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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)


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They drive by night (Walsh, 1940) #DTC #161

Two truck-driving brothers dream of a better future and financial independence in a sea of good and bad fortune.

Although the film has all the ingredients of a film noir, like the selfish femme fatale, Bogart, and many night scenes, this is something you could consider a feel-good movie. It pretty much surprised me with its turns and twists and I also wasn't prepared in the least to see Bogart as the sidekick, instead of the lead.

In terms of interesting characters, Ida Lupino as the selfish wife that tries to seduce George Raft's Joe she is definitively at the most intense when she slowly sheds all the layers of sanity towards the end. Although her motives are a bit unclear - the amazing thing about her behavior is that she values love over money. In that perspective the movie feels like a tragedy, as (except for the loan shark) everybody has comparatively sophisticated understanding of emotion and life.

Au revoir les enfants (Louis Malle, 1987)

During second world war the monk running a boarding school for upper-class kids hides Jewish kids.

This highly personal movie is very touching and manages to avoid all the pitfalls of being overly emotional. Music and editing are very subdued and carefully used to underline situations. This makes the story ring true (which it was) and gives the viewer good time to settle into the universe that these kids live in.

There are many quite complicated scenes and I was interested in one particular: When Jean gets invited on parent's day by the mother of his new best friend into a posh restaurant. In that very restaurant there are Nazis at one side of the room and an elderly Jew sitting on the other side. The table of the family is right inbetween. Many things about France during the war are told during this scene, I'll just try and focus on camera placement.

The focus shifts twice in the scene: From the family table to the French Jew's table  (who I have been told wears the red …

Glory (1989, Edward Zwick)

A young commander in the civil war is asked to recruit and lead the first all-black Confederate battalion into the Civil War.

I am not too interested in details of the American Civil War but the film managed to stir my interest in some ways. I might want to look up the difference in treatment of the many Chinese laborers that were employed in the development of the West and what kind of legacy this particular group of people has to suffer from in contrast to the better-known fate of African-Americans.

There are some interesting scenes in the film. I decide to examine the battle scene in the beginning. It introduces Broderick's character as a naive and brave but inexperienced soldier - a great choice of casting, especially in contrast to the hardened appearance of Washington. According to imdb footage was used from re-enactment groups and intercut with the staged film.

Before the battle scene commences Broderick walks in row of soldiers and talks over the pictures of the gathering…