Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Atomic Cafe" (1982)

by Kevin Rafferty and Jane Loader

What was marketed as a “shock value” film has few related redeeming qualities. The film is composed solely from archival footage, and there is virtually no overarching narration to guide the film. I admire the filmmakers for their editing abilities to create a story with dialogue where dialogue was not created. The lack of conventional storytelling methods is made up for with the immense substance of the original footage. The mere history of the atomic scare in the United States proves educational and entertaining enough to drive the story and astound the viewer. The original footage of the bomb blasts are a rare treat. They are images not readily seen on our modern day education or in personal experiences. This film greatly serves as a historical memorial to remind and inform the viewer of the follies of the past. We become astounded at the statements and training videos put out by the US government. We laugh at their claims and precautions and regard them with absurdity. We are reminded that even our mightly nation cannot tell the future and are forced to acknowledge that our precautions now may be later regarded as the absurdities of the past.

"Grey Gardens" (1975)

by the Maysles brothers

This film serves as a chill inside exploration of mentality. By the simple documentation and prodding of the characters, the filmmakers are able to observe the Beale’s thoughts and actions, understanding their drives. Personally, living in a “bubble” where everyone is the same, it is stimulating to observe individuals who live such a diverse lifestyle. I resonate with them because my roommate carries many of the same characteristics they do, with preferences on nudity, cleanliness, and reason. To me, these are odd qualities, but as I confront them I am better able to understand them. The Maysles brothers are geniuses at casually, yet professionally, capturing character traits and the observed reality of a situation. I love how they portray themselves in the film and do not try to hide the fact that they are there. They acknowledge their own presence and realize that the audience will accept it as well. The shots where they film themselves in a mirror in order to detour the personal actions of the women candidly show their relationship to their subjects. While this is an artistic style, it is one to be admired and I hope to exemplify this type of documentary making sometime in my life/career. I fell that the Maysles Brothers did not exploit this family, but rather allowed the general public to understand them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Ghengis Blues" (1999)

by Adrian Belic

Belic’s storytelling approach was loose and reflexive. He seemed to have few expectations in making this film at the beginning, but developed the story as it progressed. Belic improvises when the unforeseen events happen, like when Paul’s medicine runs out or when the other guy gets a heart attack. Even though the story becomes sporadic and unplanned, it is still effective because we are able to see the real life experiences as opposed to the glossed over reality that could easily have been observed by the filmmakers. Because of Belic’s storytelling, I was able to see the true Paul, or Paul’s true feelings in those contexts. Belic can be admired because of his ability to pull a story out of diverse and unorganized situations. The use of sound was key in this film. The build up to Paul’s performance in the competition is great, and then Paul’s improve throat-singing is a crowning moment. I wanted the movie to end there. Instead we are then taken along on the rest of the crazy trip. Belic does a great job with character development in all of his films. This film inspired me to make music.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"No End In Sight" (2007)

Directed by Charles Ferguson

I appreciated this film for its ability to inform and educate its audience. It was a great movie because it found answers and made clear the problems and issues surrounding the Iraq War. However, I can’t help but be skeptical because the film was so flawless. In a war between two countries, I think it is hard to pin down all the mistakes and bad choices that led to the war. This film offered a concrete explanation and was so well crafted and planned that I cannot wholly agree with it.

The use of lighting techniques, interview choice, and original footage all led to the creation of a one-sided propaganda movie. It was interesting that the director tried to interview people such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, but they refused to meet with him. The way the interviews are interposed with the title cards telling of these men refusing in such a way that it implies they were scared to tell the truth to the public. It makes them look like they are running from the problem when in reality they may have refused for a number of reasons, including being suspicious of Ferguson’s aims and not wanting to disclose any private information to the public.

The portrayal of key interviewees in relation to the aim of the film was carefully planned and carried out. In every interview of Paul Hughes, his face is entirely lighted and is placed in front of a warm background. Other interviews, such as that of Walter Slocombe, are portrayed with stark contrast shadows on the interviewee’s face, with a completely dark background. By using these techniques, the director is manipulating the audience to naturally see the interviewee as a villain in the story.

Despite these manipulative efforts, I was pleased with Ferguson’s ability to synthesize the precedings of the war which are so often misunderstood and neglected because of them complex nature.