Mittwoch, 30. Juli 2014

Sholay (Ramesh Sippy, 1975)

Two petty criminals are hired by a former police officer to protect his village from an evil gang.
This is the first of the 'classic' Bollywood movies from the early days that I watched. There is an acceptable amount of singing, the over-the-top comedic acting and the Western-inspired morals. Most of the scenes seem to have been lifted straight out of the American films and some suspiciously simple comedy films - I suspect mostly cartoons and silent comedies.
Things become more original when our two heroes settle in the village, fall in love and act so incredibly dumb that I couldn't help myself smiling. The characters are grotesque most of the time. The screenwriter came up with a very exaggerated idea for the old police officer, but it still worked nicely.

There are some of the more absurd details and the situations in the film that are interesting for pointing out. They are all here for comedic relief and I was trying to find with some 'typical' comedy siutations. The humor is quite plump for modern tastes, but I wanted to see if I could find the tropes.
  • The director of the jail dressed up like a Hitler look-a-like, and being a total jackass. A Mel Brooks/Lubitsch kind of thing.
  • The exaggerating tale-teller meets the subjects he is bragging about. Classic, reminds me of the Bud Spencer/Terence Hill type comedy.
  • The "Joker Punishment": The evil boss laughs his head off, until his failing hoodlums laugh with him, thinking that they got off the hook this time. But in a flash, the boss changes his mind and punishes his men evilly, usually killing them brutally. 
  • "Hidden Voice": One of the guys tells his love interest that she should marry him - disguising behind a religious statue and imitating a 'celestial' voice. This would be lifted from a place like cartoons. 
  • Cartoon chase: The women is trying to run away from her pursuer, but no matter how often she throws him off the carriage, he keeps returning - on a bike or some other ingenuous method.
  • Drunk suicide: As the pursuer can't get his woman to like him he gets totally drunk, climbs on the highest tower he can find and declares loudly that he will jump.

Montag, 28. Juli 2014

Morocco (Joseph von Sternberg, 1930)

A legionnaire falls in love with a nightclub singer.
Possibly best known for it's ending, the film has a strange pacing - I haven't seen that many Sternberg films yet, but I do remember that he seems way more interested in the inner life of the characters than in the display of any kind of action. The story is there alright, but Sternberg's transformation to the screen makes it strangely static - an effect I noticed even more in "Shanghai Gesture".

Legion arrives in the city. The legionnaire (Cooper) checks out the women. He is scolded by his sergeant for that.

A nightclub singer (Dietrich) and a rich gentleman (Menjou) arrive on the boat. She ignores his advances.

A large nightclub. The gentleman is introduced as important. People gossip. Cooper arrives in the nightclub.

Dietrich in her dressing room, getting ready. Fights with the club owner.

Dietrich goes on stage and sings. She notices Cooper and throws him a rose.

Another appearance at the night club. Another song. She has a talk with Menjou. She understands he is important

She sells Cooper an apple. Some bantering. She gives him the key to the apartment.

Cooper goes to Dietrich's apartment. He has to shake off another female suitor (a married woman).

Dietrich and Cooper in her apartment. They drink, talk and kiss a bit. But ultimately, she throws him out/ he leaves.

Cooper is stopped by the married woman. But Dietrich has followed him to take him back. The married woman is spied upon by her husband.

Cooper beats up hudlums that have been hired to teach him a lesson.

Cooper is summoned to his officer. There is a sort of “showdown”, as the officer interrogating is the husband of the woman he had an affair with.

Menjou grabs the opportunity and “takes on” Dietrich.

Cooper is freed, and ready to go on a mission.

Back in the nightclub, Menjou courts Dietrich in her wardrobe with jewellery.

Cooper waits outside her wardrobe, listens in on the talk and finally busts in. Menjou leaves immediately.

Dietrich asks him to wait for her while she performs. Cooper realizes that he looks ridiculous with a top hat. He leaves.

Wild farewell feast for the soldiers leaving. Cooper kisses galores of woman goodbye. Dietrich and Menjou are there, she watches the soldiers leave. She sees the women following.

The legionnaires travel through the country and rest somewhere in middle of nowhere.

Menjou and Dietrich in the dressing room. She hasn't wiped Coopers message from the mirror. She finally goes with Menjou.

The soldiers run into an ambush. They are looking for volunteers to run through the line of fire. The cheated husband an Cooper go off. The husband is shot.

Dietrich now lives in Menjou's palace. She seems fond of him.

A festive dinner party. Dietrich hears the soldiers returning into town. She runs out to search for Cooper. Who's not there.

The other guests at the party are indignant of her behavior. Dietrich is torn inside. She talks Menjou into going with her to search for Cooper in another city.

In that other town, they search for Cooper. But he's not in the field hospital.

In a seedy bar, Cooper still thinks about Dietrich. When she finds him, he plays it cool. He is called back to the barracks. Dietrich finds that he has carved her name into the table.

Cooper says goodbye to her and the Menjou. The soldiers line up and march into the desert. Dietrich runs to the gate and sees the women following the soldiers. She takes off her shoes and runs after them, behind the troupe.

Sonntag, 27. Juli 2014

Ivan's childhood / Ivanovo detstvo (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1962)

Young Ivan goes on dangerous missions for the Russians behind the lines of the German Nazi army still having traces of childhood in him.

As all the other Tarkovsky films this one has been discussed to death in a plethora of books, articles and possibly anywhere else. There are plenty of good analysis websites out there: Jean Paul Sartre's comments are here.

As I went through the movie I found a lot of three-layer deep-space compositions inside the 4:3 frame. Tarkovsky and Yusov's imagery consists of a lot of these setups. I collected a couple of them here - although there are way more during the course of the movie.

As Ivan is 'accepted' by his fellow comrades, he drinks from a glass. All their gazes focus on the center of the picture. It seems a classical deep setup in three layers.
Here there is the commander trying to prevent Ivan from going back behind the lines. The composition is more extreme, with the foreground cut off and the space between the kid and the commander much farther.
The nurse Masha is courted by an officer. The distance between the two is even bigger (we can barely recognize the man behind her). And her gaze is towards the camera, staring into an unknown distance.
This setup is an amazing variation. It includes the same setup, but Ivan is looking out of the picture at the man reflected in a "distant" mirror behind him. This setup brings not only distance, but even a transparent/glass wall between the two.
 The two soldiers desperately await Ivan. They are in the same frame, but don't face each other and stare outside the frame.
Masha comes to bid farewell to the two men. Here too, the distances are enormous (she mostly has her back towards the camera in this scene). It is slightly more conventional, but now the spaces between the characters have grown enormously, and even include a rail as a physical barrier between the characters.

Donnerstag, 24. Juli 2014

The Killing Fields (Roland Joffé, 1984)

An American journalist witnesses the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge hostile regime first hand in Cambodia.
The story is gripping and interesting. It switches point of view from Schanberg's more detached perspective to Dith Pran's spectacular flight from Cambodia into a refugee camp. The film is so densely packed with atmosphere and many details that I couldn't look away for the two and a half hours. The ending is touching and doesn't feel over the top at all. I believed all the horrible events Dith Pran had to live through. (There is a brilliant young John Malkovich, too)
It is also a film about Western ignorance and without being moralistic about it, the film makes a very clear point. We just don't care, after all. Even when we pretend we do.
The cinematography was stunning, so was the editing. I decided to look at the first battle scene around minute 27. The Khmer are attacking and Schanberg has wants to document this for his newspaper. They arrive on site in an old hangar - ironically filled with crates of Coca-Cola bottles. I am quite amazed about how economically this was shot and edited. The master shot is a tracking shot (called H) which in its entirety lasts close to 45 seconds!

SET: Inside the depot

A soldier is cooking something over a fire.
Fixed camera, long lens. (3s)

Two soldiers carry a dead dog on a stick into the hut. The jeep with Shanberg passes them.
PAN and track. The set is established clearly. (13s)

They get out of the car. The American soldier greets the local army staff.
Tracking shot, we follow the american soldier. Dinh is in the back. (12s)

Dinh and Shanberg watch.
Fixed reaction shot, with focus shift onto Shanberg. (4s)

Asoldier and local commander exchange.
Fixed, Long lens, silhouette. (4s)

Dinh and Shanberg follow the soldiers to the map table
Tracking shot. (8s)
F (very similar to C but the tracking has changed)

Other soldiers bring a dead dog on a stick and lower him to the ground.
Fixed long lens (5s)

Al looks at the wounded between the Cola Crates. An explosion
PAN follows Al as he climbs around – until the explosion (11s)

The soldiers at the table react.
Camera is lower than before. (2s)

An explosion behind the Coke crates. Dust falls from the ceiling, covering the image.
Fixed camera (4s)

Al looks at the explosion runs away and takes pictures. Soldiers rush into the dust. An American soldier helps carry out the wounded.
PAN on Al continues until he passes an American soldier – camera follows him back to the site of the explosion
(slight tracking at the end) (20s!)
H (Cut back to)

People rushing past the camera, a covered body in the bg on a stretcher
Long lens (4s)
K (same position as H but fixed and long lens)

More soldiers are carrying out people
PAN follows soldiers as they run out of the hut (7s)
H (Cut back to)

Mittwoch, 23. Juli 2014

The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)

His wife in a coma, husband discovers she had an affair - he goes to confront the lover.
 Descendants is a quieter film, trying to amplify the subtleties of the luxury problems of an upper-class family in Hawaii with native forefathers. Although it has a nice story, at first I was confused by the fact that George Clooney was cast. Although he does well what he does it took me more than an hour to forget his larger-than-life persona with all the clichés that go with it. Shaylene Woodley was fantastic, had no idea she was already famous. Darn.
Once I got around that, though, I could really enjoy the film. Going through the second time, I am interested in how the different stories interweave.

Matt & Wife
Matt & Daughters
Matt & Family
Wife is in a coma


Scottie has problems at school and Matt needs to apologize


Will he/and the family sell the piece of ground? For a billion dollars? (Yes)
Wife's condition is deteriorating. Shall he switch her off?

Kai and Wife are with Elizabeth, pretending that she will be ok. Will he tell them?


Spends time with Scottie. Will he tell her? Troy comes over and in their fight Scottie runs away.
Matt DECIDES to go and get her sister Alexandra.


The get to Alex, but she is drunk in the park. They take her home.


Confrontation with Alex and Matt.


Matt is upset and tells Alex about her mom.

Alex tells him, that she was cheating on him.

Upset, Matt RUNS to Mark&Kai's house in his slippers.

Matt confronts them with the his wife's cuckoldery. He gets the man's name.


He meets Sid, Alex' 'boyfriend'.

Grandfather's not too pleased about anything.
He scolds on all of them.


Sid and Matt don't exactly hit it off, but Matt's confused.

He sees the lover's (Brian Speer) house.

Matt pretends to be a house buyer and calls Speer's office.

Scolds at his wife.

Family fight in front of Elizabeth.


Scottie has no real friends, brings a schoolmate to “proof” condition of mother.

He tells all the friends that Elizabeth will die.

He decides to go to Kauai, to confront Speer in person.
Alex will go with him → so will Scottie.
(The land they're selling is in Kauai... tadaa)

Bumps into cousin at the Kauai airport. We hear that the family is divided about selling. They go and see the land.
Speer is not in the expected hotel, but somewhere close-by in a cottage. They go wandering, looking for him on the beach...
...while Matt shares stories about Elizabeth with his kids.


Scottie seems to have loads of problems Matt never realized.


Matt and Sid sort of bond.

Matt runs into Speer while beach-jogging, follows him to his house. Speer has a wife and kids.

On the beach he purposely starts a conversation with the wife.

The owner of Speer's cottage is in Matt's family.
Ta-Daa! His wife's lover might be an important business associate.

Speer is actually part of of the business deal for selling the land locally. Speer is VERY ambitious.
Let's go and knock on Speer's door.
Alex come/not come?

He meets with Speer! Who is not amused.

Matt and Brian get to talk. He tells him that he can say goodbye to her at the house.


They break the news to Scottie, finally with some help. Matt can't do it alone.


Grandfather comes to say goodbye.
Presses Matt about the sale...

Start of the family meeting. Matt's NOT signing.
Waiting for Elizabeth to die

Julie shows up, 'forgiving' elizabeth

Matt says goodbye.
Everybody says goodbye.


Ashes into the sea.


Watch TV together.