Thursday, 26 May 2011

Week 12: The end

I half expected to be watching battleship Potemkin for the Russian Cinema week

as a history major nerd, the contextual climate in which films are made always interests me

I remember sitting in the subject allocation suite (more like a dungeon) uming and ahing about the choice between Russian and Asian cinema subject, unable to decide I went with the sexuality stream of subjects (or 'French and avant guard as it was colloquially known') and like that, the very concept of learning about russian cinema as whisked away from me, all that left was the experience in first year was with Battleship Potemkin (1926). I think we watched it between the effortlessly cool breathless(1960) and Prices' boys dont cry (1999)respectively. In first year broad overview classic course curriculum we brushed over Russian cinema in our hour long lecture, touching on Eisenstein's use of jump  cuts and historical significance as a piece of propaganda.
I just rememberer thinking about the Odessa steps scene, oh yeah, they did that in the Untouchables. Cool.

so now, 4 years later here we are again touching the tip of the iceberg that is Russian national cinema. a brief wikipedian study tells me the Lumière brothers first brought film into Russia during the days of the empire. During the revolution there were many anti-tsarist films and then during the SSR films were heavily censored. It was not until the late 60s and early 70s that the film industry was recognized and gained international attention.Tarkovsky is the director of this weeks film, Ivans childhood (1962) and his first feature film after school. It struck me (and probably everyone) as a beautiful film. You could turn it down and have it playing as the backdrop for something melodramatic.
Continuing this courses 'through the eyes of a child' theme (which makes me think of the paranoid schizophrenic methood, as if being a child is that interesting, pft, pretend to be mad and then look at the world) the film works through the eyes of Ivan, an little orphan who is enlisted to work as a spy for the Russian army during WW2
kinda blows my mind that this was commercially successful at the time, and perhaps that is because it is accessible from its child perspective. but this makes me wonder, if a film like this was released now, would it be successful? It does have explosions, but it also has a strong moral conscious, a subversion of childhood and adulthood and a whole shit tonne of subtext to boot.

watch out Ivan, artful framing is coming t o get you!

Ivan oh no! there is use of shadow in the background, its illuminating menacing feelings Ivan!  

Christian symbolism was touched upon in class. Im pretty thankful any time a film maker considers their audience smart enough to not have to shove symbolism in their faces. (IE modern times, what!? the workers are like cattle you say? I see what you have done there) This film uses the subtle symbol to its advantage, I guess this works because those who are looking can find them, but everyone else is not going to miss the story because they don't understand what the hell a chalice represents (WOOOOOMBS ) or a boy and girl being offered up the forbidden fruit (APPPPLEES) Ceci n'est pas une pipe! after all, it is not real- it is a representation of real, it is film. You can just tape a bunch of cats together. Reality in the cinema, truth, keepin' it real is often strived for in the cinema, as if it of all the art forms can show truth. In objective science there is no truth, in philosophy there is no absolutes, why the shit would film be able to achieve this if reality can't even show truth. 
I always say this of Games, and I figured film had moved past that teething period where people could no accept a populist movement as a serious intellectual movement. But now I think about it, how far has film really come. 
No wonder film theory continuously shows and talks about the same examples and gives adulation to the same people over and over, the expanse is too great, if you sat down to watch all those listed films on IMDB, then (even averaging them to a low 120 minutes) it would take 59 years to watch all those movies. And that is without breaks.

I feel like some sort of summary would be appropriate here for the final blog. But there is no thread I could find besides that of the child's view that ties these weeks together. Oh wait, they are all films- adding to the collective body of work in cinema. IMDB says there are about 260,000 feature films that are listed. Not to mention the TV shows, games, youtube, home movies, and things that are lost to the world, never released and left on the cutting room floor. That is quite the body of work.

Battleship Potemkin (1925) Sergei Eisenstein 
Boys dont cry (1999) Kimberly Peirce 
Breathless (1960) Jean-Luc Godard 
Ivans Child (1962) Andrey Tarkovsky 
Modern times (1936) Charles Chaplin 

Bibliography and reading

Peter Wollen's Signs and meaning in the Cinema
on eisensteins aesthetics

The truth of science


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