October, 2010

Give Yourself Over To Absolute Pleasure

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in 1975. It stars a then unknown Tim Curry in his debut role of Dr. Frank-N-Future, a mad transvestite scientist from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, Susan Sarandon as Janet Wise, and singer Meat Loaf as Eddie. The movie still runs in a limited release 35 years after its premier. It is, and remains to be, one the longest running movies in history. It continues to play and collect revenue off of its midnight screenings that can be found around the world. I have wanted to go to a midnight showing for years. It is possible one of the coolest movie experience one could ever have.
What you suppose to do is this: your suppose to come dressed as your favorite character, whether it be Brad Majors (The Hero), Janet Wise (The Heroine), Eddie (The Ex-Delivery Boy) or Frank-N-Furter (The Mad Scientist). Once the show begins, it turns into an all out party with audience participation. And I mean audience participation.
There are all these things you’re supposed to bring too: rice, toilet paper, toast, a water gun. Why? Here’s where audience participation comes in. At certain points in the movie, these items are called for. For example, at the beginning, there’s a wedding and you throw your rice at the screen. When Dr. Everett Scott appears, you throw your Scott’s toilet paper at the screen and so on and so on.
There are also things you suppose to say back. It’s called call-backs and there one of the best parts. When Riff-Raff (A Handyman) begins to sing the Time Warp he opens up a coffin ad the audience yells “Show us your mother, Riff-Raff” at the screen. And if you’re a true Rocky fan, you literally know all the words to the movie (sadly, I kind of do).
But there’ so much more going on in the film that it’s just too much to write about. This is probably one of the only films in history to become what it has become: a cult classic and a cultural phenomenon. The iconic red lips singing the opening song “Science Fiction/Double Feature” are widely known throughout the world. The Time Warp can be heard every Halloween. The movie even got its own dedication episode on one of the hottest new shows on TV, Glee. It has also been preserved by the U.S. National Film Registry for being a “”culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant film” along with movies like Citizen Kane and The Lady Eve. Did I mention that it pays homage to the old RKO Picture shows of the 30s and 40s (something we learned about in class lol).
But the movie is a lot more than just what it may seem. It’s a story about love, lust, acceptance, envy, part comedy, part horror, part musical and part cultural satire. The Time Warp was made to make fun of all the dance songs introduced in the late 60s and early 70s.
The movie also sends out a great message: to be comfortable with whom you are. You “don’t judge a book by its cover” as Frank-N-Furter would say. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, gay, straight, or a sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania, you’re perfect the way you are.

M – Opening Scene.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUpPHFDR-c8

M(1931) Film Analysis

M is a 1931 German drama/suspense thriller director by Fritz Lang and released by Vereinigte Star-Film. One of Lang’s first films with sound, M is loosely based off of the case of The Vampire of Dusseldorf and tells the story of child murderer Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre). Lorre’s character is a careless, thoughtless and inhumanly cold soul that prays on the innocence of little children. His overly-dark performance gives a new meaning to chilling in contrast to today’s actor like Stanley Tucci’s character in The Lovely Bones and Robert England in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The scene being analyzed takes place in the very beginning of the movie and becomes the backbone of the film, so to speak. The opening scene reveals to us the murderer, although you do not directly see him until sometime later, his past victims, and a city that is in a frantic search to find him.

The scene begins with a little girl, Elsie, who is on her way home from school for lunch. We see the child playing with a ball, which, having already known the plot, gives off this powerful fear knowing that she is the murderer’s next victim. As the shot continues, Lang gives a close-up shot of a ‘wanted’ sign which the girl begins throwing her ball at. Then, out of the corner of the screen, the dark shadow of a man appears. He begins talking to the girl. Elsewhere, the child’s mother, Frau, is seen at home preparing lunch for the two of them. We get a small glimpse at a clock mounted on the wall. The position of the camera is not centered on the clock; it is from the position of the mother. The room is silent. Children can be heard coming up the stairs off screen and Frau goes to the door. The children are not hers. Lang cuts to a large shot of the stairway of the apartment complex. It’s empty and silent.

We return to Elise and she’s accompanied by a man positioned so that his back is turned to the camera. He’s buying a balloon for the girl. The whole scene in general just makes me cringe knowing that this man is not doing this out of the goodness of his heart. (I keep referring to him as ‘a man’ or ‘the man’ because, even thought Lang has made it clear to the audience that he is the murderer, he is not properly introduced yet. He has no name.) The murderer’s distinct whistle is played over the noise of the city streets as the two of them leave the balloon stand.

Frau is then seen in a median shot in the kitchen. The doorbell rings. Frau gives a sigh of relief but it’s not her daughter. Instead, it is a neighbor or some man she is acquainted with and she asks if he has seen Elsie. He does not give a straight yes or no answer which I found odd but answer with “She won’t be long now.” A large shot of the stairway is seen again, still silent and still empty. Frau calls out for Elsie again. She turns around and walks into apartment slowly; the camera stays centered on her for the remainder of the scene and you can see on her face that she is worried and concerned for her daughter is not home. Shot to the clock and more time has gone by. Frau goes to window and opens to call for her daughter. She shouts and her shouts become louder and more frantic. The camera makes good use of off-screen sound here as Frau’s voice can only be heard as the camera shows the emptiness of the housing complex (stairway, yard, attic etc.) Then, you get a shot of Elsie’s chair. Her seat empty, bowl empty and utensils unused; and Frau’s calls stop.

The last scene shows Elsie’s ball that she was once playing with roll away down a hill and into a dirt patch. She does not follow it. Her balloon that she was just bought is shown tangled in power lines then floats away. The scene fades to black.

M, however intriguing and unique it is, gives us the same textbook definition of a killer that most films showcase. They feature the killer act, dress, and talk like one of us. But the one thing that sets this movie apart from the overpriced and overdone thrillers of today’s cinema is this scene. The scene, like I stated earlier, provides the backbone to the film and helps give it it’s structure unlike today’s movie that use quick camera editing and dramatic music to pull you in only to leave you hanging. It doesn’t introduce you to who the killer right of the bat (his name, his life story, his motives etc.) and have the rest of the film follow around a person you already know doing the things you know he’s going to do. Instead, it builds up a foundation that you want to see who this man is and you want to see him get caught. Lang’s film is a perfect cinematic example of how less always gives the audience more in return.

Umberto D. and the Real Italians lol

Umberto D. was actually one of my more favorite movies to date in the class. I loved the realistic feel the movie had and how it perfectly captured the struggles that Umberto was going through. It was great to see a film be truthful. Even though the movie is fiction, the way everything was depicted, Umberto’s struggle, his day to day routine, and his fatal decision to commit suicide was filmed beautiful that it felt as if it could be a documentary.
Now, there was one main reason why I liked the movie so much and before I go into it, I want to exercise this caution: If you have never witnessed Italians or Sicilians argue, you will not fully understand anything further.
The opening scenes were what sealed the deal for me. Vittorio De Sica has portrayed one of the most realistic Italian depictions of culture and society since Coppola did The Godfather in ’72.
The opening scene showed many Italian men fighting off police as there vigorously tried to win their right to more money, which they desperately need. And the part that did the most justice for me was when the camera was placed on one of the police cars as the car was pushing people away. There we saw one elderly man in particular fling his arms in the air, yell, curse, bang on the car etc. etc. The way the camera was placed gave it the look as if it is from the driver’s perspective. And from there, you hear one of the drivers refer to the elderly man as an old geezer. Brilliant!!!
I know this may sound kind of mean, but having had experience the way old Italian men react, “old geezer” is the best word to describe them hands down.
What really did it for me was how the elderly men in that scene reacted to everything going on. I took note to the fact that directors were beginning to use from time to time real people mixed in with professional actors. And that scene was a perfect example. If you ever witnessed old Italian men fight over a Bocce Ball game in the middle of summer down in a park in Brooklyn, look no further then that scene. The emotions, the mannerisms, the facial and body expression were all perfectly reflected to show, what I see, is what real Italian/Sicilian culture is. It was hard for me to distinguish if professional actors or real people were used in that scene because it was crafted so beautifully. And I think if a director can leave you with a question like that, they have done there job!

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