackson- to make the film not seem too dark. I had only ever heard of the film’s name. And I had seen the famous Pulp Fiction poster – mina on the bed – the first time I ever saw that poster I thought that she was a sexy, strong, female villain.

3. The idea of ‘surrender’ whilst watching a film can vary from person to person. In my experience I’ve only ever watched films to see the story – it’s in recent years where I’m watching films to review them critically.

26th Nov 14
Once again Kash gave us some pages to read and we discussed them in detail, whilst watching a powerpoint.
(The following is my notes re-written in my own words, and in more detail with added research – both recent, and from my notes of film study last year.)
Today’s topic was about Film Theory and the question ‘How do people decide which films they see?‘. The three main ways it is believed that people go to see a film is based on:
– The audience reads reviews in a magazine
– The audience listens to the opinion of their friends
– The audience will look to see if certain individuals are associated with them (Actor, Director, etc)
Out of all three main reasons for going to see a film fans mainly go to see a film because of either an actor – or actress – is playing the role of a character, or to see a director’s latest creation which contains their particular ‘Oeuvre‘ (French, noun: the body work of a painter, composer, or author).
With this believe in the mind audience are helping to support the ‘Auteur Theory‘ developed by the French in 1940s/50s. The Auteur Theory literally proposes that the director is the author of the film (Auteur = Author), which ranks them as the primary, or more precisely main, creative source – and therefore his, or her, films express their distinctive vision of the world.
Francois Truffaut (a French film director, screenwriter, producer, actor, and film critic, as well as one of the founders of the French New Wave) argued that “that the average, unremarkable, film director merely translates a pre-existing work (novel or screenplay) into a film, but an Auteur transforms the material, in the process, makes it his own film“.
Andrew Sarris (an American film critic, a leading proponent of the auteur theory of criticism), who also had a hand in the Auteur theory, created a version of the Auteur – primarily designed to evaluate directors – which in a way supported Truffant’s idea that not all directors were Auteurs. Sarris’s criteria were meant to determine:
1. Whether or not an individual director is an Auteur
2. Where director ranks amongst all Auteur
3. Technical competence
4. A director must be capable of creating a well made film
5. The director must demonstrate a distinguishable personality
6. Films in the Auteur’s body of work shows an interior meaning defined as an underlaying tension; between the directors vision – and the subject matter. (*Distinguishing features of a director: Editing Style, Personalities of character and Music)
This criteria may well proves that you must have something original, yet unique, to be director – since that the likes of Alfred Hitchcock are known as a celebrated Auteur. Edward O’Neil noted that ‘Hitchcock’s very image is famous, and his name has passed into the vernacular in the word (of) ‘Hitchcockian’ (often clashed with producers). And such fame as a popular and prolific director with the reputation as ‘Master of Suspense’ came from his fifty three features, from 1925 to 1964, also led it to be known his persona was a craftsman rather than tortured genius.
It is with such fame as Hitchcock that some directors can get away with using only themselves for marketing their film (instead of using stars, genre, or plot line) – the trailer for ‘Psycho‘ and ‘The Birds‘ by Alfred Hitchcock are prime examples.
However celebrities, actors or directors, are not the only hook into seeing a film. Genre plays an important role in helping to bring in the audience members (since according, to film studies, a genre refers to a group of films that share a set of narrative, stylistic and certain characters). As a film goer we have certain expectation of a film once we establish the genre. For example (this was part of a group discussion in the lesson) what is expected from a Western, Detective, and Horror?
WESTERN: Action, wide shots or some close shots (to feel open and safe), Cowboys, Native Americans, Saloons, a hero or anti hero, a villain (or villainess), desert setting.
DETECTIVE: Film Noir, Close up shots or extreme close up shots (to create tension), a main private detective, a side kick detective, victim, people who knew the victim, murderer or villain (or villainess), Bad part of town/city setting.
HORROR: Horror, Close up shots or extreme close up shots (to create tension, or feel trapped), a ‘survivor’, a group of victims, a ‘monster’, an isolated, or close community, setting (a town, abandoned house, etc)
However as time has moved on directors have had to end up playing around with genres, mixing two genres together – e.g Warm Bodies is a Paranormal romance Zombie Comedy, to make something different about their movie from other films that are tied in with the same genre – e.g. Shaun of the Dead is a Zombie Comedy (or Horror Comedy).
This is due mainly to a standard genre film’s plot, characters, settings, etc playing along the same lines (e.g. Friday 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween – all have a main monster, a group of victims, a survivor, with the end either leaving the audience in a sense of peace or terror (usually a tomboy like girl) and therefore are made predictable.
Another feature in films that has had to change with time is the representation of women, and the role of their characters. In nineteen seventy two there was a concern in representation and sexuality regarding women.
Laura Mulvey, a British feminist film theorist, and Clair Johnston, a feminist film theoretician, were major two impacts towards this new theory. The feminist film theory holds the believe that pleasure for the cinema audience is gained from looking, and that this looking is aimed at males; and is considered as a male pleasure. This in turn created the idea of how to identify those would be considered the ‘Male Gaze’. Since the creation of this theory there are two terms that help to explain in more detail what the ‘Male Gaze’ involves. One of them is Scopophilia: Noun, sexual pleasure derived chiefly from watching others when they are naked, or engaged in sexual activity, the other is Voyeurism: Noun, pleasure linked to sexual attraction.
Mulvey argues that these identifications happen always with the male as the hero, while the woman is a threat. In Horror/Slasher films a lot of these believes, mostly noticed by Carol J Clover – author of ‘Men, Women and Chainsaw: Gender and the Modern Horror Films’, and an American professor of film studies, rhetoric language and Scandinavian mythology, can be identified especially when comparing the Final girl to the females who die through the film.
Usually the final girl is tomboyish, has a unisex name, somewhat muscular, wears little make up, not interested in sex or sexually unavailable therefore a virgin, unlike those who die before her.
And even after all the trails of confronting the killer the final girl is still not considered empowered; because when the final girl kills the monster it is believed that when penetrating the killer with a knife, or other form of weapon, – the final girl is releasing sexual frustration. Also the final girl, when the story reach either the cliffhanger – or final conclusion, will for the rest of her life be looking over her shoulder; showing that she is still a ‘woman’.
Although as the audience knows the story is fictional – unless stated ‘based on a true story’ – a film’s plot visually can make us sigh in delight, cry in pain, or squirm in fear. And apart from a good plot, good choice of shots from the director, the impact from a film comes from the performance of the actor. Though the directors find the props, costume, and locations to bring the world of a novel, comic, or play to life – it is the actors who bring the characters, who live in that world, to life. This is done in two ways – Personification and Impersonation.
Personification – The role of acting we see as playing themselves (the actor is like the character in everyday life – e.g. Robert Downy Jr as Tony Stark, Iron man)
Impersonation – Involves an actor creating a role in order to become the character (the actor has to learn to play the role, and get a feel of it – e.g. Heath Ledger as the Joker, The Dark Knight.)

Then the class watched Psycho (the original by Alfred Hitchcock) which is a classic horror film. My one favourite shot is when Lila is heading up the path way to the house to talk to ‘Mrs Bates’ – while back at the motel office Sam is talking to Norman to keep him distracted. Unknown to Lila, but known to the viewers, there is an evil which lurks in the house. And as she’s walking the camera zooms in on her face, then cuts to a zoom in shot of the door, this continues until she finally reaches the door. To me this shot had the same effect as the follow shot in ‘La Haine’.
From watching the film (Psycho) we know that Lila will be in danger if she enters the house. But since that she cannot hear us, nor see us, she is unaware of the danger. And as we zoom in on them, Lila and the door, we known that the moment of doom will be revealed – and quickly – with the audience having no choice but to wait and see what happens.

14th Jan 2015

Started to write up what to say in my essay video – my film choices are ‘Psycho’ and ‘La Haine’ which will be used to discuss creating meaning through visual and technical understanding.

16th Jan 2015
Trying to finalise my essays. Once they’ve been written up I plan to find copies of ‘Psycho’ and ‘La Haine’ for Task 1. For Task 2. I plan to use ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ both films (that are directed by Guillermo del Toro) as I discuss the Auteur theory.

21st Jan 2015
Finished my video with John’s help!