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Old 01-06-2008, 03:25 PM   #136
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Nice that we're in agreement on Fight Club. Strange that two people who know the classics so well were so taken with a modern, cutting edge work, huh?
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Old 01-06-2008, 03:37 PM   #137
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Hehe I'm up for modern, cutting edge films just as much as I'm up for classics, foreign cinema and almost everything in between.

Fight Club is just an amazing film that throws everything it has at the viewer on every single viewing. It's not often that sheer entertainment gets meshed so well with cinema as art, but this one manages it. It's a shame that the violence overshadowed the original release while American Beauty, another great film that deals with similar themes and issues, reaped all the praise.
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Old 01-06-2008, 03:38 PM   #138
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Even with the twist, Fight Club still holds up on repeat viewings, too.

Plus, it's good to see Jared Leto get the shit beat out of him.
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Old 01-06-2008, 03:41 PM   #139
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Knowing the twist made my 2nd viewing of that film unlike most 2nd viewings. I love that film, but, I'm not all that objective here as I love Fincher's work.
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Old 01-06-2008, 03:43 PM   #140
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I wish the studio didn't fuck up his Alien 3. That would've been amazing.
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Old 01-06-2008, 03:54 PM   #141
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I think it's funny how Fox even cut the making of documentary on the 9 disc DVD edition.
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Old 01-06-2008, 03:56 PM   #142
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MS: You're right about American Beauty. Both films were saying a lot of the same things, but AB dealt more with mid-life crises and appealed to the Academy crowd more. For someone like myself, in my late 20's and floundering, FC spoke much more to my situation in life. It was obviously much more anti-establishment as well, and more cinematic.

NSW: I don't think Fight Club really resonates UNTIL the second viewing. I mean, the first time you're like "man, Norton is being a total dick to Marla Singer". The second time, you realize she's being insulted, ignored, and pushed away by the guy that she's sleeping with and has partially fallen for, and it makes Durden's treatment of her much more heartbreaking.

I'm curious if Lance, a detractor of the film if I'm not mistaken, has seen it more than once.

LMP: Yes, seeing Jared Leto disfigured is never a bad thing. If there was an award for putting dreams into movie reality, the make-up artist on FC would win it.
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Old 01-06-2008, 04:50 PM   #143
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I've seen Fight Club at least 5 times (twice just in the past month or so because my cinema final was based on it). It's certainly a fine film, but there are quite a few things about it that just conflict with my taste I suppose, I don't know if it's any one thing in particular. I don't hate it or anything, but it certainly doesn't resonate with me and I wouldn't qualify it as highly as many of the film's fans.
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Old 01-06-2008, 04:53 PM   #144
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Did you choose that film for your final or was it assigned by a teacher? Because that would be a pretty hip curriculum.
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Old 01-06-2008, 04:55 PM   #145
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Quote:
Originally posted by lazarus
Did you choose that film for your final or was it assigned by a teacher? Because that would be a pretty hip curriculum.
It was a class nomination and vote. I think it won by like 28 points or something ridiculous. But at least it was better than all the films that came in as runners up.

I nominated Spirited Away and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (the final was a film post-1970, the midterm was pre-1970), and I doubt they got any votes at all.
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Old 01-06-2008, 04:56 PM   #146
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Was that an essay final?

Feel free to post that here.
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Old 01-06-2008, 05:00 PM   #147
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Quote:
Originally posted by lazarus
Was that an essay final?

Feel free to post that here.
It was a multi-essay superfuck of an exam. There was a series of questions about the general film techniques at work, a series of questions about 8 or so still frames from the film we had to analyze, an essay of a shot-by-shot analysis of the scene where Norton beats himself up in his boss's office, and then another final essay about any general aspect of filmmaking in relation to 3 other films we screened in class.

I could post it if you really wanted, but I might have to post the exam itself as well for reference.
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Old 01-06-2008, 05:04 PM   #148
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Like we don't have time on our hands here.
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Old 01-06-2008, 05:12 PM   #149
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Couldn't find the exam itself anywhere so I'll just post my essays and stuff, fill in the questions with your own imagination. And I'm sure you remember the scene we had to analyze well enough. Did this in 2 1/2 hours in the computer lab for reference.
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Old 01-06-2008, 05:13 PM   #150
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Lance McCallion
PART I
1. Story elements presented directly in the film include the narrator going to work, not sleeping, joining the various support groups, meeting Marla and Tyler, starting the fight clubs, the birth of Project Mayhem, and the subsequent events resulting from the narrator’s interference with the project and the plot twist revealing his split personality. This direct information ends with the scene of the narrator and Marla standing together watching the buildings collapse. Story elements we have to infer include what was going on in the characters’ lives before the film began as well as what happens to the main characters after the final scene. We have to infer the rest of the buildings included in Project Mayhem also collapse, and that the other fight clubs throughout the country as likely to continue after the events of the film. Nondiegetic material includes the title text, the end credits, the majority of the music in the film, and possibly a number of things seen on screen. These things include the text from the magazine when it shows the narrator’s apartment being furnished, the quick flashes of Tyler in the first part of the film. It’s possibly these things can be considered diegetic, though, because they may actually be images from the story world of the film, just presented in an unusual manner to the audience.

2. The earlier event we learn of in the film is when the narrator/Tyler is left at the age of six by his father. This fact, and the number of facts we learn in the same conversation are relevant for several reasons. First, it serves as another or a series of clues into the then unrevealed fact that the narrator and Tyler are the same person. Also it provides extra insight into the characters’ psyche by providing more background information. The strain caused by that event can attribute to his attitude in the current time, and even the psychological disorder of the split personality revealed later in the film.

3. The plot of Fight Club includes a couple instances where the chronology of events is obviously skewed. The first scene of the film takes place near the very end of the plot, and as the narrator tells the story throughout the film, he begins with this late scene. He then presents information that occurs earlier, when he is in a support group, then goes back in further to the very beginning of the plot when he’s suffering from insomnia right before he discovered the support groups. The majority of the film is presented in chronological order, though there is another obvious instance when the narrator is telling the audience about Tyler Durden, and he shows events from Tyler’s day-to-day life through flashback, with no discernable chronology, before proceeding with the main plot thread again. The film manipulated frequency of events once in the film, when the plot gets back to the first scene in the film, where the narrator has a gun in his mouth. It’s a comedic moment though because the narrator replies to Durden “I still haven’t thought of anything”, which makes light of the fact that this is indeed a scene that has already been shown to the audience. The purpose of such manipulation is to both heighten the mystery of the plot, introduce the characters and circumstances in interesting ways, and to provide a dose of humor as well.

4. This film is told through extremely restricted narration. The audience is only presented story information through the perspective of the film’s narrator. This is done for several important reasons. The most obvious reason is in order to maintain the function of the plot twist late in the film. It is only because of the narrator’s mental condition and restricted narration that the audience is not aware (though there are numerous clues throughout the film) that Tyler is merely a split personality of the narrator. The mental state of the narrator is a key aspect of the film’s plot. It explores his constantly degrading mental (and physical) health, through this restricted narration, as Tyler’s presence and influence becomes consistently stronger, and the narrator’s own presence lessens and he becomes increasingly confused. Where the supporting characters appear to act strangely around the narrator, it’s only because he himself isn’t aware of his own mental state, and the audience perceives all this only as he does. Then, only when the secret is revealed to the narrator is it revealed to the audience, and then marks the change in the narrator’s personality and action for the rest of the film.

5. Fight Club skews expectations quite a bit. Typical Hollywood cinema would be expected to follow a clear narrative with a happy, or at least fully resolved, conclusion, and this film does not really feature either of those. The play with temporal relations throughout the film, combined with severely restricted narration and the consequences of that, the brutal presentation of violence and sex, the unclear presentation of what is real and what is not, and the partially resolved ending of the film all contrast typical Hollywood convention. At the same time, the plot itself does follow a familiar narrative arc, and the technical or stylistic aspects of the filming are not completely abstract or too removed from tradition, with a few notable exceptions.

PART II
1. Still 1 = MLS
Still 2 = ECU
Still 3 = CU

2. Still 4 = LS
Still 5 = MS
Still 6 = ELS

In shots 4 and 5 we see the two men standing in front of either of the two double doors. In shot 4 Tyler is looking away and smoking a cigarette as the narrator stands still. The duality of the characters is emphasized greatly in shot 4 by the darker bottom of the frame and the brighter, lit top part of the frame, the two characters in the middle. In shot 5, the long white band of light from the bar is connecting the two characters foreheads, signifying a sort of mental unity, which turns out to be the case. These shots also serve to highlight the difference between the characters which emphasizes the fact that Tyler was created by the narrator’s subconscious to act as the man he wants to be. In shot 5 we see the phone booth with the beer bottle on Tyler’s left, while there is nothing on the narrator’s side. Their clothing also marks this difference. Tyler is wearing a red jacket, highlighting his color and fictional aspect, while the narrator is dressed in drab grey. While their hair styles are similar, we also see Tyler’s is a bit more radical, distinguishing another split in character.

3. The setting in this shot is the inside of the dilapidated house Tyler/the narrator is squatting in, namely the inside of the kitchen area looking out through the door. Marla is framed in the bottom center of the glass pane as she is walking down the steps to the house. It is unusual particularly because she is shot through the glass, which obscures her image. This could be interpreted in several ways. One could be that Marla herself is hazy, confused and unsure of her life, especially considering the confused arguments she has with the narrator. Another could be that as the narrator is watching her leave, she becomes smaller and more obscured, distanced and detached, becoming more of a problem or mystery.

4. Shot 8 is shot from a very low angle from a very low height. Although the narrator is greatly obscured by his position in the frame, the shot itself does follow the rule of thirds. The perspective of the camera creates an interesting image of the staircase, which begins thinly near the top center of the frame and widens as it stretches closer to the lens and the bottom of the frame. Near the top center, we see the end of the hall, which serves as a gateway of sorts, from which the figure in the bottom third of the frame has fallen. The railings of the staircase accentuate the sides of the frame along its vertical length. Finally, the character lying on the bottom of the frame serves as the base of the rest of the image, emphasizes the characters continual figurative and physical fall throughout the film.

PART III
(NOTE: I could not get the sound in this clip to play any time during the duration of this exam, thus it will not be a part of my analysis)
This scene takes place in the office of the narrator’s boss. The narrator is meeting with his boss here in order to blackmail him into what is essentially a fully paid leave of absence. In order to drive home how serious and even insane he is to his boss, the narrator stages a fight against himself which also finishes the scene with the implication to the security officers that his boss was beating him. Norton’s acting in this scene is a fairly complicated matter. He maintains the naturalistic acting method he uses throughout the majority of the film, which itself creates a more believable, convincing and thus sympathetic character for the audience. However, in this scene, it’s also his character that does some acting, essentially fighting himself for the benefit of his audience, his boss. It is through this impressive performance as well, that another crucial clue to the film’s secret is given, since the narrator even mentions it reminded him of the time he first fought Tyler. We also see later a similar sequence where he fight Tyler again, though the recording security cameras show him beating himself, similar to what we see in this sequence.

The set and decoration in this scene creates a specific atmosphere that serves as stark contrast to the violence and insanity we witness in the sequence. The walls and furnishing of this office are a muted green, with the rest of the set as well as the characters’ costuming in black, white, and dull shades of any of the above. The lighting in the scene is very pervasive, leaving few hard features to the environment, and replicating realistically the typical office space. This serves several purposes. For one, it maintains the pattern of the office throughout the film, through the color and lighting, emphasizing the monotonous dream-like condition of the job. In this scene, it serves to contrast the actions of the narrator. In what would be expected to be a docile conversation under such sterile conditions, the outburst from his character is all the more powerful in such an environment. The destruction he causes to the set and props seems more out of place, and the appearance of his own red blood is a remarkable color contrast to both characters’ costumes and the room itself, highlighting the conflict between the organic/living and the fabricated/mechanical.

Most importantly in this scene, the cinematographic and editing techniques are used expressively to accentuate the performance, highlight the emotional states of the characters, and maintain a pace that compliments the fight. The camera shoots from a lot of extremely low and high angles throughout this sequence. Since the narrator jumps quickly from positions lying on the floor to standing upright in rapid succession, the shifting angles accentuate this vertical movement. In certain shots when the narrator is standing, we will see a level angle, followed by a rapid cut to a high angle looking down at him on the ground, of a low angle shooting up at his face, or in several instances extremely low angle shots from his character on the ground up to his boss observing him in disbelief and fear. In conjunction with the unique design of the camera angles, there is also a quickly shifting dynamic of the characters’ proximity to the lens. Especially during the fight sequence, the narrator will be framed in close-up, long shot, medium shot, and most shots in between, in a fast juggling variety to match the pace of the editing. Not only does this add to the frantic nature of the scene, but it also adds depth to the narrator’s mental state during the scene, because it’s jarring and simultaneously intimate. The shifting proximity also lends itself to the shots of the boss as well, at times cutting directing from one distanced shot of his face to another similar shot in much closer framing, as we watch his expression change over the course of the sequence.

The final piece to this filmmaking strategy is the sequence’s editing, which goes hand-in-hand with the other elements mentioned. The shot transitions are all cuts, and frequently cut between severely different types of shots that add to the manic nature of the plot event. There is a fair amount of shot-reverse-shot used during the exchange between the narrator and his boss, though the boss never says anything during the length of the sequence. In that way it’s a fairly bizarre editing technique, though it highlights the fraud that the narrator is pulling, since he continues to talk to his boss as though the boss was actually the one beating him. The pace of the editing speeds up dramatically once the narrator begins throwing himself around the office, but it keeps its rhythm with the performance, speeding up and slowing down to match the character’s own movement.

This sequence also makes interesting use of off-screen space. The camera does not follow the narrator perfectly during the shots where he is fighting himself. Often his character will fall off screen, leaving either the empty room or a shot of his boss in frame. Other times he will throw himself to the edge of the frame, or drop partially out. This serves to highlight specific aspects of the performance or a part of the mise-en-scene. For example in one shot we see the narrator’s hand rise into frame alone, highlighting the blood and broken glass in his wounds, emphasizing the pain of the performance. The other little expressive technique worth mentioning is the use of freeze-frame twice in the sequence. In one shot it freeze on the narrator throwing himself back through the room, and in the other, it freezes in the dumbfounded expression of the boss. Both freeze-frames are used to allow the vocal narration to comment on the scene, but it functions on a purely visual level as well. The first is used to give the audience a moment to take in the events they are seeing, since the pace of the editing is so quick, this break down the speed of the scene a bit, as well as emphasizing the unusual physicality of the fight. The second frame is used in a similar way with regards to pacing, and highlights the expression of the only other character in the room in response to the action that occurs in the previous frame.

PART IV
Costuming is an important element of a film’s mise-en-scene that often escapes analysis outside of extravagant period pieces where the costuming is as outwardly noticeable as the set design, or the performances. Costuming includes all the apparel worn by the actors in the process of presenting themselves as the characters of their roles on screen. Everything from pants and shirt, to the shoes and jewelry are elements of a film’s carefully design costuming.

Costuming is typically designed with several purposes in mind. Once is to provide subtle, or sometimes not-so-subtle, information regarding the particular character’s background, taste, attitude, or class. Another purpose is to help define the era or specific time period the film takes place in. An audience with a minimal familiarity with the history of the modern world will instantly be able to tell by costuming alone if a film takes place in a contemporary time period, an ancient setting, or somewhere in between. Likewise, it also functions to designate setting. Much like with regards to era, most audiences have a level of familiarity imagery associated with a variety of world cultures. For example, costuming should instantly identify a setting in terms of western versus eastern, rural versus urban, and in regards to specific countries and cultures, even extra terrestrial settings such as space or foreign planets.

Filmgoers, whether they know it or not, carry with them into a film experience, a certain array of expectations regarding elements of mise-en-scene, costuming in particular. Most frequently people expect continuity. This information that costuming implies about the contents of the film are generally expected to agree with the actual elements of the film. Most films do maintain this continuity. For example, three films studied this year, George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), and Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993), all follow these conventions to reasonable degrees, and typically use these conventions of costuming expressively to attain a desired effect within the film.

In the case of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the primary purpose of costuming is to define the era and the setting. In typical Western fashion, the title characters are outfitting in familiar rural western apparel to establish their place in the setting. Comfortable among the western ranges of the U.S, Butch and Sundance fit in with their surroundings. This serves as the basis for their trip to Bolivia as well, since their then familiar attire now defies the expectations of the setting, highlighting how out of place they feel in the foreign land. Aside from the naturalistic use of costuming there, it is also used expressively in the examination of the friendship between the two characters. We typically see Butch in lighter color clothing, emphasizing his more innocent nature, which conflicts with Sundance’s dark colored apparel that emphasizes his more ruthless nature.

Spike Lee attains similar results in Do the Right Thing through the naturalistic and expressive design of costume. The urban outfitting of his New York neighborhood immediately identifies all of the standard explicit elements of the film. It immediately establishes the urban setting, the contemporary time period, and the running motif of oppressive heat throughout the film. It also establishes the stark divide between the races in the film, contrasting the typical New York Italian styles of Sal and his family with the style associated with the African American community in New York during that time. Aside from also offering expressive insights into all his characters’ personal feelings and motivations, Lee uses a rich color palate throughout his costume design to match the styling of all the other design elements of the film, to achieve the combined effect of visual unity with the implicit themes of the film.

In The Piano, the effect is the same. The outfitting of the main characters first establishes the Victorian time period, as well as their Western European heritage. It’s also obvious from the first scene that the family is at least moderately secure in wealth. Like the Europeans in the film, costuming also quickly establishes the identities of New Zealand’s native population, feeding into typical stereotypes surrounding pre-technological indigenous peoples. It serves a similar purpose as it does in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, by highlighting the stark contrast between the distinctly European costume and behavior of the main family and the wild and foreign nature of their new home and its native populace. Costuming also serves an expressive purpose in this film though. There is a deep thematic study throughout the film regarding sexuality and the moral conceits that precede it. There is a careful connection drawn between the extravagant attire of the Victorian period with the more sexually frustrated and confused characters in the film. It also uses the costuming in opposite motion, examining nudity and the slow removal of clothing in terms of the characters’ sexual exploration.

So, it is apparent how this specific element of a film’s mise-en-scene is typically held closely to the expectations raise by its conventional purpose. In all three of these films, and in every film studied this semester in fact, costuming is a critical medium of information regarding the explicit meaning of each film. Whether it is used to establish a film as a typical genre piece, cast light on a crucial dichotomy between settings, or provide basic insights into racial conflict, costuming will nearly always play a role in a films explicit design. Every film will use it to slightly different effect though, as can be seen in looking at these three works, especially when examining its expressive design, unique to every director and every film.
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