Friday 10 July 2020

A Farewell Message to 2nd years

Thanks to all 2nd year  Film students for their hard work, effort and support this year.

It has been most appreciated.

I hope the results in August are what you expected. I look forward to hearing of your continued success in the future.


Wednesday 29 April 2020


Focus of the unit

This unit focuses on the micro features of film and the construction of meaning and emotion.

Understanding will be fostered through:
• studying micro features of film: mise-en-scène, performance, cinematography, editing and sound

• identifying how these construct meanings and contribute to the sensory impact of film

• reflecting on individual response to micro features of film as a means of exploring the relationship between film and spectator

• creating a sequence to demonstrate how micro features produce meanings and responses.
Throughout this unit, the emphasis will be on the interaction of film and spectator.

Content (a)
The micro features of film

This unit requires the study of the micro features of film.
Mise-en-scène includes setting, props, staging, costume and make- up, figure expression and movement and off-screen space.

Performance includes physical expression, vocal delivery and interaction between performers (with reference to issues of staging/choreography where relevant).

Cinematography includes photographic elements (e.g. camera position, colour, lens, depth of focus), lighting, framing and composition and special effects.

Editing includes the organisation of time, both within a sequence and across sections of the narrative and the organisation of space, especially in creating coherence for the spectator. The principal conventions of continuity editing, such as shot/reverse shot and the 180 degree rule, will be studied. The uses of montage editing will also be considered.

Sound includes diegetic sound, non-diegetic sound and the variety of ways in which aural elements (e.g. speech, music and noise) are used in relation to visuals.

Tuesday 31 March 2020

British New Wave Cinema 1959-1969 (including Social Realism)

What is Social Realism?

Cinematically the British New Wave is part of a tradition of social realism within British film which has seen many shifts since the growth of the British documentary movement in the 1930s. Realism is a difficult concept because encapsulated within it there are a range of changing aesthetic conventions all of which have as a central concern the intention of representing ‘the world as it really is’ or ‘life as it is really lived’.

Britain today is still a society in many ways defined by class, but in the 1950s divisions were far more rigid. The 'new wave' films and the sources that inspired them gave a voice to a working-class that was for the first time gaining some economic power.

Previously, working-class characters in British cinema had largely been used for comic effect or as 'salt of the earth' cannon fodder. Here we see their lives at the centre of the action. That action, such as it is, details everyday dramas - hence 'the kitchen sink' tag. We see events through the emotional journeys of the characters.

Interestingly, only Room at the Top (d. Jack Clayton, 1958) and Look Back in Anger (d. Tony Richardson, 1959) look directly at conflict between working-class and middle-class characters.

The later films concentrate on conflicts within the working-class contrasting 'rough' (the very poor, unskilled, criminal and hedonistic - represented by characters like Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (d. Karel Reisz, 1960) and Colin Smith and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, d. Richardson, 1962) with 'respectable' (skilled, aspirational, educated and 'moral' - such as the heroes of John Schlesinger's films: Vic Brown in A Kind of Loving (1962) and the life that Billy Fisher in Billy Liar (1963) appears to lead).

The debates around class are complex. There is recognition that social change and affluence will make society 'freer' but there is also an understanding that the basis of power will not change.

'Fish Tank': It's Relevance to 1950's/1960's British Social Realist Films

In Andrea Arnold’s film, “Fish Tank,” an unsmiling 15-year-old named Mia (Katie Jarvis), who lives in a housing project in Essex, in England, becomes close to the boyfriend of her uncaring mother. The man, an Irish charmer named Connor, played by Michael Fassbender, gives her money and lends her his video camera so that she can tape herself dancing to hip-hop. It soon becomes apparent that the relationship between Mia and Connor is becoming dangerously intimate.

Ms. Arnold shot “Fish Tank” in a raw, nonjudgmental and observational style with plenty of hand-held camerawork. The film, which was in the United States on Friday, is recognizably the work of the same unflinching filmmaker who made “Red Road” (2006) and “Wasp,” which won the 2005 Oscar for best live-action short. The consistent look and the working-class milieu of Ms. Arnold’s films align them with the three British directors most associated with social realism: Ken LoachMike Leigh and Alan Clarke, who died in 1990.

The difficulties in Britain of raising money to make films prohibits cohesive movements in the national cinema, and like other directors who have worked in a social realist style — including Gary Oldman (the actor, who directed “Nil by Mouth”), Carine Adler (“Under the Skin”), Lynne Ramsay (“Ratcatcher”) and Duane Hopkins (“Better Things”) — Ms. Arnold is something of a lone voice. Her reputation as an auteur could come to rest on whether her films successfully harness her chosen style to express social themes, or whether they are merely anecdotes that look like Mr. Loach’s films.

Ms. Arnold admits to being a fan of Mr. Loach, but is hesitant about making claims for herself as a social realist. “I guess I am,” she allowed during a recent telephone interview. “When people have suggested it, I’ve said, ‘Oh, am I?’ I know it sounds kind of mad, but I just get on and make my films in my own way as best I can. I’m not aware that I’m joining any group. I know that all the people that have made similar films in the past paved the way for me to be able to do it, and I’m obviously influenced by what came before, but I’m not that conscious of it.”


Fish Tank: Section C

Social Realism

Better than any other genre, social realism has shown us to ourselves, pushing the boundaries in the effort to put the experiences of real Britons on the screen, and shaping our ideas of what British cinema and British life can be. 

Social realism in films is representative of real life, with all its difficulties. The stories and people portrayed are everyday characters, usually from working class backgrounds. Typically, films within the social realist genre are gritty, urban dramas about the struggle to survive the daily grind.

One of the strongest images of postwar British cinema is that of factory worker Arthur Seaton downing a pint in one at the end of another week in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960). Also in A Taste of Honey (1961) prejudices and social values were explored in British cinema for the first time.

These films dealt with prostitution, abortion, homosexuality, alienation and relationship problems; issues that were seen as controversial at the time. Here were factory workers, office underlings, dissatisfied wives, pregnant girlfriends, runaways, the marginalised, poor and depressed.

This British New Wave was symptomatic of a worldwide emergence of art cinemas challenging mainstream aesthetics and attitudes. The New Wave protagonist was usually a working-class male without bearings in a society in which traditional industries and the cultures that went with them were in decline. Directors like Ken Loach and films such as those by Mike Leigh's High Hopes (1988) and The Full Monty (1997) have addressed the erosion of regional and class identities amid a landscape rendered increasingly uniform by consumerism and social structures.

Descendants of this style at the BBC in the 1960s, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh assessed the impact of the consumer society on family life, charting the erosion of the welfare state and the consensus that built it. Looking back, Loach's work seems to reflect the shift from the collectivist mood of the war years to the individualism of the postwar decades in its very form. Loach's films went from the improvised long-take naturalism of Poor Cow and Kes (both 1969) to the 'social melodrama' of Raining Stones (1993). 

In the 1980s, publisher-broadcaster Channel 4 attempted to cultivate a cinema audience for realism. Responding to the moralistic entrepreneurialism of the Thatcher years, 'Films on Four' My Beautiful Laundrette and Letter to Brezhnev (both 1985) followed characters from the margins as they attempted to stake a claim in the new order. Meanwhile, more lethal and complex representations of men and women appeared in Shane Meadows' A Room for Romeo Brass (1999) and This Is England (2006) added more diverse representations of modern culture.

'Fish Tank' can be seen as a direct descendant of this type of cinema in its portrayal of a young girl disillusioned by her lifestyle, social insignificance and prospects who seeks escape in her passion to express herself in dance.

Thursday 20 February 2020

The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

The Lady From Shanghai (1948) is an imaginative, complicated, unsettling film noir who-dun-it thriller, with fascinating visuals and tilting compositions, luminous and brilliant camerawork (by Charles Lawton, Jr.), and numerous sub-plots and confounding plot twists. Although the tale of betrayal, lust, greed and murder was filmed in late 1946 and finished in early 1947, it wasn't released until late in 1948 - it failed both at the box-office and as a critical success (there were no Academy Award nominations).

The film, originally titled Take This Woman and then Black Irish, was made when major stars Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth (in her last film under contract to Columbia Pictures) were still married although estranged and drifting apart. [Note: Their divorce decree was issued in November, 1947, thereby making the film itself and their characterizations a visualization of their own personal breakup]. Believing that Hayworth's sexy screen image (after her success in Gilda (1946)) was tarnished forever with her role in the film as a wicked and evil temptress, studio chief Harry Cohn was also incensed to find that his reigning, top box-office star's magnificent auburn hair was bobbed, waved and bleached blonde for the film.

Orson Welles served as director, producer, screenplay writer, and actor, basing his screenplay upon Sherwood King's 1938 novel If I Die Before I Wake. The film was shot on locations including Acapulco and San Francisco (such as the Sausalito waterfront and the Valhalla Bar and Cafe, Chinatown, the Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park, and Whitney's Playland amusement park at the beach), and on Columbia studios sets, and features numerous classic set-pieces including: the aquarium scene, and the funhouse and Hall of Mirrors climax. [Note: The numerous close-ups of Rita Hayworth in the film were later added by Welles in Hollywood upon orders of the studio, to lend strength to her 'star' power.]

Ultimately, the film's length was severely cut down by one hour, creating an almost incomprehensible, discontinuous, cryptic patchwork from numerous retakes and substantial edits. This was Welles' last Hollywood film until the making of Touch of Evil (1958) ten years later.

Tuesday 11 February 2020

What’s new in Blade Runner: The Final Cut?

So what exactly has changed? And is it worth all the fuss?
After attending a recent screening, I can report that there are significant differences, mainly improvements, between this new version and Ridley’s first Director’s Cut released in 1992.
First off, the unicorn dream sequence, originally introduced in the Director’s Cut, has been extended. Deckard’s daydream of a unicorn galloping through a forest in slow motion is a pivotal scene, apparently suggesting that Deckard, like Rachel, is a replicant. In a recent article in Wired, Ridley explained why.
“Gaff, at the end, doesn’t like Deckard, and we don’t really know why,” said Ridley, after being asked whether it was on paper that Deckard was a replicant. “And if you take for granted for a moment that, let’s say, Deckard is Nexus 7, he probably has an unknown life span and therefore is starting to get awfully human. Gaff, just at the very end, leaves a piece of origami, which is a piece of silver paper you might find in a cigarette packet. And it’s of a unicorn, right? So, the unicorn that’s used in Deckard’s daydream tells me that Deckard wouldn’t usually talk about such a thing to anyone. If Gaff knew about that, it’s Gaff’s message to say, ‘I’ve basically read your file, mate.’”
Physically, Blade Runner has been altered to take advantage of the latest improvements in film and audio technology. The quality of the print and the audio has been significantly enhanced. A new digital print of the film was created from the original negatives, while the special effects were updated and polished. Special effects footage was scanned in at 8,000 lines per frame, which is four times the resolution used for most restorations. The dystopic Los Angeles landscape of 2019 is now more stunning than ever before. Watching flames leap skywards as a spinner flies through the darkness during the opening sequence is mesmerising.
Vangelis’ evocative soundtrack, remastered for The Final Cut in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound, sounds better than ever, complimenting the story perfectly, from the fast-paced action sequences to the slow, haunting scenes in Deckard’s smoke filled apartment.
One of the most compelling aspects of Blade Runner is its bleak depiction of a dark decaying world lost in drizzle and shadow. The multicultural inhabitants struggle through busy city streets but reside in almost empty skyscrapers, abandoned by the majority lucky enough to have left for better lives off-world.
Extra footage and alterations enhance this compelling vision, including an additional shot of a crowded city street, a brief sequence of two exotic dancers wearing hockey masks, and a shot of Deckard meeting a police officer before he enters the Snake Pit.
There’s also new footage of Zhora crashing through a display case after being pursued by Deckard. This scene was reshot. The original actress, Joanna Cassidy, performed the stunt herself, replacing original footage of an obvious stunt double.
Roy Batty’s death scene, where a dove is released into a bright blue sky, supposedly at night, now shows the dove flying into a night sky, with an appropriate bleak backdrop.
Some scenes, such as Deckard’s first meeting with Gaff in the noodle bar, have been trimmed, as they ran too long after the removal of Deckard’s voice-over from the original theatrical release.
Various pieces of dialogue too have been inserted or altered. In an early scene, where Bryant and Deckard are looking at Nexus 6 profiles, Bryant now describes Leon’s job. When he talks about replicants being caught in an electrical field, the dialogue has been changed from: “One of them got fried running through an electrical field” to “Two of them got fried running through an electrical field”. This alteration fixes the problem of a sixth replicant unaccounted for in earlier versions.
In the scene where Batty confronts Tyrell, the line, “I want more life, fucker” has been replaced with “I want more life, father”. In the same scene, after Batty has killed Tyrell, he now says to Sebastian, “I’m sorry Sebastian. Come. Come.”
Deckard’s conversation with a snake merchant has been rerecorded and reworked. In the 1992 Director’s Cut, the dialogue is completely out of sync, making it very distracting.
Other additions include extra violence. All of the violent scenes in the International Cut that were deleted in the U.S. theatrical release have been reinserted, most unsettlingly when Roy Batty crushes Tyrell’s head in his hands, gouging out his eyes. Pris’s shocking and sad death scene, her arms and legs thrashing about wildly, also appears to be have been extended. Presumably, censorship is not as restrictive as it had been when the film was originally released. Personally, I think they could have left the level of gore as it was.
With so many previous versions, you could be forgiven for thinking that Blade Runner: The Final Cut is not worth much of our time. Some may argue that Ridley is merely tweaking a film that has already been tweaked well beyond its use by date. There’s some support for this given that Ridley Scott was quoted at the Venice Film Festival recently claiming that the science fiction genre is as dead as the Western.
“There’s nothing original,” he said. “We’ve seen it all before. Been there. Done it”.
Perhaps that’s why, instead of creating a whole new science fiction film, he has merely retouched an old one.
You could, of course, hold an even more cynical view: this latest version is nothing more than a commercial exercise. Are Warner Bros. and Ridley Scott merely trying to squeeze the last drops out of loyal fans who should know better?
After viewing Blade Runner: The Final Cut in all its enhanced glory, I’d have to disagree. This is not just a patch up job attempting to cash in on a cult film. Like an oil painter retouching a masterpiece, or a novelist polishing prose, Ridley is trying to complete his vision. The film has been improved markedly using all the time, technology, and feedback Ridley had at his disposal. In an article for in New York Times, Ridley stated that he had “never paid quite so much attention to a movie, ever.”
That’s not to say that it’s flawless. Detectives in the future, for example, appear to lack some basic common sense: when Bryant shows Deckard profiles of the Nexus 6 replicants, it’s clear they know exactly what they all look like. So why didn’t Holden, whom we see in an early scene giving a Voight-Kamff test to Leon, already know that Leon was a replicant? Didn’t anyone give him the mug shots?
Equally, if Deckard really is a Nexus 7 created to work as an exterminator, why is he lacking the strength of the inferior Nexus 6 models he is chasing? He seems to spend a large part of the film being bashed to a pulp.