Sunday, 4 January 2015

Yr3 Week 9 (Thurs 4 Dec - MDA3200 Film Theory - Realism)

In the screening, we saw the 1937 drama The Grand Illusion, a French film set during a romanticized WW1, centering on a group of French Officers who get captured, and their subsequent misadventures as they move from camp to camp. The film, in addition to often being lightly amusing with frequent banter between the mismatched prisoners, also often comments on class and caste, contrasting the officers with their civilian and lower tier counterparts in terms of behaviour, ideals and attitude (also known as Cultural Capital). Context gives this a rationale, as director Jean Renoir was a socialist, which as discussed before on here, was left leaning movement and had a very clear view on what the social order ought to be, very different from the class structure in the era the film depicts.

Following on from that, we looked at different sorts of ´realism´ in film: first is the concept of Poetic Realism, a type of ´Reality´ that is tied to a certain set of values and integrity. It´s what can be termed ´nice´ or more appropriately ´pleasing´, such as the use of depth of filed and long takes to create an illusion of what you´re seeing being a ´reality´, thus lending credence to what´s on screen, even if in this case it may not be entirely historically inaccurate. By contrast, Italian ´Neo Realism´ is much harsher, often filmed at odd angles and with more movement, giving it an immediacy over the more stagey Poetic.We briefly watched a clip of the most famous of these films, Bicycle Thieves, just for comparison.

Moving onto the seminar, we discussed Neo Realism further, finding its origins in a document written by Cesare Zavattini, Some Ideas on Cinema, a manifesto that argued against what he perceived as ´fantasy´in popular cinema, and instead that the medium should focus in on something more grounded, which is what the movement ultimately became, basing itself in the reconstruction of the country following WW2. After this, we also took a glance at British Realism, a type of film often dealing with the trials of the working classes (sometimes given the moniker of ´kitchen sink films´) and which defined the careers of the likes of Ken Loach (Kes, Riff Raff) and Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies), though there is also a more middle class variant as exemplified by the film Archipelago (2010) which sees a middle class family vacationing abroad, and having many an awkward discussion over meals.

To cap off, this once again feels like a refresher, as we´ve tackled realism more than a handful of times before in the context of film movements, though the selection of films was interesting enough to keep things moving at a steady pace to prevent tedium. Regardless, little new was covered, and while I don´t doubt the professional integrity of those running the course, I must question how this correlates with our work in an ´analytical fashion´ as this course purports to be, or how really any of this goes beyond surface level observations of a piece.

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