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Posts Tagged ‘Martin Scorsese’

Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif in David Lean’s newly restored classic “Lawrence of Arabia”

Just a couple of weeks ago, a newly restored version of David Lean‘s classic film Lawrence of Arabia was released on BluRay.  Here is an excellent article on the highly instructive story of its restoration.  This topic provides excellent examples and insights into the relationship of traditional celluloid-based moviemaking and digital media.

Here are some useful links on the topic of film preservation: National Film Preservation Foundation, Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation (which always has wonderfully produced and informative clips streaming on their site), a Kodak page on movie archiving, and here is a clearinghouse page with lots of links to topics associated with film preservation and motion picture history.

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Keanu Reeves and Martin Scorsese contemplate the moving image in Side by Side, directed by Chris Kenneally

The movie Side by Side is opening now, and this will provide a very informative and provocative source of debate, contemplation, and reference for people interested in media arts and the state of creative platforms at this moment in time.  Check out the trailer and seek out further info on this movie directed by Chris Kenneally, produced and narrated by Keanu Reeves, and featuring appearances by numerous acclaimed filmmakers including Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, and David Fincher.

When creating Moving Images, one of the most challenging areas to consider was how to treat contemporary issues of cinematography and conceptions of light and its capture.  As I mentioned in an earlier post focusing on the work of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, in the years since the development of this textbook, the majority of Academy Award nominees in cinematography each year have been shot on film.  No matter what the platform for cinematography, the understanding and control of light and color continue to be among the most important skills and concepts for anyone working in movies, whether through digital processes or celluloid.

I can add one personal point: I remain unconvinced by the proclaimed “reign of 3D” by Mr. Cameron and various movie execs during the past few years (and I remember a speech by a Jeffrey Katzenberg a few years ago in which he declared that “all movies will be 3D a decade from now”).  I have found it interesting the degree to which young people — at least the ones I work with — scoff at 3D and time and again tell me that it is rare that they have any desire to see movies in 3D.  Here is a blog from Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell about the topic; as usual, it is engrossing and quite informative.

I will have more to say about these topics in upcoming blogs.

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A still from Alice Guy Blaché’s groundbreaking short “Madame Has Her Cravings”

In the late 1980’s, I studied at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris while completing research on French director Marcel Carné for my senior thesis at Princeton University.  There, in a course taught by French film scholar Michel Marie, I was particularly interested by a story that I had never heard of in any of the film histories I had read until then: the cinematic legacy and amazing life of director Alice Guy Blaché.  Since then, major biographies (most significantly, Alison McMahan‘s Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema) and articles have been published on this inspiring pioneer, and evidence of her work has been unearthed in film archives and dusty attics from around the world, allowing for more thorough investigation of her achievements.  At the last Directors Guild of America Awards ceremony in New York City, the DGA offered a posthumous award to Alice Guy Blaché presented by Martin Scorsese.  Currently, her feature The Ocean Waif is available on DVD in partial form along with another feature directed by a woman, Ruth Ann Baldwin‘s 49-17.  For Guy Blaché’s short films, there is a Gaumont Treasures DVD set that features a number of her French movies from 1897-1907.  Online, many of her shorts are available streaming such as Falling Leaves, a 1912 movie produced by her own Solax Studios in New Jersey.

Director and actress Julie Delpy’s followup to 2 Days in Paris

Study of Alice Guy Blaché in the classroom can involve many interesting topics for students.  These include the development of visual storytelling (see Chapter 7 of Moving Images for the “alcoholic mattress” example from the work of Guy Blaché), the prominence of independent studios in film history such as Guy Blaché’s Solax Studios in New Jersey, and the changing roles of women in movie production, particularly the entrenchment of a “males only” world of film production in Hollywood studios after the first decades of the cinema.  Today, France has many active female directors, including Julie Delpy, Agnès Jaoui, Claire Denis, Noémie Lvovsky, Tonie Marshall, Danièle Thompson, and pioneer Agnès Varda who is among the featured directors of Chapter 5 of Moving Images.  

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Music & Image in "The Artist," directed by Michel Hazanavicius

This year, Oscar talk is abuzz with the notion that a silent film – The Artist – could win the best picture award, which would mark the first time for a non-dialogue motion picture to win the award since 1927, when Wings, directed by William Wellman, won Best Picture (and Frank Borzage won for Best Dramatic Director).  Here is an interview with The Artist‘s director Michel Hazanavicius.  Not only that, but Martin Scorsese’s movie Hugo, a heartfelt homage to the work of silent film pioneer Georges Méliès, is one of The Artist‘s strongest competitors.  (I will return to Hugo in an upcoming blog; Scorsese’s movie is rich with personal significance for me and ties in magnificently with the themes of Moving Images.)  

One of the most interesting and surprising observations I have made during the years I have been teaching media literacy and production is the consistency with which students have been drawn to or challenged by certain assignments.  Year after year, without exception, the most eager response I have had from students is to the central project of Chapter 2 (Inventions and Origins) – a non-dialogue movie.  Yes, a silent film!  And the one that students typically struggle with the most, virtually without fail, is the project for Chapter 6 – a documentary (more on that in an upcoming entry).  This year was no exception, and a number of the finest projects from the class during this semester were made for the Inventions and Origins unit.

Expressing complex narrative and emotions through visuals in "Wall-E"

I think there are a number of reasons for this attraction.  One is the challenge.  Actually, as part of the assignment, students are allowed to have a small number of dialogue lines.  I had decided to do this because I did not want to force the students to mime lines or to corner them into stilted performances.  However, they virtually never put in any lines – they nearly always make it a completely silent movie!  They want to focus on the strength of the visuals to tell the story – along with music and sound effects, which they explore to varying success (usually linked to the amount of preparation and effort that went into their choices and work, of course).  I also think that stories of invention are inspiring for creators working in any medium, and this is one of the primary reasons for the existence of this unit and for its impact.  One can see evidence of it in the reactions to this year’s Oscars, and it was seen a few years ago with a movie that won an Oscar and appears on the list of movies one can study with Chapter 2: Wall-E.  The opening act of Wall-E is one of the most lyrical and brilliant examples of cinematic storytelling one could hope to find.  By the way, The Artist and Hugo will also be appearing on the list of movies that can be studied with Chapter 2 – the news is official right here!

Just as I was writing the last sentence, I got an e-mail telling me that my order for the DVD/CD combo of Le Voyage dans la Lune had shipped.  Pretty funny timing!  This is a new soundtrack by the French group Air for Georges Méliès’s seminal short science-fiction movie based on Jules Verne’s Trip to the Moon, and featured in Figure 2-17 of Moving Images.   A hand colored version of this silent classic was found in 1993, then painstakingly restored, and finally premiered at the 2011 Cannes festival with the score by Air.

There will be other posts on silent film to come this month: a discussion of the work of pioneer Alice Guy-Blaché, notes on Hugo, and more.

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Poster created from iconic images by artist Saul Bass

Just recently a definitive, in-depth book on the design work of artist Saul Bass has been released: Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design (by Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham).  Bass was a true media innovator and through his work one can observe the synergy between text, composition, color, movement, and other visual elements at the core of effective communication.

Bass’s work has provided inspiration for generations of design professionals, advertisers, and filmmakers.  The dynamism of his designs were key as filmmakers invigorated the function and importance of title sequences in movies, and his work helped to usher in the mid-century modern style that has seen a renaissance in recent years, from advertising to graphic novels to animation.

Bass’s storyboard for the infamous and extremely influential shower murder scene from Psycho is highlighted in Chapter 1 of Moving Images (see Figure 1-36).  The half-hour movie Bass on Titles provides a good overview of his work and viewpoints on the craft of movie titles, such as his groundbreaking work for a number of Alfred Hitchcock films (such as Psycho, Vertigo, and North by Northwest), Scorsese movies (including Goodfellas, Cape Fearand The Age of Innocence), and many others including The Man with the Golden Arm and Cowboy.  His work can provide examples for many aspects of the essential questions in Moving Images, including motion picture forms in Chapter 5 and the full production process in Chapter 8.

As a final point, Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design features a superb foreword by Martin Scorsese – to add to the list of his exceptional work in this vein, including the moving piece he wrote for the DVD release of the Beatles’ movie Help, directed by Richard Lester.

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