cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM The Great Beauty 2013 [1]





Toni Servillo in The Great beauty



Dead in the water. Stuck. Wanting to spill out you thoughts on a film you heard about, watched and then, hey everybody, this is good, it’s….ah,um….you’ve got someone you’d like to watch this film before you spoil it by explaining all. Who hasn’t had that sinking moment when you ask someone about film, only to realise the whole film is going to be recalled from prodigious memory for you, and there is no escape. Yes, seen it. Brilliant. And here is entire right down to the details of all the dialogue.

I’ve got the same problem with The Great Beauty directed by Paolo Sorrentino. What can I say? I’ve tried writing it through to see what can be said, ending up with half-written sentences stuttering to a halt well before reaching their destinations. I was even going to use a few Italian phrases heard in the film. No. There is no way round this except to say it’s termed an art-house film. It’s Italian. English sub-titles. It won the best Foreign Film Award at the Oscars last year. Must be worth watching for foreign film enthusiast. It is.

What to say on a film you want someone to watch before you say anything? Are there films you can say quite a lot about without spoiling someone else’s viewing? Is the smallest vignette permitted? No. Not in this case either. All I can say now is, Lo, a film, try it. So. Not even the title translated into Italian. How one has to exercise steely control. And so this post is also addressed to someone who has seen the film who might understand why the title has not been translated in the heading, or in the body of text. (But who can have a conspiratorial wink about knowing why, and in turn not being able to put a kibosh on things by making a comment..)

Perhaps as a displacement activity to assuage the frustration : une petite idée de film.

A man and a woman meet, fall in love. Have a relationship. Then it breaks up for reasons unknown to the audience. On show some bewilderment, anger, sadness, regret, etc. Hankies out. They both loved the movies and spent a lot of time watching them and talking about them. As one does.

They both realise they can’t share anything about film anymore – no communicating at all. They spend a lot of time thinking and imagining what they would be choosing to see, where they would be doing it if still together. Shown by the usual – inevitable – tropes [cleverly masked as homages and satire on] of shots of couples going into movies, etc. Even plugging in DVDs, blubbing, et al. Little scene in which one or other, disconsolate but determined, goes to see a movie. Buys a ticket, stands in foyer with the milling crowd – then after a certain amount of wistfulness, walks back out onto the street.

The upshot, to cut a short story shorter, is the means by each comes to terms with the loss of the film connection amongst the butterflies of lurv, and learns to live and love again. He of course has a film blog and finds he can’t write about films he wants her to see, so stalls, writes around the curly hedges, about production design or mise en scene, or even Godard being rude about actors, anything just to post with the film’s title on the heading. A marker for the future. A dog lifting it’s leg to a lamp post.

Suddenly one day he finds he can write a bit more on films he has seen. But not a lot. He still can’t bring himself to write about the latest releases – he doesn’t want to be a dirty little spoiler. But he realises he can write about obscure art-house movies that no one would want to watch, or even the technicalities of film making like editing.

Here’s one.

In the middle of a long dissertation on Hitchcock’s 1954 Rear Window, from an editing point of view (and POV comes into it a lot..), in Valerie Orpen’s Film Editing, on page 27, referring to an interview with Truffaut, at which point he is talking about the Kuleshov effect:


FILM EDITING orpen p.27 [hitch on actors] [2]


reading this, helps to see a bit more clearly what Godard means about actors. He’s saying the same thing, except he says it in such as a way as to highlight his role as auteur. Ce film, c’est a moi! Tout a fait….mon Dieu….mais oui….c’est vrai….il est moi! Godard=cinema=Godard. And Hitch was in the Hollywood system for the most part i.e. not what would be considered an auteur. Hitch was in control of his projects in a way most Hollywood directors were not. I’ve not read it said he was an auteur in the way the New Wave directors were. Though Godard is greatly interested in him and his work.



May 16, 2014 Posted by | Alfred Hitchcock, Godard, Jean-Luc Godard, POV, Rear Window [1954], The Great Beauty [2013] | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FILM When Truffaut met Godard



When Truffaut met Godard



By


Tobias Grey


Financial Times, 21 January, 2011



February 14, 2012 Posted by | Godard, Godard/Truffaut, Truffaut | , , , | Leave a comment

FILM Film as an act of Love {by Sukhdev Sanhu}





antoine-les-400-coups1




Film as an act of Love


by Sukhdev Sandhu

Fifty years ago, François Truffaut’s Quatre cents coups
heralded a revolution in cinema. Sukhdev Sandhu salutes
a modern classic



NewStatesman 2 April 2009

April 15, 2009 Posted by | Antoine Doinel, Cahiers du cinéma, criticism, culture, film analysis, film directors, film editing, film narrative, film theory, film [its techniques], Truffaut | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Documentary film “Operation Filmmaker”: Muthana Mohmed meets Antoine Doinel

Storyville ran Operation Filmmaker, a documentary by Nina Davenport on BBC4 recently. Some clips in YouTube and elsewhere. It appealed to me because it was about a young Iraqi man: I lived in Baghdad in the 1950s.

After watching Operation Filmmaker I ran through my thoughts and immediately wrote them down: on the film itself and documentary as a genre. Then I checked for information on what happened to the star of the story and started to read the reviews.

The film has been played elsewhere as can be seen from the Operation Fimmaker website, and there are many reviews which can be accessed from the site.

A review  Everything Is Deracinated: Nina Davenport’s “Operation Filmmaker” in IndieWire by Michael Koresky [June 1, 2008]

John Power’s audio review on NPR is particularly good.

An article with more of  Nina Davenport’s views:

Nina Davenport on Operation Filmmaker in The Lumiere Reader

Two interviews with Nina Davenport:

(1) The Strand Magazine (U. of Ontario)

(2) ComingSoon.net

After watching the documentrary I had an overweening desire to write to Nina to ask what she had been paid to film Muthena, whether she was paid right through to the end for her own expenses or whether it transmuted into a production company (the film goes out under her as ‘director’) which she had to finance, and how much was doled out to Muthena over the course of the film in money and kind. Near the end, just before Nina decides to cut her losses, he demands $10,000.

This makes me wonder exactly how much such a project involves. Did Muthena gradually become aware of the amounts, which made him feel he should benefit financially as well. When he does ask for his money, it did seem he was asking the question, How much do you want to make this movie? Although in the finished film Nina Davenport  is heard and even seen trying to persuade him to carry on, she already has quite enough to make a film.

In the end, being cut short before the natural ending is as good an ending as one could wish for, simply because at this length the viewer is thoroughly engaged and begins to feel there will be a finale. There is no post-script. Not a person watching this film is not expecting one which will say what happened to Muthena.

Before Nina decides to stop filming, Muthena progressively sees and asserts on camera he is being made to look bad and is not keen on being filmed any more. This is true: he is behaving badly and he is shown to be. He says he is not interested in money and wants to be a free spirit. Though he is obviously seen (and depicted) as more than half pillock*, by this stage, his demand for money did not seem unreasonable to me. He’s the star of the documentary. They are going to make money out of it, why shouldn’t he?  Why didn’t Nina or someone mollify Muthena by offering him a cut of the royalties? If you’re doing cinematographic reflexivity, then why not include the dosh side as well. Professional films are made with money and for money. The one thing that didn’t come out of the final edit was what he was learning about that side of film-making.

Indulge me. After putting aside the notions of what this documentary said to me about film, I had a sudden flash of Antoine Doinel.

antoine-doinelle

Muthena Mohamed

muthena-mohmed-2

became Antoine Doinel.  One of the great facilitators of film discussion is youtube clips! You can go off on an Antoine Doinel track right here if you wish, but please come back.

Cutting to the quick: at first Antoine came to mind, as this afterthought, through looks and mannerisms: trying to be cool and knowing but usually coming out as a bit of an arse. Running rapidly through the permutations, it seemed unlikely that Muthena knew The Adventures of Antoine Doinel” series, but it also seemed almost inconceivable Nina Davenport had not, as a film student, studied Truffaut and Godard. The end of the finished film, Operation Filmmaker – the edited film as opposed to the filmed film, perhaps – seemed to have a nouvelle vague-ish quality. Maybe every documentary since the 60s has been squeezed through the cinematographic sieve of Godard’sÀ Bout de Souffle { Film blog, Everyday Cinephile, has a great still of Belmondo and Seberg and has a good summary}. Then again, maybe because the image of Muthena as Antoine is stuck in my mind and tickles my fancy, maybe I am forcing the notion into a film which does not possess it. Or is is that all documentaries that aspire to art, become nouvelle vague documentary style by default.

It is a bit more complicated than just Muthena = Antoine. After all, Operation Filmmaker is a documentary and Trauffaut’s Antoine series are fictions (even if based on the life of Truffaut). If you know Truffaut, you know Jean-Pierre Léaud is reputed to have got a bit mixed up as to whether he was the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud or character Antoine Doinel.  Operation Filmmaker is a documentary about Muthena: there is the obvious sense that Muthena is becoming a character in a film in the documentary his is in, and he’s progressively aware of it. To me, Nina Davenport is a chronicler to start with, (In this YouTube she says she was a camera for hire) but then slowly changes into the director of the film: she is perfectly aware this is happening, as is her subject. Even the edit (wouldn’t we like to see all the video she shot….) could not disguise how much she was in the end fashioning a film, which is fascinating for someone interested in film-making.

One of the side issues is that Muthena fancies himself an actor as well as a Hollywood director. He is good at playing to the camera whether to charm or in expressing his feelings. This person almost trying to burst out of the confines of film gets built into the shooting process.

What happened to Muthana? He has a 5 year permit to stay in the UK. No news of whether he persisted in film.

*Pillock is an English English expression for “A stupid or annoying person”

November 9, 2008 Posted by | documentary, film [its techniques] | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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