Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Response XX- Vivre Sa Vie

Godard is probably the strangest yet most fascinating of all the New Wave directors. Of all his films, that I have seen I probably only like two of them; however, I believe that there is a great deal to discuss in his films although I do not entirely understand his methods. I did not particularly like "Vivre sa Vie," but I am impressed that Godard actually made a film like this. I believe that this is the most normal looking film I have seen of Godard's. By normal, I mean it has a plot, a beginning, climax, and a conclusion, and it does not play with genre.

Of course, this film is not completely different from all his other films. In "Vivre Sa Vie" we see a return of Godard's famous editing techniques which include jump-cuts. Also, he introduces his audiences to a new camera movement as well. In one scene while Anna Karina, the star of the film, is sitting a a bar, the audience can hear a machine gun firing off screen. The camera pans right to where the noise is coming from, but it does so matching the the sounds of a machine gun. So the pan is rather shaky. I really liked that pan; it was both creative and original. Another cinematic technique of Godards that I found interesting was the silent film sequence which is found near the end of the film. At the beginning of chapter 11, all the audience hears is the soundtrack and they have to read subtitles to discover what the characters are saying. To me, this was Godard's way of experimenting with sound. This sequence added more emotion to the scone for me too since the audience is forced to pay attention to the sad musical theme of this film.

I think the best way to describe this film is "bittersweet." The film's plot is very dark since it tells the story of a woman who resorts to prostitution to make money. It is especially sad when Karina's character dies in the end. This dark plot is weakened with Godard's sets and his portrayal of Paris. Most of Godard's films were shot in Paris however, he never shows Paris for the beautiful city that it is. He especially does this in "Alphaville" and "2 or 3 things I know about Her." In "Vivre sa Vie" the audience gets an almost stereotypical portrayal of Paris with the cafes, Champs Elysee, and the Arc de Triomphe which is shown at the end of the film.

Prostitution is a theme which appears frequently in Godard's films. Until seeing this film, it is not entirely clear if he portrays it negatively or positively. After seeing this film, I believe Godard is trying to show the negative aspects of prostitution especially since Karina dies in the end. Although the men in the film seem to treat Karina nicely, she is ultimately a piece of property for them. This is shown at the end when a men shoots her and leaves her in the street.

Response XIX- Bob le Flambeur

Originally, I did not want to write a blog on "Bob le Flambeur." If there was a film that was screened and I did not write a blog on it, chances are I disliked the film so much that I didn't even want to write about it; however, this was not the case with this film. I actually enjoyed "Bob le Flambeur" very much. The only reason why I did not want to write a blog on it, was because this film was very different from all the other French New Wave films that were screened. To this day, I wonder how "Bob le Flambeur" is even considered a New Wave film, if it is at all.

The main difference I noticed between this film and all the other New Wave films screened this semester, is this film was flawless with regard to plot and editing. Almost all of the other New Wave films showed this semester were intentionally sloppy with their editing and often times lacked a good plot. This is especially true of Jean-Luc Godard. In addition, Melville, the director of this film was faithful to the genre he chose. Melville was immensely interested in American gangster films, so Bob Flambeur turned out to be a heist/gangster film. The issue of genre is probably the biggest difference I noticed between the other New Wave films and this one. Directors like Godard played with genre and often times parodied it in his films instead of portraying a true representation it. "Alphaville" is a true example of one of Godard's films that butchers and parodies genre. Furthermore, the storyline in this film is unlike those in the other films screened. "Bob le Flambeur" is about a casino heist while most other New Wave films are about relationships and love triangles.

In this film, I feel as if Melville included the "Femme Fatale" which is found in many American movies. The "Femme Fatale" is supposed to be the character who is responsible for the hero's downfall. The "Femme Fatale" in this film would be probably be the young woman Bob takes care of in this film. He is a gentleman towards her and is a father figure for her. Unfortunately she slips and accidentally tells one of Bob's enemies about the casino heist. Although the enemy is gunned down before he can reveal anything to the police, the police still eventually find out because of the girl's slip. The audience at this point believes that this is the end of Bob and his plans but the opposite happens. In the casino, Bob is high on greed while and is winning a large amount of money. He forgets to do his part in the plan and everything is ruined. The police show up and arrest Bob, but the audience gets the feeling at the end that Bob will be going to jail due to the large sum of money he won that day. Ultimately although Bob did not rob the casino in the true sense of the word, he still did figuratively robbed them by winning so much.

Although I do not consider this film to be a prime example of a New Wave film, I still enjoyed this film very much. It kept my attention, it had a lovely plot, it was entertaining, and it was easy to follow. Watching this film was ultimately useful for me because it allowed me to really understand stylistic qualities of the French New Wave by comparing "Bob le Flambeur," to other New Wave films.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Response XVIII- Weekend

Frankly, I am very happy that the films I have seen of Godard, I have seen in order. A great deal of preparation is required before seeing Godard's masterpiece "Weekend." After seeing so many other Godard films, "Weekend" did not surprise me the way it did other people. In a way, I was expecting something like this from Godard. I am sure whoever reads my blogs would expect me to simply hate "Weekend" due to the fact that I like my films to tell a story, be direct and easy to follow and have as little abstraction as possible; however, I loved this film. It was very original, bold and it kept my attention. To me, this is probably Godard's most important film not only because it the last of Godard's feature films, but because this film shows Godard at the height of his politicization.

This film is a view of how Godard saw French society at the time. The film was always chaotic and it had an apocalyptic tone to it. Essentially the film is a road trip film. It is about a Parisian couple who are going to visit their parents. Along the way, they meet very interesting characters. Godard makes political statements throughout the whole film with the various people the couple meet. Godard continuously undermines the bourgeoisie and capitalism in this film. The fact that the he presents capitalist and bourgeois elements in apocalyptic settings suggests that he feels like capitalism and the middle class will bring about the collapse of society. At times, the way he pokes fun at the middle class is funny. An example of this is in the scene when a women is in a car accident yelling; instead of yelling because she is injured she is screaming in terror at the fact that her handbag is ruined.

Godard also undermines religion in this film. There is one scene where there is an auto accident that involved a bourgeois woman and a farmer. There is a huge argument between the farmer and the woman. When the couple arrive they ask them how they though the accident happened and the couple refused to answer. The farmer calls them a "Dirty Jews" and the farmer and the bourgeois woman reconcile. Here I felt like Godard was saying that religion is as a big a problem as capitalism. There is another instance where the couple is in a car with another couple and on character says that "Christianity is the refusal of all knowledge and the death of a language." Furthermore the same character tells a story about God screwing Alexandre Dumas. This scene was very peculiar, but it showed Godard's dislike for religion.

"Weekend" also included many references to the French revolution. In a cameo appearance, Jean-Pierre Leaud is dressed as Saint Just and delivers a speech. Also there are references to Thermidor, which is a month on the French Revolutionary calendar. This month is most famous for the death of Maximilien de Robespierre, the overseer of the Reign of Terror.

I do not think Godard could have portrayed chaos any better than he did in this film. The ending that included the cannibal hippies and the slaughter of a pig and a chicken was especially strange. With all the chaos, Godard proves to be prophetic and faithful to Marx. In his "Communist Manifesto," Marx says society goes through three stages: capitalism, anarchy, and communism. This film illustrates the stage that after the fall of capitalism which is anarchy.

This film was magnificent and revolutionary. Godard did a good job of shocking and offending his audiences. In the process of angering his audiences, Godard exhibited his political beliefs and introduced the world to longest tracking shot in film history in the traffic jam scene. Although many people were angered by this film, I am sure that it will be remembered as one of the greatest of Godard's films.

Response XVII- Bonnie and Clyde

I simply loved a great deal of films that were screened this semester. "Les Cousins," "400 Blows," and "My Night at Maud's" are just a few. "Bonnie and Clyde" however has to be my favourite film that we watched this semester. I believe that I like this film so much because it had a lot of the same qualities films that I am accustomed to watching have. This film was easy to follow and understand, simple, direct, and it had a wonderfully entertaining plot. When I compare "Bonnie and Clyde" to other films I have watched this semester, I really wonder why I liked this film so much better than 85% of the other films screened if "Bonnie and Clyde" is a film that was directly influenced by the French New Wave.

I was surprised to find out that Francios Truffaut was originally approached to direct this film. However, he declined the offer and Arthur Penn directed it. When I watched this film I did notice a few stylistic similarities between "Bonnie and Clyde" and other New Wave films. I think the similarities between the films lies in the relaxed editing and the storyline. A few times in this film, I noticed jump-cuts. When I saw the jump cuts, I was reminded of Godard, the director who is known for including jump cuts in his editing techniques. Also, when I was watching "Bonnie Clyde," I was reminded of Ferdinand and Marianne from Godard's "Pierrot le Fou." I consider Ferdinand and Marianne the French "Bonnie and Clyde." Both of the couples are criminals and both die at the end. Being influenced by the French New Wave is without a doubt one of the main things this film is known for. However I think it is even more famous for the sex and the violence that appeared in the film.

Since the 30's the Hay's Code strictly monitored what Hollywood was putting in their films. The Hay's Code outlines many guidelines for filmmakers, but the fact that it strictly regulated sex and violence is probably what it is best remembered for. By the 1960's the Hay's Code was fully revoked. "Bonnie and Clyde" is one of the first films to break all the rules of the Hay's Code. This film was full of sex and violence right from the beginning when audiences see a naked Bonnie in her bedroom. There are also a few scenes where the audience sees Bonnie and Clyde making love. Furthermore there are countless gunfight scenes with the police and the film has an explicitly violent ending. In the final scene, Bonnie and Clyde are brutally shot by police forces. For someone who watches the film today, I would imagine they would not consider the last scene very violent, but for someone living in 1967, it was shocking.

Aside from the fact that this film broke all the rules of Hay's Code and was influenced by the French New Wave, it is considered a "great" film simply because it was well done. Although the film is full of sex and violence, it is very funny as well. The scene when the Barrow gang steals the car of a wealthy undertaker hilarious. The steal the man's car, but the gang also welcomes the man and his girlfriend. Together they laugh and eat together for a while. This scene is funny but I found that it foreshadowed the death of Bonnie, Clyde and Buck. As soon as Bonnie discovers the man is an undertaker she becomes angry and kicks them out of the car. The ending of the film is also very interesting to me. Although Bonnie and Clyde obviously die in the end, I feel as if they will live forever due to the poem Bonnie had published in the newspaper a few scenes prior to their death. I felt as if that poem had an immortalizing effect.

This film intrigued me greatly. It was funny, well-done, and easy to follow. Throughout the course of the semester, my definition of film has been challenged so many times, especially with the viewing of Godard films such as "Weekend" and "2 or 3 Things I Know About Her." It was a relief to see a film like "Bonnie and Clyde." This film gave me reassurance that my definition of film which is essentially "a visual form of expression that has artistic value and tells a story," is somewhat accurate.

Response XVI- 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her

Many film critics would deem "2 or 3 Things I Know About Her" the very best of Godard's work. I would agree with them; however, that does not mean that I liked this film. In fact, I hated it. I simply did not get anything out of it. This film is very different from what my general definition of film. I always believed that film was a a story that was told visually with artistic value. This film definitely has some sort of artistic value, however it lacks a plot. In addition, I found it boring and way too abstract.

This film is very political in nature and is full of anti- Vietnam war, anti- capitalist, and anti-materialist symbolism. There is film is very dense and I would imagine one would have to view the film several times to understand Godard's political message and to obtain some sort of appreciation for it.

In many ways this film is anti-Gaullist and is reminiscent of the political and social instability in France during the 1960's. During the 60's in France Charles de Gaulle's government had a great deal of conflict with the rest of French society. The French were not particularly pleased with their government. Filmmakers like Godard made political films that were anti-Gaullist and students had a big strike that shut all of Paris down. It is clear that with this film, Godard was demonstrating his desire for change. Godard includes many images of large buildings being constructed in this film. I believe that this is symbolic of the construction of Godard's vision of a future city that is new and opposite what corporations and advocates of capitalism want.

Godard also comments on the ubiquity of certain products in this film. Esso and Mobil products seem to be everywhere in this film. Instead of just accepting these products and certain objects, Godard tries to make his audience contemplate them. This is especially true of the scene where a cigarette is shown is an extreme close-up. The camera stays on this object for a long period of time and the ember is shown becoming bright once in a while suggesting someone is puffing on the cigarette.

This film barely has a plot. If one were to ask me what this film was about, I basically would say that it is about a bourgeois housewife who occasionally works as a prostitute for a little extra money. This plot reminded somewhat of Gustav Flaubert's novel "Madam Bovary." In this novel, one meets Madam Bovary, a wealthy woman who is married and begins cheating on her husband for the fun of it because she is bored. I believe that Flaubert and Godard were essentially making the same statement on the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy. I believe they were both saying that both those classes live in a fantasy world and do not understand the real world. They do stupid things like Madam Bovary and Juliette Janson to make their lives more exciting.

I felt like this film was all over the place. There was political symbolism, it illustrated social instability in France and it included philosophical elements from philosophers such as Heidegger and Sartre. I remember a quote from Heidegger was used in this film "language is the house we live in." I cannot say that I entirely understand what Godard was trying to do by including all of this philosophy. If this film were a painting I am sure the artist would be Salvador Dali. I do not know if I would call this movie surreal but it definitely reminded me of something that Dali would paint.

I probably should not be so quick to say that I hated this film after seeing it only one time. I am sure if I watched it a few more times I would develop some sort of appreciation for it. All I know is that I could never enjoy this film or be entertained by it. It is just simply too dense and it is not what I would consider a "good film" simply due to the fact that it is not entertaining and it does not tell an intriguing, engaging story.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Response XV- Pierrot le Fou

For me, "Pierrot le Fou" was an intriguing film that was full of profound meaning and had an interesting, unique plot. This was the last film Godard made with his ex-wife Anna Karina and it also is not ambiguous in showing Godard's preference for left-winged politics and anit-Americanism.

This film is very dense and rich in symbolism and allusions. Many viewings of this film would be required in order to fully understand and appreciate this film and to recognize all of the left- winged symbolism and the anti-Vietnam War propaganda present in "Pierrot le Fou." Marxist symbolism is found as early as the first few scenes. At the beginning of the film, Ferdinand (Belmondo) is shown at a party with many wealthy people. These people do not have normal conversation; it seems everything they say is an advertising line. They advertise many different products, especially Alfa Romeo. In this scene, Godard undermines capitalism and the middle class and portrays them as slaves to materialism.

In addition to the Marxist allusions in this film, Godard includes anti-Vietnam war propaganda. When Ferdinand and Marianne encounter American tourists, they decide to put on a play for them in order to make some money. Their play turns out to be a satirical play about the War in Vietnam with Belmondo dressed up as a man in the US navy and Karina dressed up as a Vietnamese woman. Belmondo and Karina humorously quarrel while the Americans watching praise their play saying "That's pretty damn good!" After Karina and Belmondo fight an image of the letters "SS" show up on screen, perhaps alluding to Hitler's "SS" thereby associating the US with the Nazis.

What Godard's negative portrayal of Vietnam and capitalism ultimately boil down to is the director's preference for anti-Americanism. Godard clearly did not approve of capitalism or the Vietnam War thereby leaving him disgusted with America.

The political statement this film makes is probably what it is best known for; however, there are other interesting aspects of "Pierrot le Fou," such as the connection between Ferdinand and Marianne and Godard and Karina. Throughout the whole film, Marianne is shown as always wanting to have fun, and Ferdinand is the character who wants to write books. This difference in character often leads to arguments between them. By this time, Godard and Karina were divorced. Godard's portrayal of Marianne and Ferdinand's relationship is the director's attempt at sharing his interpretation of his relationship with Karina.

The film's metaphysical ending is another aspect of the film that I found rather intriguing. Ferdinand romantically commits suicide to be reunited with his lover Marianne. The humor in this scene is when he changes his mind at the last second and tries to stop the dynamite from exploding. He is unsuccessful, but the final shot of a beautiful horizon with a setting sun gives one the feeling that the two characters are reunited and achieved eternity together.

Response XIV- Day For Night

I have great respect for the director Jean-Luc Godard, but I must admit, the screening of Francios Truffaut's film "Day For Night," was like a breath of fresh air after seeing so many Godard films. I believe that this film provided so much relief for me because it was easy to follow and I could actually enjoy the film without actually have to think about it a great deal. I am disappointed that more Truffaut films are not screened. Truffaut impresses me more and more with every film I see of his.

This film was very unique in that it was a film that was about the making of a film. Truffaut portrays film production beautifully in "Day For Night." It really showed how stressful film production could be, and how in the film industry you must regard film as being more important than your life. This was portrayed best when one of the main characters from "Meet Pamela" goes out in search of Jean-Pierre Leaud's character who ran away. This character named Alexandre, lost his life in search of Leaud. I felt like he sacrificed his life for the sake of producing "Meet Pamela."

That character was not the only one who put the film before his life. I feel as if all of the actors of "Meet Pamela" did so as well. Of course they did not do so in the same manner as Alexandre. I could tell all the other actors put the film first because they were not stable people and had identity issues. I believe that these actors, as well as actors in general, spend so much time portraying different types of characters, and putting their life into their work that they neglect their lives and fail to establish an identity and a stable state of mind. Truffaut does an excellent job of showing this in his film. Severine is a whiny, high-maintenance diva who solves her problems with alcohol, Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is childish and an attention-seeker, and Julie Baker is involved in controversy, is unstable and has nervous breakdowns which lead her to requesting ridiculous things like large quantities of butter. The only time the actors seemed normal to me was when they were acting.

The fact that the actors seemed normal only when they were portraying different people shows that Truffaut was trying to present film as place that is better and happier than reality. I believe that Truffaut's dream sequences that show a little boy stealing "Citizen Kane" posters suggested this as well. Truffaut's character was under a lot of pressure from a lot of people in this film. When he is asleep, he hears the voices of the people who are causing him stress, and then the audience sees the dream sequence. This dream obviously means that Truffaut's character escapes the cruelties and the hardships of reality with film.

I was very impressed with Truffaut's portrayal of the film industry at the time. During the long scene when Severine is acting out a scene, at one point she becomes frustrated and says, "I am just going to do what I do when I work with Fellini," and she begins stating a sequence of numbers. This is referring to the fact that directors used international casts in their films during that time. They would often acting while saying random things and then the voices would be dubbed in.

I do not want to say that this film is Truffaut's best work because I have said that about every Truffaut film I have seen thus far. What I can say is that this film was well done, very original, and immensely entertaining.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Response XIII- Alphaville

"Alphaville" probably has to be on of the strangest and most boring films I have ever seen. Despite the fact that I did not like this film very much, I feel as if there is a lot one could discuss with a film like this one. This is probably one of the most important films Godard has ever made because in this, I feel as if audiences really begin to see the start of his politicization.

The reason why I think "Alphaville" is the dawn of Godard's creation of political films, is because this film is full of allusions to the Cold War; these references include the inclusion of a French/Soviet newspaper, a woman in the film being named Natasha, and the name of one of the streets in the film is "Enrico Fermi" street. At the end of this film, it becomes evident that Godard is making a statement about left winged politics with the inclusion of such references in "Alphaville."

Godard's makes a statement on his view of the future as well, I can tell that he was not very optimistic about it. The buildings that were shown in this film give away that detail. This film was shot in Paris but Godard chose to show the new, modernist buildings in this film. I believe he did this to give one the sense that the future would be oppressive.

Although the Cold War references in the film were plentiful, I do not think that film enthusiasts admire "Alphaville" for this reason. Despite the fact that I think the allusions were the most fascinating aspects of the film, I believe Godard's parody of sci-fi and film noir were noticed more by audiences. After seeing this film, I asked myself "What genre of film does Alphaville fall under?" I thought to myself that it was "sci-fi-film noir," but that sounded strange and silly to me. Ultimately, I think there is no better way to describe the genre of "Alphaville" than with "sci-fi-film noir." Although this film included aspects of both the sci-fi and film noir genre, it is easy to see that Godard did not take them seriously. It is evident that this film is a parody of those genres. Godard parodies sci-fi with the lack of special effects. This film had absolutely no special effects and it looked like Godard shot the film inside his house at times. I definitely think that "Alphaville" portrays the worst example of mise-en-scene; but then again, Godard probably purposefully gave this cheap look to his film in order to emphasize the fact that he was poking fun at the genre.

After watching this film it is clear that Godard is playing with the film noir genre as well. The lighting in the film, the storyline, and the main character's costume are all elements of film noir Godard uses. For me, the humor in Godard's use of film noir came at the end when Anna Karina's character says she loves someone for the first time; I don't think I have seen a cheesier ending in all the films I have ever seen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Response XII- Contempt

Of all the Godard films I have seen so far, I believe that "Contempt" really makes a name for itself because it is unlike any other Godard. If I would have seen this film without knowing Godard directed it, he would have been the last person I would have guessed directed it. I find this film to deviate from Godard's traditional style.

In my opinion, Godard's films are very strange. Many of them are very dense, difficult to understand and toy around with cinematic elements such as genre. For me, it was a relief to see a film like "Contempt" that was not very strange and was rather easy to follow and understand. I believe the main reason this film was not as Godardian as it could be, was because Godard had a great deal of pressure coming from the producers (Joseph Levine and Carlo Ponti) and since he was using Brigitte Bardot, the biggest name in European cinema at the time. Furthermore, this film was based on a novel written by Alberto Moravia called Il Disprezzo; therefore, I would imagine Godard could not play around with this film as much without butchering Moravia's story.

I really believe that the main reason this film was so clear cut and easy to understand is because "Contempt" is a faithful adaptation of Moravia's novel. I have read some of Alberto Moravia's books and he is a fine author. His novels are usually easy to understand, follow a linear storyline, deal with relationships, and are full of plenty of dialogue and detailed descriptions which make his books similar to plays. I could have guessed that this film was based on Moravia simply because there is one scene in Paul and Camille's flat which lasts for a very long time. Moravia's books are like this; generally his stories do not take place in a variety of settings. For example, in his novel Gli Indifferenti, the whole story takes place in three settings.

The scene that takes place in Paul and Camille's flat is not only the longest scene but also probably the most interesting. In this scene, the bickering between a husband and wife is portrayed beautifully. In this scene I felt like the concept of gender roles was being played with. After that scene I felt as if the woman in the relationship, Camille, possessed the most power in the relationship. She took advantage of his love for her by threatening to leave her husband and by revealing that she no longer loved him anymore.

Although it seems as if Camille seems to have the power in the relationship, my belief that was proven to be wrong with the fact that she constantly seeks her husband's approval before she does things. An example of this is when Paul allows Camille to take the a taxi apart from him with the sleazy film producer. This shows that Paul had some sort of power over Camille.

I feel as if these two character do not trust each other. They seem to constantly reassurance of their love for one another. This is especially true of Paul. He lets Camille run off with the producer all the time as a test to see if she will stay faithful to him. The are both immature and play games with each other. The mind games Camille and Paul play with one another and their immaturity is what makes this film interesting and entertaining.

"Contempt" is in great part about Hollywood and film making. A very sleazy, stereotypical film producer appears in this film. Godard portrays Hollywood in a very stereotypical manner in this film. I believe he meant to to show his audience that Hollywood is very superficial. This is demonstrated in a scene when the sleazy producer was reviewing some scenes. When a beautiful, busty woman appeared on the screen, his eyes widened and he began to display a lustful grin as he exclaimed "That is what we need to use, that is what makes money!"

Next to "Breathless" this is probably my favorite Godard film, not just because it was easy to follow and entertaining, but because it differs greatly from what I have seen of Godard so far.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Response XI- The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

I have to admit that usually I despise musicals. For me there is nothing more painful and ridiculous than watching a film where actors and actresses sing songs to create a story. I think the main reason I do not like musicals so much is because I find them hard to follow, not because they are complicated but because if I don't like the song that is being sung, I stop paying attention. The same goes for when I am listening to music on the radio. If I do not like the song, I either stop paying attention or change the station. Even though I do not like musicals, "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg " is an exception for me; I actually liked it to a certain extent.

I think the reason why I liked this film is because it is unlike any musical I have ever seen. Every musical I have seen involves actors singing actual songs with choruses and verses. "Rent" is an example of a film that does this; however, I felt as if "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" somewhat deviated from this traditional style. Unlike "Rent," the actors in this films are singing dialogue as oppose to actual songs. Even though often times the dialogue and the music did not sound well together, it is easy to ignore this since the story is engaging. For me, it is important for a film to have dialogue. I am opposed to having songs in a film, but "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" did have dialogue regardless to the fact that it was sung, so I cannot really complain.

In the above paragraph, I mentioned that the film's dialogue and music did not sound well together on several occasions. This is one of the ways that Jacques Demy created an alternate, artificial, anti-naturalistic universe. Everything about this film was fake-looking. Aside from the music and dialogue not matching up, the reality within the film was very idealized. Everyone was so polite and happy thereby giving the film a very cheerful mood. Demy added to the film's pleasant mood further with his use of color. All the settings were rich in bright, primary colors.

I am not sure where exactly Demy stood politically, but I feel as if he was making a political statement with this film as well. The two characters in this film end up living two very different lives. Genevieve ends up getting married to a wealthy bourgeois man who symbolizes capitalism, and Guy marries his aunt's caretaker with whom he lives humbly as a mechanic. Guy in this case symbolizes socialism. Although the audience has no reason to believe that Genevieve's husband treats her badly since he always appears as a gentleman, at the end when Genevieve and Guy meet again, I had the feeling that Genevieve was not as a happy as she should be. I feel as if even though she is wealthy and has everything she could ever want, Genevieve would have been happier with Guy. I had the feeling that Demy was positively portraying socialism since Guy seems to be the happier of the two. I especially believed this during the final scene when Guy is happily playing with his working class family in the snow. This political interpretation of the film could be countered with the fact that Guy owns the garage he works at; however, although he owns this garage he is still essentially a blue-collared worker, a genre of workers that is traditionally associated with socialism.

Even though I somewhat enjoyed "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," I cannot see myself voluntarily watching another musical again. This film did not change my attitude towards musicals simply because I believe that "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is one of a kind.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Response X- A Woman is a Woman

Godard is seen as being a director who experiments a great deal. Many film enthusiasts say that with Godard films "you are always getting something new." It is true that Godard makes many different types of films and all of them have a different genre, but I notice some similarities between his films. In "A Woman is a Woman," many qualities appeared that I previously saw in "Breathless."

I am beginning to notice that Godard is a director who focuses on artifice and seeks to keep his audience separated from the reality of the film and make them aware that they are watching a film. There are several scenes and particular cinematic qualities in "A Woman is a Woman" that seem to be purposefully artificial. The most obvious element of this film that makes it artificial is the soundtrack. Music is an element of film that seeks to elevate the emotion in a scene. A scene that is sad and would normally make one cry, would not be as sad if it did not have music. Although music is an important element in film, often times it is ignored by viewers. The soundtrack in "A Woman is a Woman" seeks to draw attention to itself. The soundtrack is very unique and Godard plays with the non diegetic music to make it stick out. An example of this is appears during Anna Karina's dance number. Whenever she is singing, the music cuts out, but as soon as there is a pause in the lyrics, the music returns. It is as if Godard wants his audience to pay careful attention to both the music and the lyrics. The fact that the non diegetic music draws attention to itself lessens this film's realism.

Another way this film demonstrates artifice, is with the actors' manner of acting. The acting is not very realistic and at times it reminded me of a play. During the very first scene that takes place in Karina's apartment, her boyfriend returns home and before they start arguing, they stop and say "before we begin, lets bow to our audience," and they turn and take a bow. Not only was this part funny, it escalated the film's artifice.

There were also countless references to other films such as "Breathless" and "Shoot the Piano Player" in "A Woman is a Woman." This also lessened the realism of the film since some of the actors who appeared in the film also starred in the films reference. An example of this is when Belmondo, the star of "Breathless," tells his friend to hurry and finish what he is saying because "Breathless" is about to start on TV.

Another element of this film that is worth looking at is the comedy that appears in it. I laughed on several occasions during the screening of "A Woman is a Woman." The comedy in this film was unlike any I have seen before. Comedy was achieved mostly due to the characters' childish nature. The funniest scene in this film was when Karina and her boyfriend call each other names by means of the titles on books they have on the shelf. I had never seen anything like that before. It was very original and hilarious. Another way made his film comedic, was with his editing. I laughed a great deal when the boyfriend character is angry at Karina and exclaims "She can go fry an egg," and the next scene shows Karina literally frying an egg.

Overall, I can say that I liked this film. The fact that "A Woman is a Woman" was so original and funny, made it very entertaining.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Response IX- Jules and Jim

Throughout this semester I have seen countless films that involve love triangles, but Truffaut's film "Jules and Jim" redefined my perception of a love triangle. Before the screening of "Jules and Jim" the films shown maintained a uniform portrayal of love triangles. Most of the love triangles in the other films involved two men and a women; the women was married to or dating one man, and has an affair with another man to complete a triangle. "Jules and Jim" has a triangle that involves a women and two men; however, it differs in that Catherine has relationships with both Jules and Jim and each of the men know about the other's relationship with Catherine and are okay with. Each of the men are married to Catherine as well. Therefore, Catherine's relationship to the Jules and Jim is polyandrous.

This strange relationship that the men had to Catherine was unlike anything I had ever seen before. This film was deemed immoral in both France and the United States and after seeing the film, I clearly understand why; however, I was not by any means disgusted by the film. I would not say that this film made me feel uncomfortable either, but I do believe that it definitely was very peculiar. The fact that the film included immoral content and was strange made it all the more original. I do not know how financially successful this film was, but I imagine that it was a big hit due to its controversial nature.

In a way, I believe that this film was misogynistic. One would not immediately come to that conclusion after watching this film since the female character was the one who possessed the most power in the film, but I feel that if one looks at the film more closely, it contains some misogyny. The main reason why I feel this film is so misogynistic is precisely because Catherine has so much power and influence over the men in the film. Why is this considered misogynistic though? It is obvious that Catherine is not mentally stable and makes both men miserable and ends up killing herself and Jim. The mere fact that Catherine is so incompetent as a matriarch made me feel as if Truffaut was making a statement about women in a position of power. I got the sense that Truffaut was saying that it is impossible for a women to be in a position of power because she does not know how to handle such a position, is incompetent, and will eventually fail. Misogyny is also present in the scene when Jim is at a bar and he runs old to his old woman friend who talks so quickly. He does not really pay attention to her and treats her like an object. Immediately after speaking with her Jim runs into another friend who has a girlfriend who does not speak at all. She stands there like a machine and a mere object.

Jules and Jim is interesting in a visual sense as well. Truffaut made history with his freeze frame ending in "400 Blows." Truffaut brings back the freeze frames in this film. The freeze frame is mostly used in happy moments. For example in one of the few scenes when Catherine is happy and smiling, there is a freeze frame of her smiling. I believe that these freeze frames were used during happy scenes because there were not many of them in this film and Truffaut really wanted the happy scenes to stick out and for audiences to remember them.

This is a strange film for me to talk about because I am not really sure if I liked it or hated it. I am very indifferent and ambivalent towards this film. I was not very entertained by it, but I did find it interesting to watch since I have never seen another film like it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reponse VIII- Shoot the Piano Player

After seeing Truffaut's first feature film "400 Blows," audiences were expecting something just as spectacular with his second film "Shoot the Piano Player." Unfortunately they were not impressed. "Shoot the Piano Player" was probably the worst received by critics and audiences of all Truffaut's work. I must admit that "400 Blows" is a fine piece of cinematic art; but for me, it is not the best film I have seen among those in the French New Wave. I believe that "Shoot the Piano Player" is some of Truffaut's finest work, one of the best films of the French New Wave and is probably even better than "400 Blows." I certainly enjoyed "Shoot the Piano Player" more than "400 Blows."

In a way, I can see why audiences would not have liked this film. Truffaut most likely modelled "Shoot the Piano Player" after the American gangster film. He gave his own twist to this genre and produced a film that was not focused well in regards to genre. Eopinions.com says that this film is not funny enough to be a comedy and not suspenseful enough to be a good gangster film. In my opinion, this lack of affinity to a particular genre is beauty of this film and what makes it an original cinematic piece. On many occasions this film made me laugh until it hurt, such as when the kidnappers engage Charles and Lena in a conversation about women and when one of the kidnappers says "May my mother drop dead if this is not true" and the next shot is of an old woman bending over to her death.

I believe that what determines whether one likes this film or not is dependent on how they view the film. The problem most people had is they were probably viewing it like a gangster film. Audiences failed to notice that "Shoot the Piano Player" had some parodic qualities. Gangster films are usually not meant to be funny but I laughed on many occasions during the screening of this film. If audiences understand that this film is somewhat of a parody, I'm sure that they will like it a whole lot more.

Another reason why I liked this film so much is because I learned a some valuable lessons from it. I learned to embrace the person I am and to contemplate less and follow my instincts. This whole film is about a washed up classical pianist who feels guilty for the death of his wife and chooses to hide the person that he is by changing his name and playing the piano at a local pub. As a result of his poor sense of self he contemplates too much and misses opportunities. A fine example of this is when he walks Lena home and constantly asks himself if he should walk her the rest of the way or not. By the time he makes a decision, Lena is gone. In a certain sense, I can relate to Charles. By watching him on screen I could see how I act sometimes. I believe that like him, I contemplate too much and second guess myself a great deal. This film inspired me to start following my instincts and contemplate less.

Film enthusiasts look at this film as being extremely entertaining like me or the worst film Truffaut ever produced. Regardless of people's reasons for liking or hating the film, I feel as if "Shoot the Piano Player" is one of Truffaut's most famous and most remembered films.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Response VII- My Night at Maud's

By reading a few reviews online and talking to some people from my film class, I have discovered that "My Night at Maud's" by Eric Rohmer was not the most entertaining film for many. One review I read compared watching this film with watching paint dry. In a way, I can understand why one would say that; this film is full of in depth philosophic dialogue and lacks a variety of settings. Although many find this film boring, for me, this is definitely one of the best films shown in this class.

This film kept my attention the whole time and I did not look away from it once. The most interesting aspect of this film for me was the way Rohmer conjoined contrasting elements. In "My Night at Maud's," Rohmer built bridges between simplicity and complexity and Catholicism and Atheism.

This film is complex and simple in so many ways. Simplicity is demonstrated in the cinematography, the plot, and Rohmer's choice of sets. The lack of variety in film settings is evident since almost the whole film takes place in Maud's and Franciose's apartments. The only other settings are a beach, a cafe, hilltop, a hilltop covered in snow, and a church. Simplicity is also exhibited in the film's cinematography. The traditional shot-reverse shot pattern most films use is limited in "My Night at Mauds." Instead, the actors are shown on screen for extended periods of time. Even if a character is not speaking, the camera does not immediately switch to the character who is speaking, it remains in the same place. Furthermore, the film does not use tracking and panning extensively. Also, the film's storyline is so simple as well; it is about a man named Jean who spends a night with a women who was married to a man who had an affair with Jean's future wife Franciose. Although the film physically appears to be uncomplicated, it possesses a great deal of complexity as well; this is displayed in the content of the film's dialogue. The in-depth religious, philosophical and political discussions make this film somewhat difficult to understand. I must admit that trying to fully understand the dialogues in the film was a challenge for me and I believe I still do not fully understand everything; however, this challenge is what kept me engaged in the film. If the content of a movie is straightforward and easy to understand, my mind shuts down, I lose interest, and I no longer pay attention. Due to the script's complexity, this was not the case for me during the screening of "My Night at Maud's."

Two other contrasting elements that Rohmer conjoins in this film are Atheism and Catholicism. Jean, the main character of the film is a devout Catholic. The other central character, Maud is somewhat of an Atheist. For me, it was very interesting to see what the product of a meeting between an Atheist and a Catholic would be. During the film, the encounter between Maud and Jean produced a great deal of suspense. When Jean and Maud first meet, in addition to conversations about Blaise Pascal and religion, Maud and Jean talked about sex, relationships, and the relationships they had in the past. Throughout this whole scene I was wondering if Jean was going to have sex with Maud. At times during this scene I believed they would have sex, and at other times I believed the wouldn't. The fact that Jean is such a devout Catholic and is interested in only blond Catholic girls made me think they would not sleep together. Although Maud is a brunette atheist, she is still very attractive and very seductive so there was still a possibility they would have sex. Rohmer plays with the audience's emotions even further when he makes the audience think that nothing would happen between Maud and Jean due to the fact that Jean fall asleep in an armchair, and then shows them in bed together in the morning. The scene in Maud's apartment was definitely a roller coaster of emotions for me. Ultimately, Jean does not sleep with Maud, but he does give in to temptation for a short time.

I must admit that I was angry that Jean did not fully give in to his desires. I felt that he was betraying his emotions and lying to himself by not sleeping with Maud. It made me even angrier when near the end of the film he tells Franciose that he slept with Maud. I still do not understand why he lied about his night at Maud's.

Although I do not fully understand some aspects of this film such as the content of the dialogue, I really enjoyed it. It kept me fully engaged due to the fact that it made me think, and it created suspense with the relationship between Maud and Jean. "My Night at Maud's" is the third of six moral tales by Eric Rohmer. After watching this film I have a great desire to see the other five.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Response VI- Cleo from 5 to 7

The most interesting aspect of "Cleo From 5 to 7" is most certainly the fact that it was directed the only female French New Wave director: Agnes Varda. The day we watched this film, I arrived a few minutes late and was unaware that this film was directed by a female. As the film progressed, it became evident to me that " Cleo From 5 to 7" was made by a woman. After watching this film, it becomes very clear that the gender dynamics are very different when compared to those in other French New Wave films. The other French New wave films that I have seen so far are not necessarily misogynistic, but they also are not particularly friendly in their portrayal of women. Two things really captured my attention in this film: the fact that the main character is a woman, and woman are shown doing things they did not normally do during that time period.

This film is centered around Cleo, a French singer who is diagnosed with cancer. In every French New Wave film that I have watched up until this point, men have been the main characters. Don't get me wrong, women have been main characters as well, but it is very rare that one would see just one woman as the main character.

In New Wave French films, one would not normally see women driving. Many scenes in this film take place in a car, and if I can recall correctly, only one man was ever shown driving. Women were usually the ones doing the driving in " Cleo From 5 to 7." One of Cleo's friends makes reference to women driving in this film. After Cleo's friend finishes posing nude for sculptors, she and Cleo go to her car and she beings talking about getting her driver's licence. Although the gender dynamics in this film are clearly different, I don't think I would necessarily say that this film empowers women. The only reason why I say this is because the female main character is portrayed as a stereotypical women: selfish, oblivious, naive, and helpless. Anyone who knows women would agree that women are generally not like Cleo. Therefore, one could also argue that this film also portrays women negatively.

This film greatly emphasizes the French crises in Algeria that took place during the 1950's. In the film, radios and televisions give news about it and people constantly talk about. There is one scene that takes place in a local bar and Cleo selects one of her owns songs from the jukebox. She does this to see what the people think of her. She is disappointed when she notices nobody paying attention to her song; however, she fails to notice herself that people are concerned with more important matters such as the crises in Algeria. Cleo proves to be oblivious to what is going on beyond her own life and exhibits a great deal of selfishness by caring about only herself and her own image. With that in mind, one can say that Varda may be portraying women stereotypically as oppose to the way they really are.

The fact that women are contradictively portrayed negatively and positively in this film may be Varda's way of commenting on the image of women at this time. The 20th century was a century of growth for women's rights. Of course, back in the 1950's women did not have the same rights that they do today; however, although they were not yet totally equal to men, by the 50's women were well on their way to equality. The fifties were are sort of in between point for the women's movement; therefore, it is appropriate that Varda did not portray too negatively, nor too positive. One can say that she stayed "in between" with her portrayal of women.

I really enjoyed this film. In addition to being entertaining, I feel that this film provides a great deal of material for discussion.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Response V- A Girl Cut in Two

Aside from "A Girl Cut in Two," the only other Chabrol film I have seen is "Les Cousins."I have not seen a great deal of Chabrol films, but I would have to say that he is probably my favorite French director. Even though there is a gap of about fifty or more years between the two films, I can still see some similarities between "Les Cousins" and "A Girl Cut in Two." The thing that stands out at me most with these two films is Chabrol's lack of compassion for his characters. I wouldn't say Chabrol hates his characters, but I wouldn't say he particularly likes them either. He does not allow his viewers to empathize with his characters at all.

There were three central characters in this film: Paul, the author, and Gabrielle. I must say that I was not empathetic towards any of these characters. Paul is spoiled and rich. He lives off of his dead father's money and is not entirely sane. The author is an old man who cheats on his wife and forces his lover Gabrielle to engage in some perverted, obscene sexual practices. Finally, there is Gabrielle who is a naive young girl. The only problem I have with her is that I think she is stupid since she allows people like the author to take advantage of her. After acquiring a general idea of what these characters are like, one can effortlessly see that these are not characters one would empathize with. I would have to admit this aspect of the film is what made it so enjoyable for me. Usually there is at least one character that viewers identify themselves with and they become deeply engaged in that characters story. With Chabrol's style I was able to avoid identifying myself with any characters thereby maintaining a separation from reality and the world within the film.

Another interesting aspect of this film was the absence of several important scenes. For example, Chabrol excludes the scene where Gabrielle is forced to have sex with several men, the scene where Gabrielle breaks down after the author changes his locks, and the scene where Paul is tried. Chabrol intentionally excluded these scenes so we could analyse the situation in the film in a different manner. By leaving out those key scenes, the audience is forced to step back and really realize how sick and twisted the situation is and how deranged the characters really are.

This film creates suspense both during the viewing of the film and afterwards as well. I went to go see this film with my girlfriend and we did not entirely understand the scene where Gabrielle and the author go to that club. After the author and Gabrielle begin climbing the stairs of the club the scene ends. Until we discovered that Gabrielle was forced to have sex with several men while the author watched, we continually asked "what the hell happened at that club?" It drove us crazy. Even now there are still some unanswered questions I have about the film. I would really like to know if the story that Paul's mother told to Gabrielle about Paul's brother dying in the bath tub was true. If it was true, did Paul kill him or was it an accident that scarred Paul for life? If the story is true, it would explain why Paul is the way he is. On the other hand the story could be fiction as well. After the trial, Paul's mother basically tells Gabrielle to go get stuffed. It seems that she told her the story so she would testify in court. With this film, Chabrol proved that he is a master of suspense.

The ending of the film intrigued me as well. We see Gabrielle being sawed in half by her uncle during a magic act. This is no doubt alluding to the title of the film "A Girl Cut in Two." I believe that conclusion is satisfying as well because the last shot is of Gabrielle smiling in a spotlight. This shows the viewers that a dark chapter of her life has ended and she is eager to go on living. Along with "Les Cousins," "A Girl Cut in Two" is probably one of my favorite French films.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Response IV- Pickpocket

Normally, films have a protagonist, and an antagonist and the viewers hope for the antagonist's downfall and for the protagonist's success in the accomplishment of his goals by the end of the film. This was not the case in Robert Bresson's film "Pickpocket." This film did a very good job of making me excited to see Michel, the pickpocket, be successful in his attempts to steathily steal from people. One does not simply choose to route for Michel, it just happens. Bresson forces us to identify with Michel by not including the reactions of the people who were victims of his pickpocketing. By not including reactions, I was not able to be sympathetic towards the victims; therefore it seems that there is nothing morally wrong with Michel's actions, and I inevitably came to like Michel and everything he did. Even now I wonder why I liked Michel so much. He did not really express any emotion and he usually had blank expressions on his face.

One could argue that the acting in this film was poor due to the fact that Michel and many other characters did exhibit a great deal of emotion in the expressions on their face and their dialogue. However, I believe that Bresson purposly excluded emotion since he casted non-professional actors to be in his film.

Of all the characters, it was Michel who demonstrated the least least emotion in his acting. When I really think about it, it made sense for the actor portraying Michel to be so passive and unanimated in his acting. Michel thinks himself to be a superior being. He steals from whoever he wants without caring about the consequences. Therefore, I would say that the acting in this film was appropriate. Emotion is a human trait; therefore, if I wanted to portray a character who believed himself to be a superior being, I would be sure he lacks emotion and to make him as indifferent and unanimated as possible.

This film reminds me of Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment." The reader of the novel is never really sure why Raskolnikov is motivated to kill; therefore, one can assume that he thinks he is a superior being. Like Raskolnikov, Michel's motivations to steal are not very clear. One can take a guess based on events in the film however. I believe that Michel just became addicted to stealing after he stole from his mother to play the horses and stole to pay her back. Although this sounds logical, there is not enough evidence to say that Michel simply became addicted to pickpocketing.

Although all the aspects of Michel's character are not clear, I enjoyed this film for the most part. I never though I could see myself empathizing with a character who is doing something immoral, but this film proved me wrong.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Response III- Breathless

I believe Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" to be the most interesting film we have watched so far. In addition to being very entertaining, this film uses innovative editing techniques and seeks to keep the story and the viewer separated by preventing the viewer from psychologically entering the reality of the film.

With this film, Godard really made a name for himself. In many ways, he broke the rules of traditional film making and invented a new style. With Godard's new style "anything goes" in film making.

This film contributed many new, innovative editing techniques to the art of film-making. An example of theses new editing techniques is Godard's use of jump-cuts. While the concept of jump-cuts was not unheard of, Godard's series of jump-cuts appearing one after the other was a relatively unique. Throughout the course of "Breathless" there are several sequences of jump cuts. These jump-cuts seem to appear in scenes when characters ramble. For example, there is one scene when Michel, the main character, is complimenting his love interest on how beautiful she is. He excessively compliments her and when the audience finally catches on to Michel's superfluous compliments, the series of jump-cuts begin to appear. The jump cuts effect was one that made the scene appear to drag on.

Sometimes, the continuity of scenes are disrupted and the events in shots are not linked well with the succeeding ones. I asked myself "wait a minute, how did we get there?" several times during this film. My favorite example of this appears at the end beginning of the movie. After Michel shoots the policeman, we immediately see him running in a field. In the previous scene, there were no scenes in sight. We never see Michel fleeing the scene. With this disruption of continuity, Godard forces us to fill in what happens. With the jump-cut technique and the technique just discussed, Godard succeeds in reminding us that we are watching a movie.

Many films today present events in a logical order and are edited in an orthodoxed fashion. The problem with these films, is they "spoon feed" the audience and allow them to become too engaged in the story. Many feel as if they are in the story. Godard's techniques allow us to stay separated from the story.

In a way, this whole film is about reminding the audience that they are watching a movie. Godard does this not only with his editing techniques but with many elements in the story as well. Michel is something of what I would call a "wannabe" gangster. he reminds me of children today who try to imitate their favorite action heroes. This can be seen as early as the beginning of the film. While Michel is driving in the car, he finds a gun in the glove compartment, aims it at the rear view mirror and pretends to shoot it while saying "POW!" In addition to this, Michel also imitates famous people like Humphrey Bogart. He does this with constant rubbing of his lips.

My favorite scene in this film is when Michel is shot in the back and he runs down the street for a few minutes; as we all know this is impossible in real life. With this scene, the many allusions to the world of cinema, Michel's "wannabe" gangster attitude, and the unique editing techniques, Godard seeks to remind us that we are viewing a film. For this reason, I really enjoyed this film. It is not often that a director intentionally makes a film the way Godard did. It was definitely a nice change.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Response II- 400 Blows

I did not really know what to expect from a film with the title "400 Blows." Before watching a film, I could usually accurately guess what it will generally deal with; however, this wasn't the case with this film. I believed that the reason for entitling the film "400 Blows" would become evident during my viewing of the film, but I was wrong. After seeing this movie, I still could not understand why it had such a title. Then I realized that "400 Blows" is not the original title of the film, it is "Les cents quatre coups." The French title is literally translated "400 Blows;" however, "Les cents quatre coups" comes from the French expression "faire les quatre cents coups" which means "to raise hell." After taking into account the meaning of the French title, the reason why Francios Truffaut chose such a title becomes clear- because "400 Blows" deals with an adolescent named Antione Doinel who is regarded as a "hell rasier" by his parents and his teachers. As the film progresses, one feels that Antione is the victim, not the people he annoys with his misdeeds. This sentiment comes about with the sense of confinement Truffaut creates in this film. Furthermore, the audience discovers that Antione is not as evil as he is perceived to be and that the bad behavior he displays is a result of a disfunctional family.

Throughout the whole film, Truffaut creates a sense of confinement. This is done mostly with the sets and especially with Jean-Pierre Leaud's acting. Leaud's portrayal of Antione was very passive and apathetic. There were not very many instances in this film where Antione shows a great deal of emotion. From what I remember, there were only two scenes where Antione demonstrates emotion: when he is in that ride that rotates rapidly, and when he is in reform school and he sees his close friend outside. For me, the lack of emotion created an atmosphere of unhappiness which elevated the sense of imprisonment. Although Antione is not literally confined for a majority of the movie, the conditions he lives in, along with the way that he is treated by his elders allowed me to feel as if he were living his life in prison.

The sets Truffaut uses also add to the sense of imprisonment in "400 Blows." Antione lives in a small apartment with his family. The apartment is in livable condition, but Antione sleeps in a very small room, almost closet-like, with a bed that hasn't any sheets. At one point, Antione's fathers asks the mother why she hasn't bought new sheets for Antione. She refuses to buy them because she claims Antione likes his sleeping bag better. Also, the classroom at the school Antione attends isn't very appealing; it reflects a prison setting. The work the teacher assigns to the students adds to this as well. In one scene, he makes the children memorize poetry and cite it back to him. They learn the poetry without knowing what it means and without giving their onw feedback on it. They are taught one way of thinking, and they are to accept it and not challenge it.

Antione was born out of wedlock and his mother reluctantly gave birth to him. One can see that Antione's mother clearly resents him through the way she mistreats him. In addition, Antione's mother has an affair which is not secret to Antione, and his parents constantly fight. To me, this qualifies as a disfunctional family. A child cannot develop properly unless he/she is raised in a nuturing environment; therefore, the fact that Antione is a troublemaker is not entirely his fault.

Antione has a dream of visiting the ocean. The fact that this dream is so simple and innocent shows the pure-hearted side of Antione that is rarely seen. At the end of the film, Antione's dream finally comes true when he escapes from reform school and runs to the ocean. Truffaut uniquely ends the film with a freeze frame. Before Truffaut, no one had ever ended a film in this manner; however, I feel that a freeze frame conclusion was appropriated for "400 Blows."

There were many times in my life when I wished that I could freeze time. With the freeze frame, Truffaut managed to perpetuate Antione's moment of perfect happiness. I have heard some say that the ending leaves the audience in a state of suspense. Contrary to most people, I was satisfied with the ending. Realistically, I believe Truffaut could not expand on this story anymore. Antione's ultimate dream has come true-- there is no better ending than that. This freeze frame ending in a way reminds me of a poem by John Keats entitled " Ode on a Grecian Urn." The poem can be found on http://englishhistory.net/keats/poetry/odeonagrecianurn.html. In a way, I am jealous of Antione. That freeze frame not only immortalizes him, but leaves him living eternally in a state of happiness.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Response- Les Cousins

I must admit that I am not well versed in French film. Until last week, I would probably not have been able to name a French director or a famous French film. The 1959 New Wave French film entitled Les Cousins, was the first feature-length French film I had ever seen; I enjoyed the film immensly. Director Claude Chebrol did a fine job of providing his audiences with an engaging film that posseses uniquely developed characters and a surprising conclusion.

There are three central characters in this film: Charles the student from the French countryside, Florence (Charles' love interest), and Charles' cousin Paul. The most interesting and uniquely developed character among those listed is Paul. Paul lives in Paris and his cousin Charles is sent to live with him while attending school in the city. These two characters are polar opposites: Charles is a dedicated student who is motivated to succeed in school, and Paul is a party-animal who cares for nothing more than good times, women, and alcohol. Paul provides a great deal of entertainment for the viewers of this film; but it is not his entertaining nature which is driving me to discuss him as a character of particular interest. There is more to Paul than lust, alchol, and parties.

Throughout the course of the film, one may notice that Paul has a fetish for guns and is an admirer of German culture. With Paul, Chebrol is successful in making various allusions to Nazism. At one of the parties, Paul begins playing a muscial piece by Wagner on his record player. To many, it is known that Wagner himself was a racist and was the Nazis' favourite composer. At that same party, Paul recites a poem in German while wearing what seemed to be a military hat that resembled one a Nazi official would have worn. In another instance, Paul and Charles return home and find their Jewish friend sleeping on the floor. In order to awaken him and frighten him, Paul yells in his ear "Gestapo," which was the secret police of Nazi Germany that, among many things, arrested jews.

The reason why Chabrol would use such allusions to Nazi Germany in his film is unclear to me; but I do have a faint idea. Early on in my life, I learned that France and Germany were enemies during the Second World War and Germany at one point controlled France. I believe that the presence of Nazi symbolism in Les Cousins may be a device Chabrol uses to foreshadow the unhealthy realtionship between Charles and Paul that comes later on in the film. In the case of Paul and Charles' relationship Paul is Germany and Charles is France.

Chabrol emphasizes the French author Balzac at one point in the film. As I discovered in class, Balzac wrote his novels about French countrymen moving to the city in pursuit of wealth and success. Ironically, this film follows a similiar storyline. Furthermore, it is very interesting how Charles and many of Balzac's characters are unsuccessful in their pursuit of success.

Earlier on, I mentioned that Paul had a gun fetish. It was very clever of Chabrol to give Paul such a fetish. With this fetish, Chabrol prepares the audience for the accidental murder of Charles by Paul at the end of the movie. I must admit that I predicted one of the characters would commit a murder, but the way it happened surprised me. The bullet that was meant for Paul ended up in Charles. The whole movie is a series of unfortunate events for Charles. In the end, Charles' misfortune continues when he loses a game of Russian roulette.

Although I really enjoyed this film, I feel as if Chabrol is undermining hardwork. Throughout the whole film, it is the hardworker who is unfortunate and the lazy party-boy who succeeds. After seeing that film I felt like I should quit studying and leave my future in the hands of lust, parties, and booze; but of course, we all know that in reality, Paul's path does not yield the best results.

This film was a joy to watch. I was disappointed to discover that we would not be viewing many more of Chabrol's films. However, after seeing Les Cousins I am looking forward to viewing many more French New Wave films.