Human Centipede

I know class is over and everything, but I just saw the movie Human Centipede and thought I would share my thoughts. That movie was ridiculous… It doesn’t have the best plot or anything but ill post a link where you can read it, but the movie has such a twisted idea behind it that it will surely mess with people’s mind…and stomachs. This is one of the few movies that I actually felt compelled to look away or want to shut the film off. If your looking for a movie to shock yourself and friends this movie will not disappoint.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Human_Centipede_(First_Sequence)

Horror and Comedy in One!

I have recently read an interesting blog post by someone with the username Poppascotch on the website horror-movies.ca.  The post talks about how close the horror and comedy genre is in producing the same effect.  This interests me a lot because in my experience I’ve felt that all the horror comedies I have seen have failed to produce both feelings of fear and moments that make me laugh.  You can read the article at the link below.

http://www.horror-movies.ca/horror_17640.html

The article says that horror and comedy both have similar ways to induce a response from the viewer.  It says that in horror the viewer is set up by such things as a person going to investigate a dark house and it creates a feeling of fear that results in a scare.  In comedy a character is set up with a ridiculous situation that the viewer knows must end in a laugh.  After reading this I can see how horror and comedy work in similar ways, but the question still is for me can they work at the same time?

My answer is no.

I feel that the horror comedies I have seen throughout the year can either be scary or funny.  For example one of the most obvious horror comedies Scary Movie, was not scary at all; in my opinion it was funny either.  One movie I did find very funny was Shaun of the Dead.  This movie works great with the inducing laughs, but lacks in the horror department.  I don’t feel that in this movie I ever felt the anxiety or fear that other films such as Martyrs have created.

I hated this film...

One thing I have experienced while watching horror films is that there are scenes in which a joke is said that has made me laugh.  One example of this is The Last House On The Left, both the original and the remake.  In the original film the police are there as almost a small comic relief and in the remake the father says jokes that I found funny.  These films do not consider themselves horror comedy whatsoever, but still had moments that make the viewer laugh.  I feel this works because there is not an equal blend of comedy and horror; there is a ratio of one laugh to every ten scares.  I feel this works similar to a lot of action films, where there are little jokes said in between all the action.

Zombies haven't been scary since the 60's.

Another thing I thought about while watching both The Last House On The Left movies, is the way they put in the few laughs.  In the original the laughs are throughout the film and in between each seen or horror.  I feel this was done because at the time of its release the subject matter of a teenager being raped was very intense and these comedic scenes were there to lessen the shock.  This is exactly what I felt it did, but towards the end of the film the comedy stops and the film makes the viewer totally forget that there were ever moments they could think of laughing.  The remake takes a different approach where they give some jokes in the beginning of the film, but once the horror starts the comedy ceases altogether.  This I feel makes for a very different experience then the original and a much more horrifying one.

See she's laughing a bit... right?

So all in all what I’m trying to say is that I do not feel the horror comedy genre is very effective at all.  The one exception I have to this is when the film has very subtle and dark comedy, one that doesn’t really have the viewer laugh out loud or have the HAHA moment.  One example of this is the film featured in the article American Werewolf in London, which creates some scares and some what I’ll call giggle moments…yes, giggle moments.  Another one that did this for me was the film we watched in class Doctor Strangelove, but I can’t really consider that a horror comedy.  Well these are my opinions on the horror comedy genre; let me know how you guys feel!

He'll laugh... but then eat you.

“I see _____ people.”

Se7en of the Lambs…

After watching Se7en, I kept wondering what movie I was reminded of. I had several déjà vu moments while watching the movie and I was really annoyed at myself for not remembering what I was remembering. So I did what most normal people do in times of distress – I googled! Amazingly, I was rewarded with the following link…
http://www.comicvine.com/forums/off-topic/5/se7en-vs-silence-of-the-lambs-film/541208/
If any of you would like to read the blog, feel free. I, however, did not. Just the title did it for me! The movie I was subconsciously comparing Se7en to was Silence of the Lambs. Now, those that know me (and the professor who read my first paper) already know that one of my all time favorites movies is Silence of the Lambs. Why? I am not entirely sure but I watched it with my siblings when I was about 5 and never stopped loving it since. Though the plots of both these movies are drastically different, there are certain moments of the film that scream “Remember me?” Take the following pictures as proof…
Behind bars:

http://poietes.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/silence-of-the-lambs.jpg

Bloody outfit:
http://jet0425.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/seven.jpg
http://img5.allocine.fr/acmedia/rsz/434/x/x/x/medias/nmedia/18/64/43/01/18777945.jpg

Scary looking victims:
http://www.lowerthetone.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/se7en.gif
http://www.best-horror-movies.com/image-files/silence-of-the-lambs-skinned-victim.jpg

Dr. Lecter and John Doe even look similar:
http://i31.tinypic.com/245asxu.jpg
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3254/3076954227_b2cc3fe931.jpg

Calm with authorities:
http://www.gonemovie.biz/WWW/XsFilms/SnelPlaatjes/FreemanSpaceySeven.jpg
http://media3.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/photo/2007/01/29/PH2007012900692.jpg

Besides for the visual similarities, both villains share certain vital characteristics. They are both manipulative with the police, are hardly ever hysterical, are bald (in a creepy way), etc… Wonder if any of you guys grasped a similar comparison when watching the film?

P.S. Though I think both movies are similar, I am not suggesting that Se7en, which was released in 1995, copied Silence of the Lambs, which was released in 1991. I actually think that the psychopathic and calm serial killer is indicative of the fear of the generation of ruthless and unstoppable murderers pervading the streets. Don’t you agree?

Urban Decay at it’s best

I couldn’t think of anything to post, but I then I got to thinking about the genre of movies we have been doing and there it hit me! So I literally googled “urban decay” to see what I would get, and BAM…this pops up:

http://photocritic.org/urban-decay-photography/

Apparently, this idea of urban decay has not only influenced film, but art as well. The website has 25 of the best urban decay photographs. It was interesting to see how one could find beauty in even the worst situations.


I find it amazing actually! the photographs look beautifully taken, and really allow for the audience to see a difference perspective. The photographs are both enlightening because they show how some parts of not only the country, but neighborhoods both past and present, out of state or around the corner can change over time, as well as entertaining and enjoyable to look at. It’s a modern day twist on the phrase, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” The things is, in relation to these films, I feel like these photographs could have been settings for each story. Take a look:

Couldn’t you picture this in “Se7en” as a setting for one of the deadly sins scenes?  Or these:

This photograph (left) screams “The Warriors.” Those two lights at the end look like trains in a tunnel, like when Swan and Marcy were running away from the cops underground.

I don’t even know exactly what this on the right is, but in some way I feel like its color and lighting have this resounding affect similar to the “After Hours” was filmed.

The thing is that these photographs also relate to other genres we touched on this semester.

When I first saw these pictures (bottom) I thought I was having deja vu or something. They reminded me so much of the nuclear anxiety films we saw not too long ago. We definitely saw similar scenes in movies like “The Day After”.”

Take a look at the website…which is your favorite? Why? Could you see it in any of the movies we discussed this semester?

P.S. do you like the urban decay that is my post? 😉

Citation: all photographs were taken from the link posted above.

The Final Girl

In class the other day we noted that often in the sub-genre of slasher films, the girl who survives is The Good Girl” the virgin, while all the more promiscuos girls are surely going to be killed. In this clip from Scream, we are taught some of the rules to survive a horror movie.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/X-q-AWD_8AY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

From the first two rules layed out in this slasher film parody, we learn sinning (by either sex, drugs, or alcohol) is what get you killed. This might support the approach that the slasher film is preaching conservative ideals, and that the killer (much like Thursday’s group discussed about Michael Myers) is restoring order amongst the chaos.

However, there are many other
explanations that offer a different perspective in explaing the virgin survives phenomenom. One thing to note is that almost always, the lead of a slasher film is a female. In fact there is a phrase coined for the final survivor of horror flicks, as The Final Girl. Therefore, the female lead needs to be explained.

One popular explanation helps explain why the Final Girl is often a virgin. In horror films in order to deepen the anxiety and terror of the film (which is the point of horror films, either that or to laugh at them but thats a different story) the main charachter has to show terror, fear, and essentially scream; which a man lead can not do (as men are never allowed to be afraid even when chased by an axe bearing lunatic). However, as this genre is more male orientended, and the lead at the end has to portray some characteristics more often associated with males, such as the bravery and aggression to use violence and weaponry, it is important for the lead to not to be too feminine. Therefore, her sexuality is mininimized and she often is made into virgin , often with a unisex name, so the male viewer can view her as a somewhat more masculated hero. That is why the more feminine characters are killed off. (This idea is somewhat derived from Carol Clover theory on the Final Girl, the term she coined).

I also found this song on youtube that is written about the Final Girl of horror flicks from 70s and 80s. Doesn’t offer much content but thought I’d share it.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/sP8nT2QQp5k" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Is there such thing as a good remake?

In class we started to get on the subject of how remakes are just a cheap way to gain profit and are rarely well made films.  Well I found someone’s blog post where Vic Holtreman claims to have boiled down how to successfully remake a movie in just five steps.  I’m going to take his five points and write my own opinion about them.  I’ll paste the link below so everyone can read his reasons behind the five steps.

http://screenrant.com/top-five-rules-for-movie-remakes-vic-964/

1. Stories in the public domain that have already had multiple movie remakes done.

I agree with Vic’s first step because in a way I feel remakes of classics don’t really count as remakes.  Vic uses movies such as Dracula as an example of a classic and I feel stories like this are so well known and established, that it is very hard to mess up a remake.  What I mean is that, for example, the story of Dracula is known by many people, so in a way people know what to expect in a remake.  Kind of like how people feel when they go to Mc Donalds, they go there for food because they know what they are going to get, no matter where it is or when it is.  People going to see Dracula usually have a base knowledge of what to expect, leading to less let downs. There is the argument that people would like to see classics reinvented, but do you think that really counts as a remake?

They both suck blood... right?

2. The original is terribly dated in either setting or pacing and style.

Where many people who love older movies will totally disagree with me, I feel this is very true because when I watch some movies from the 40s and 50s I find myself a bit bored, which I feel has to do with pacing.  Maybe this is because newer generations of audiences have a different respect for movies, but then wouldn’t a remake serve good here, to retell a story for newer generations?

Too much masculinity...

3. The original is not terribly well known or beloved.

I feel this is very true and I will use the example of John Carpenter’s The Thing as an example because many people probably do not even know this is a remake of The Thing From Another World.  This proves the point that it helps to remake films that are not well known and it creates a successful remake because hell, half the public don’t even think of it as a remake.

Ain't nothing but a thang!

4. The remake does in fact bring something new while respecting the original.

I think this is interesting because here someone can use the original film to tell the story in their own way.  A good example of this is Halloween and Rob Zombie’s remake, where it essentially tells the same story without changing main plot elements, just from a different characters perspective.  One film I’m interested in seeing how this is done is the soon to be American remake of the Swedish Let The Right One In, titled Let Me In.  I feel this is going to be interesting because the Swedish movie is based off a novel that is quite lengthy and has many different elements and the American film plans to focus the movie on elements from the book that weren’t expressed in the Swedish film.

All I'm going to say is I hate Rob Zombie...

5. The original was basically pretty cheesy or tongue-in-check in tone and most folks wouldn’t care if it was remade.

I think this is very true and the perfect example that comes to mind is the remake of Wes Craven’s The Last House On The Left.  I must say I actually enjoyed the remake better than the original because it stays very true to the original story, it just takes out some of the slapstick elements of Wes Craven’s original.  Personally I felt this element did not mesh well with the rest of the original exploitation film and actually takes away from some of the shock and horror.

I liked the last house on the... right more

I feel these are actually five pretty accurate steps to create a successful remake.  Let me know if you guys agree or disagree.

Inside the mind of a murderer…

Having watched both Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, one can’t help but wonder what drives serial killers to commit such atrocious crimes. I usually take the Freudian approach and search for the answer in their troubled childhood. This person had to somehow be brought up differently to lead him or her to not have the same emotions as us, same sense of morality.

Pedro Alonso López is considered to be one of the most infamous murderers of all time. He is said to have killed over 300 victims. I learned that his mother, a prostitute with 13 children, caught him fondling his younger sister when he was eight years old. She threw him out of the house. He was then picked up by a pedophile, taken to a deserted house and repeatedly sodomized. Later, he was taken in by an American family and enrolled in a school for orphans. He allegedly ran away, either with a teacher from his school, or because he was molested by a teacher. Furthermore, at 18, he was gang-raped in prison. There’s no justification for what he did, but this certainly gives us some insight into how tragic events shaped his character.

However, what incites more fear is facing a serial killer that is seemingly normal but leads an alternative life full of murder and cruelty. One that gives no explanation for his actions, no warning signs. One such famous murder was Richard Kuklinski –  “the Iceman”.  He was an ordinary man. He had a job, a wife, children, and as we later find out a hobby! In the following interview with him, we can see how he got his nickname, having had no feelings as he committed the crimes.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/8iTmoeFsjDs" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing the internet in search of some scenery pictures of the city I am from in Ukraine. I kept coming across references to the “Dnepropetrovsk maniacs”. I thought they are some local band or maybe a motorcicle gang. I then found out that it was a group of guys who murdered for fun. They started with stray dogs and later moved on to humans. They tortured and then killed their victims and recorded it all on camera to keep as memories. What’s more is that they would attend their victims’ funerals and desecrate their gravesides. I was disgusted to find out that these teenagers came from fairly wealthy families and simply took this up as a hobby. I searched for answers; I tried to blame their parents. In interviews, they denied that their children could commit such things, claiming that they were framed by the police. But there are endless pictures and videos showing them committing the crimes and enjoying them! Here is some news footage.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/9OqmfAPxSE0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/F6asP4DABGk" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

A video of one of the murders made it onto the internet. Movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween dont scare me much, so I began to watch the movie out of curiosity. You can easily find the video online and www.ohlookaforum.com has a whole lot of information on it. But I urge you not to. I am not exxagerating when I saw that it took me days to recover from it, and the images linger in my mind to this day. The three murderers attacked a middle aged ma, a recent cancer survivor. They used a hammer and a screwdriver to slowly kill him, but what made the video most tragic, is that the poor man wouldn’t die for the longest time, suffering slowly. Some say this is the most gruesome video available online and anybody who dares to watch it, please respond with some feedback. Perhaps it was the raw realism of the footage, perhaps its because it occured in my own city, but I swear that I have never been more horrified in my life…

For Today’s Discussion: The Exorcist

Two 1980s Nuclear Nightmares

If you haven’t had your fill of nuclear doomsday narratives, here are two more.

The Atomic Cafe (1983) is a clever, satirical documentary made up of archive footage from a variety of sources from the late 1940s to the early 1960 addressing every aspect of cold war era nuclear anxiety. Both frightening and darkly funny, it very nicely distills many of the themes in the discussions we’ve had over the last two weeks.


http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1126269724766604475&ei=4yuqS-KgHI6mqgL0g7DRBg&q=atomic+cafe&hl=en#

Threads (1984) is a BBC made for TV movie about a nuclear attack on Great Britain. It is, in a sense, a British Day After. It feels decidedly more real than it’s American counterpart broadcast a year earlier. Believe it or not, it is even darker and bleaker. It is widely regarded as the very best, most disturbing and haunting imagining of nuclear war and its aftermath from the 1980s.


http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2023790698427111488&ei=Ay2qS7-lNZPorAL7rNXWBg&q=threads&hl=en#

Dr. Strangelove – O to the M to the G

I really should not have watched Dr. Strangelove immediately before going to sleep. Due to the extreme oddness of the characters and plot, I was left with strange dreams all night long. I cannot explain how much I loved/hated this movie. My bipolar feelings towards the film stem due its weird nature and not from personal inconsistency.
Why I liked it? It was hysterical!!! Excuse me, but the President of the U.S. talking to Dmitry scenes were so entertaining. Of course, Dmitry was depicted as drunk and mildly insane and the U.S. president was calm and collected. Dr. Strangelove was funny as well. I especially love the parts where his run away hand tried to strangle him and when he referred to the president as “Mein Fuehrer.” I enjoyed the Russian ambassador’s absolutely remarkable comment that Russia’s source for thinking America had built a doomsday device was the NY Times. I didn’t even know that joke was relevant to the time period but I guess some things never change.
Why I did not like it? Well, I really don’t get why Peter Sellers had to play three characters. Was this a budget related issue? Was it for comedic purposes? Either way, I didn’t appreciate it. It was annoying to see the same face in nearly every scene. Also, I especially hated the end. So civilization is essentially destroyed, only several thousand will survive, life will need to move underground, but it’s all good because monogamy is no more. I feel like this had nothing to do with the plot of the movie and was such a foolish way to end a good film. This scene managed to kill most of the movie’s allure for me.
Overall, Dr. Strangelove is a good movie. It has a nice message for humanity and is still relevant today. It managed to merge humor and seriousness well. However, certain techniques seemed unsuitable for the movie.

Nuclear War Films on the Digital Campus

In addition to the three required films for next week (Fail Safe, Dr. Strangelove and The Day After), two more movies nuclear war themed movies have now been added to the Digital Campus page. These are On the Beach and The Bedford Incident (1965) (which Whitfield briefly discusses). Though I will not hold you responsible for these two movies, I do recommend that you watch them if you have a chance. It will enrich our discussions on Tuesday and Thursday.

If you encounter problems with streaming from the Digital Campus, please let me know in an email so I can report it the folks at the library. Please be as specific in your description of the problem as possible.

The Red Scare and the Hollywood Blacklist: For Tuesday

As you’ll see on the calendar page, our viewing for Tuesday is The Front, a 1976 comedy starring Woody Allen about McCarthyism’s impact on the entertainment industry and Trumbo, a 2007 documentary about Dalton Trumbo, a well known screenwriter who was blacklisted but continued to write and and win awards under psuedonyms. Both are available for streaming on Netflix.

Also, please take a look the following films. Together, they’ll give you some additional context for the two films as well as our reading from Whitfield’s The Culture of the Cold War. Most of these are already in our Delicious feed.

“Hollywood ‘Red’ Probe Begins, 1947/10/20 (1947)” A newsreel on the beginning of HUAC’s probe of alleged communist activity and influence in Hollywood.
I Married a Communist(a.k.a. The Woman on Pier 13)(1949). An RKO feature starring Robert Ryan and an exemplary red scare propaganda film along with My Son John and I Was A Communist for the FBI.

“The Hollywood Ten” (1950), a 16mm short critical of McCarthyism and the blacklist. The director, John Berry, was blacklisted after the film’s release and fled to France where he worked until his return to the US in the 1970s.

“Make Mine Freedom” (1948). A propaganda cartoon on the virtues of democracy and what Americans stand to lose if communism should prevail.
“Communism,” a 1952 educational film about the threat of Soviet Communism.

A Quick Update

As I mentioned in class, the schedule for presentations and required viewings is now available for download here. Take a look at that when you have a chance. Also, the next two readings are now available as well: the Melley article on brainwashing for Thursday and chapter 6 of Whitfield’s Culture of the Cold War. You’ll notice on the updated calendar that next week is going to look a little different from what I described to you last week.

Since Swank will not be ready in time to post to the Digital Campus the movies I had intended for you to watch, I had to improvise a little given what is available on Netflix. Rather than watching the two 1950s anti-communist movies as planned (let’s face it, they’re more interesting than entertaining, especially to contemporary audiences), I’m going to switch things around and ask you to watch the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate for Thursday. If you can find the time to watch the 2004 version, you should. Both are available on the Digital Campus and are linked to on the calendar page.

Since we can’t get primary material, we’ll go for the secondary. For the following Tuesday, please watch The Front, a 1976 comedy with Woody Allen about blacklisted writers and Trumbo, a 2007 documentary about Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter who was blacklisted and wrote many films under psuedonyms — one even won an Oscar. Both are available for streaming on Netflix. I’ll also post some links to a few shorts from the Prelinger archive. Most of these are already on our delicious page, so take a look. For that Thursday, 7 Days in May should be available on the Digital Campus site. Once that’s set, it should be smooth sailing for the remainder of the semester.

Memento, Noir and our fading sense of morality

As we have frequently pointed it out, “Memento” is a classical example of a movie inspired by film noir. I came across a great article written by a German professor, Dr. Robert Hurd, who does a great job identifying film noir, neo-noir and its presence in this particular film (http://www.christophernolan.net/files/narrativeMementoSchmidt.pdf). In the previous post, my classmate also presented us with some great examples of the correlation between the three, but instead of regurgitating what has already been said, I would like to focus on one specific characteristic of noir that is so evident in “Memento”. That feature is the theme of revenge.

Hurd explains that the film of revenge follows a structured pattern where the protagonist is somehow betrayed and having run out of other options, he puts seeking justice into his own hands. Noir and revenge films criticize society and particularly its system of justice which was unable to help the protagonist. The police have closed the case of Leonard Shelby’s wife’s murder without finding the criminals that took away his wife and his memory. Having witnessed the wrongdoing, the viewer oftentimes commiserates with the protagonist blurring his or her ability to sense what kind of justice is morally acceptable. Another characteristic of noir is voice-over narration. We hear the story from Lenny’s perspective, as opposed to an objective one. The argument that I am trying to make is that because of the aforementioned characteristics, revenge films such as “Memento” may alter or more specifically – diminish our ethical judgment. We become possessed by an “eye for an eye” mentality. When researching the film, I came across a review on lipmagazine.com, which offered a great quote that further explains my point. It stated, “Leonard Shelby is a moral monster – far more sinning that sinned against.” Having empathized with Shelby throughout the entire movie, and seeking truth for his wife’s murder along his side, only to find out at the very end that he has been deceiving himself this whole time, could not surpass the connection and the pity I had for the protagonist. Was I justifying actions I would otherwise never agree with? I am amazed at the sense of revenge and at times even cruelty that this genre was able to awaken in me.

Memento Cartoon

Neo-Noir Elements of Memento

Memento is a film about a man, Leonard Shelby with anterograde amnesia which leaves him unable to create new memories.  He spends most of the film trying to put together pieces of a puzzle to find his wife’s killer.  There are a couple of elements of this film that allow it to be classified as neo-noir. In terms of setting and atmosphere, it is not a classically noir film.  However, one of the main elements of the film that allow it to be a neo-noir is the way the story is told and the anxiety that is maintained throughout the film.  

Memento is one of my favorite films that we’ve watched in class so far because I felt it truly lived up to the name of the course, Anxiety of Cinema.  Throughout the whole film I was trying to guess what was going to happen next, and kept in this constant state of anxiety.  Much of this had to do with the way the story was told.  It was told in a non-linear narrative, so at first it was confusing and required that you pay attention throughout the whole film.  Little by little, we’re given pieces of the puzzle and then finally at the end we see the pieces come together but we’re still left unsure who to trust.  I feel this is a classic element of noir films, not knowing which character to trust.  At first you empathize with Leonard and assume he’s helpless because of his condition, but the end throws you for a loop when you find out he may have been sabotaging his memory on purpose and that you can’t trust his character either.  This only heightens the feeling of anxiety.  

Another element of noir in Memento is that appearance of a femme fatale, in this case Natalie.  Natalie is one of the constant characters in Leonard’s life, but someone he meets after his accident.  So when we meet her and Teddy, we are left wondering if these characters are helping Leonard or if they are playing on Leonard’s condition and trying to use it to their advantage.  It turns out that Natalie is the one that is lying to Leonard and using his condition to her advantage.  She fits the description of the classic femme fatale.  

Memento was one of the most interesting films we’ve watched in class in my opinion because of the heightened sense of anxiety that was created that kept you engrossed in the film.  This was done through the mental landscape more than anything else and the way the story was told, through two different narratives.  What did everyone else think of the film?

Chinatown (1974) and the Recommended Viewing for Thursday

There are several ways to watch Chinatown online. It is available for “rent” for around $3 from Amazon VOD and the iTunes store. Click here for links to the movie on both services.

It is also available to you on Swank’s digital campus site for free. The copy on Swank seems to have been cropped to a 4:3 aspect ratio (that means it’s not widescreen like the original) and the quality may be not quite as good as the paid versions. But it is still Chinatown, it is still superb, and it is free. I will email you with instructions for how to access the digital campus from here at Baruch and from off campus as well. Because there are copyright issues involved, I cannot post the access information in this public space.

Kiss Me Deadly and Touch of Evil are available via the digital campus as well. If you have not seen them, please do. They will be on the midterm.

The recommended films this week are Taxi Driver and Blade Runner. While I will not hold you responsible for them, I suggest you watch them if you can. I realize there is a paper due on Thursday, but if you have the time to watch the recommended films, you definitely should. Taxi Driver is available for streaming from Netflix and Blade Runner is available on line at stagevu.com. Click here for the link.

Reading Mulvey

For Tuesday I’ve asked you to read British film theorist Laura Mulvey‘s hugely important and influential 1975 essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Since the copy we have is all marked up, you can download a clean version from another source here. It’s also available in HTML at the Brown University Wiki.

As I noted in class, this is a very challenging essay. It relies heavily on psychoanalytic theory and can seem confusing at first, but it is logically organized and reasonably argued. While some of the concepts Mulvey works with may be difficult and unfamiliar, a careful, attentive reading will reveal an interesting and provocative argument that makes sense whether or not you agree with it. So go slowly and make note of what you don’t understand, want to discuss, or would like clarified further. You may not totally grasp every idea Mulvey raises right away, but you should be able to get a pretty good sense of her overall argument — enough to give us a lot to talk about in class on Tuesday. This is a well known and controversial essay that has been discussed, debated, refuted and refined by film students, scholars and filmmakers for the last 35 years and now we’re going to join the conversation.

At it’s most basic, Mulvey’s argument is that the perspective of Hollywood films has historically been a male one, predisposing viewers to identify with men onscreen and to see women in the movies merely as passive objects, there to be looked at by by both the male characters and the spectator.  The “gaze” Hollywood films offer, she argues, is a male one so that when we watch a movie, we look with the men, but look at the women.

Grace Kelly and James Stewart in Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954)

I am looking forward to our discussion on Tuesday and to establishing explicit connections between Mulvey’s argument and the films we’ve seen so far, particularly the noirs we’ve been watching for the last two weeks.

If you have questions you’d like to pose before our discussion (or even after), feel free to post them here in a comment.