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Showing posts from September, 2013

Key Films #25

Dark Shadows [Tim Burton, 2012]:
Is it a mistake to see Burton's work as nothing more than a series of empty stylistic tics; a hotchpotch of elements intended to create an atmosphere of enchanted grandeur or a context for his largely unthreatening air of unreality?There is an element of this, perhaps - a self-conscious referencing of formative influences in an attempt to create humour through ironic juxtaposition and a sense of the impossible - but each of the films are also motivated by an actual theme.A subtext as well as a more conventional storyline that is refracted by the allure of the visuals; the theatricality and the stylisation.Maybe this is why Ed Wood (1994) remains his most enduring film; it's the one where the "plot" is central to our understanding of the events.Ed Wood is, first and foremost, a film about filmmaking - the characters as "real people", dressing up to play a part - while his other movies are less direct.However, in other films, s…

'The Fury' Personified

A note on motion as emotion in Brian De Palma's film The Fury (1978)
A father and son compete in a spirited game of one-upmanship on a beach in the Middle East. The conversation between the two is light and vigorous; machismo and good old fashioned male bonding are the order of the day. Out of nowhere, a suited Childress appears, immediately casting his shadow of influence over these characters, the kid and his dad. He interrupts the shenanigans, bringing the conversation back to business; something to do with the father and son - Sandza and Robin - returning to the U.S.
As Childress talks shop with Sandza, De Palma's camera circles the table. Already the implication of a betrayal is here, with the movement of the apparatus giving the feeling of confinement within an otherwise wide-open space. Sandza is trapped by the machinations of his job, his government, already closing-in on him. As the camera continues to track, suggesting the movement of vultures encircling a …


First scene: A group of models on a catwalk, resplendent in their gold and silver outfits, the cameras recording, following their every move. They hold at the end of the runway, a flash goes off, cold, like an accusation, threatening to reveal the truth behind this hideous facade; the ugliness beneath the glamour and the decadence.

Giallo [Dario Argento, 2009]:
Second scene: The killer - at this point, still largely unseen - excites himself by taking photographs of a bound and tortured victim. Another flash of the camera, this time bright enough to transform the image into an abstract impression; a body without shape or definition, just form. Like Dollarhyde in Manhunter (1986), the act of photographing the victim reveals a hidden truth; part of the great transformation that his image of death will bring. Giallo [Dario Argento, 2009]:
Third scene: A return to the location of the first. Celine (Elsa Pataky) on the catwalk, shimmering in a black transparent dress, caught in the crossfire of…

Key Films #24

Our Daily Bread [Mani Kaul, 1970]:  In the opening sequence, the dutiful wife Balo, the protagonist of the film, waits patiently at a bus stop for the arrival of her husband, the impetuous Sucha Singh.The man - a municipal bus driver - spends his weeks in the city, returning home only on the weekends, before he's off again; moving from town to town, betwixt worlds.Each day, his bus passes the main road close to Balo's village.The woman - his faithful wife - makes the gruelling trek to greet him.Waiting, with a lunch pail in hand in the hope that his bus might stop to pick up a passenger, is more than an obligation. It's a daily ritual.A way for this woman to maintain some semblance of a relationship, or to lessen the loneliness that this life of servitude and routine has forced upon her.To make matters worse, the chatter of the local gossip seems to imply infidelity. Could Sucha Singh have a second wife in the city; one that he spends his weeks with?For Balo, the possibilit…