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Archive for the month “July, 2012”

An appreciation to La Jetee

This morning I woke up,with my Facebook app in my IPhone,it told about another legend have passed on. It was still recovering from Aurora shooting incident that happened a week ago. My heart sank because I watched one of his films during my film history class. It was La Jette. Today I will talk about my love for that film-La Jette

Chris Marker was a slightly lesser known director of The French New Wave,while Godard and Truffaut are all out with their homages to American Cinema and write essays over their love for cinema in Cahiers Et Cinema. Marker is on the other group called “The Left Bank” where they are a little more experimental in their filmmaking and have a deep love for literature. Notable examples from that group are “Hiroshima Mon Amor” and “Last year at Marienbad.” This film is perhaps the most notable for The Left Bank group.

La Jetee is about a post-nuclear world,where people are randomly chose to time-travel in their memories. A prisoner is struggling with a vague memory which could saved the world. O.K it sounds like something out of Nolan’s Inception (2010) but however I interpret it as a metaphor of isolation and  power-control. The Prisoner was struggling to forget that haunting memory as explained in the prologue,that later developed to his own struggle during his time in the “caves”. As disscused in the essay “Platonic Themes in Chris Marker’s La Jetée” Sander Lee seen this experience of the experiemnt as “namely an obsession with an internal image which is valued more highly than sensations derived from empirical experience.” At times we do feel alone when we struggled with memories that haunted us like the prisoner,who tried his best not to fall back to that memory of seeing a death of a man and that woman’s expression. It feels almost isolated and rather frightening,given that the situation La Jetee shows a power struggle between people for basic resources that they lost that memory of emotion.

What makes La Jetee very unique to FNW (French New Wave) was how they used photographs to convey a story. No it was not like those cheesy vacation slideshows of happy tourists and scenery porn.The exposure of the photos in the beginning are seen as dark to show the darkness of human hearts,but during the flashback scenes of the prisoner and the woman the tonal values are less harsh to show the happy times he encountered. It shows that you do not really need a moving footage to convey an idea. It is hard for us to grasp it as we seen film as a moving object,even a single picture tells words to the subconscious.

It was interesting that Saner Lee draw comparisons of  Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) to La Jetee,both films do talk about obsession and memory itself

It is in this choice that the man resembles Scotty Ferguson (James Stewart), the protagonist of Vertigo, the film which Marker explicitly references in the tree trunk scene. Like the man in La Jetée, Scotty is obsessed by his memory of a mysterious woman who seemed the living embodiment of all his desires and dreams.

In fact La Jetee do have a slight homage to the dream sequence of Vertigo and of course the blinking eye is a wink to the opening scene of Vertigo. I think Marker referred to that film,because he wanted to emphasize the point of how powerful the memory was. While we may tried to forget what the memory is,subconsciously an object or a face may triggered it as it was seen by this quote

 This time he is close to her, he speaks to her. She welcomes him without surprise. They are without memories, without plans. Time builds itself painlessly around them. Their only landmarks are the flavour of the moment they are living and the markings on the walls. 

Perhaps that is why this film is so poignant,it tell us that memory is unreliable. As Jonathan Romney commented about its theme of La Jetee   “La Jetée proposes an avenue that few chose to follow directly, yet the film has been hugely influential. Its visual transformation of the mundane into future dystopia was further pursued by Jean-Luc Godard in Alphaville (1965), and later by Wong Kar-wai in his multiperiod narrative 2046 (2004).”

As I am crazy over how music videos homage to films,you could see that La Jetee’s images inspires many music video directors, most notably David Bowie’s “Jump they Say” with the image of a man being strapped by wires

Interestingly,the song was inspired by a tragic incident of David’s half-brother’s suicide which linked to the prisoner’s memory of witnessing a man’s death.

MVs of Iris-“In Fiction” and  Sigue Sigue Sputnik‘s “Dancerama” also homaged themselves to this film by the photos.

However the most notable homage of La jetee  is Terry Gillian “12 Monkeys” not only homage La Jetee in its opening sequence but also homaged another film that La Jetee draw inspirations from-Vertigo (1958).

I find it difficult to summarize my appreciation for this filmThe themes of this film perhaps stood the test of time as many filmmakers talked about the unreliability of memory and that is why it was treasured. Its techniques are so radical that it surprised me how they managed to talk philosophical themes with images. As Romney opened his essay ” La Jetée: Unchained Melody”- “However you define Chris Marker’s 1963 short La Jetée—philosophical fiction, genre exercise, treatise on cinematic time—one fact is unavoidable: it resembles few other films. In fact, La Jetée does not define itself as a film” Indeed this film is something thought-provoking yet a wonder to this world.

RIP Chris Marker 1921-2012






Does beauty matter? A look into Sophie Hatter in Howl’s Moving Castle

So hello guys,again my dearest apologies for the silence.. I have been busy doing Tumblr posts than neglecting this blog Thanks for the lovely comments for the posts! It definitely make me happy that you loved my analysis of the films

Today I will be re-visiting my favorite anime film Howl’s Moving Castle. I thought instead of putting a full analysis,I shall do it as a motivational post for us girls and also a in-depth look at that classic. Yes I read that novel of the film (if you guys are interested on the story it was from the late Diane-Wynne Jones) and I just hated it like crazy because I feel that Howl in the book is not so charming and I don’t feel much for Sophie

So guys if you did not watch this film,basically it’s about a hat maker Sophie was cursed by a spell after an encounter the mysterious (and handsome) Howl,by The Witch of Waste went through the journey to break that curse. I just fall in love with that film for its beautiful animation and a wonderful plot when I was 15. Of course any girl would be totally swooned by how damn good-looking Howl is (I dare anyone not to be swooned by Howl) and secretly wished that you are doing that sky walk with him. ( I would LOL)

However that is not the point that we have the most glorious liferuiner in animation history in our screens,what I am focusing on is Sophie’s journey. To me what struck me from this film again was Sophie’s character how she stopped being self-critical about herself and learnt how to accept for who she was.

Pixar’s latest addition Brave may bring applause for girls for making Merida a bushy red-headed with some fat,however Miyasaki did that treatment a while ago in Howl’s Moving Castle. Sophie is not your typical good-looking anime girl with those big sparkly eyes and fabulous hair that you seen in Sailor Moon. She was like us,bushy eyebrows,plain looking hair and not so much a great figure. However she seemed to be insecure as she did not interact with her fellow hat-makers and she said to her sister “that I rather stayed in the shop because I am the eldest.” as she fear that no one would appreciate her looks.

On the otherhand Howl was very handsome,but however he seemed to worry about his looks than his fellow companions as he lamented after Sophie somewhat screwed up his hair dyes-” I give up. I see not point in living if I can’t be beautiful.” While it was pretty hilarious to hear Howl crying and scolding Sophie for screwing up his spells,it proves to be heartbreaking for Sophie. To her those potions does not even matter to her,she still feel like an ugly woman.

It sounds like us,we often feel so insecure that we would try everything to make ourselves feel better physically. I heard so many many tragic stories of young girls wanting to have plastic surgery and it breaks my heart. However she does not cry for long after Howl’s tanturn,no she instructed Markl to help her switch on the hot water to bathe him and she even bring the slimy Howl up by her own hands. She seems to forget about herself and her own needs and instead focus on that little family. That is bravery,instead of wallowing over our insecurites-we should focus that negative energy on helping others in our positive way.

As the film goes,the spell she was plagued slowly weaned off by her strong spirit,you may seen in most Miyasaki-san films of strong females who defy odds. When times are rough for the house and Calcifer was poisoned by the peeping bug,she encouraged him to stay strong as a family unit,it may sound like stories of women in WW2 who stayed strong while their husbands are away for war which we could link to Miyasaki’s experiences encountering WW2 in Japan himself. It applied to us when times are tough for us,whenever it was studies or your life.  As Sophie encouraged Calcifer-“They say that the best blaze burns brightest, when circumstances are at their worst.” (I prefer the Japanese translation though)Never ever lose hope for yourself. Perserve against all odds no matter what.

That scene when Calcifer used Sophie’s hair as fuel was impactful after she said that quote,to me I seen her long hair as a symbol of her insecurity and her self-esteem. When Calcifer ate that braid as a fuel,it shows that Sophie is no longer looking at herself lowly. Girls please let go off that questioning if you are worth of yourself. Once you could let go of that burden,you could be free no matter what.

There are times where we actually doubt how beautiful we are,especially when others can see how beautiful we are. When Sophie asked Howl sincerely if he is going to be a monster and whenever she could be accepted. I just love Howl sincerely accept her and said “Sophie you are beautiful.” Howl can seen her inner beauty that he even stopped his cowardly ways of running away from his teacher’s spells and face the world as it was. Even Sophie even help Howl to calm down when both were encountered by a spell. It was a positive feeling for the people that met Sophie,Sophie was the first person who cared for Turnip-Head and in reslut cause a break in his curse as a handsome Prince Justin. Markl learnt to loosen a bit from his stiff ways as he cried to Sophie not to leave that family. It shows you by accepting yourself,we eventually impact people’s lives as Sophie did to her friends.

I know that it was difficult to swallow,Miyasaki-san asked us what is true beauty. Not it was not keeping up the appearances that Howl prided himself by his 10001 potions. Beauty do fade as it was seen in The Witch of The Waste,however it was the spirit that counts if we stop putting negative thoughts in our heads and start believing that we are beautiful ourselves. Like Sophie,we could impact lives and of course ourselves. I would leave with you an Avatar The Last Airbender quote (Yes I watched the last few epis of Avatar)

We may be confused on who we are and why we want to do,but slowly we could gain that strength soon.

An appreciation to Marty (1955)

It seems that the legends of Hollywood are slowly fading and for the past few weeks it was filled with grief and shock,recently the industry was shocked by Peter O’Toole’s retirement from acting. It was still suffering from the shock of Ernest Borgnine’s passing.

To be frank I did not know that movie actually existed until I heard about Borgnine’s death and many acclaimed that Marty was perhaps the best acting role Borgnine have even taken. So I am pretty lucky to find this copy at the library and boy I came surprised. I was a little teary on the inside and I clapped at the end of the film. So I will flesh about why this film deserved to be in the same spot as the most famous counterparts in 1954.

1954-it was the year of the best Hollywood classics,you have the mystery of Hitchcock’s Rear Window,Marlon Brando’s acting in On The Waterfront (Remind me to watch this). For the arthouse films,we have Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Fellini’s heartwrenching La Strada. Yup it was great,but Marty stood out for me in a good way was its down-to earth story. Yes screenwriters always have that problem as seen in a conversation from Barton Fink (1991)

Charlie: I could tell you some stories…
Barton: Sure you could and yet many writers do everything in their power to insulate themselves from the common man, from where they live, from where they trade, from where they fight and love and converse and…
Barton: So naturally their work suffers and regresses into empty formalism and… well I’m spouting off again, but to put it in your language, the theatre becomes as phony as a three-dollar bill!
Charlie: Well I guess that’s a tragedy right there!

However Chayefsky managed to create the human emotion in his story,look at Marty-well he is no handsome smooth-talking Jimmy Stewart or jolly Gene Kelly. He is just a butcher who have insecurities with himself. We could relate at him in a personal level,sometimes I wonder if I am worthy of myself. That is what a screenwriter is supposed to do is getting the audience to cheer for the man. Even Chayefsky recalled in a memoir of conceiving Marty.

I set out in Marty to write a love story, the most ordinary love story in the world. I didn’t want my hero to be handsome, and I didn’t want the girl to be pretty. I wanted to write a love story the way it would literally have happened to the kind of people I know…

I want to say “Thank God” that they did not make the ending,a typical Hollywood “Happily Ever After” stuff. If they did the reunion of Marty and Clarie. It would not create such an impact to me. I would leave the place bitter-handed. Instead they leave the audience in suspense by Marty going to the phone booth at the restaurant and called Claire.

Borgnine is brilliantly executed the part of Marty so nicely,he just got that face and emotion to portray the ‘common man’ so loevly. To me the golden moment was when he confessed to Claire (Betsey Blair) that he loved her. It was that expression of such happiness and yet sorrow that was frickin’ beautiful.

The theme of relationships was beautifully executed,it shows how afraid we are to leave our parents’ insight after we are married whenever it was negative like Thomas reculantly kicked his mother out,or Claire’s fear for her father’s wellbeing. The reason why Marty does not want to marry as he was afraid to commit to a relationship. It was that push of the objection of friends and family that he wanted to pursue Claire.

Of course may I add that it won 4 Oscars for 1955 Academy awards including Best Actor? I also added that it was added to the archives in 1994.I feel that the reason why it was not appreciated because it was overshadowed by its most famous counterparts like “Rear Window” or “La Strada” because of its simplicity . Or perhaps it may not stay well in the test of time? I am surprised that it was not that well-received because it was so relatable and the script is amazing.

I find it hard to conclude about its appeal but I found this quote from the article “Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine: Remembering each of their greatest performances. One of them may be the most startling Hollywood movie you’ve never seen

The beauty of Marty is that Ernest Borgnine made you believe that one man’s impetuous decision to splurge on a taxi cab could be nothing less than a soul reborn.

It was perhaps Borgnine’s performance that could transform the simplistic story to something endearing and perhaps we should take that time to appreciate that little gem.

RIP Ernest Borgnine-1917-2012

To Sir Peter O’Toole

I apologise for not been in the updating mode,because I have a bad case of the writer’s block for my Shallow Grave post and stuff.

Those who are following my blog will know that one of my favourite films was David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia to the point I wrote an appreciation for that film. This film just simply deepen my love for it alongside Julie Taymor’s Across The Universe.

I am really upset when I heard that he will retire from acting for good from lots of upset Peter O’Toole Tumblr fans. First I was quite in a disbelief,then slowly as I ranted it out to a friend of mine (yes he is absolutely upset about that news too). I grew to be extremely upset as if a legend just passed away for good to the point I could not sleep. It just dawned to me what sheer amount of talent he have at a young age when he played that flamboyant T.E Lawrence. As I wrote a mini post to my Lawrence of Arabia tumblr blog,it was difficult to express my shock over that news,so I recalled that scene that sealed my fate and love to that film “He have this charisma that electrify the entire audience. I remember that haunting scream “No Prisoners! No Prisoners!” that sealed my fate to that film. It was so frighting even when I watched for the second-it was these eyes that shook me to the core.”

I remember that I was delighted that he was in The Last Emperor and I extremely enjoyed his performance as Puiyi’s English tutor Mr Johnston because he played it with such class and dleight that it evoked me back to LoA again. That film was the first one I watch at the big screen and he was no less amazing.

Even in his lesser known roles like The King in Stardust (2007) or the critic Anton Ego in Ratatouille,he still shines at his roles beautifully. He is such a talent.

Yes there is some hope for actors that lift our ‘Acting’ status in Hollywood or anywhere else like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver,Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar Wai’s films,Robert Downey Jr who made his comeback after his drug bust in the 1990’s with his fun performance in Iron Man. My cinephile buddy said that  Michael Fassbender is the new rising star for the film industry with such raw talent seen in Shame and Hunger. Yes there is hope in humanity for promising actors but they will never ever reach that standard Sir O’Toole have established. Never. He would be greatly missed for me for his acting and made me want to re-watch Lawrence of Arabia and his filmography to see such a great actor in work.

So farewell Peter O’Toole,I hope that someday that I would meet you,this legend and I would thank you for making me appreciate the beauty of film.


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