Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Week 15 (Tues 5 Feb)

In the seminar, we returned to the subject of subtext/intertextuality. To begin with, we looked at some clips and trailers, and made notes on what we saw as the intertext of them (which also plays into audience expectations for these films):
Les Miserables (2012):
  • Director Tom Hooper (drama, history, critical acclaim)
  • Hugh Jackman/Russell Crowe (action, blockbusters, tough men)
  • Anne Hathaway/Amanda Seyfried (romantic comedies)
  • Sacha Baron Choen/Helena Bonham Carter (eccentric, over the top characters)
  • Musical (singing, dancing, big set pieces, extravengance and scale)
  • Period setting (lavish costumes, sets, attention to details, English accents)
Gran Torino (2007)
  • Clint Eastwood (Action, thriller, 'tough guy', never backs down from challenge or threat)
  • Youth gangs (gang violence, slang, ethnic minorities, robbery, murder)
After, we took a quick re-examination of 'subtext' (what it's about i.e. Godzilla, the danger of nuclear science and tampering with nature, Karloff's Frankenstein dressed as a hobo, a frightening and familiar sight in the 1930s etc.) and the four horror archetypes, as claimed by acclaimed horror writer and icon Stephen King (the vampire (sex, lust, foreigner, predator), the werewolf (transformation, the beast inside, the id), the ghost (fear of the past) and the unknown force (things we do no understand, something without a name)). On that note, we then each had to make a story for a film about one of these, in groups, mine getting the werewolf: Our story deals with the son of a survivor of the Chernobyl Disaster, a mutation in his genetic makeup caused by the radiation causes him to trasnform, triggered by race memories of the disaster, and when transformed, begins killing the scientists and businessmen responsible for the disaster, as determined by the people in the flashbacks).

Then, in the screening, we watched Nick Broomfield's documentary Aileen: Portrait of a Serial Killer, which followed Broomfield as he interviewed people connected with the serial killer during her trials, including her adopted 'mother' and her overweight, comical lawyer. The film used a mix of interviews, location shoots and archive footage, but interestingly, Broomfield himself is quite prominent, appearing throughout, asking the questions and talking to the different people, including Aileen, playing a rather quiet, subdued Englishman, no doubt to make him less imposing and more able to onvite peoples' confidence. After, in the lecture itself, we began to look at the concept of Documentary, 'The Creative Treatment of Actuality', the term itself being coined by film maker John Grierson in the 1930s while making shorts for the General Post Office Film Unit.

There are several types of documentary:
  • Poetic Mode (Doesn't have a narrative, but rather is a string of images)
  • Expository Mode (Narration/Voice Over, with a very clear cut argument)
  • Observational (No involvement from the production crew, just the camera recording events)
  • Reflexive (Self-concious, aware of itself and what it does)
  • Participatory (the the film maker becomes an active participant in the piece)
  • Performative (The film maker's own life becomes an important element of the piece)
In fact, one of these, the Participatory, leads into a movement called the 'Nouvelle Egotiste', where the documentary makers become characters in their own films, and have a big impact on them i.e. Nick Broomfield, Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock etc. all of whom are just as famous, if not more so, than their films. Also, bringing this to a close, we had a quick look at Aesthetics (how the film serves as a window on the world, the intermittent editing, the use transparent/symbolicimagery to convey ideas), Aural (the use of sound & music to create tone and atmosphere, accents in voices and manner of address to show us the classes and races involved) and narratology (narrative structure, how a film is structured and put together, and multiple strand narratives, where more than one thing is going on at any given time).

In closing, today's classes both had a lot of substance: in the former, we got to do some analysis of footage as opposed to just sitting there and throwing names around, much more how I imagined this course to be, and the group worked allowed us to pool our creative juices togther and come up with something cheesily fun. In the latter, Aileen offered a refeshing change from just watching regular films, and seeing Aileen in the flesh definitely was unsettling, much more so than just hearing about her from other people, and I found the amount of ways to approach the topic of documentaries really interesting, as I had always viewed them as just the one way of making them, and everything else being a gimmick or variant of the same idea, though not so, it seems now!

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