Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sorry about the bad Link. Try it again and enjoy.

Anamorphic Tilt

I get asked a lot about what films to watch to develop their appreciation of quality movies. While I like all kinds of movies and I do like trash cinema films of the 70s and 80s, what I love are the films that create that sensation where you feel like you’ve just seen something new or something that may not have ever been seen before and it feels like your scalp has peen peel open and someone has dropped sweet fresh honey directly onto the grey matter of my brain. This can be in a dialogue exchange, a look between characters or an interesting camera angle.

I therefore wanted to compile a list of films that I have found profound and that I feel stays with you long after you have seen it. As a dear friend of mine said “I know I’ve seen a great film if I’m thinking…

View original post 315 more words

Great Films: The Birdman of Alcatraz

I get asked a lot about what films to watch to develop their appreciation of quality movies. While I like all kinds of movies and I do like trash cinema films of the 70s and 80s, what I love are the films that create that sensation where you feel like you’ve just seen something new or something that may not have ever been seen before and it feels like your scalp has peen peel open and someone has dropped sweet fresh honey directly onto the grey matter of my brain. This can be in a dialogue exchange, a look between characters or an interesting camera angle.

I therefore wanted to compile a list of films that I have found profound and that I feel stays with you long after you have seen it. As a dear friend of mine said “I know I’ve seen a great film if I’m thinking about it long after I’ve seen it”. I don’t believe that I can make a numerical list as my tastes have changed over time and I am constantly being introduced to new and old film makers that are brilliant and innovative.

One of the first films that I’d like to discuss is John Frankenheimer’s 1962 film The Birdman of Alcatraz starring Burt Lancaster as Robert Stroud. While Frankenheimer is mostly famous for The French Connection II (1975) and the contemporary Robert Deniro Action film Ronin (1999) he is often dismissed as an action film maker and is rarely mentioned on lists of great and influential film makers. However, his humanist films such as The Birdman of Alcatraz is quite well-known but not well-known as a John Frankenheimer film. Yet the pacing of this film about a man living in Solitary Confinement who finds redemption in his ability to save the lives of birds and becoming a world-renowned ornithologist is a work of brilliance. It is aesthetically brilliant and even though the film can be overwhelming in its despair there is a humanism that shines through this character even when he is at his bleakest moments. This film is dark in its context and he was a falsely imprisoned good guy as we see in The Shawshank Redemption Robert Stroud was a killer who could not live in society or in the presence of other prisoners. This is what makes The Birdman of Alcatraz so profound to me. Stroud begins the film as a monster trapped in the world he cannot escape from but only when incarcerated and cut off from humanity does he find his humanity. The tragedy of this is that once he discovered himself he could never enter the world again. His research into Ornithology on the other hand is still being used today, and his books on this subject are still in publication.

The Imposter

Directed by Bart Layton

Approximately 95 Minutes, 2012

I just got back from an advanced screening of The Imposter. I had seen the previews over the last few weeks as well as the posters, plus I had heard a lot of positive feedback. So I was expecting a solid documentary. Several of the Rotten Tomatoes reviews referred to the film as chilling. I didn’t find it to be chilling. I found this documentary to be tragically sad but also brilliant in the way they effortlessly fused re-enactments with talking heads and open landscapes. Whereas as some documentaries can feel somewhat awkward when they use re-enactments or overdo the talking heads. What set this apart was that there was no narrator dictating the film every step of the way. This was told 100% from the perspectives of those involved and it is completely absorbing from the opening frames.

The reason why this a tragedy opposed to a thriller as some have described it is because every person in this film is a victim of some kind. While ‘there are two sides to every lie’ as the tagline to the film states. Both sides are trying to escape the reality of their life situation. This is part of what makes this film so profound. There is a deeper level to this story that neither side could see.

This is a solid and at times brilliant documentary. While I loved the story and everything that was going on. I would have liked the camera to hold the image of the speakers a little longer. The film was very fast paced but there were moments where they cut to the next interview or re-enactment too quickly to get the affect from the interviewee. A brilliant example of this would be Werner Herzog’s recent film Into The Abyss. In this film Herzog would hold the frame for as long as comfortably possible until we see a drastic emotional shift in the vulnerability of the speaker. This was often heartbreaking to see. Whereas Bart Layton seemed to be pulling his emotional punches in places. While this is not a huge criticism I felt that the weight of his story warranted more of an emotional gut punch. For the most part the expressions of these people felt very honest. This includes The Imposter himself. After watching the film i found myself wondering whether or not anything he said was true, even in his on camera delivery.

This film will be released in Australia on February 28 and will probably be a Cinema Nova exclusive to Melbourne. While some may prefer to see documentaries in the privacy of their home I believe that a film such as this needs to be seen on the big screen for the expression of these people and the tragedy of their story.

Image

ALIEN 3 & FILM NOIR

ALIEN 3

Directed by David Fincher

Written By Walter Hill, David Giler and Larry Ferguson

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Ralph Brown and Paul McGann

Running Time: 114 Minutes Theatrical Version/145 Minutes Extended Version.

https://anamorphictilt.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/alien3cap3rev.jpg?w=300

In 1979 Alien reinvented the horror/sci fi genre with its simple haunted house in space premise. Alien also made a star out of Sigourney Weaver. This was for the most part a horror film hybrid. In 1986 James Cameron delivered Aliens. In this film James Cameron shifted gears from the first film by reinventing the formula. Aliens was an Action film in space that owed no small tribute to the Robert A. Heinlan’s 1950s pulp serial ‘Starship Troopers’ and  Rambo (1984) which was also written by James Cameron. So we had horror in Alien and action in Aliens. In 1992 Alien 3 was released with a lot of anticipation and was expected to follow the template of Aliens. David Fincher created something few expected. He took the conventions of the Alien series and introduced Film Noir. This can seen stylistically in the rustic prison scenes and in the contrasting shadows. This demonstrated the bleakness of this world, but unlike other neo-noirs that are admired for their technical skill and for referencing older films, Alien 3 is true film noir in its themes of death and as antithesis to melodrama that destroys any feelings of hope that James Cameron created in the final moments of Aliens.Where in Aliens Ripley was seen as a hero, in Alien 3 she is on a journey towards her own death. Through this essay I will demonstrate why Alien 3 is a film noir by investigating Ripley’s masochism and how the alien in Alien 3 is a metaphor for the internalized hatred of these characters.

Ripley’s death was one of the major selling points of the film. This is perhaps why Alien 3 was the highest grossing film in the series[1]. Alien 3 was also the most disliked of the series. This was due in no small part to the absence of an emotional catharsis to Ripley’s story arc. An example of this is in the closing shots of the three empty cryogenic chambers that Ripley, Neut and Hicks went to sleep in at the end of Aliens. This was another signification of the meaninglessness in the world of Alien 3. All that is left behind of these characters is a computer log recording of Ripley’s voice. If Ripley had died in a heroic blaze of glory or she had some grandstanding speech, audiences would have been more receptive to her self-sacrifice.

https://i0.wp.com/www.scifimoviepage.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/alien3-pic.jpgThe film going audience tends to enjoy this in melodrama such as Titanic and The Notebook. In the case of neo-noir films such as Alien 3, audiences often despise seeing their heroes die. The most likely difference depends on the emotional investment on the audience’s part and the belief that a character died for a good reason. Alien 3 did not satisfy in this manner. David Fincher’s film moved against the easy formula set up by James Cameron and Ridley Scott. He thrust his audience into perhaps the bleakest sci-fi world ever conceived in a mainstream film. Alien 3 in this regard was difficult for audiences in that the film was about a woman’s journey toward irredeemable death.

James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) featured the subplot of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) waking up 60 years later and knowing that her closest relatives and her daughter have passed away. By the end of Aliens she had found a new surrogate family in the form of Neut the orphaned girl and a burgeoning love interest in Hicks (Michael Biehn). David Fincher’s Alien 3 on the other hand opens with the annihilation of this surrogate family and this represents the destruction of hope for Ripley, for the future survival of the family unit and for the audience’s emotional catharsis awarded at the end of Aliens. It was this discomfort, the antithesis to melodrama and the absolute alienation of humanity in this film that brings Alien 3 into the sub genre of film noir.

Ripley’s fate was sealed in the opening act with her impregnation. Therefore the film is in its simplest form is a neo-noir about Ripley’s journey towards death. Even when Ripley realises that she is going to die at the birth of the Alien Queen, she is anomic to her own doom. She just wants it over with. This was evident in her scene with Charles Dutton’s character, the preacher. She asks him to kill her but demands that there are no references to god, no eulogies or anything else. She just wants to die. Symbolically she was already dead via the death of the family. This scene was perhaps the most important scene. This scene signifies Ripley’s need to destroy herself was a greater priority than killing another Alien.

https://i1.wp.com/application.denofgeek.com/pics/film/alien3-5.jpgThe secondary characters in Alien 3 were the prisoners. These men chose to remain on a prison planet even after the company closed down the prison and abandoned them. They not only chose to remain on the abandoned planet but they established their own religion and a vow of celibacy on a planet without women. Their incarceration manifested as religion alleviated them of their existential free will to do wrong. They were ‘condemned to be free’ and Ripley spins them out of control by posing a threat to their vow of celibacy. Whereas the prisoner’s existence represented the worst that humanity has to offer, Ripley was the representation of everything they hated about themselves.

Therefore, regardless of the Alien threat, the Prison population were going to die out. Ripley as a threat on the other hand was going to turn these men inwards and bring out the darkest instincts of human nature. The Alien in this case was an internalized hatred of themselves. Neither their prison sehttp://alienseries.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/alien_3_disc135.jpgntences, nor seclusion from the rest of the known universe, nor religion could purge their basic instincts. Even if Ripley did not sacrifice her self to neutralise the alien impregnated in her, she would have had to die to preserve the social order of the planets population.

Despite what some may say when comparing this to other stories that involve self-sacrifice Ripley’s sacrifice was meaningless to Ripley. This was because she had nothing to continue living for. Due to the nihilistic nature of this film it is easy to see why mainstream audiences reacted negatively. After James Cameron’s hope inspiring finale Ripley has a meaningless existence. This does not make Alien 3 a bad film as some would argue but in many ways there is a lot more going one beneath the surface of these characters that were pushed aside in favor of action spectacle in the previous film. Alien 3 may not be the best in the series but examining Alien 3 as a film noir or a neo-noir provides a greater appreciation for this often neglected and misunderstood film that is very much a David Fincher film.

https://i1.wp.com/i40.photobucket.com/albums/e234/Nehring/Alien_3_01.jpg


[1] The Worldwide box office numbers according to www.boxofficemojo.com are Alien:  $104,931,801, Aliens: $131,060,240, Alien 3: $159,773,600 , Alien: Resurrection: $161,295,658

%d bloggers like this: