movie

Just another Jean-Luc Godard appreciation post

My romantic relationship with French New Wave in cinematography is public and stable, so firm that I’ve stopped referring to it as a simple love affair a long time ago. When in doubt, there’s always an inspiration hiding in some of my favourite titles and actors. And there’s still so much left for me to discover!

The last piece is a bit more  technical, not just a general praise to the cinematic genius.  I don’t think it’s necessary to copy the whole text, so here’s the link to my latest film related fangirling:  5 Important Lessons Modern Filmmakers Learned from Jean-Luc Godard.

Btw, WordPress keeps suggesting that I spelled the director’s name wrong, what’s up with that?

And also, other people’s thoughts and comments on that post’s subject are more than welcome.

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Reservoir Dogs & the Aestheticization of Violence

What I’m about to post is an English translation of a part of the favourite essay I have written by now. I chose this topic as an assignment for a class called Media and Violence. The essay is all about my favourite American director Quentin Tarantino, also, this particular piece of it focuses mostly on the analysis of screen violence and it’s influence on the viewer in Tarantino’s first-born, the legendary Reservoir Dogs. The main question inflicts itself: was all that blood really necessary?

The formal expression most commonly attributed to the work of director Quentin Tarantino is the aestheticization of violence. The inevitable violence is also the central  topic for the biggest critics and those who disapprove his work. The term aestheticization of violence includes all kinds of violent behaviour or images that suggest violence in high culture and mass media; violence which is presented in movies, fashion, TV shows and the rest of the media world.

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Tarantino as Mr. Brown in Reservoir Dogs

When it comes to art, the aestheticization of violence and death is very much present since the early age, especially in the western culture. Why has violence always been such an important part of art, cultural critic Susan Sontag explains as the universal human desire for images of pain and violence, it is the same as our universal desire for looking at the naked bodies. Sontag also thinks that people feel a certain amount of satisfaction while watching that kind of content because they feel they can take it without wanting to look away. In case they do look away, they feel satisfied, but in a different way. Kind of like a win-win situation.

Of course, an abundance of violent scenes is not something typical for Tarantino’s movies only, there is a great number of directors who use it, I will mention the most memorable ones like David Lynch, Guy Richie and Ridley Scott. Hollywood cinematography is present in the entire world, produces the most violent movies, but also attributes most to the aestheticization and presentation of violence as a form of artistic expression.

The critics have different opinions about the aesthetics of violence, there are two main theories most of the talk about: the habituation theory and the catharsis theory. The habituation theory suggest that the more we consume violent content in movies or TV shows, we decrease our sensibility to violence, violent behaviour becomes normal and usual to us. It is often presumed that movie violence is superficial and senseless, it is used only to get the attention, and eventually has a negative influence on the audience who’s members can become violent themselves.

The opposed side considers violence to be a part of the content, important asset to the movie’s plot, it has a chatartic effect on the viewer who’s tendency for violent behaviour decreases. Australian movie critic Adrian Martin defends and explains  the use of violence in the movies:  „ … violence on-screen is not real and mustn’t be confused with real life violence. Movie violence is fun, spectacular, acted, it is a dramatic metaphor. (…) It has gone through its historical changes,  has its codes, precise aesthetic benefits.”

Now it’s time to apply the theory through the examples, and my first pick was my favourite Tarantino movie which was also his first, break through project from 1992 – Reservoir Dogs.

This influential piece of independent movie history tells a seemingly simple story: it begins with eight men who don’t know each other (they don’t even reveal their names or anything about their identity) who have planned a diamond robbery, but the whole deal doesn’t really go as smoothly as they’ve expected. Nonlinear narrative combined with many gore, bloody scenes leads the viewer through the story and gets him to know the characters.

Those violent scenes and extent use of profanities were the reason for a big discussion right after the movie premiered. While some were impressed with the scenery and amazing acting performances, some scenes were too much to handle for a part of the audience.  The scene that cause the biggest ‘fuss’ is the one with Mr. Blonde (played by Michael Madsen) dancing and having loads of fun while brutally torturing a policeman by cutting his ear off. On many occasions the viewers would leave the cinema because of this particular scene. On the other hand, it has become one of the iconic scenes of the modern cinema, along with the song Stuck in the Middle with You performed by the Stealers Wheel.

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The infamous ‘ear scene’ with Michael Madsen

Tarantino’s answer to the numerous question about how Reservoir Dogs could inspire the increase of violence among its viewers went a little like this: Well, you can’t arrest me for something some pussy could do after he watches the movie. The moment when artists are blamed for stuff like that, that doesn’t have anything to do with art anymore.

Along with that, there are also negative comments concerning political (in)correctness – the movie is filled with aggressive racist dialogs, demeaning conversations towards women, and there’s also an important fact – there is not a single female role in the movie. To explain the racist part, all the criminals are white males, in this case they are the ones who have adopted the cool gangster image.

Verbal violence and overuse of profanities has become a common trade of Tarantino’s movies, in Reservoir Dogs he implemented swear words wherever it was possible (fuck is pronounced 269 times), we could assume it was his way of attracting attention and desire to bring something new to the crime movie genre. At the time those movies were getting less and less popular, Tarantino is the one that renovated the genre and brought it back to life. The critics love to say that Tarantino glorifies violence, tries to make it seem appealing, but closer look at those stylized scenes and pop culture references bring us to a different conclusion. Violent scenes are exaggerated, choreographed, attention consuming, but they are very far from reality.

Stylization that is created on exaggeration and repetition keeps  the viewer  in the safe distance, the difference between the real  and imaginary world is very clear. We have our world on one side, and Tarantino’s creations on the other. If you appreciate his creation, enjoy it, if not, don’t watch it and just let him be.

Are you talking to me?

The days go on and on… they don’t end. All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go. I don’t believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention, I believe that one should become a person like other people.

Time to go back and start all over again from the topic I love the most – the movies. I always think about what I’m going to watch next, what movies are already waiting on my laptop, what directors I have yet to discover… You have the classics, golden age of Hollywood, new stuff that got good reviews, franchises, undiscovered cinematic  treausures…. I have to make a plan to follow a certain interest of mine or on a day when I’m feeling adventurous, I just make a random pick. My favourites, besides  well-known american movies (especially from the 70s and 80s), are Spanish/South American and French movies. I’m still discovering different countries and their movie scene, it’s an interesting journey. Of course I’m in love with Jean-Luc Godard and nouvelle vague effortlessly beautiful goddess Anna Karina (who was born in Denmark and I also have a thing for Danish cinematography, but I will leave that for another post).

I will go back once more, this time to the 1970s New York, more precisely 1976 when a young directing genius Martin Scorsese with a help of even younger screenwriter Paul Schrader created a cult classic Taxi Driver. Oh man, those were the great times to be a movie junkie, the beginnings of Robert DeNiro’s cynical smile that makes you love him and be afraid of him at the same time. There’s no need to discuss his choices in movies he appears in these days, but you know what, he gets so much credit from me only for his roles in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, he can do whatever the hell he wants to.

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This weekend a local movie theater, one of the most beautiful cultural oasis in Croatia started a monthly event of screening an important movie classics, the opening was reserved for, you guessed it, DeNiro’s grin and anxiety ridden Travis Bickle.  The place was packed, completely sold out which is a big enough statement on its own.

The short introduction started with a woman talking about the first appearance of this film on the big screen back in ’76 and how Croatian audience went crazy for it, those same seats we are sitting in were occupied for 4 months. One of the fun facts I learned about is that while filming during the heathwave in New York, the town’s street sweepers and garbage collectors were on a strike so the scenery is completely authentic. All it combined, the roughness of the city and series of weird, striking faces that portray all kinds of criminal, low-life, marginalized characters gives a viewer an uncensored, realistic, edgy feel about the story. I read somewhere that at the time 26-year old Paul Schrader spent weeks isolated and alone while writing the script, he used that experience of loneliness and lack of real human contact to create one of the most influential pop culture characters of the 20th century.

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I’ve watched Taxi driver two times before plus that one time that I watched only the most important bits but I don’t count it as a real movie experience. How did it feel this time? Fucking awesome! Once again I was blown away by the 14-year old Jodie Foster’s performance, made laugh by the over the top pimpin’ style of Harvey Keitel, appreciated Scorsese’s cameo and so on… Seeing a restored version of the still scary relevant masterpiece (not only did it stand the test of time, but becomes even more contemporary!) in my favourite old cinema was an epic experience. Also,  I’m glad I went alone to be able to enjoy it without the inevitable small talk afterwards, because what is there really left to comment?

Boom!

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Be excited, be creative!!

Ever since I started a project of my own I am aware that I overuse the word CREATIVITY and add ‘she/he is such a creative person’ to describe the people I’m collaborating with. Why do I do that even though I often feel a hint of disgust even after first three-letter C… R… E… ughhh, no I can’t do that, think of something else for god’s sake!

Don’t get me wrong, I love creative people, I love being around them, learning from them, even copying them but not in an illegal douchebaggy way, or at least I hope. The problem with my generation is that we have a lot of time on our hands. When I say ‘we’, I’m talking about European or Northern American privileged young adults who are pretty much broke, but we still live pretty comfortable lives when compared to… you know, the rest of the world. Like I said, a  lot of time combined with access to cultural, artistic, cinematic, etc. experiences from all over the world results in a bunch of individuals who see themselves as modern artsy gods, creative geniuses who’s talent, although not yet discovered should be rewarded by the cruel society. Pretty much thousands of Van Goghs wandering around on Instagram, collecting followers who worship their perfectly aligned photos of morning coffee and bagel next to an overly expensive Mac laptop, or ‘innovative’ fashion escapades inspired by the Kardashian clan, or on the opposite side of the internet sphere – tiny Lolita’s with their petite features giving advice on vegan diet and yoga practises… I could go on forever, if you ever used Instagram, you know what I’m talking about, the stereotypes that we are all becoming a part of. It’s an inflation of people who want to be special, recognized and in the end, famous. The lifestyle, maaan, it’s all about the lifestyle. Of course I get jealous sometimes, but the more perfect the photos, the more suspicious I get when I think about it. And when I don’t think about it, I just scroll through it and  forget about most of the stuff I’ve seen, there’s just too much information, your brain can’t process all the visual stimulation it receives during the day.

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source: incrediblethings.com

I think of myself as a creative person, but maybe not in a conventional way. That doesn’t mean I’m special, au contraire, I am a part of the group with the most members: people who enjoy, appreciate and consume art without having a real talent. I draw stuff, write poems, take photos (who doesn’t these days) but there’s nothing special about it, and even more importantly, I don’t feel the need to share it with a great number of people. Regardless, art is and always will be a great part of my life.

In Woody Allen’s Vicky, Christina, Barcelona Scarlett Johansson plays Christina, a reckless young girl who is not sure about what she wants from life, the only thing she knows is what she doesn’t want. I very much sympathise with that. She also says at one point that she needs to accept the fact that she is not gifted, although she can appreciate art and feels she has a lot to express. She turned out to be a talented photographer, but she had a good mentor, a true artist kind of type. Maybe that’s what we all need, a push, someone who will build our confidence and make us feel relaxed and good about ourselves and what we want to express. In case we want to persue our passion in a professional way, that someone should also be direct and honest about the work we created.

It’s  funny because we live in a place and time where creativity is an absolute must have in probably every type of profession, job interviews rarely go by without the ‘show us your creativity assignment’, creativity is no longer something reserved only for kids or quirky adults, it is an expected part of our personality. At the same time, being childlike or playful is frowned upon. I guess we need to learn how to find a balance between the two. Oh no, now I’m starting to feel sick, like trying to wiggle my way out of a boring school essay and that is not a good thing so I will stop writing immediately.