Daniele Napolitano plays with Stop-Motion in “Notte Sento”

Up and coming Italian Director Daniele Napolitano has successfully put a fresh spin on the cortometraggio (short film). Creatively using stop-motion photography, his 2008 film “Notte Sento” has become a cyber phenomenon around the globe. The film was made with 4500+ still photographs shot by a Canon EOS 30D camera. Napolitano’s short love story revolves around the one night a deaf Italian girl misses her train to Milan and the man she meets. This charming film was recently chosen as one of the top 5 projects of the Seagate Creative Fund, won the second prize at CortoWeb 9.0 in the Arcipelago Film Festival in Rome and won 1st prize at RomaEuropa Web Factory Online Contest for Best Commercial and Best Viral Video.

Ethics & Journalism

In Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool (1969), John Cassellis (Robert Foster) loves “shooting film.” His ability to emotionally detach himself from that which, and who, he is shooting is exemplified in the opening scene of the film. Cassellis and a fellow television reporter calmly film a car accident and the victim’s body, strewn like a ragdoll on the ground nearby. Once they have shot all they need for their piece, they walk back to their car, pack up their cameras and decide to call for help.

Violence as a result of socio-political discontent occurs throughout the film, and Cassellis wants to capture it all. One of the burning questions Haskell’s film raises is whether moral responsibility applies to reporters covering events where others are in danger.

Several months ago, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Republic of Haiti nearly a quarter-million people were killed in seconds. The devastation brought an outpouring of support and news coverage. One of the first journalists on scene in the capital of Port-au-Prince was CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Days after the quake, the capital was the scene of a number of food and goods riots. During one particular riot, looters broke into a convenience store through the roof. Once inside, they began stealing candles and proceeding to sell them on the street right in front of the store.

During the chaos, debris was thrown off the roof to keep back a growing crowd. As a result, a young boy was struck in the head with a large piece of concrete. Bleeding badly on the ground, the boy was nearly unconscious and still in harm’s way. Immediately, Cooper put down his camera (while another cameraman captured the event) and was able to move the boy to safety. Below, Cooper recounts his intervention in the event he was capturing. Cooper assumes a moral responsibility Cassellis was wholly free of.

Jim Jarmusch’s Golden Rules of Filmmaking

The director of such acclaimed independent films as “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Dead Man,” “Coffee and Cigarettes,” and “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” offers up his list of rules to make it as a director:

Jim Jarmusch
Jim Jarmusch

Rule #1: There are no rules. There are as many ways to make a film as there are potential filmmakers. It’s an open form. Anyway, I would personally never presume to tell anyone else what to do or how to do anything. To me that’s like telling someone else what their religious beliefs should be. Fuck that. That’s against my personal philosophy—more of a code than a set of “rules.” Therefore, disregard the “rules” you are presently reading, and instead consider them to be merely notes to myself. One should make one’s own “notes” because there is no one way to do anything. If anyone tells you there is only one way, their way, get as far away from them as possible, both physically and philosophically.

Rule #2: Don’t let the fuckers get ya. They can either help you, or not help you, but they can’t stop you. People who finance films, distribute films, promote films and exhibit films are not filmmakers. They are not interested in letting filmmakers define and dictate the way they do their business, so filmmakers should have no interest in allowing them to dictate the way a film is made. Carry a gun if necessary.

Also, avoid sycophants at all costs. There are always people around who only want to be involved in filmmaking to get rich, get famous, or get laid. Generally, they know as much about filmmaking as George W. Bush knows about hand-to-hand combat.

Rule #3: The production is there to serve the film. The film is not there to serve the production. Unfortunately, in the world of filmmaking this is almost universally backwards. The film is not being made to serve the budget, the schedule, or the resumes of those involved. Filmmakers who don’t understand this should be hung from their ankles and asked why the sky appears to be upside down.

Rule #4: Filmmaking is a collaborative process. You get the chance to work with others whose minds and ideas may be stronger than your own. Make sure they remain focused on their own function and not someone else’s job, or you’ll have a big mess. But treat all collaborators as equals and with respect. A production assistant who is holding back traffic so the crew can get a shot is no less important than the actors in the scene, the director of photography, the production designer or the director. Hierarchy is for those whose egos are inflated or out of control, or for people in the military. Those with whom you choose to collaborate, if you make good choices, can elevate the quality and content of your film to a much higher plane than any one mind could imagine on its own. If you don’t want to work with other people, go paint a painting or write a book. (And if you want to be a fucking dictator, I guess these days you just have to go into politics…).

Rule #5: Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

Source: MovieMaker Magazine, January 2004

Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins

Iconic 90’s Rock: Music Video Analyses

This music video draws us into a bright and colorful world of five teenagers as they wander throughout California without direction, though certainly not without a sense of youthful adventure.

The lyrics “and we don’t even care… as restless as we are” seem to sum up the general mood of the piece: carefree and bursting with energy as the kids play and drive around almost aimlessly. The mise en scène of the entire video is equally bright in mood, as the vivid blue sky and colorful clothing matching the overall tone that is conveyed throughout the whole piece. The camera seems to have a fish-eye effect, which only adds to the surreal and almost fantastic feel to the entire video. Our attention is directed in a 360 degree sweep of the interior of the car in the beginning of the driving sequence; making for an almost panoramic shot of the five kids as they wander through their lives. Similar to the next video for “Perfect,” the video opens from a sort of point of view tracking shot that follows the kids as they roll around in a large tire. The car sequence first struck me as an example of a “time-image,” as the characters don’t seem to have any sort of clear-cut adversary or purpose in their action–they are simply driven by the passing moments which carry them in an uncertain direction. The choice of using grunge-rock in the concert sequence next serves as a means of connecting this apparent mischievousness (in various pranks like turning the shower onto a couple in a bathtub and throwing toilet paper on a house, or in abandoning adult self-consciousness and jumping in someone else’s pool) to a musical genre that people of this time would already have preconceived notions and ideas about. Billy Corgan, the lead vocalist, narrates the story through lyric as he sits in the car for the duration of the video, apparently along for the ride.

This piece chronologically carries these characters throughout the events of one day, and while there are concrete events that take place and obstacles that serve as conflict, the tone of careless euphoria is never lost in this video, completely unlike that of “Perfect.”

The video for “Perfect” brings both the Pumpkins and our characters into adulthood; the story, music, and general mood of this piece in reference to the first is altogether grown up–dark, subdued, and seemingly resigned to the apparent loss of childhood innocence and carelessness that so marked “1979.”

This video uses graphic matching multiple times to move the action to different locations, connecting multiple characters and stories to one universally connected plot. This song appeared on a relatively new album, “Adore,” whilst “1979” was from the mainstream success, “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” the latter being one of the most commonly referenced albums as forming the alternative rock genre of the 1990s. The characters in this music video are acted by four of the same five who took part in the video “1979” (the fifth was in jail), which gives us an excellent point of reference. Not only is the entire mood of the video much blander and darker than that of “1979,” but the title even contrasts the goings on in the story. James Iha, the guitarist of the group, plays the same character of the store clerk as he did in the prior video, and the parted-hair boy, now an adult, shoplifts from the store just as he did in his childhood (how darling!).

The first sequence of this video makes use of shallow focus and computer graphics to follow the ball as it makes its way from the machine to the character at the batting cage; a sort of POV tracking-shot that carries our focus towards the first human character in the story. My favorite graphic match of the video is from the mother handing the bottle to her newborn baby that cuts to the beer bottle–an interesting take that may be telling of the directors’ (there were 2) opinion on alcohol. This graphic matching technique is used several more times, together with the “bump” effect, in images of button pushing, post-it notes to pregnancy tests, and the cassette tape playing music to illegally recording it at a SP gig. The mise en scène of the latter sequence serving as an avante garde contrast to the drab black Billy wears in his narrative frame singing in “real time.” The musicians on stage wear blue eyeliner, sunglasses, and other over-the-top glam-rock uniform which suit the 90s underground rock setting quite nicely. This scene also differs greatly from the bright punk-rock house party concert from the “1979” video, and when viewed from this point of reference is both darker and more controlled; much like the album it was released on, which departed from the “fantasy” imagery of Mellon Collie.

Another interesting point–the scaffolding Billy stands on throughout the music video was real, as was the danger that surrounded standing on a moving, unstable object elevated hundreds of feet in the air!

Film Review: DEEP END (1970)

  • Director … Jerzy Skolimowski
  • Cinematographer … Charly Steinberger
  • John Moulder-Brown … Mike
  • Jane Asher … Susan
  • Diana Dors … First Female Client
  • Karl Michael Vogler … Susan’s lover
  • Christopher Sandford … Susan’s fiancé

Deep End is the rarely seen, second directorial effort from Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski. Recently, Turner Classic Movies screened Deep End as part of their TCM Underground series, which gave me the opportunity to finally view this cult classic. I had wanted to see this film for several months because I was a fan of Jane Asher (Alfie, 1966; Death at a Funeral).

Deep End is an ode to the dying Swinging Sixties scene in London. Instead of the glittering optimism and stellar youth movements celebrated in prior films about 1960s London, Skolimowski exposes the seedier side of the youth scene, the purposelessness of their decadence and the commonplace nature of obsession, betrayal, and perversion in their world. A study of unredeemable characters, the film probes into the emptiness people felt in their lives after the Sexual Revolution. In the final scene of the film, Susan screams, “What am I supposed to be like?” a line that encapsulates the struggle for identity during the tumultuous late 1960s.

John Moulder-Brown stars as Mike, a fifteen-year-old boy who has recently left school to start his first job as a bathhouse attendant in London’s dirty East End district at the Newford Municipal Baths. Mike is shown the ropes by his older coworker Susan, played by Asher. Susan is a femme fatale type, a girl out there for a good time and who has “been around the block” several times, despite being only nineteen-years-old. Her naturally flirtatious manner causes the impressionable and inexperienced Mike to quickly fall in love with her.

The objective of their jobs is to get the highest tip possible from their bathhouse clients, thus Susan advises Mike on how to deal with the occasions when he encounters lonely older women at the bathhouse: “You know old chap, ladies of a certain age tend to favor polite and obliging young boys. So do some gentlemen.” Susan does not view this behavior as a problem; rather, it is a way for her to get more money – she encourages Mike to switch clients so that they can get maximum tips from the opposite sex. “You don’t have to do anything for it. Just go along with the gag. That’s all they want,” she tells him nonchalantly.

As Mike and Susan work together on a daily basis, Mike becomes obsessed with her, believing his misguided affections to be an excuse to stalk her after work to her home and on dates. The film follows Mike as he wanders all over London watching his obsession from an uncomfortable distance. In a scene that comprises a large part of the film, Mike waits outside of a strip club in Soho until Susan comes out. It is both disturbing and comedic to watch him trek to find Susan, all the while carrying a life-sized cardboard cutout of Susan in her stripper guise ‘Angelica.’

The final sequences of the film show Mike’s obsession causing tragic results, with his object of affection as the main victim. Centered around the diamond from Susan’s engagement ring lost in the snow, the final scene builds up to the moment for when Susan finally surrenders herself to Mike’s obsession. The true climactic moment is completely arbitrary – like the death of Pina in Rome, Open City, nothing prepares the viewer for the shocking and tragic end.

What is most interesting about Deep End is its total lack of the typical “good girl/boy” characters of traditional Hollywood cinema. Mike is centered in the plot to be the “hero,” but his leading characteristics are that he is obsessive, controlling, and often delusional. Susan is not a girl one would consider to be respectable in any sense, as she not only juggles her time between her well-off fiancé and a married swim instructor, but by night she is a stripper by the name of Angelica. Susan’s fiancé, though well-to-do, is portrayed to be a sexual deviant in the film – he often takes her on dates (against her wishes) to pornographic films and swingers clubs. Susan’s lover, a swimming instructor who is a client of the bathhouse, is a pervert who seduces the adolescent girls on his swim team (it is hinted that Susan was once one of these girls). The clients of the bathhouse are mostly wrinkling, overweight women in their middle age who attempt to seduce the fifteen-year-old Mike.

Moulder-Brown and Asher shine in their respective roles. Moulder-Brown is captured at the delicate age between childhood and adulthood, perfect for the awkwardness and tortured longing of adolescent inexperience that the role of Mike requires. Asher looks stunning as Susan, the London dolly bird-gone-wrong. Her portrayal of the bad girl Susan is subtle yet complex – her gestures reveal a world-weary soldier who has seen too much in life, but combines this with the confident swagger of someone who knows they are irresistible and could have anything in life. As the femme fatale, Asher is the antithesis of her own public persona during the 1960s as Paul McCartney’s sophisticated, English Rose girlfriend. Also entertaining to watch is former screen bombshell Diana Dors as a sexually frustrated fading beauty who aggressively pursues Mike.

The direction and photography of the film are stylistically very interesting in their boldness. For instance, the harsh winter weather is contrasted against the brightly colored clothing that Susan wears. As the narrative becomes darker, the scenes become brighter. The last scenes of the film are the most disturbing, but they are set in a field of dirty white snow and then in the emptied, sterile pool of the battered-looking bathhouse. In both scenes Susan is wear a yellow trench coat, a brightly printed dress, and white go-go boots and Mike is in a full white outfit and white sneakers. Despite the disturbing nature of its’ content, the scenes look bright and clean. The cinematography acts as a counterpoint against the material. The film has a fairly bleak in its mise-en-scene. With the exception of Susan’s bright clothing and flaming red hair, the film is compromised of washed-out, decaying tones. Deep End was filmed using a handheld camera, and combined with the constant use of natural lighting, gives the film the look of an extremely low budget production. Skolimowski repeatedly uses the camera to steadily circle the actors in 180 and 360 degree shots, and edited the film to have the majority of its’ scenes be long takes without cuts.

The film dances between many different genres, experimenting with absurd comedy (the Diana Dors scenes in particular), melodrama, black comedy, and surrealism. Increasingly as Mike’s obsession grows, the surrealist tone of the film extends to match the blurred lines between reality and fantasy. Despite these various layers, Deep End is at its heart a raw tale of a boy’s transition into manhood, though it is unlike any other coming-of-age story of adolescent angst and love that I have ever before viewed. Its refreshingly unsentimental approach to the narrative story reminds me of the French New Wave films that preceded this film by a decade. Skilomowski tells the story of Antoine Doinel’s (of Truffaut’s 400 Blows) less self-assured and more sexually frustrated British brother. We watch Mike wander to and from his job aimlessly on his bicycle and stalk Susan and her fiancé on dates. The only thing that motivates the plot besides Mike’s obsession is the audience’s own voyeurism into their lives.

Cinéma: a reflexive gaze

Film and Media Studies 200 at Colgate has entered the blogosphere  . . . we hope to include film reviews, fantastic random images and video as well as a film studies reference guide (check out our pages . . .).

We are dedicated to analyzing the world around us as presented in the various media outlets which reflect but also inform, shape  and/or challenge our actions, imagination and thoughts.