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. 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.