cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM GODARD A Man, A Woman and a Dog





FILM GODARD Au Adieu au Langage [iPhone]
{1}




Godard has a new film out. And he’s keen/anxious to talk about it, film ‘n stuff.

A few people have seen it, writing and talking about it at great length so spoiling it for everyone else who might have wanted to see it without the comments and interpretations of the expertigensia ringing in their ears, at what you now know are salient or significant points in the film [or the homage points, say, to his own films or film in general] which you’d hope to enjoy, be puzzled or exasperated by at your own pace.

Thank God (the one without the full stop or as the French call it, point, a word J-LG could have a field day with…). I made sure I did not read a lot before watching The Great Beauty. And then when I had seen it, I desisted from even translating the title into Italian or even mentioning that the phrase had been used by a character in the film in a certain way. See, there I’ve done it now. Now you will be on the look out for it, even though there has been no indication why this might have some significance.

One reads the contents of one’s mind before seeing a film, in anticipation of it, which in itself may spoil a film. Book, art, play, film. A filmic or booky equivalent, shall we say analogy, to phenomenological bracketing or epoché is impossible. I’ve already remarked in a recent post that as soon as I saw the poster for The Great Beauty, I knew [as would literally millions of others..] where we were coming from, though not necessarily where we were going to. Eric Morecambe’s famous riposte [applicable to almost anything, like the Actress & the Bishop jokes] to Andre Preview on his, Eric’s, terrible rendition of – was it Grieg’s piano concerto? – “I’m playing the RIGHT notes, but not necessarily in the RIGHT order!” always flings itself up from the recesses of my mind like the lyrics to an incomprehensible ’60s songs like the one by Noel Thingy called The Windmills of My Mind.

Why it is that I think of J-L Godard as the archetype (or prototype) of the incredibly difficult (but obviously highly intelligent) au contrarian conversationalist in any setting – uncle [ton ton] J-J at a family wedding or diner party, seated next to you in aircraft, etc. – who somehow manages to create the immediate suspicion he may well be mad, or temporally cured and released from some sort of mental institution (the old jackets…), yet, underneath the frightening persona, has something interesting to say which holds you there despite your inclination to run.

Really mad people we seem to have an instinct for as we have so much experience of them in everyday life. Like films we have seen too much about before watching them, Jean-Luc Godard comes with such a pedigree, a provenance, we are comfortable in the paradoxical nature of many of his pronouncements. Expect them even. Be lost without them, possibly. We know he, like a lunatic, assumes you know he is God [when it comes to film]. If you do, as he knows he is and you do, then all is simple.

The reviews on Adieu au Langage were not out when I was passed by Glen W. Norton, via a Godard forum, the link to the Canon video interview avec Godard with English subtitles

(…a classic God[.] subtitles joke in there not created by God[.] himself. Qua? Comment? These are accurate subtitles while his are notably unreliable.)

The areas I forced myself to listen to, while going Ni Ni Na Na with hands over my ears [mostly], were the technical ones. And this is reflected in graphics included in the post. Let’s try to grasp (as it is obviously important) why he at one and the same time decries technological advances and at the same time adopts them with alacrity. Except that is, in the case of editing (See relevant tab on the canon interview page) where he it is explained there – something know amongst God[.] watchers – he uses magnetic video tape to edit with, thus getting his technical collaborators who have filmed digitally to make video tapes for him to edit. The amusing thing is he’s renowned as an expert in editing with tape to an extent that makes many scratch their heads at his ingenuity.

I use this digital-magnetic example as a route into the mind of Jean-Luc Godard, in a sense prior to any messages he may be sending to his avid (an even not so enthusiastic) followers about life in general and of course the art of cinema, and Art.

While he argues here about his latest film that 3D is a FWOT

(Along the lines of, “It is useless! We see no more with it than before..” All true of course.)

he still uses it (At least twice so far..). And presumably this is a way of saying something. Well of course it is. And here is where we get to the crusty old uncle who frightens the sh** out of you, who blows cigar smoke into your face, and yet who let’s drop those few words which catch your interest. Words you know are true like you know a word of art by a master is true without being quite sure how to explain it.

With Godard it is for me when he talks of art. If you knew nothing about Godard the film genius and heard him talking of art in relation to all sorts of things, you will be gaining an experience of the mind of a man who has thought very deeply about his art and craft, film. Filmmakers who talk photography are in the same area. Even the knowledge that a film-maker was formerly a photographer says a lot.

The one who now always comes to my mind, when film and photography are mentioned in the same sentence, or should we even say thought in the same thought, is Nuri Bilge Ceylan. And if I may take a God[.]-like excursion down an dark alley which neither you the reader nor I may quite know is a dead-end or not – as this post is as ex-tempore as you are likely to get in postdom – Ceylan, has used severally the trope of bloke-wandering-around-ancient-site-with-camera-ignoring-and-annoying-girlfriend trope.

With Godard we have to understand that every film is the same film because he is trying to get over the same God[no .]-like message about how he as God [with or without .] can use film to get over his agendas [or not]. And so could everyone else to humanity’s general betterment, if they only had the brains and foresight to see. He like many good or even great film directors [even nerdy-looking baseball cap wearing ones..] is steeped in film from the year dot. And he evokes the complete history of film almost in every quakey sentence he utters. It’s always, “What is film?”. And of course, “What can it do and not do?” He seems to be saying all the time, “Film can’t do/isn’t doing so many things that people dreamed it might do.” And that’s because they don’t understand it well enough to see its talents.

Godard’s “cinema is dead” or “It is now!” [UK football ref there you no UK people..], or “Well, I thought it was then but it really is now” can confuse people. But it’s simple. He believed like Eisenstein that film was purely for political ends. The montage was the method. The Way, The Truth and The Light.

And so fast forward to a film like Adieu au Langage [3D]. Just like me with my immediate and deep apprehension of the depth of Italian cinema through a balding man sitting on a classy bench with shades that look suspiciously like the Ray-bans Marcello Mastroianni wore in 8 1/2, we should get the fact that every time Godard speaks on film (and life) he is thinking of how film failed. He may talk enthusiastically and yet mockingly or ironically about advanced technology, but you know he is still trying to get there, by any means at his disposal.

And all the time, he is still using the same film-text-film-text-text-film-film he developed from his earliest films. At one point in my Godard journey, I felt sure he was saying film could not replace writing and so his films had to constantly show this to be true. For the audience this can be both irksome and difficult. A major facet of this is his voice and text overs are in French. Unless French is your first language or a good second, his efforts to overlap three things at once are pretty much wasted on you, as an immediate effect.

If this all seems a bit too arcane and you have not got to Histoire[s] du Cinema (and perhaps never will) try reading Celine Scamma’s schema for Histoire[s] – a blog search in COTA will get you there.

And finally, as The Two Ronnie would say, there is that thing about Godard and his unreliable subtitling. Apogee: Film Socialism. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but I sense he is saying that you can’t translate poetry into another language without destroying or partially destroying its original meaning. Which is true. Godel, Escher Bach, for some ideas and background. And he quotes poetry a lot in his films. As well as showing and talking about art.

And so for film. The very act of trying to make a film helps to remove your original intention (He seems to be saying..amongst many other things). If you just use film. So he, wanting to be sure of getting over whatever message he intends, falls back on words in films as text and commentary (plus the obligatory art),which in itself is an essay on the limits of film. Or the dialectic between The Word and The Film. (Being some kind of Marxist, he would want to show that dialectic is real moving things forward).

And so (and here back to latest interviews) he feels he can’t say directly (and never could or would) simply, in words, what he wants to say about film. This is both because it dishonours film (and maybe dispels some of its magic and mystic) and because he doesn’t want to make the whole thing seem simpler than it is. Instead he picks up on small points (in the Canon interview he starts with SMS, the modern, the dubious) from which to expand (why not start anywhere?) outwards and back inwards at the same time, to the core of what he sees film is and can do. And of course what life (using an iPhone) is and can mean (film your day he suggests..). That goes without saying. Though, like God[.], I’ve said it to make sure you don’t miss it.



Other

With Canon interview spoiler…

1/. Godard comes in many shapes and sizes
– He briefly reprised his views on aspect ration with Gallic hand gestures demonstrating the cutting off of the upper part of a shot, etc.

2/. Something I feel strongly: what a film is about or meant to be about can be taken separately from how it was made. Or not. They can complement each other. Or not. My natural inclination is to run these in parallel. Weaving in and out. Often when the going gets tough on the film itself as a story with a narrative imperative (or not), resorting, or even retreating (out of the sun into the shade..), to the How Did They Do That? seems the most sensible place to go. Even if in the end that strip of bright sunlight between the shady tree and the house has to be crossed.

Godard is often talked about in terms of his oeuvre when a new one pops up (as one does of directors in general). We get the jump cut standing for À Bout de Souffle, or Fritz Lang standing for Le Mépris (who starred in it but to whom Godard was also paying obeisance to as a director. (Wiki:Contempt (film) is an Idiot’s Guide to the latter with some of the associated Langifications – A browser search on Fritz on that wiki page will do the trick).



May 24, 2014 Posted by | Douglas Hofstadter, DSLR cinematography, DSLR Digital Cinematography Guide, Eisenstein, European art cinema, European cinema, European film, film analog/digital, Film and The Arts, film aspect ratio, film reflexivity, film sex, Film Socialisme, film technique, film theory, film [its techniques], French films, Fritz Lang | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FILM CINEMATOGRAPHY Beauty Will Save the World, Will It Save Cinematography?





GRAPHIC FILM beauty-cinematography



If Beauty Will Save the World, Will It Save Cinematography?

….the history of cinematography and its roots in painting for clues about how to continue to develop the art and craft.



By


Yuri Neyman, ASC



November 13, 2013 Posted by | cinematographer, cinematography | , | Leave a comment

FILM CINEMATOGRAPHY Cinematographer Style





SNIP VIDEO Cinematographer style



For those of you wondering what gives with the funny way of setting out the titles of COTA’s posts: genus, species, variety. Nerdy, but then I name my files in the same way for a good reason – when you search on genus, voila a list of files and graphics you don’t remember you had.

And so once more to cinematography. What gives with all the posts on cinematography or cinematographers? Screenwriting is my primary interest. But writing scripts can never be some sort of isolated activity which has no connection with the work of director, cinematographer and editor.

Photography has always been a hobby since early teens. My father was a serious hobbyist who had his own darkroom. So it’s natural to look at the aesthetics of film in a practical sense. The theory, well, I’ve said it before: it’s a long way down the list. The odd academic article speaks to me but most seem either pretty pointless, too removed from films themselves or too opaque.

Remember that thing about art being a triangle between artist, his agent and the rich buyer? Maybe it was Picasso’s friend and biographer, John Richardson who said it. That’s academic film.

Let’s do film film. Cinematographers talking film. Cinematographer Style.


And then Cinematography: The art of painting with light



November 13, 2013 Posted by | cinematographer, cinematography | , | Leave a comment

FILM CINEMATOGARPHY The Cinematographer’s Process





cinematography-poster




The Cinematographer’s Process (Part 1): Breaking Down the Script


The Cinematographer’s Process (Part 2): Defining Your Camera Strategy


Robert Hardy, nofilmschool



November 12, 2013 Posted by | cinematographer, cinematography | | Leave a comment

FILM CINEMATOGRAPHY The Importance of Cinematography





FILM Citizen Kane contract signing


Citizen Kane: adapted from David Bordwell: Foreground, background, playground




The Importance of Cinematography




A 5.50 min video by Saun McDougall [Sean McDougall, McDougallFilm. What no website?]


There are terazillions of videos on cinematography. But this is a catchy title. The importance of anything surely gets your attention over A Guide to Basic Cinematography – yet the latter is a good video for someone who has read books, seen stills and diagrams but yearns to see film explained in film. Barring the neat postage stamp famous film examples popping up top right, it is a text book. But let’s have it called I Love Cinematography with the narrator appearing left, cartwheeling into medium shot, then running to camera for his close-up, puffing, hair awry: “I love cinematography and this is why….”

101 Film anything doesn’t quite do it title-wise. Earnest, but not sounding important. Lots of good videos, but look fella-me-guys we need titles, Gone with the Cinematographer, Lost in Cinematography, The Silence of the Cinematographer, The Pursuit of Cinematography, There Will Be Cinematography, Synecdoche, Cinematography. That Obscure Object of Cinematography. Now you’re watching.


Richard Michalak’s {1} (there must be a series somewhere..) is the best Idiot’s Short Information-Packed Guide to Cinematography I’ve seen so far. Mark Fenton who put it up (with permission he says..) calls it, Cinematography Learn from a Master. O.k, let’s loop back to the previous paragraph for the names bit.

Next it’ll be the nexus of writer, director, cinematographer and editor. Descriptions of people working together, not theory. Best/worst. Someone said in something I just read that the screenwriter and the editor are considered the more creative of this group. But before that a few links in a separate post on what the cinematographer aka the director of photography does when he gets hold of the screenplay. But before that a couple of who wins cinematography awards.



November 9, 2013 Posted by | cinematography, film, Richard Michalak | , | Leave a comment

FILM – Top 10 directors of photography


The Top 10 according to Josh Timmermann in Stylus Magazine.

According to the wiki: cinematographer:

The term cinematographer has been a point of contention for some time now; some professionals insist that it only applies when the director of photography and camera operator are the same person.

Perhaps the director of photography (film or digital) should be called The Lilac Chaser, after the well-known visual illusion. In other words, he or she’s the one who knows how to produce a good visual effect in the completed film – which thereby enhances a good script – but also has the knowledge to avoid unintended visual consequences which might wreck a good script. 

Josh talks about the opposite, where great cinematography props up an initially weak film idea.

I’ll put a link  to Jim Emerson’s cinematography post here:

Avatar and Oscar again raise the question: What is cinematography? (Part 1)

Read the comments as well which debate cinematographer/Director of photography.

Jim himself writes in reponse to a commenter:

The cameraman on set or on location must understand not only the sequence of shots, but the time of day, the temperature of the lights, how the film reacts in a multitude of situations, and even what time the sun will rise and set. Then there are the happy accidents that only the trained eye will catch, like the way the heat waves will play with the light in a telephoto shot. The cinematographer with experience will in many cases give the director the benefits of his or her knowledge.

(Which reminds me of the work of the location manager and the scouts, who themselves are the beginning of the the cinematographer’s work. It is they who will begin the work of noting where the sun sets and rises in relation to a building, say, and when, because they will be working from a script, will be able to see such things as whether it will be easy or diffcult to lay tracking down, which will effect how the film can look.)

No one has mentioned that a film (film or digital) is edited after it is made. So it is quite posible that much of a cinematographers work can be removed afterwards for non-cinematographic reasons, such as length of final film.

The more one looks at film the more the collaborative nature of film-making is highlighted. A professional editor (unless that means the director) works with the director and all the other major players on the film. Who can imagine the director of photography not being allowed in to see how the editing is going, and to perhaps have some say in how the editing is altering (for good or bad) the look he has set out to achieve?


April 7, 2010 Posted by | cinematography, director of photography, editing, film [its techniques] | | Leave a comment

Film : cinematography





A rather neat hypertext cinematography course from  cinemaSense



November 18, 2008 Posted by | cinematography, film [its techniques] | | Leave a comment