Oh God, Art School – Breathless and Jules and Jim

Another film class essay!

Can I just say this – OH GOD I HATE FRENCH NEW WAVE. Nothing makes sense or is even necessarily real. And people are eccentric for no reason other than to be cool and unique. They are ultra-hipsters before they even knew that was a thing.

And we had to watch, like, SEVERAL French New Wave films in class. It was work, let me tell you. I was in a state of simmering rage for all of it. And when (SPOILERS FOR JULES AND JIM – highlight the text to read it) Catherine kills Jim at the end of the film, I was all “Why did I even watch this?!”

I understand that directors/film makers were experimenting with new ways to present narratives in film, and trying new things is great, this style was just not for me.

I don’t have much to say about the essay. Thank goodness this one was about the techniques used in these films and not something less technical, because this essay could easily have been a rant. I probably would have just written “Stop trying so hard to be cool” over and over until I’d filled two pages.

Jean Luc Godard (Breathless) and François Truffaut (Jules and Jim)

By Megan Koznek

  1. Voice-overs are most often examples of non-diegetic sound. Voice-over allows the story to move quickly over action without needing to show the viewer everything, like in Jules and Jim where the narrator tells us what is happening when Jules draws a girl on the café table, and tries to buy it. Trying to buy the table is told, not shown, so it doesn’t take up much time, but provides a cute, irreverent aspect of Jules’ character, which is important to the film. In Breathless Michael talks at the camera (and thus the viewer) in the beginning of the film, providing a strange on-screen narration/voice-over.
  2. Jump cuts can draw the viewer’s attention to specific moments and make them really stand out as important. Jump cuts also provide the viewer with a jolt of energy regarding the film’s pace. In Jules and Jim, a noticeable jump cut occurs when the title duo are looking at slides and see their statue, and then we jump to them suddenly visiting the statue in real life. In Breathless, an interesting jump cut occurs after Michael steals the car and finds the gun; he mimes shooting it, and we jump to a view of trees, and the sound of gunshots.
  3. Jim and Jules breaks the fourth wall in the scene where Jules tell Jim, “Not this one, Jim.” The words appear as text on the screen in addition to being spoken. The text exclusively addresses the audience. This highlights the importance of the moment and its meaning for the audience. In Breathless, the fourth wall is broken when Michael talks to the camera when he is driving down the road.
  4. The aspect ratio in Jules and Jim (2.35:1) allows the viewer to see that the film has encompassed the three main characters, noticeably in the scene where they are all riding bicycles. In Breathless the aspect ratio is 1.33:1, and it is suited well to all the close-ups we see in the film. A wider aspect ratio would not allow for the closeness this film calls for so often.

Works Cited:

http://www.dvdjournal.com/reviews/j/julesandjim_cc.shtml

http://www.klaxson.com/essays/JULES_AND_JIM-A_film_review.pdf

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Oh God, Art School – The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari

Look what I found on my hard drive! Old school work. So exciting. When I was at DigiPen for my one year of art school I took a couple film classes. Film was my favorite subject, aside from the hand-drawn animation classes I took. The teacher was a director, he did music videos and commercials I think, though I can’t quite remember.

I thought it might be fun to look over them and see what my brain was like four years ago. Sounds like I was pretty smart and slightly pretentious! For insights into my art school brain, read on! Present-day comments in Red!

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The Mise-En-Scene of the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari

By Megan Koznek

Movies are outward expressions of our inner selves. When people make movies, they’re sharing a part of themselves with the audience: their world-view, their struggles, their triumphs, the paradigms of the place and time they live in.

I do not believe this can be said of all movies, especially now, in the age of the mass produced summer blockbuster, (oh past Megan, you could not imagine how much worse this has gotten) but in Germany in the 1920’s this was certainly true.

Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer conceived of the original story of Caligari. The  story could, perhaps, have been written by different men, in a different time and place, but postwar Germany in the early 1900’s was fertile soil indeed for the germination of an idea for a revolutionary film where “reason overpowers unreasonable power, insane authority is symbolically abolished” (Kracauer).

Caligari (as originally intended by Janowitz and Mayer), is a revolutionary tale.

Themes of revolutionary spirit and a distrust of authority are present throughout the film, in both subtle and unsubtle ways. For example, many of the chairs in the film are very tall and stylized. A set of long, winding stairs leads to Doctor Caligari’s office in the asylum (the position of his office on the top floor indicating his position of authority there), and there are many steps leading up to the police station, the policemen themselves being guardians of authority.

And of course there are the revolutionary themes present in the plot. Francis, the protagonist, reveals the horrific truth of the crimes committed by Dr. Caligari, a man in a position of great authority. By revealing Caligari’s devious exploits, Francis “exposed the madness inherent in authority” (Kracauer) and defeated him.

The revolutionary nature of the film is irreversibly changed, however, by the two scenes book-ending the main plot of the movie. Despite vigorous protest by the authors of the film, scenes were added at the beginning and end of the film by Wiene, the director, which turned “a revolutionary film…into a conformist one” (Kracauer) (weird upending of the traditional narrative, where it is the studio interfering with the director and ruining movies) by transforming the main story into a tale told by Francis, who is revealed in the framing story to be mentally deranged and in the care of Dr. Caligari, who is, in fact, a kind doctor and not the evil mad man Francis sees him to be (SPOILERS!).

The French coined the term “Caligarisme” in response to this film. The term refers to a postwar world “seemingly all upside-down” (Kracauer).

German expressionism is a striking aesthetic which, when applied to the sets in a film, perfectly echo the reality of the chaotic condition of postwar Germany.

Expressionism in German cinema during the postwar period represented a retreat into the self of the German filmmakers, and indeed in those people who patronized expressionist cinema. By constructing the whole of their film’s reality, right down to the villages, streets, mountains and meadows, Germans were able to feel as though they had control over their situations (at least in the illusionary world of film).

Three expressionist artists constructed the world of Caligari. They were Hermann Warm, Walter Rohrig and Walter Reimann.

Hermann Warm believed that “films must be drawings brought to life” (Kracauer). This formula is very present in the construction of the world of Caligari. This film presents its mise-en-scene so forcefully with its completely constructed reality that the viewer is entirely immersed in the reality of the film. The viewer sees nothing, experiences nothing, which the filmmakers do not wish them to.

The jagged edges present everywhere, the painted shadows which exist in disharmony with actual lighting effects, the zigzag delineations which efface all rules of perspective, the way that space in the film often dwindles down to a flat plane…all of these things enhance the aura of madness, of the fantastical, which are present in the film. Some reviewers at the time the film came out presented the expressionist sets as “nothing more than the adequate translation of a madman’s fantasy into pictorial terms” (Kracauer).

I would venture to say that the expressionist elements of the film do not merely represent a mad man’s reality, but the reality of the authors of the film, the director, and the people living in Germany in the postwar era. To many people of that time, their everyday reality must have felt much like the nightmare of a madman.

Citations: Kracauer, Siegfried. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. 1947. Print.

I don’t have much to say about this essay! I think I wrote this pretty well. Full disclosure, I did very well in this class. The teacher said at one point that I was his best student (not to brag).

For anyone considering watching The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, it’s a good movie, but it is black and white and silent (with speech cards), and that is a tough style for modern day sensibilities to handle. The production design is super cool, as you can see in the screen shot at the start of the article the backgrounds are completely man-made, and are meant to look like it. It does set the mood pretty well, and sets the film apart from modern movies that want to look real. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari embraces it’s falseness and that is refreshing.

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Oklahoma

Three friends and I recently planned and executed a trip to Oklahoma to surprise our friend Gogarty for her 30th birthday!

It was really fun and a total surprise.  We were actually worried at first, because when we popped out in the living room she looked upset-surprised, and not happy-surprised. There was some crying and sitting down in shock. I guess that’s how you know it’s genuine though. And she recovered after like, five minutes.

It was a great trip! We all took Friday off and flew over together. We were all sitting in the same row which was really different, lately all the air travel I’ve been doing is for business, so I sit all alone and have to make small talk with other bored business travelers. Not this trip! I got to chill out with a friend who works for Boeing and talk about airplanes and cool stuff.

When we got there Gogarty’s husband Matt picked us up from the airport in a limo. He’d said he was going to get us in a hearse (he works at a funeral home) but I guess that fell through. The limo was cool though.

Then we surprised Gogs! She was so shocked! I honestly thought she had suspected something, we’ve been planning this for literally months and if I were Matt I definitely would have spilled the beans by the time we’d gotten there. But he hadn’t! I was impressed.

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We ate a bunch of good food and the next day we went to the Fair and ate more good food. Special shout out to the Poncho Dogs.

It was a really great trip in general. It felt like being in high school again, just hanging out with friends all day, watching movies, playing cards and MASH, going out for food. Very relaxing. My friend Aquila said it best (I am paraphrasing): It’s awesome to know you have friends who are never going anywhere. And it’s true, we’ve all known each other since elementary or middle school, and we are really more like family at this point. I’m very lucky to have all of them.

Happy birthday Gogs!

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Home!

We made it home alive (last week. I am late writing, as per usual). Total mileage: about 2,380. It was a fun trip, though Yosemite was much too hot. It was about 100 degrees every day we were there. We ended up coming home a day early because we couldn’t stand it!

And it was a ton of driving on I-5, which is boring.

But I love the Aquarium in Monterey, and the mountains in Yosemite. It was nice to see them again. But it is also very nice to be home.

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Update

We have driven 1270 miles so far.

We sat on a cute porch today with rocking chairs and tables. There was a building too but it was too hot to go inside really. It had couches and chairs for people to lounge on, and a fire place. There were a couple paintings by the fire, a man and a woman.

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The man looks like Joey from Full House, right? RIGHT?

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Weird.

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Yosemite Day 2

Mom is in a slightly better mood today after a mediocre breakfast and a bike ride.

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Today we rode bikes! I was the only person in the park wearing a helmet. Fear made me select a bike with a low seat so my feet would have no trouble reaching the ground should I need to bail quickly, but this turned out to be a terrible decision because it made actually riding the bike very difficult. My legs couldn’t extend fully which made peddling tiresome.

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We rode to Mirror Lake which seemed more like a swamp than a lake, but had cool mountain views. Riding there was a bit uphill and a lot down hill, and strangely the ride back was also a lot down hill. Not sure how that happened but it was fortuitous.

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Then we got sandwiches at the deli and went to Cathedral Beach. Natalie and I came here on our first full day in Yosemite. We waded out to a secluded part of the beach and had our chairs half way in the water and drank beers. It was a fun day. We did something similar this time, though my parents and I stayed on the main beach this time. And we only had two chairs so Dad mostly sat on a towel.

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After siting for a bit and reading I looked down and noticed a snake in the water at my feet, with its head raised up staring at me. I screamed pretty loud.

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Yosemite 2016

Made it to Yosemite. We have driven over 1200 miles on our trip so far! So many miles! The car has been making a weird rattling noise since we started, I hope it doesn’t break down. Though, Yosemite wouldn’t be too terrible a place to be stuck in for awhile.

Mom doesn’t love our tent/cabin, but I think it’s adorable. Edit: Mom HATES our tent cabin.

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We had a drink at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (previously the Ahwahnee) after we checked in to our tent. We sat outside because the bar was under construction. Sadly, there was no food to be had since the restaurant was booked solid for dinner, so our only option at that location was candy from the sweet shop.

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So, we piled in the car and drove to the Yosemite Valley Lodge (previously Yosemite Lodge) and got another beer at the Mountain Room Lounge, then dinner at the Mountain Room Restaurant. It was crazy crowded at the restaurant and Mom and Dad got slightly belligerent about our table location and the wait, but I was just happy to eat food.

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