Bonnie and Clyde Analysis

December 10th, 2010

A scene that can be referred to as the climax of Bonnie and Clyde (Arther Penn, Warner Bros., 1967) happens towards the end of the film, where a major shootout between the Barrow gang and the police occurs. The pacing of the scene, going from long, somewhat uneventful shots to shots that are rapidly cut and filled with action is a good expression of the inner turmoil being experienced by these main characters, they are constantly on the run and the moment things seem peaceful a disaster occurs. This is one of many violent scenes in the movie, a trait which categorizes it under New Hollywood cinema, referring to a genre which appealed to a new audience, less uptight and more interested in seeing films that involved sex, violence and other elements which were taboo for the previous Classical Hollywood style.

The scene starts out very calmly, with a shot of the area right outside of where the gang is staying. It then cuts to Buck and Blanche, sleeping soundly, and shows C.W., also asleep in a chair in the other room. Bonnie walks into the room and starts discussing the fit of her dress with Clyde, and there is then a cut back to outside where it is still silent. This sequence takes place at night, it is very dark and somewhat peaceful outside, the sounds of crickets and other bugs can be heard. Throughout this, music is also heard, the song “I Love to Spend Each Sunday With You” by Eddie Cantor plays lowly as if from a radio. The song is soft, mellow and very smooth, fitting in well with the calming night feel of this scene.

We then see a cop begin to tap on a door, and Buck and Blanche immediately pop up from their bed. Blanche quickly covers Buck’s mouth and yells “The men are on the other side!” It is interesting to note the change in character for Blanche at this point, in the first shootout scene where Blanche was involved, C.W. has to cover her mouth to try get her to stop screaming, though was ultimately unsuccessful. We see she has now sort of grown into the role of a bandit, covering her own husband’s mouth as was done to her, feeling confident enough that she can react properly to the situation.

The scene remains calm as Blanche and Buck begin to prepare to make a run for it, and the cop walks away from their room. More cars pull up and all of a sudden the feel of the scene changes entirely. The sound of a gunshot fired by an officer breaks the night air silence, and the soothing music cuts out. There is a quick cut to a mirror shattering from the bullet and then it cuts directly to Bonnie and Clyde, jumping up and lunging themselves forward over the bed. We also see shots in between this, of C.W. jumping up from his chair with a gun and Blanche and Buck scurrying around their room. The manner in which the mirror shatters, with Bonnie’s and Clyde’s image reflected in it, shows how their world is about to be further shattered. They’ve already realized at this point that they will always be on the run, but this is the moment when it becomes clear that they are not going to survive for much longer.

More cars pull up and there are multiple shots of cops shooting alternated with shots of the windows they are aiming at. There is an up close shot of a window frame crashing down, and in the midst of all these rapidly cut shots, this image is dwelt on for a bit. The window falling down is a barricade being broken, the gang no longer has anything to hide behind, and they know it. Even if they manage to get out, the chances of them ever being able to stay hidden are slim. Next we see more quickly paced cuts between several officers shooting, the return fire coming from the windows, over the shoulder shots of both Clyde and Bonnie shooting out of the windows, and Buck and Blanche tripping over eachother in a panic. There is a short break in all of this where Bonnie yells “C.W. grenades!” followed by an up close shot of C.W.’s hand grabbing a grenade from a box. The attention given to this shot shows how dire the situation has become, usually they would just shoot their way out of the situation and quickly escape in a car, but here, they need to use grenades as distractions.

Again there is a series of rapid cuts from C.W. running, to Clyde shooting, to Bonnie shooting, to the cops shooting, to up close shots of Clyde’s hand shooting. There are two moments where an establishing shot is put in between these quick cuts, a far away shot of the entire scene which shows the cars across from the building and the fire being let out between them. This reminds us of the space, since the rapid movement makes everything going on inside of it so disorienting. Aside from the rapid and very short cuts being destabilizing, this scene going on at night adds to the mayhem. We can not always make out what is going on in every shot because it is dark and often difficult to see.

While all the shooting and running around is going on, Buck and Blanche eventually make it out of their room using their mattress as a shield from the bullets. There is something almost comical about this, obviously a mattress isn’t bullet proof and not going to protect them very much. Buck begins to shoot at the cops while he and Blanche are slowly on the move, while C.W. throws a grenade towards one of the officer’s cars. Following the shot of this, is a shot of the car bursting into flames, and two subsequent shots of different men ducking. Bonnie and Clyde take this opportunity to get into the car, and there are several shots continuously alternating between C.W. shooting, officers shooting, Buck shooting, and an officer falling down having been shot dead. There is an up close shot of an officer shooting from behind a car, it then cuts to Buck being shot in the head, he holds his head and falls over, blood starts to run down his face and hands as Blanche screams.

At this moment the car Bonnie is driving bursts through the garage doors, we see an officer run into this space and get gunned down by Clyde. In the next few shots we see Clyde attempting to get Buck into the car as Bonnie continues to shoot at the officers. There is a shot where we see Bonnie shooting repeatedly and then it cuts to the officer dead on the ground, a pile of dust and smoke forming around him as she continues to shoot at his dead body. This foreshadows what will ultimately happen to her and Clyde, and her continuously shooting at him after he is clearly dead shows how panicked she really feels and how terrified and desperate she is to get out of this situation.

When everyone is finally in the car and on the move, there are several shots of them driving, alternated with shots of C.W. running, ducking and shooting. A police officer runs up to the car and shoots directly at it, there is then an up close shot of Blanch yelling and holding her eye as she has just been shot right below it. The next shot is the officer falling over dead, having been shot by someone in the car, though it is not clear by who. The next shots follow the car, they drive through two gates and rush by a line of houses, this particular shot we see from the cars perspective and hear continuous gun shots as this goes on. There is then a shot of C.W. as he continues to run, duck and shoot. We return to the car as it drives through a field and shots continue to come from it, C.W. continues to run and the two eventually enter the same space. Bonnie yells “Get on!” and he jumps onto the side of the car. The car continues to drive way and eventually disappears into the night.

This scene overall is a turning point in the movie, the gang is no longer in control as they were in most of the earlier shootout incidents. Two of their own get shot, one fatally wounded, and they have no clear plan of what to do. The way each shot is composed expresses how hectic the situation has become. Almost half of the time the characters are ducking or running or just trying to do anything they can think of to get out, the rapid pace of the cuts show us how little time they have to plan their next move. There are few moments in this scene where someone is not shooting or being shot at. In Classical Hollywood cinema, although there were occasionally violent scenes, it was never to this extent. Exploring new themes, such as glorifying the criminal, was what the audiences of the 1960s were looking for. Bonnie and Clyde was one of the first movies to show such brutality, something entirely new, well, as the trailer puts it “There has never been…You have never seen…A motion picture like this one!”

Meshes of the Afternoon

December 7th, 2010

This was my second time seeing “Meshes of the Afternoon”, I had watched it before in another media class, I think also as an example of films that experimented with a different style of narrative.

The best thing about this movie, to me, is that it captures the essence of being in a dream so well. In our dreams things often repeat but we don’t neccessarily notice it as strange at all. The woman in this film is consantly going over the same actions, picking up the flower, running up the stairs, taking the key out of her mouth, and ect., yet each time she doesn’t seemed confused as to why she keeps perfoming the same actions or why she would do these things in the first place. We rarely question things when we dream, and we don’t realise how strange or unrealistic it was until we wake up and attempt to recall it.

Dreams can also often be very disorienting. I know I often have dreams in which I seem to trip over a lot or can’t walk properly, or have some other type of disturbance involving normal motorary functions. Sometimes my body even jults, if I’m not 100% asleep and I’m dreaming that I’ve fallen or something. In this film, the woman has trouble walking up the stairs, the oblique camera angle shows us this along with her slow struggling movements and she attempts to climb up. To me this segement expresses just about perfectly how I often feel when dreaming, the simplest everyday actions sometimes seem so difficult.

Breathless

November 30th, 2010

I first saw Breathless this past summer at the Film Forum, where I’m pretty sure it was playing for its 50th anniversary. I’d always heard about it in film and media classes, and really wanted to check it out. And it was awesome! It really is a great movie, I think my favorite aspect of it is probably the dialogue. Its very realistic but not at all dull, for example in that scene where we spend about 30 minutes watching Patricia and Michel talking in his room, its interesting enough to keep us engaged yet nothing crazy is happening at this point.

The thing that stood out to me, or confused me, the most when watching it in class for this second time was the final dialogue of the movie. When I had seen it the first time, after being shot Michel says “Makes me want to puke” and then she asks the cops what he said and they say, “He said you make him want to puke” and then she asks what puke means. In the version we watched in class he says “Its a real scumbag” and the cops tell her he said “You’re a real scumbag.” Other then those lines everything else in the movie was the same both times I watched it, so I found that really odd. The last lines are very ambiguous (in either version) and its strange that something so crucial to the movie isn’t even a set thing. I looked into it and apparently there are several different translations of these last lines, none of which have been declared the true translation (apparently its hard to hear what is being said for sure) I think from the little I did read on it, it seems to be the general opinion that Michel says “It’s really disgusting.” and the cops say he said “You’re really disgusting.” And then she asks what this means.

I kind of wish I spoke French so I could have my own thoughts on this, but as of right now I just find it very confusing that these lines could be translated so many ways!

Early Summer

October 25th, 2010

Within the first half hour or so of this movie, it started to remind me somewhat of Umberto D, not so much in any other way other then that the subject matter was basically just a normal insight into a small portion of an average person’s life. I kind of liked it for that reason, not that I’ve lost any love for the crazy sci-fi, horror, ridiculously unrealistic romantic comedy, or over the top action films, but sometimes it is nice to watch something different, and something that is honestly, a lot more relatable to a general audience.

One of my favorite things about this film, was that it kind of ended in an expected way, but took an unexpected way around it. I’m refering mostly to the “love” storyline, if you could even refer to it in that way. It seems from the start of the film that Noriko and Kenkichi might end up together, but it doesn’t really happen in your typical hollywood romance type of way. One would expect him to suddenly proclaim love to her as she is about to accept her other proposal, or for her to realize she loves him as he makes the decision to take the new job causing him to stay for her, or something along those lines.

But it is Kenkichi’s mother who brings up in tears that it would be nice if someone like Noriko would marry Kenkichi, so ultimatley it is her that makes the proposal, which isn’t really a real proposal but more of a hypothetical. It seems that after she said that Noriko suddenly thinks “Hm, that could be cool.” and tells Kenkichi’s mother that she accepts the proposal (even though there wasn’t really one, and no one even asked him if he was ok with this) And further amusing, is when he comes home and she passes him by as she leaves, not mentioning that it’s been decided that they’re getting married.

Kenkichi isn’t even too thrilled when his mother cries in happiness to him that Noriko has agreed to marry him. He seems a bit taken back and surprised, but not so much in a good way, more in a “What??” kinda way. I’m sure that probably has something to do with the initial shock of finding out you’re getting married to someone who seemed to have been in the process of getting engaged to someone else, and never showed any intention of marrying you. We can’t blaime the guy, thats gotta be some crazy news. Although, to be fair, I suppose he didn’t mind all that much, or else he would have refused all together.

I found it somewhat odd that Noriko’s family’s biggest problem with all of this seemed to be that Kenkichi had a young child. They seemed pretty distraught over the idea of her marrying someone with a child, like it was a terrible thing to do. I didn’t really understand this, but after some thought I realized it has to be a culture thing. Here, that wouldn’t really be a big deal, I’m sure most people’s parents wouldn’t think them marrying someone with a kid was a terrible thing to do. They may however, find it odd if you were proposed to by this person’s mother and never actually discussed the getting married thing with them. But like I said, different cultures.

I really did enjoy this movie, and I think I may have to give it another watch sometime in the near future, or check out more Ozu films, because this really was something different and very worth watching.

Citizen Kane Analysis

October 21st, 2010

There is a scene in Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, RKO Pictures, 1941) that depicts the latter half of Kane’s relationship with his wife Susan, and this is a perfect window into the character of Charles Foster Kane, as well as a good reflection of how women were viewed at the time the film was made. The long shots in this scene show the vastness of the huge mansion the couple live in and accentuates the physical and metaphorical space between them, showing the audience the loneliness of Kane’s world, and how the people in his life become empty through him. The clear objectifying of Susan reflects how women at the time, even with the right to vote, were treated inferiorly.

The scene starts with Susan sitting at a table completing a jigsaw puzzle, Kane’s deep voice is then heard echoing throughout the room as he asks “What are you doing?” Kane walks out of lighted hallway and into the dark room as he says this, while Susan puts her puzzle piece down and asks him what time it is. The camera follows Kane until he reaches the table where Susan is sitting, and she mentions that she wants to go to New York. Kane then walks over to the gigantic fireplace and stands directly beneath it, it engulfs him completely, a good example of how everything in his life is so large and yet so empty, representing his larger than life character that is empty inside.  Kane standing beneath this fire place with the fire lit behind him puts him in a position of power. Whereas Susan, sitting down further away at the table, is completely disregarded by Kane when she complains about being lonely and asks to go to New York, his only response being “Our home is here Susan”, talking to her as if she is child.

The next part first shows Kane walking down a huge staircase in shadows, the camera follows him as he emerges out of the shadows and into the room where Susan is doing another puzzle, this time she is sitting on the floor next to the fireplace. The next shot is of her looking up at him as he again asks her, “What are you doing?”, to which she does not respond. The following shot is very long with deep depth of field, Kane is in the foreground and Susan is seen further away, still at the fireplace. Kane makes a remark about her always doing puzzles and how she would not know if she had already completed one or not, as he walks out of the shot. She comments on this saying “Makes a whole lot more sense than collecting statues”,  this shot being a more up close one of her. This particular shot is very crucial to the scene, as Susan makes this remark she is strategically placed right next to one of Kane’s statues, implying that she herself is a statue, just another part of his collection.

There is a shot which is sort of over Susan’s shoulder, her head is in the lower left hand side of the screen and Kane is seen sitting far away in chair submerged in shadows. He says to her “I thought I might have a picnic Susan.” To which she replies, “Huh?” The room is so vast and there is a lot of space between the two characters, they have to yell to communicate and often can’t hear each other, which is a good representation of how communication is in their marriage. Susan is yelling, literally, many times throughout this movie, yet Kane doesn’t listen to her, he merely tells her the way that things are going to be. The shot returns to a more up close look at Susan as she throws down her puzzle piece and complains that she doesn’t want to go on a picnic. Kane simply repeats himself saying “I thought we might have a picnic Susan.” He almost makes it seem like they’re having an actual conversation, engaging her first with the idea of a picnic, but then he makes it clear that it is not really up for discussion and that he has already made the decision.

It is important to note the differences between the two sequences in this scene, which could technically be considered two different scenes entirely, but they seem to go hand in hand in reflecting this particular theme.  The first time they speak, the fire place is lit, indicating that there is still some warmth left in their relationship. In the next part, the fire place is out and Susan is sitting right beneath it, representing how she had become colder through living with Kane. Though there is a lot of space between Susan and Kane throughout both parts, it is more evident in the second part of the scene. In the first part, Kane walks out from a hallway, still on Susan’s level, and she is elevated in a chair, perhaps representing her spirits being more lifted than they are in the next sequence when she is on the floor. Kane approaches her as they talk and the two are physically much closer together in this part.  Their conversation is also somewhat more substantial, it seems less like he is ordering her. In the second sequence, Kane comes down from the top of a long stair case to talk to Susan, and there is a great contrast between their levels.  Instead of walking over to where Susan is working on her puzzle, Kane goes to sit in a chair leaving plenty of space between them.

There is a short montage of Susan completing puzzles in between these two sequences, depicting the passage of time between them. Although short, this is actually a very informative part of the film, in terms of letting the audience know how Susan is feeling. Her puzzles are of nature, of the outside world, where she wants to go but isn’t able to. The puzzles are her only form of escape from her home and the marriage she is trapped in.

During the 1940s, the US was in the middle of World War Two. This was a very important time for women, who had the responsibility of taking over jobs that had previously only been occupied by men, because many men were off fighting. Though this was a turning point for women, who had shown that they were fully capable of achieving things people hadn’t imagined, there wasn’t a completely positive reaction when the war had ended. Most jobs went back to men and women were expected to return to their homes or find a job that was more ‘female friendly’. The mindset that men were above women was still very powerful, and it is heavily shown in this scene. When Kane states, somewhat joking and somewhat judgmentally, that he doesn’t understand why Susan does puzzles, it’s an example of the age old, women are silly and not meant to be taken seriously, way of thinking. When she gets restless of staying in the mansion all day, and asks if they can go to New York, Kane replies “Our home is here Susan.” This line seems to support the idea that women are meant to stay at home, and need to obey their husbands.

Everything in Kane’s life is a victory, even people eventually become part of his collection, something that he has gained and owns. Susan is no different, the way she is almost always shot beneath Kane shows this, and their dialogue reflects the ways in which he is superior to her. Susan is a good example of a woman of the 1940s, she is clearly strong and of her own opinion, but because of the way society functions, she is ultimately unheard by Kane. This scene sets the grounds for Susan leaving Kane, the viewer can see them growing apart, the shadows accentuate the distance between them, the two can barely see or hear each other while having a conversation. Susan is trapped with only her puzzles as a means for escape, and her eventual leaving is hard for Kane to accept for he is nothing if not in control, and the void left by Susan adds to the consuming emptiness inside him.

Umberto D.

October 18th, 2010

Although Umberto D wasn’t an action movie of any kind, with any in your face explosions or over the top unrealistic drama of any sort, it was probably one of the most intense movies I’ve seen in a while, in terms of emotion. It’s really a simple, yet sad, every day story that happens to many people. An older retired man can not afford to pay his rent on the pension he receives, and spends the movie trying to figure out how to deal with this. Though the plot sounds pretty basic, and maybe not like the most exciting idea for a movie, watching it you will find it impossible not to empathize with this character and watch the entire movie anxiously hoping that things will work out for him.

As I’m sure lot of people who have watched this movie felt, for me the most heart wrenching bits of the film revolved around the main characters relationship with his dog, Flike. His dog is extremely loyal, and aside from the maid Maria, is Umberto’s only true friend. The scene where Umberto is looking for Flike after he has gone missing is completely terrifying. I was so worried that he wouldn’t see his dog again, and even after finding Flike it is still a heart breaking sequence, because there is another old man who can’t afford to get his dog back and many other unclaimed dogs, or dogs with owners who can not afford to claim them, get killed. This scene shows the viewers how much Umberto loves Flike, he pays for the cab to get to the dog, and we assume pays whatever the fee was to have his dog returned to him. As we know from the beginning of the film, he is saving every penny in effort to make his rent, yet in this scene he is willing to pay anything to make sure his dog is safe and get it back. Here we see him get a sense of what is really important, though he looses this soon after his reunion with Flike when he gets back to worrying about getting evicted.

Umberto wanting to kill himself is foreshadowed in the scene where he looks out the window and directly down to the ground. He’s realized that there is nothing he can do to keep his room and in desperation sees suicide as the only option. Once again, it is Flike who makes him see that this isn’t the solution. After numerous attempts to find a new home for Flike, Umberto realizes that he can’t find anyone to take the dog and also that the dog refuses to leave him. He decides to take Flike with him and jump in front of a train, however, once they are in front of the train tracks and the train gets close, Flike becomes terrified and runs away. This is another scene that really gets to you, because Flike has trusted Umberto over everyone else and for the first time you see him scared of his owner. Umberto eventually gets Flike’s trust back with a toy and the movie ends on this scene. It is a somewhat ambiguous ending, because we do not know what is going to happen to Umberto and Flike or if they will end up ok. However, I for one am really glad it ended this way, and not with him and the dog getting separated in any fashion. The scenes where the possibility of that seemed close were the hardest to watch and if it had ended that way it would have been extremely depressing.

I enjoyed this movie very much, and I was very impressed that a movie with such a seemingly monotonous plot could be so captivating.

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