Category Archives: Bruno’s section

5/2 4:55

Our final recitation of the semester began with that irritable Ryan Trecartin short, titled “Tommy Chat Just Emailed Me”, followed by the presentation on Wayne Koestenbaum’s article. I still can’t get over that it has 45,000 views on youtube, or the fact that Bruno had to watch it three times in one day.

 

We, then, focused on this week’s topic of digital special effects, beginning with David Fincher’s use of it in Zodiac. We suggested the idea that perhaps, with the mise-en-scene used, and without the dating of the crimes, the special effects, and the known actors, audiences would believe that this film was actually made forty years ago.

 

Moving onto the ending of Speed Racer. Is this a huge step into the future of cinema? At  many times, the shots weren’t even filmed with a camera. With talking heads being used as wipes, and very exclusive camera positions, or lack-thereof, CGI could be the birth of a new era in film.

 

But then we discussed if audiences will in fact enjoy this new style of filmmaking. Some viewers complained of the new Hobbit film, shot at 48/fps, saying that it was too real.

 

We also briefly went into the problems of preservation of films in the future. Now that VHS is obsolete, we can’t help but wonder when the next generation of technology will cause issues with transferring our current works over.

 

We wrapped up the class with the presentation of Stephen Prince’s article on film theory and digital imaging and a brief discussion on the recent craze over 3D films. Hope you all have a nice summer.

Mulholland Drive Explained (a bit)

I was supposed to write a post about the recitation on 4/25, but I was unfortunately unable to come to class. Therefore, I am writing a post about the assigned article, “Lost on Mulholland Drive: Navigating David Lynch’s Panegyric to Hollywood” by Todd McGowan. I am opting to write this post in a series of bulleted points, because I feel that this will be more easily accessible to those who might want to more fully understand the film (assuming that they have not already read this article, and assuming that they do not already understand the film).

 

Separate Worlds

The film is divided into two separate and mutually exclusive worlds: that of fantasy (the first part of the film) and that of desire (the second part of the film).

The world of desire is also the world of reality, although it is not presented “within time.”

This interpretation is supported by the dramatic change in “mise-en-scene, editing, and the overall character of the shots” between the different parts of the film.

The fantasy world is well-lit (more Hollywood-esque), colorful, and follows a relatively straight forward narrative format,

The world of desire is seen in low light, has a much more muted pallete, and has no narrative.

 

The Mystery of Desire?

Diane creates the fantasy world portrayed by the first part of the film in order to be able to fulfill her desire for Camilla in fantasy.

Betty is Diane’s perfect ego, and Rita is the obtainable object of desire/ love object.

The opening scene where Rita loses her memory puts the audience within Betty’s fantasty – Like Rita, “the spectator has no idea what the driver wants,” and “like her, we have no foundation on which to sense of the situation.”

The relationship between Betty and Rita is a fantasized, more successful version of the failed one that actually exists between Diane and Camilla

The fantasy is structured like a mystery – therefore, the fantasy both solves the mystery of desire and creates mystery to “obscure the necessary deadlock that all desire animates.”

 

Fantasized Temporality

There is no time, no chronology in the world of desire because desire does not move forward.

Fantasy constructs a sense of time so that desire can move forward.

Fantasy also fills the gaps that are experienced in the world of desire.

Ex. In the world of desire, director Adam Kesher mentions, “so I got the pool, and she got the pool man.” From this fragment of understanding, the world of fantasy constructs a full-blown narrative about Adam’s relationship with his wife and her lover.

 

Diane’s Wish Fulfillment

In Diane’s fantasy, she strips Camilla of her power over her; Camilla seems to taunt Diane by sharing her sexuality with others in from of her.

In fantasy, Adam is also stripped of his power – his film is taken out of his control, he is forced to choose Camilla as his leading lady (also suggesting in fantasy that Camilla only got her big break because it was forced, appeasing Diane’s sense of failure in only ever procuring bit parts).

Some characters change completely – Coco goes from landlord in fantasy (a maternal figure) to Adam’s mother in desire

Both Betty and Rita’s characters range widely, suggesting that they are not “real.”

 

The Successful Sexual Relationship

The idea of sexual relationships as the primary stumbling block in human relations is presented.

The film does not reduce the lesbian relationship to a heterosexual one, but refuses to romanticize it – no sexual relationship can succeed.

 

Going All the Way in Fantasy

Lynch seems to suggest that Hollywood does not go far enough in fantasy to fully support it – it cannot be fulfilling, it cannot push the characters and spectators into “the Real,” unless it is fully supported.

The fantasy has a feminine structure – it goes to far past the fulfillment of the sexual relationship to the point that it must end. With the end of the successful relationship comes the end of the fantasy (seen in the Club Silencio).

The blue box is the portal between the fantasy and the Real/ the world of desire.

The Cowboy is the personification of the superego, the conscience, that pushes Diane out of fantasy with his call to “wake up.”

When Diane succeeds in having Camilla killed, the barrier between fantasy and desire collapses. The fantastic versions of the old couple from the airport enter reality and terrorize Betty. She kills herself.

The Real is first encountered when Betty and Rita sees the body of Diane, although they think in fantasy that it looks like Rita.

Fantasy forces the Real upon the fantasizer.

Fantasy is the “privileged path to the Real.”

Role Theory, Star Wars The Musical and More: Bruno’s 2PM Recitation

Hello everyone. Today, perspicacious Alex Greenberger gave a good summary of our recitation and more (his analysis of/love letter to Mulholland Drive is quite phenomenal, please read it). Therefore, rather than waste your time and rehash everything, I’ll bring up specific topics and use them as framework for discussion topics that I want your input on (yes, you who aren’t even in my recitation, I’m talking to you too). I’d recommend that you read Alex’s post first.

First, Hayne’s “I’m Not There.” Hayne’s film is particularly interesting in light of postmodernism and the idea that one constructs their identity, that the same person can have multiple identities. Indeed, the now-omnipresent catchphrase “The Social Construction of Reality” was coined by the sociologist Peter Berger who also came up with the concept of Role Theory. The basic premise of Role Theory is that we adapt to multiple different roles depending on what sort of social situation we are in. A businesswoman would not talk the same way to a client as to her daughter, for instance. Do you buy this theory? Do you see yourself adapting to different roles as situations require them? Does/did Bob Dylan adapt to different roles, or is Haynes playing with our own different perceptions of a celebrity?

I think the concept of Role Theory is also particularly interesting in the context of Mulholland Drive because during the first part of the film it would appear that everyone is acting (somewhat cheesily, I may add) in their specific roles according to Diane’s fantasy. One of my favorite things about the McGowan article is how insightfully he enlightens the ways every “role” in the first part of the film is crafted to appeal to Diane’s desires and wishes. I like Alex’s claim that “[Diane] has dreamed up a movie, one in which she has even edited the whole thing by herself, and one in which creativity goes unbridled.” And, in a sense, Role Theory assumes that we write ourselves roles in our own “films” due to social expectations. This is an interesting idea, one that I will get at a bit more in a second.

First, Vivian and the Jenkins text.  Jenkins is writing all about the tensions and (occasional) harmonies between media studios and their fans. One of my personal favorite examples of this tension is Star Wars: The Musical. Seriously, skip to the 4 minutes mark in this video and watch my favorite song from the whole show. I’m really jealous that I didn’t get to do this in high school.

Anyway, this piece of brilliance was written by a couple of high school kids who ended up creating a school show so popular that they received a “cease and desist” letter from George Lucas. This is ironic, considering the fact that I bet this musical made a bunch of people actually want to watch Star Wars. That, at least, would probably be Jenkins’s argument. Do you all have any stories about how you’ve appropriated or examined a world through film, costume, or fan fiction? Do you find copyrights on fan fiction as dumb and repulsive as myself?

Next, Carly and the McGowan essay. I have never read Lacan, which made me feel like I was grasping for the source text, but I found it fascinating and Carly did a pretty good job going through it considering the density and difficulty of the essay. I like Alex’s commentary on Hollywood, and I think it’s accurate, but I also give McGowan a lot of credit for showing how Lynch keeps desire and fantasy separate. Fantasy, as Lynch shows, is used when we create narrative coherence out of our lives. Without fantasy, we are stuck in the world of a desire that can never be fulfilled. Without fantasy, the Other is truly and frighteningly evasive.

For example, have you ever had a crush on someone? Yes, you have. When you have a crush on someone you desire to be with them and this desire almost instantly leads you to fantasize about the two of you being together. You imagine that you can control the Other and hope that things will work out in your favor. Well, without fantasy, you are left with simply desiring something that is completely unobtainable (at least, as far as you can know or control). What a sad, terrible place to be. By dividing desire from fantasy, Lynch shows how the true nightmare is to desire without the aid of fantasy. You’re left crying and masturbating in vain without resolution like Diane. Yikes.

Yet the greatest point of tragedy occurs when these separate spheres converge at the Silencio. How sad is it that the woman singing is an illusion! How sad is it that the narrative we find transcendent and moving is an illusion! Like Betty and Rita, we fall into the trance while we simultaneously know that it’s a lie. I can hardly think of a scene in film with such incredible longing and a scene that works as such an effective love/hate-letter to Hollywood and film itself.

Yet Mulholland Drive, with its unbridled fantasy, is filled with scenes of comparable power. It has the scariest jump scene I’ve ever experienced in cinema (somehow the juxtaposition of the “Bear Man” as my friends lovingly call him and California afternoon is far more frightening than most horror films), the most hilarious cameo (Billy Ray? Really?), one of the greatest rigged shots (the 50s music scene Alex mentioned), and it is in general arguably the most tightly wound non-narrative film ever. Newcomers and oldcomers alike, what did you think about Mulholland Drive? How did it affect you? I have some friends who riffed on it the first time they saw it, so be honest if you didn’t like it. I would, however, really encourage you to watch it again.

That’s all from me!

Bruno’s Reciation, 2:00, 4/25 (Section 5)

Today’s recitation focused around themes of “divided consciousness and configured identity,” particularly with respect to Todd Haynes’ 2007 film I’m Not There. and David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., which we screened last night.

We started with a clip from Hayne’s film–the opening.  The opening of the film presents a rather enigmatic prologue for Dylan’s life.  It examines the mutability of his identity, who he wanted to be, who he couldn’t be, and his many personas.  Each persona is played by a different actor.  Many of the personas are meant as transfigurations of Dylan’s music.  We discussed Cate Blanchett’s performance in the film–how strange it is for Haynes to pick a woman as the best actor in a film about a male figure–though we never really came to a conclusion on why that is.  Still, we discussed how the film reads as a star text, playing on the viewer’s expectations.

Next, the class launched into two presentations.  Vivian (sp.?) presented the Jenkins text, and Carly (sp.? Sorry, guys!) presented the McGowan text.  I don’t feel like I need to restate everything, so I’ll just highlight some main points.  In the Jenkins text, a line between participation and interactivity is drawn.  Participation refers to consumers taking media into their own hands and is affected by cultural and social norms.  Interactivity, on the other hand, is how technology is designed to become more responsive to the consumer.  Jenkins also talks about how prohibitionists are executives who want to keep fan culture from becoming larger.  They want to enforce creative property laws, and Jenkins believes that the future of the media industry depends on moving towards collaborationism.

Carly did an excellent job dissecting the McGowan essay, which is incredibly hard to understand.  I’m not even going to attempt to summarize that one because it’ll too long.  (And besides, you all read it, right?)  I also found our lack of discussion on Mulholland Dr. to be sorely disappointing, so instead of spending time reporting on what happened, I’m going to give my own reading of the film.

For starters, let me talk about what Mulholland Dr. means to me.  I first saw Lynch’s masterpiece when I was 13 and it, of course, went right over my head.  I knew I loved it though, and until last night, it remained my second-favorite film ever.  I’ve seen the film about ten or so times since the initial viewing.  Each time, I discover something new.  But last night, I discovered a lot more things than usual.  Finally seeing it in a theater-like area gave me a new reading of the film.  It’s now my favorite film.

Now, what the hell is Mulholland Dr. anyway?  Well, I’m not going to go into trying to summarize what happens.  Mulholland Dr. is basically a puzzle where a corner piece is always missing, no matter which way you slice it.  What I plan to do instead of narrativizing it is a more formal analysis of the film, which is, of course, extremely difficult, considering Lynch’s amazing work here.

I believe that Mulholland Dr. is less a film about dreams and female desire, but more an intense work on what it means to be an artist at the turn of the 21st century.  I think that is best demonstrated by the following clip:

In this clip, we see what very well may be the crowning shot of the entire film.  We begin with a tight close-up of one of the actresses who is auditioning for a role in Adam’s film.  It seems that we’re in the 50’s.  Everything is light, there’s a few back-up singers, the music is cheery–nothing is perceivably wrong.  But, as the camera zooms out and moves upward through an extremely impressive Steadicam rig, we come to realize everything we thought we knew was false.  We’re not in the 50’s, we’re not in a music studio (we’re in a movie studio though; an excellent visual pun), and we’re not comfortable anymore.  Everything is now orchestrated by Hollywood–nothing is free anymore, and everything is an illusion.

At least everything in the first 105 minutes of the movie, anyhow.  Until Lynch pulls the rug out from under us with the zoom into the blue box, the film is, I believe, Diane’s dream.  The reason I believe this is because the film opens (after the strange jitterbug sequence) with an objective shot of someone’s face hitting a pillow.  Then, after the blue box has been dropped, the Cowboy utters the line, “Hey, pretty girl.  Time to wake up,” in front of a dead Diane.  Fade-in now occurs to a sleeping Diane, who now awakens.  In short, the first part of the movie is Diane’s dream, and it is bookended by images of sleeping.

Diane’s dream is a fiercely erotic reverie in which she ponders the Hollywood she wishes she could have.  McGowan believes that Lynch relies on traditional motifs in the first half.  I would only half agree with that.  Instead I would say that Lynch relies on very basic motifs and then adds his own weird verve to them so as to unsettle us.

But it is true–Lynch uses fairly typical cinematic devices here to indicate horror, suspense, and intrigue.  He makes many allusions to many films pre-1960, particularly those in the oeuvre of Hitchcock.  Look at the following shot from the scene with the nightmare behind Winkie’s:

Note that this shot bears a shocking resemblance to the shot of Scotty walking toward Carlotta Valdes’ grave in his dream in Vertigo.  (This, too, seems to be insurmountable evidence that Lynch’s sequence is a dream.)

This is just one of many allusions to Vertigo–there’s also the whole blond/brunette thing, and the whole I-loved-you-when-I-thought-you-were-someone-else thing.  The fact of the matter is that Diane’s dream is laced with allusions to film.  That is because she has dreamed up a movie, one in which she has even edited the whole thing by herself, and one in which creativity goes unbridled.  Well, only sort of.  She borrows heavily from thing she’s seen–Gilda, Vertigo, Contempt, etc.  But still, that, of course, is the complete opposite of her reality, which is she is forced to reckon with in the latter half of the film.

Also note that Lynch uses avant-garde techniques only in the part of the film that I assume takes place more often in reality than in dream.  By doing this, Lynch shows us that Hollywood glosses over reality with its thrilling devices, and that avant-garde film, or all art for that matter, is the only window to reality.

My point is summed up in the scene at the Club Silencio, which is the turning point of the narrative.  When Rita and Betty see the performance of “Llorando,” Betty has a seizure and Rita cries uncontrollably.  I couldn’t help but have the same response as Rita during certain parts of the film.  Mulholland Dr. is such a transcendent experience that it moved me to tears.  It’s a true work of art that rips off the roof of Hollywood and exposes its innards, much like the performance at Silencio.  I cried for the same reason Rita did–I saw the truth; I realized that most everything we had watched up to this point in class wasn’t real. The truth in everything we’ve seen is so glossy.  The movies we’ve seen are great, but Mulholland Dr. is on another level of artistic excellence.  I can’t think of another film better than Mulholland Dr., and I’d dare someone to show me something better.

That’s my long-winded $0.02.  I just feel that such a great film deserves 1,000 or more words to be justifiably dissected.

Final Paper Proposal

I plan to do the second option of comparing and contrasting two films from the 1990’s in terms of their depictions of gender or masculinity. I chose Johnathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs and Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas as the focus of my paper.

Silence of the Lambs and Goodfellas provide interesting contrasts of how masculinity is portrayed through the protagonist. In the former film we have Clarice Starling who is portrayed as this tough, butch FBI agent who is completely independent and can physically face off her male counterparts. She is the picture of “masculinity” in this film. The man she is trying to find and capture is the exact opposite, wanting to embrace more feminine features and roles and trying his best to rid himself of his innate masculinity. Goodfellas presents the stereotypical male and female domesticated roles, with the men exhibiting the brute masculinity through fighting and shooting guns, while the woman seek a man to become their husband and then work to support them in crime and anything else that will allow their families to continue. I think it will be a interesting topic to investigate further into.

Recitação de Bruno- 4/11, 3:30

Satire and Irony in film

Bruno began class by showing a clip from The Truman Show, specifically the opening titles. The titles introduce the actors as the characters they portray in the actual “The Truman Show”, presenting us the unlikely possibility that something like this could happen. The irony lies in the fact that Jim Carrey’s character, Truman Burbank, is famous based solely on the fact that he’s on television. Truman, being virtually a nobody, has been randomly chosen to have the media follow every second of his life. The media guides him, influencing his ever decision.

The next clip we saw was from Boogie Nights, which was somewhat of a satirical montage that poked fun at the golden age of porn. Between Dirk Diggler winning the award for “Best Cock” and his crack at trying to double-up as a writer creates, the world depicted in Boogie Nights is both idealized and, at parts, exaggerated.

Next, we discussed the Lane reading, which follows Bigelow’s trajectory from Indie Cinema to the mainstream.  We learned that Bigelow is unique not only in that she is a female with a penchant for action films, but the attention paid to her looks by the media is something unseen in male directors.  Becca showed a clip from Bigelow’s film, Blue Steel, starring the ambiguously feminine Jamie Lee Curtis, in which she plays a cop with enough clout to play with the big boys (so to speak), but not enough to keep her out of trouble with the higher-ups.  We finally arrive at Point Break, where gender ideologies are questioned.  At the end, both men reject their masculinity by throwing the mask and badge in the water. Keanu and Patrick are totally in love.

 

-Stevo

Bruno’s Recitation (2pm) 3 April 2012

Bruno began the recitation with a discussion of Aileen Wuornos, a serial killer/prostitute who murdered seven of her clients. He showed us a clip of the documentary that was made about her life, and we discussed how this representation of her differed than the one presented in Monster with Charlize Theron. Broomfield’s film (Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer) painted a picture of female masculinity that prompted his audience to empathize with her more than the media wanted us to. Because lesbianism was significantly more accepted in 2003 when Monster was released, it delves deeper into the issues that Wuornos faced as a person, rather than blanketing her crime as ‘lesbian.’  We looked at how both Broomfield’s documentary and Monster related to Boys Don’t Cry, mainly in the vein of comparing how the killers/victims were portrayed in the media at the times of their respective incidents.

The concept of reel life versus real life was discussed in detail, and we decided that although Brandon Teena’s character may seem ‘too good’ to our generation, at the time that the film was made, his legacy was that of a villain (even though he was clearly victimized). The heteronormativity of Lana’s character was also debated, as there is a division of opinion on her sexuality (or on if her sexuality even matters). The fact that Lana is still alive and can comment on the film was of interest because it adds an alternative voice to the argument of the film’s absolute truth. It was agreed that elements of the film (such as Brandon’s angelic personality) were exaggerated, but that they almost needed to be in order for the film to have the impact that it did.

We then moved on to a discussion of heteronormativity in the film in general, and decided that it shifted gender roles in such a way that Brandon, who in normal society would be considered queer, set the standard for normality in this particular context. The other characters, mainly the straight men, were marginalized as terribly violent and therefore began to feel queer to an audience who would normally identify with them.

Bruno then directed the discussion to the film Sex, Lies, and Videotape, and how it transformed the face of indie cinema in the United States. We talked about what makes up an independent film, and agreed that money is the main difference between the margin and the mainstream. Also, if a film speaks to a niche audience, it is more likely to be considered indie, rather than its mass-produced studio counterpart. The freedom that indie filmmakers have is also a preferable mode of cultural education to some directors, including Andy Warhol.

Seung-Hee presented on King’s chapter, outlining alternative visions to Hollywood. Her powerpoint delved very deeply into the article, and touched on the LA School, blaxploitation, conventionality, and the commercialization of indie cinema that has happened in recent years. Christina then took over and presented on Cooper’s article, which dealt with the ‘real’ story of Brandon Teena and how Boys Don’t Cry affected media in the late 90s (around the time that Ellen came out, and AIDS entered into a mainstream cultural discussion). And that’s about it!