Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"The Weekend"

Brent Stapleton
Paper Number II

Week End
Was this a film or a living, breathing, irritated creature waiting impatiently to offend most and force questions that may have no answer? “Week End” was the most physically and mentally provoking and controversial films I have ever witnessed. After experiencing the film (not viewing) I was in a literal trance. Two days following the event, I was still questioning everything from consumerism to the greed consumerism has caused for the modern day Christmas. I was agitated and not pleasant to be around. I wanted to create poetry that was legible to only me or a Dadaist poem out of random clippings from the collaboration of my Norton Anthologies. I had never been so exhausted from a piece of art, so ornate yet so enriched. To make this film manageable and un-haunting, I learned how to learn from the presented chaos.
It starts off with Corinne’s recollection of a twisted threesome involving two women, one man, eggs and cat bowl of milk. The description was encouraged by Roland Corinne’s husband. The sexual experience did not involve Roland and he was turned on by his wife’s adultery. The scene baffles the viewer and forces them to later discover Corinne and Roland are bonded by wedlock. Soon after we get an even better depiction of the extent of heartless and lack of morals the two characters have. They plan on visiting their parent’s for the weekend; in hope that before they get there their parents are killed in a car accident. This way they will not have to kill them to receive their inheritance. The couple leaves for their weekend trip to kill their parents and we are exposed to the horrific outside world. Everywhere the camera takes us is chaos and or ruins in their purest form. Cars burn and people lay dead bleeding on the side of the highway. Roland continues to drive as if the burning cars and people are inconveniencing his mission. He harshly jerks around the convertible, dodging the wrecks disgruntled and irate.
The lengthiest and possibly the most irritating scene is the traffic Jam. Roland, while joining the continuous beeping of the horns in what seems like never ending traffic jam, tries to cut in front of the line. In each car, the passengers are doing something mildly entertaining to pass the time (which is actually quite humorous). After what seems to be a fifteen minute one shot, Roland finally maneuvers his way to the front. A brutal car accident blocking the road is what caused the traffic jam. We now are introduced to a young gal who was involved in the accident. She complains to spectators that she has gotten blood on her new clothes. She nor anyone else acknowledge that the blood is from her brutally killed boyfriend that was in the driver’s seat. She is only worried about the things she consumed with currency.
I can only introduce the characters; I cannot give an extensive overview because there is no possible way to re-tell what is viewed on screen. I can however explain the aliveness of the film and what it provoked within me. Throughout the entire film I felt uneasy and at edge. My heart rate increased and thoughts raced through my mind. I did not try to analyze the film or find any hidden meaning, I simply was not capable. Even though it was a film of the past, I took it in contents and applied it to present day America. It made me evaluate what our greed and thirst for more of replaceable materialistic items have brought us. Sometimes exposing the most despicable case of a negative behavior is the only way to expose what very well could be the cause of our demise. That is exactly what this experience did for me. It exposed me to the brutality and panic greed and excessive consumerism can cause. T
The sheer alarm of the film somewhat fits the mindset of the current American situation. In the past Americans demanded larger everything; for example the purchase of unaffordable massive homes and oil eating SUVs. In result of the excessive consumerism Americans are now living beyond their means. Like the characters in the film, we have little or no respect for human life, as long as the result is more consumption. We fight wars and kill for massive oil fields. Why? So we can continue to destroy the planet and depend on taking lives to cheaply fill our escalades with gasoline? It has caught up to us; our immense homes are being foreclosed and the automotive companies are failing. We are now wondering, especially as Detroiters, why we are left penniless, unemployed and homeless. Maybe Godard was sending a warning to the world through this film. It is a harsh reality that not many can comprehend without becoming “offended” or “repulsed”. The United States is now learning it’s lesson the hard way and is on its way to paying the consequences of greed.
No, most of us are not killing our parents to gain our inheritance, or instead of mourning a death worrying about the blood stains on our shirt, but we have been guilty of putting consumerism in front of the basic well being of the world. Godard depicts this in an extremist mannerism. This way the attention of the audience is gained and people are forced to live through this film. Almost like a bad trip or dream, In order to make it through this film you must think of reality. Godard forces you to think of current events or else the film will stick with you for days, putting you into an odd hypnotized type state. You must embrace the negativity to slay this ornate living creature, like a battle you always learn something from your opponent. This was not a film; it was the ugly and un-wanted face of change.

"A Woman Is A Woman"

It is incredible looking back and relating this film to the later Godard work. Compared to his later work which is incredibly bizarre and convoluted with little to no plot to follow; this film was fairly simple. In my opinion it was a parody to a traditional musical. The times chosen to sing seemed to be obviously in-opportune and un-necessary. The general plot of the movie was very untradional and not typically put into song. Anna Karina played an unstable stripper that wanted more than anything to become pregnant. Her boyfriend refused and the film was made up of entertaining fights between the lovers. Eventually Anna Karina's character sleeps with a man they encounter daily. When her boyfriend finally agrees to sleep with her she tells him of her relations with the other man. Now if she does indeed get pregnant, they will be unsure who the father of the baby it actually is.

In this film we see early signs of Godard's theme of female sex-workers in his films. The neighbor in the apartment is a prostitute and happily has men coming and going every time she is shown. Godard typically shows prostitutes as average people and often joyful. Anna Karina's character is a stripper. This role is somewhat innocent in Godard standards and may represent the freshness of Godard and Karina's relationship at the time.

This was the first film we saw Godard's idealization of Karina. Constant close-ups and admiration of her beauty continues throughout the film. Some may see Godard's idealization of Karina to be demoralizing to women. They may feel this is puting a women on a petistle and not treeting them as an equal. I am impartial to the argument and feel that a director has the right to depict his characters in any mannerism chosen.

"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg"

I did not particularly enjoy this film. I am not a fan of musicals and this was beyond a musical. Every bit of dialogue was delivered in song, this made me lose my sanity twenty minutes into the film. I could not find a character that I could relate to and did not particularly like Guy or Genvieve. Guy seemed like a fairy tale depiction of women's desires. He was handsome, simple, caring and sensitive. In my opinion the character was a complete fabrication, I don't know, maybe it was all the singing. Genvieve was naive, spoiled and incapable of making any rational decision. I believe we were supposed to dislike her mother, but I absolutely despised her to the point where I did not want to see her on screen. She practically forced Genvieve to get together with the jeweler while Guy was off fighting a war. She was interested in nothing else but the Jewelers money and used her daughter to get connected to a man with wealth. This is prostitution with the mother acting as the pimp, selling her own daughter. In the end it looked as if Guy full filled his dream of opening his own gas station and Genvieve was a simple play thing to her wealthy husband. This gave me some closure, at least Genvieve's decision to not wait for Guy and marry the jeweler came back to haunt her.

On a bright note, the illuminating colors of the films were indeed interesting. The way the film was shot and the use of color may have been the only positive I took from my viewing. I do not know very much about cinematography, but I do know that the film was aesthetically appealing.

"Vivre Sa Vie"

This was a truly beautiful film. Godard's obsession with Anna Karina helped produce a beautifully shot film. The twelve different sections of the film guide the audience into Nana's life of prostitution. Was this film done to represent Godard's love and failure to obtain a relationship Anna Karina? This was however originally a novel, how much did Godard change the base of the novel to make Nana (Anna Karina) the subject at all times?

My favorite scene of the movie is when we are first introduced to Paul. Nana is dressed to the nines ready to go to the theatre with her pimp (I lost his name). They make a stop at a pool bar, which Nana is not happy about. This scene shows Nana's true power over men. She asks the bartender downstairs if they have cigarettes. The bar tender tells her yes and asks her if she wants one, Nana refuses. When she goes upstairs, without asking she patiently watches Paul go downstairs and fetch a cigarette for her. She new Paul would fetch the cigarette, and wanted to see if she could influence him with sheer beauty to do her an unasked favor.

This scene established my wonderment of what Godard was representing. Did this have to do with his diminishing relationship with Anna Karina? I feel Godard represented himself in two characters: the pimp and Paul. The pimp simply used Nana for his profit and sold her when he was through (which eventually led to her death). Paul on the other hand was greatly influenced and easily controlled by Nana. The pimp may of been Godard's representation of using Anna Karina in his films and watching and disposing of her when he was done. Paul may of been the representation of Anna Karina's actual power over Godard, and the love he felt for her. I will have to watch this film again to truly analyze it. It seems to be full of under-tones that were most likely influenced by Godard's life and relationship with Anna Karina.

"Les Carabiniers"

The characters in this film show cartoon like qualities. Everything down to their names is animated and ironic. Ulysses, Michel Angelo, Venus and Cleopatre are not great historical figures or goddesses they are in fact idiots. Ulysses and Michel Angelo are hoaxed into going to war for their country. They are promised the great treasures of the world and truly believe they can obtain them. Venus and Cleopatre beg them to go to war so they can bare gifts when they return. When they are in war they are completely animistic because they believe that everything is there for the taking. They were told that in war you can steal, commit arson, murder in the cold blood, rape and demoralize woman etc. One of the character's promised treasures was a Maserati. They show him at a car dealership not understanding that you need money in order to purchase the car. Naturally he carelessly starts to rob people in order to obtain the un obtainable amount of money it takes to purchase a Maserati. The other character was shown at a movie theatre. The film being played showed an attractive lady bathing, you could see his excitement grow. He did not know that the lady was not real and he tried to kiss her through the screen. He ended up falling through the screen with a comical dumbfounded look on his face.

This was on obvious anti-war film, but also may be an attack on volunteer soldiers. Or the country depicted could have easily represented Nazi Germany during World War II. They brainwashed their soldiers to full fill their goal of world domination. This is exactly what the country in the film was doing with naive Ulysses and Michel Angelo. Godard again leaves the doors open, and the viewer can decide for themselves what the vision was supposed to represent.

"Day for Night"

This was an enjoyable and clever film that unlike later Godard films allowed me to relax and follow a story. It was great viewing Truffaut's depiction of a studio made movie. Truffaut himself was very natural on screen, playing a struggling young director, and was not a bad actor.

The idea of making a film about the process and drama that goes into the production of an actual film was very revealing and in my opinion educational. I rarely think of clashing personalities, love affairs and experiences of my favorite actors, actresses, cinematographers, directors etc. while they shot my favorite movie. This made me look at the process of film making in a more psychoanalytical way. It was almost as if Truffaut's character was forced to play a parental type role to his staff. This was incredibly stressful because he was battling the high expectations of producers and his personal demons.

Mundane and comical problems became a real hinder to the process. One particular problem that I found enjoyable and quite comical was the kitten that would not drink the milk. The entire shot and days work was in jeopardy because the cat they chose for the scene was to bashful to drink the presented milk outside the supposed hotel room of the lovers having the affair. I believe this may of been a presentation by Truffaut to viewers and staff including actors and actresses, of how stressful his job really is.

He displayed the main actor as a complex love sicken pre-Madonna. The actors personal flaws almost stopped the production of the entire movie. This makes you wonder about the people that are professional actors and actresses and how many times things like this may happen on the actual shooting of a film. Especially in today's Hollywood films, the actors and actresses hold an incredible amount of power and can make or break a directors film. I truly believe this was Truffaut venting.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Two or Three Things I Know About Her

Most the Godard films we were exposed to were very difficult for me to grasp, I believe this class will motivate me to obtain a Netflix account, do some research of the 60's in France and re-watch the films by Godard we viewed. My lack of knowledge of the politics at the time seem to be tainting my view and understanding of Godard. I realize he is a great and innovative artist and is definitely worth researching and attempting to understand.

There is a definite lack of plot in this film. It is more of a documentary with actors and actresses than a fictional tale. Godard even goes as far as introducing the main actress in the beginning of the film. Since I am an English major and a slappy for fiction I found this style of film difficult to cope with. I do not need a strong plot, just something to temporarily let me believe that it is not a film.

We learned in class that there were problems with the government housing in Paris at the time. This film certainly depicts the noisy, cramped and overpriced cookie cutter living that was available. I however, do not know the reasoning behind why so many people were forced to live in these sort of expensive slums. This is something I may have to research before I can fully understand. I did notice that the main character may of liked her profession as a prostitute. It allowed her to afford new clothes and hats (she was shown shopping at the beginning of the film). This gives me reason to believe that Godard was trying to depict that the characters life style was a choice and not a necessity. It makes ask questions such as; why can't a prostitute be a normal middle class woman? What in society has shunned supposedly the worlds oldest profession? A modern day argument can be the spread of disease and AIDS. Another argument can be the introduction of religion. This is not discussed in the film, obviously the prior AIDS theory was before the films time, but this is what I was thinking instead of trying to follow a sensible line of fiction.

Apparently Godard achieved his goal. He made me think. His lack of plot forced me to produce my own. This may be a positive attribute, a film as a living and breathing thing, producing different ideas in every individual each time we watch. It is one of those things that is so innovative I may hate to like it.

Bonnie and Clyde

This film was bending the rules of traditional American Cinema. American cinema prior to this never routed for criminals. The plot line followed Bonnie and Clyde and made these characters very likable. Bonnie and Clyde were bank robbers and murderers, but the viewer wanted to see them succeed. In films today this is a very common theme, however in 1967 when this film was produced this was practically un heard of in Hollywood. This makes Bonnie and Clyde a very innovative film that paved the path for thousands of following Hollywood films.

In class the professor mentioned that the original screen play for Bonnie and Clyde was even more provocative. In the actual film Clyde was impotent, this was an ongoing theme and joke throughout the film. Instead of sex scenes we saw Bonnie's frustration and Clyde's inability to make love. In the original screen play Clyde was bi-sexual and had a love affair with C.W. There were certainly under tones of this in the actual film. One example that sticks out in my head is the checkers game in the lodge. C.W is sitting in between Clyde's legs and Clyde is playing with his hair. Bonnie is standing behind the two men with an incredibly ornate look on her face. This certainly is not how two heterosexual men typically behave.

In conclusion, the main characters were both criminals, one was impotent and possibly bi-sexual, the other was sex- driven and very turned on by the site and use of guns. This is not average 1967 Hollywood characters in film.