A Hard Day’s Night

This is a review I wrote quite some time ago, just after I saw the film for the second time:

posterHDNA Review of A Hard Day’s Night

Everyone has a favorite Beatle. Mine is Paul because of his good looks, his persistent use of Love as a subject and because of his bluesy, soothing voice. I learned to love the Beatles through listening to their albums on repeat, especially the last half of Abbey Road. I grew up knowing their legacy, what drugs they took, how they died or who they married, and my idea of them was influenced by these things. But A Hard Day’s Night was like traveling back in time and getting to see them stripped of their reputations built upon years of stardom. Even at a young age they are full of personality, and their magnetism then only explains their success to come. Maybe they weren’t really like this, maybe they were directed to act a certain way, but I believe their performances were genuine simply because this film is that convincing.

A Hard Day’s Night is fun and entertaining. The plot is built on a very simple concept: the band is touring in the south part of the UK and Paul brings his mischievous grandfather. His grandfather is continuously is described as little and clean:

John: Pardon me for asking, but who’s that little old man?

Paul: That’s me grandfather.

paul grandpa

George: But I’ve seen your grandfather. He lives in your house.

Paul: Oh, that’s my other grandfather, but he’s my grandfather, as well.

John: How do you reckon that one out?

Paul: Well, everyone’s entitled to two, aren’t they?

John: He’s a nice old man, isn’t he?

Paul: Oh yeah, he’s very clean, ya’ know.

However, he’s not especially clean or little.

George, John, Paul and Ringo all seem obsessed with having a good time, constantly distracted by women and any opportunity for trouble. This drives their manager, Norman, completely mad. All the while Paul’s grandfather successfully gets into people’s heads and eventually convinces Ringo to go out and live life, away from the band. This story is interspersed with witty, seemingly natural, dialogue between the members and music numbers to the Beatle’s pop-songs.


Even in 1964 they are self-aware and poking fun at themselves in their already formed reputations. This is mostly seen with Ringo, with his inferiority complex caused by his small size and large nose and his explanation for why he plays the drums.

This film has been deemed a classic not only because of the subject, but also because of Richard Lester’s direction. His intense editing and frequent camera movements were unusual at the time, and the coverage of musical numbers in A Hard Day’s Night set the stage for later music videos. This style is extremely appropriate for the atmosphere and music of The Beatles and perfectly captured the screaming and crying fans. Though A Hard Day’s Night is not nearly my favorite Beatle’s album, it may be my favorite movie.


Movies Watched in 2014

Taylor Hanley’s Movies Watched in 2014


  1. King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933)
  2. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
  3. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
  4. Bridge Over the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957)
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
  6. The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
  7. Saving Mr. Banks (John Lee Hancock, 2013)
  8. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
  9. Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965)
  10. Gandhi (David Lean, 1982)
  11. The Man from Earth (Richard Schenkman, 2007)
  12. Enter the Void (Gasper Noe, 2009)
  13. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
  14. Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932)
  15. Patton (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1970)
  16. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
  17. The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003)
  18. All the Kings Men (Robert Rossen, 1949)
  19. Great Expectations (David Lean, 1946)
  20. The Jungle Book (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1967)
  21. Crimson Gold (Jafar Panahi, 2003)
  22. Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931)
  23. Mutiny on the Bounty (Frank Lloyd, 1935)
  24. My Fair Lady (George Cukor, 1964)
  25. Sin Nombre (Cary Fukunaga, 2009)
  26. The Man who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)
  27. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)*
  28. August: Osage County (John Wells, 2013)
  29. From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953)
  30. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer and Christine Cynn, 2012)
  31. Aftershock (Nicolas Lopez, 2012)


  1. Manchurian Candidate (John Frankenheimer, 1962)
  2. The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946)
  3. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
  4. Black Snake Moan (Craig Brewer, 2006)
  5. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
  6. Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
  7. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013)
  8. Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)
  9. Cry-Baby (John Waters, 1990)
  10. Dallas Buyer’s Club (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2013)
  11. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)
  12. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
  13. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, 2013)
  14. Tony Manero (Pablo Larrain, 2008)
  15. Where Buffalo Roam (Art Linson, 1980)
  16. Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011)
  17. Coffy (Jack Hill, 1973)
  18. Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, 2013)
  19. Wadjda (Haifaa Al-Mansour, 2012)
  20. The Most Dangerous Game (Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1932)
  21. Zelig (Woody Allen, 1983)
  22. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, 2013)
  23. Drunken Master (Woo-ping Yuen, 1978)


  1. Henry Fool (Hal Hartley, 1997)
  2. Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, 1948)
  3. What Time is it Over There?(Ming-liang Tsai, 2001)
  4. Miller’s Crossing (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1990)
  5. Cairo Drive (Sherief Elkatsha, 2013)
  6. Hump Film Festival
  • Lauren Likes Candy
  • D4U
  • D&D Orgy
  • Go Ahead, Pee!
  • Hot ‘N Saucy Pizza Boy
  • Ouroboros
  • Krutch
  • Magic Love
  • Pie Sluts
  • Rumpy Pumpy
  • The Beat
  • Edged
  • Music for 2 Humans
  • The Perfect Stranger
  • Tuff Titties
  • T. 2: Dark Territory
  • Mythical Proportions
  • Go Fuck Yourself
  • The Legend of Gabe Harding
  • Fun with Fire
  1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
  2. Lola (Jacques Demy, 1961)
  3. House on Haunted Hill (William Castle, 1959)
  4. Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene, 1966)
  5. The Grifters (Stephen Frears, 1990)
  6. 42 (Brian Helgeland, 2013)
  7. Blood Simple (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1984)
  8. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
  9. Particle Fever (Mark Levinson, 2013)
  10. Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes, 1998)
  11. A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997)
  12. Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney, 2005)
  13. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Mel Brooks, 1993)


  1. The Congress (Ari Folman, 2013)
  2. Rent a Family Inc. (Kasper Astrup Schroder, 2012)
  3. The Champagne Murders (Claude Chabrol, 1967)
  4. Rich Hill (Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos, 2014)
  5. Northwest (Michael Noer, 2013)
  6. Donkey Skin (Jacques Demy, 1970)
  7. Poolhall Junkies (Mars Callahan, 2002)
  8. The Broken Circle Breakdown (Felix van Groeningen, 2012)
  9. The Spider’s Stratagem (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
  10. Frankenhooker (Frank Henenlotter, 1990)
  11. Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)
  12. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999)
  13. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
  14. Short Term 12 (Destin Cretton, 2013)
  15. Mad Men, Season 6
  16. My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)


  1. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953)
  2. In the Mood for Love (Kar Wai Wong, 2000)
  3. Archer, Season 4
  4. Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998)
  5. This is the End (Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, 2013)
  6. Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001)
  8. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
  9. Le Week-End (Roger Michell, 2013)
  10. Thelma and Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991)
  11. The Firemen’s Ball (Milos Forman, 1967)
  12. Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014)
  13. The Future (Miranda July, 2011)
  14. Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
  15. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)


  1. Daisies (Vera Chytilova, 1966)
  2. In the Bedroom (Todd Field, 2001)
  3. Friends with Money (Nicole Holofcener, 2006)
  4. The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, 1940)
  5. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodovar, 1988)
  6. Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace (George Lucas, 1999)
  7. Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones
  8. Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946)
  9. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, 1958)
  10. Conversations with Other Women (Hans Canosa, 2005)
  11. 28 Up (Michael Apted, 1984)
  12. Vagabound (Agnes Varda, 1985)
  13. The Simpsons Movie (David Silverman, 2007)
  14. The Lego Movie (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, 2014)
  15. The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007)
  16. House of Cards, Season 1
  17. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson, 2004)
  18. Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971)
  19. Smile (Michael Ritchie, 1975)
  20. Thank you for Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2005)
  21. An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)


  1. All About My Mother (Pedro Almodovar, 1999)
  2. 35 Up (Michael Apted, 1991)
  3. Bad Education (Pedro Almodovar, 2004)
  4. La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954)
  5. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
  6. Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodovar, 2009)
  7. Kicking and Screaming (Noah Baumbach, 1995)
  8. Swingers (Doug Liman, 1996)
  9. Volver (Pedro Almodovar, 2006)
  10. Life is Beautiful (Roberto Benigni, 1997)


  1. Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999)
  2. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)
  3. Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990)
  4. Brothers Bloom, The (Rian Johnson, 2008)
  5. Trouble with Harry, The (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)
  6. Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010)
  7. Hannah takes the Stairs (Joe Swanberg, 2007)
  8. Flower of My Secret, The (Pedro Almodovar, 1995)
  9. Mallrats (Kevin Smith, 1995)
  10. Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski, 2012)
  11. Spirit of the Beehive, The (Victor Erice, 1973)
  12. Blues Brothers, The (John Landis, 1980)
  13. Sting, The (George Roy Hill, 1973)
  14. Elephant Man, The (David Lynch, 1980)


  1. Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)
  2. Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt, 2013)
  3. Room, The (Tommy Wiseau, 2003)
  4. Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970)
  5. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977)
  6. Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)
  7. Grand Budapest Hotel, The (Wes Anderson, 2014)
  8. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)


  1. Big Night (Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci, 1996)
  2. Belle De Jour (Luis Bunuel, 1967)
  3. Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener, 2013)
  4. Dinner Game, The (Francis Veber, 1998)
  5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
  6. Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The (Martin Ritt, 1965)
  7. Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, The (Peter Greenaway, 1989)
  8. Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (Jim Sharman, 1975)
  9. Please Give (Nicole Holofcener, 2010)
  10. Grosse Pointe Blank (George Armitage, 1997)
  11. Blair Witch Project, The (Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez, 1999)
  12. Scary Movie 2 (Keenan Ivory Wayans, 2001)


  1. Red Desert, The (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964)
  2. Side by Side (Christopher Kenneally, 2012(
  3. Radio Days (Woody Allen, 1987)
  4. Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
  5. Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, 2012)
  6. Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950)
  7. X-files: Season 1 (Chris Carter, 1993-1994)
  8. Ladykillers, The (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955)
  9. Sleeper (Woody Allen, 1973)
  10. Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992)
  11. Kid, The (Charles Chaplin, 1921)
  12. 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009)
  13. Love Actually (Richard Curtis, 2003)
  14. Loves of a Blonde, The (Milos Forman, 1965)
  15. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)
  16. Ernest and Celestine (Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar & Benjamin Renner, 2012)
  17. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (George Clooney, 2002)
  18. Everything you Wanted to Know about Sex but were too Afraid to Ask (Woody Allen, 1972)
  19. Star Wars: Episode VI- Return of the Jedi (Richard Marquand, 1983)
  20. St. Vincent (Theodore Melfi, 2014)
  21. Triplets of Belleville, The (Sylvain Chomet, 2003)
  22. 191. I Love You, Man (John Hamburg, 2009)
  23. Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)
  24. How to Marry a Millionaire (Jean Megulesco, 1953)
  25. Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954)
  26. Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (Jim Sharman, 1975)
  27. Clerks (Kevin Smith, 1994)
  28. Lady Eve, The (Preston Sturges, 1941)


  1. One I Love, The (Charlie McDowell, 2014)
  2. Purple Rose of Cairo, The (Woody Allen, 1985)
  3. Kids are All Right, The (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)
  4. She’s the One (Edward Burns, 1996)
  5. Passenger, The (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975)
  6. Dogma (Kevin Smith, 1999)
  7. Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant, 1997)
  8. Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951)
  9. Some like it Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
  10. Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004)
  11. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)
  12. Streetcar Named Desire, A (Elia Kazan, 1951)
  13. American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)
  14. Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot, 1999)
  15. Wild (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2014)
  16. Philadelphia Story, The (George Cukor, 1940)
  17. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The (John Madden, 2011)
  18. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
  19. Illusionist, The (Neil Burger, 2006)
  20. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)
  21. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, 2014)
  22. X-Files: Season 2 (Chris Carter, 1994-1995)
  23. 220. On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)

La Dolce Vita: The Fate of the Couple According to Fellini


The 1959 film, La Dolce Vita, captures 7 days of Marcello Rubini, a tabloid journalist struggling to make meaning out of a disconnected existence while photographing the rich and famous. The film is said to “portray the seductive fascination of the cafe society as well as its intrinsic vacuity” and is modeled after Via Veneto, a street known for its late night atmosphere and populous of photographers hoping to catch the frequent celebrity guests losing their temper. With its release at the Cannes Film Festival, Fellini’s film swam in success, much of the film’s success was due to the controversial depictions within it and the coverage it received as a result. The influential film, “was attacked as immoral and subversive, and branded as a mock-trial that aimed to condemn Italian society as a whole and the capital in particular”. Though a lot of the criticism was in response to the portrayal of the Catholic Church and the negative depiction of capitalism, some disapproval resulted from the treatment of relationships and marriage. La Dolce Vita reflects a trend in art cinema that depicts less “happily ever after” endings and this trend challenges the societal hegemony valuing the institute of marriage.

“In a society in which the choice of marriage partners is completely free, marriage patterns will be influenced by cultural institutions” (Virginia Wexman): When a film like La Dolce Vita seemingly argues there is no point to marriage, it threatens the values of cultural institutions that classic cinema, in contrast, regularly upholds.

La Dolce Vita is an Italian film that has been grouped within the category of European art cinema. It is a grouping of films that are loosely conjoined by a handful of principles, themes, motives and approaches.  One aspect that unites this category is in the desire to challenge and directly oppose what is seen in classic cinema: one difference is in the treatment of the individual.  In classic cinema, the individual is clearly defined by a handful of characteristics and their logical action towards a predetermined goal is what pushes the plot along. In art films however, the focus is often on the complex psychological state of the individual and their subjectivity is what forms the story line. In addition, the “modern” individual is usually framed as isolated from others and their environment.

“The world is outside of him, and he is totally absorbed by his inner psychic life, which however cannot be organized into a rational system leading to planned acts” (Kovacs).

The individual is often also unconnected with their past and their future is filled with uncertainty.

The treatment of individuals in these films is directly related to the ways couples are presented.  In many classic films the formation of the couple is central in the story and often is brought together for closure at the end of the film. Consider the films of Howard Hawks, like His Girl Friday and To Have and Have Not, where the lead characters include one handsome man and a beautiful woman and though there may be some back and forth, the two end up together within the final scenes. Even in a film like Rio Bravo where the romantic relationship is arguably not the main story line, John Wayne’s and Angie Dickinson’s interactions are crucial for advancement of the main plot and it can be predicted early on that the two will end up together.

In many art films, though, the couple is usually not handled in this idealized way. Often there is a beautiful woman and a handsome man as lead characters but the possibility of them forming a couple by the end of the film is not predetermined or predictable. In some cases a couple is introduced in the beginning of the film and it is questioned whether or not they will remain together. For instance, in Voyage to Italy it is unknown until the final seconds whether Alexander and Katherine will decide to divorce.  Since European art films tend to highlight the alienation of the individual and their inability to connect to others and their surroundings, the formation of a couple is more unlikely. It is often this inability to empathize and love another that creates the dramatic conflict of the film. A specific example of this is Vittoria from Antonioni’s Eclipse who when reflecting on her relationship with Piero states, “I wish I didn’t love you or that I loved you much more.” The characters in these films emit the desire to connect to others but they seem to lack the empathy to do so. Vittoria frequently analyzes her surroundings in hope of understand it, but despite this desire, she never seems to connect with and grasp the meaning of the environment and those around her.


La Dolce Vita is unique in its depiction of the couple because its large ensemble of characters allows for a variety of relationship to be analyzed. Though the characters in the film differ in many respects, they are all shown as isolated and, as a result, struggle to sustain their relationships. By depicting the couple in such a way, Fellini directly opposes depictions of marriage and ultimate success of couples seen in classic cinema and also challenges societies held perception of romance.

The narrative of the film is littered with occurrences of inaudibility, inability to connect to another, physical distances and verbal confirmations of the inevitability of isolation.  This can be applied to any of Marcello’s relationships with the various women he encounters, but it can also be seen with any couple presented within the film. The destructive fate of the couple is reinstated over and over again; very few instances actually present the future of relationships in a positive way.

The opening scene displays Marcello and others flying over Rome in a helicopter. They stop above a rooftop and try to communicate with the beautiful women sunbathing, but neither the women nor the men can understand what the other one is saying. This can be compared with the ending scene of the film where Marcello stands on the beach after a party that lasted until morning. After fishermen drag a massive and rotting creature out of the ocean, the young woman Marcello previously met at a diner yells for him from across a body of water. In a drunken state he is unable to understand what the girl is saying and before long, he gives up and walks away. The similarities between the first and last scenes of the film suggest the small amount of growth that occurs within the narrative and ultimately frames the film within instances of inaudibility.

la_dolce_vita (1)

During Marcello’s entire relationship with Sylvia, he attempts to get past a certain barrier in order to connect with her. He chases her up the stairs of the cathedral, he clamps her body close as they are dancing, and he runs circles around her while they spend the night on the town. However, he is continuously blocked by either other characters or Sylvia’s attention span. Sylvia is framed as a separate entity, a commodity that can never be reached or obtained. How she is handled throughout the film intensifies her goddess position. She is merely a product of the celebrity culture Fellini was trying to capture. She is separated and unreachable from everyone placed below her. Though a goddess, she is still alienated.

The character of Steiner is the only depiction of marriage and family that suggests the possibility of a lasting cohabiting existence, but his drastic ending exacerbates any doubt Marcello, or the audience, held about the inevitability of loneliness. Steiner’s wisdom and happiness is highlighted when the audience is first introduced to his character; he embodies the perfect life of a meaningful career and a loving family, but his words during a party scene cast uncertainty onto his stability.

He explicitly states his feelings criticizing an idealized life:

“don’t be like me. Salvation doesn’t lie within four walls…Even the most miserable life is better than a sheltered existence in an organized society where everything is calculated and perfected.”

Before Steiner’s death, Marcello seemingly desired to connect with someone. His various attempts to further a relationship seen with both Sylvia and Madellena make that clear. However, Marcello remains isolated despite his best efforts. The problem is that it is not only Marcello who is alienated, it is every character. Despite Marcello’s grandest attempts, forming a connection would require the same amount of effort from another. In a world full of helplessly isolated people who cannot figure out how not to be lonely, achieving what is necessary to form a lasting couple is near impossible. When Marcello learns of Steiner’s tragic opt-out, he no longer even attempts to build a bridge between him and another person. He accepts his isolation.





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It was a strange experience watching Margaret. On the surface it is fairly conventional and seemingly the overtold story of a confused adolescent. But I was captivated by this 2 and a half hour film.

The film’s protagonist is Lisa Cohen and within the first half hour, she indirectly causes an accident where a bus runs over a woman and severs her leg. Lisa holds the lady in her arms during a very intense and bloody scene and tries to console her before her final minutes of life. It is obvious to Lisa and the audience that she will inevitably die soon.


When questionned by the police, Lisa lies and tells the officer that the light was green, and that the lady was walking illegally across the street, clearing the blame of the bus driver. What follows is Lisa’s life after the accident. Things go on as normal for the most part: she goes to school, she goes to parties, she has sex, she gets pregnant, she has sex with a teacher, she has an abortion- but guilt stemming from her lie starts to grow. This manifests into a lawsuit.

All of the characters are believable human beings largely because they are flawed. Their actions are usually selfish and self-centered. Their arguments are filled with immature, wishy-washy statements and overall lack understanding and honesty.

This is especially true for Lisa who acts hedonically, seeking some sort of immediate cure for her guilt. She starts with sex, stirring up her life by sleeping with someone else’s boyfriend. Later she jumps her teacher. Ultimately, when nothing else worked, she makes what was someone else’s life, and someone else’s tragedy, into her world. She acts as if she is the center of a play and that everything around her needs to be interesting and entertaining.

The dead lady’s friend does not appreciate this:

This isn’t an opera! And we are not all supporting characters to the drama of your amazing life!

I think parallels can be drawn between Lisa’s dramatic style and her mom being a theater actor.

There is a stylistic element very unique to this film: its odd sound hierarchy. Often background noise is louder and more apparent than the main character’s conversations. When there are scenes in public places, it isn’t uncommon to clearly hear the dialogue of the elderly couple to Lisa’s left. Why choose to highlight irrelevant sounds made by irrelevant characters?


By highlighting background noise, the audience is reminded that they have been focused on the life of only one individual for 2 and a half hours and that there is a world outside of Lisa that is oblivious to her and her dramatic life. Though Lisa’s life is entertaining, the people around her, the ones in the conversations we hear, are not affected at all by it. Their conversations make us realize that though Lisa’s life is an entertaining film, it is small and ultimately lost when the camera zooms out. Any life can make seem like a theatrical play or a melodramatic film when it framed as such and often we get caught up in thinking that we are the center, the star, and everyone around us are background characters. What needs to be realized is that our actions have little impact on the world. Our being is rarely noticed by the strangers who walk by us. And when we view our life as dramatic, it places a false importance on what we say and do. To me this is a freeing thought.

This is what I learned from Margaret.


Political Films of 50s and 60s. And Examples

Political Cinema of the 1950s and 60s. And Examples.


If you’ve ever read Andras Kovacs’ Screening Modernism, you would know two waves of modern cinema could be identified; the first wave was that of Romantic Modernism which aimed to contrast mainstream cinema and in turn alter the medium. It focused on individual subjectivity and strived to capture realism.  The second wave was that of Political Modernism which desired to change how reality was represented in films. Political modernism was motivated by the political issues and movements of the time, which included the Vietnam War and the resulting protests. This upheaval manifested into widespread strikes and demonstrations and subjects that were once private were brought into the public sphere. These conditions quickly saw themselves in cinema and were full fledged by 1968. It was thought that earlier representations of reality, those of the 50’s, were obsolete and therefore the cinema of earlier times was irrelevant. In an aim to represent the world in face of political upset, critical depictions of reality began to be seen in cinema and these depictions were soaked in authorial bias. Unlike in the first wave of modernism, reality was no longer desired to be represented but instead reconstructed according to the filmmakers’ views and motives. Within his book, Kovacs identifies a few trends that were specific to the Political Modernism wave: authorial intervention intensified, a decreased focus on narrative in order to highlight verbal monologues, a reduction or even elimination of “art”, and also an increase in the belief that film could, and should, affect real politics. Though these trends have been recognized, their presence depends on the film and the conditions of production. Since Political films responded in accordance to their contemporary society, they differ from nation to nation in the critiques made, the auteur’s bias and in the necessity to comply with any censorship restrictions.

Here, three films will be discussed. Godard’s Week-End, Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains and briefly Richardson’s Look Back in Anger.

Godard’s film Week-End was made in France in 1967 during a cultural revolution.  Though his first film had only come out less than ten years earlier, by 1967  Godard had built himself the reputation of a notable filmmaker. This reputation easily led to funding by France’s government and allowed him freedom to make any film he’d want to make. Therefore, Godard was able to make one of the first aggressive counter films, Week-End. This film contains radical stylistic elements that challenges the viewers’ expectations and requires effort on the viewer to get through the entire film. It  is extremely unconventional in its style and in its narrative and the film exemplifies many of the trends Kovacs had outlined. First of all, it is a film that reeks in authorial expression.  The stylistic elements and the unique narrative throughout can only be explained by accounting it to Godard’s ideological and political reconstruction of reality. The very little narrative of the film allows for the space for characters to exchange the dialogue of Godard’s political bias. An example of this is during one of the extreme long takes, completely outside of the sparse narrative, two men face the camera and give uncomfortably long monologues of the current social conditions of specific minority groups.

The trend of the elimination of art is heavily apparent in Week-End, where Godard stated that he aimed to take the comfort out of watching film.








Lastly, Week-End is radical in that it contains unsympathetic characters that slowly go from being enlightened and civilized to becoming barbaric and ultimately cannibals. Week-End is very overtly political, though not pushing a clear and specific message, it captures a certain idea the Godard holds of the current political and social conditions.


Closely Watched Trains, in contrast, is covertly political. The film was made by Menzel in 1966 under the Soviet’s tight censorship and complete control over scripts. Therefore, in order to critique the current government, it was necessary to be subtle. The film has a very simple narrative and takes place during the Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. Displacing the narrative to a different historical period allowed Menzel to bypass censorship and criticize authority and reigning governments. Closely Watched Trains is explicitly about idiotic Nazi officers, but made at the time it was, the film can be seen to make an implicit statement of the Soviet Reign. Menzel was further able to make this statement by utilizing a very simple and slightly absurd narrative that is littered with symbolism. The unconventional characterization separates everyone within the plot into either sympathetic characters or authority figures. All of the authority figures in the film are framed as ridiculous while the sympathetic characters, in contrast, hold two things in common: they do not want to work and they seek sex. The desire not to work, to get by without breaking a sweat, can be seen as symbolic of the lack of desire to “work” in efforts for the reigning government. They are labeled as “lazy” but this is more a label of resistance towards authority rather than a desire to lay on the couch. Though it is reinstated by Milos and Hubicka many times wanting to stand on the platform and do nothing, it is seen during the few scenes planning the bomb that they are capable of putting effort into something. The sex element can be seen as symbolizing National liberation. Milos at first is this passive unlikely hero but at the end of the film, after having sex, is able to blow up an entire train. Overall, in order to bypass censorship and get the film made, Menzel used ambiguous and heavily symbolic langue to make the political film.


Look Back in Anger falls somewhere in between Week-End and Closely Watched Trains in the degree of political overt-ness. The film was made in 1959 and focuses on the current issues of class conflict. It is political in that it focuses on the problems of the working class and is very aggressive towards the higher class that the main character Jimmy views as being “privileged”.  It also deals with and opens issues that years before were seen as private. Look Back in Anger helped these issues to be brought into the public political sphere, issues like abortion and marital affairs. The film has a working class protagonist who is fairly unsympathetic in how he treats his upper-class wife. There is an emphasis on the injustice of the working class system that Jimmy cannot seem to get over. This injustice and hardship has ultimately brought him to the place he is now: miserable and bitter. The film is overtly political since it focuses on the issues of class at the time, but it is void of authorial intervention and subversive narrative filled with political monologues that Week-End is full of.

It is difficult to say which, is any, of these films is the most successful in their political aims. Are films able to influence real politics? And if so, are certain narrative and stylistic techniques necessary to make a difference?

Lastly, I always believed that a film is more successful if its message is ambiguous. Instead of being told a specific ‘point’, I’d rather be moved to a certain feeling that leads me to come up with the ‘point’ on my own. Maybe it’s because I never want to be explicitly told what to think or because it hurts to have something forcefully shoved down your throat. The films here are all successful in presenting a unique representation of reality that forces the audience to look at things differently. They do this by avoiding an obvious, overdone message. In the end, I like how they make me feel.


The Silence of City Lights


The transition from silent to talking films broke-out in the late 1920’s and drastically changed what was known as cinema. Audiences welcomed the change with exhilarating anticipation and the overarching consensus was that sound was superior to silence. By 1935 silent films became scarce and soon obsolete. Despite this belief there were many who saw the strengths of silence and understood that silent films were able to provide a form of entertainment that dialogue couldn’t achieve. Here I will acknowledge and discuss the capabilities of silent films by analyzing aspects of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. Since this film was released after the surfacing of “talkies”, it is a direct challenge to the common appeal and succeeds in demonstrating the power of silent films. My analysis of City Lights reveals that silent films demonstrate cinematic capabilities unique to their genre. Specifically, the lack of sound in City Lights is not a flaw. Instead, silence is a component of the film much like sound is a component of talkies.

By the time of talkies, Charlie Chaplin had had a long and successful career. He dominated at a time when comedy was thriving, and contributed significantly to comedy’s popularity, “his brilliant miming, his use of pathos in the midst of hilarious fun and, above all, his humanity struck a sympathetic chord with people all over the world.” Chaplin held reservations about adapting to talkies, not with panic about job security, but because of his deep appreciation for the art. He felt that sound was not superior to silence, instead he believed that sound would ruin cinema. A quote of Chaplin’s illustrates this feeling, “the silence of a love scene is far more stirring than to hear the players say ‘I love you.’”


Chaplin did transition and prove to be successful in the talking era, but he did not make the transition right away. Instead, Chaplin continued on to make three silent films after the release of The Jazz Singer: The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931), and Modern Times (1936). These films were also the last appearances of his beloved character the Tramp. He believed the Tramp’s universal appeal was because people worldwide could relate to him and because the small amount of title cards could easily be translated. If the Tramp were to speak, in English presumably, his viewers would become limited. The last of his silent films are considered by many as Chaplin’s finest and City Lights in particular demonstrates Chaplin’s talents as he took on the role of star, director, writer, and composer for the film, while his own distribution company, United Artists, distributed it.

The lack of sound in City Lights is not a weakness. Silence is a component of the film much like sound can be seen as a component. A film’s components should highlight the important aspects of a film and because Chaplin utilizes gestures so heavily, “the silence of silent film is not simply a medium; it is an instrument. And Chaplin plays it, much as one might play a piano or violin.” With City Lights, Chaplin set out to make his greatest achievement and to create a phenomenal silent film in a time when the rest of the field was focused on sound. It wasn’t an easy process. The film turned out to be his longest and most difficult project taking almost 3 years to make and requiring 180 days of shooting. During this time, the story was constantly being adapted and tweaked and months of footage were shot that never made it into the film. Because of Chaplin’s desire for something near perfection, key actors were often fired, and some even rehired. Hours were spent directing specific movements and re-shooting when things fell short of expectation. When the film was complete there was a lot of anticipation for its release. Fortunately, the film thrived in the box office and received positive reviews from the public as well as from “highbrow publications” . Chaplin funded the entire project, and because of the long production the film’s budget reached roughly 1.6 million dollars. However, even with the film being released at the start of the Great Depression, City Lights earned Chaplin’s studio, the Charles Chaplin Film Corporation, twice the amount of its cost. In the words of writer Charles Maland, “Chaplin’s decision to resist the talkies was a resounding success”. With City Lights, Charlie Chaplin proves that silence has a power that sound does not possess, and like one critic says “City Lights is the quintessential silent film – sound would have ruined it.”

From a minimalist perspective, silent films have a reduced amount of stimuli presented and therefore are better able to focus the viewer’s attention on what is meant to be the focus. In the case of City Lights, the focus of the film is on the small and simple, yet quick, movements that are tightly knit together. The minimal sound, the simple compositions and the modest cinematography highlight these detailed movements and the movements are so well choreographed that a powerful flow underlies the entire film. If sound would have been incorporated the viewer’s attention would be dispersed among the additional stimuli presented. Some of the movements could pass unnoticed or the fluidity could be disrupted and the overall effect lost. Chaplin did utilize the new technology a bit by composing music to accompany the action and also by adding various, well selected sound effects. These uses are few and precisely placed to accentuate the movements, not to take attention away from them. In addition, the film does not lose anything by not incorporating dialogue. Throughout it is clear and comprehensive while also conveying complex emotion and meaning. City Lights is a “quintessential silent film” because it is a film that could only be silent.

The film consists of episodic shorts that are related along a loose storyline and reoccurring characters. After the first scene, the plot involves the Tramp’s meeting and interactions with two others, a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) and a millionaire (Harry Myers). Each encounter has similarities and influences the other without the millionaire and the flower girl ever meeting. It is the Tramp that acts between them. Both the millionaire and the flower girl are blind to who the Tramp really is, though only the flower girl actually cannot see. The Tramp does not know either of them for very long, but both of their lives are significantly altered because of his interference. Humor radiates from the Tramp and the millionaire’s relationship. They meet one evening when the Tramp stumbles upon the drunken millionaire trying to commit suicide. After some mishap, the Tramp successfully convinces the millionaire that life is worth living and the millionaire happily declares the Tramp as a friend for life. To celebrate their new friendship they spend the night out on the town.

images.jpgcity lights
After their night out on the town, the Tramp and the millionaire retire in the morning, the millionaire still drunk. The title cards in this film are terse, seen only every once in a while. They are rarely necessary for comprehension, but instead used to supplement the gestures. One of the most comical title cards in the entire film occurs while the millionaire is recklessly driving home that morning. The Tramp states “Be careful how you’re driving” and the millionaire responds “Am I driving?”

Because of the few title cards, the majority of the time when the actors are “speaking” the audience never finds out what is being said. This does not matter; nothing is lost by the viewer’s not knowing the character’s exact exchange of words. For the most part we can easily guess what words are being said because of the crystal clear action and pantomime. It is clearly seen that the millionaire is sad without hearing the words, “I am sad”, and it is clear that the Tramp tries to persuade the millionaire that life is worth living without knowing that he is saying, “life is worth living”. And it is even clear, by his facial expression and body language alone, that there is a shift in the millionaire’s mood once the Tramp consoles him. The lack of spoken dialogue in the film does not obstruct clarity. The silence and reliance on body and expression allow room for analysis, unlike words that tend to make meaning flat, “dialogue can become a crutch. Here, the characters must emit their feelings without voice, and it results in some astounding moments.” Nonverbal communication, like body language, gestures, expressions, hold a sincerity that is often filtered out, or lost, when we talk. These nonverbal communications are valuable because they are not labeled and singular in meaning, allowing the audience to interpret them more deeply. For instance, a sad face can differ slightly depending on what type of sadness. When we make judgments based on a facial expression alone, we can notice differences that give the emotion of sadness more dimensions. However, the words “I am sad” only offers the viewer a single, shallow feeling.

The fluidity of the film, from scene to scene, shot to shot and even from step to step would have been severely compromised with the incorporation of dialogue and other diegetic sound. Furthermore, the addition of recorded sound would have reduced the film’s effectiveness without adding anything to it. James Agee writes in Comics Greatest Era, “it is done so glibly that there is never the slightest doubt as to the meaning Chaplin wishes to convey.”

City Lights refutes the widely held assumption that sound technology improved film. Some silent films could have been better as talkies. In dialogue driven plots, the use of long and dense title cards to present story lines can detract from the viewer experience. However, the addition of sound would have diminished the quality of others. City Lights is a case in point. Through meticulous choreography down to single movements, the film flows smoothly from step to step within every shot, and through every scene. Every scene is then held together with title cards announcing the time of day, conjoining and uniting the episodic structure used. The attention to detail applied in this film is what facilitates this fluidity, but that attention would likely have been dispersed if Chaplin would have made the transition to sound earlier. City Lights is a perfected silent film. Though the making of the film was long and difficult, the outcome was a tremendous contribution to the art of cinema.


European Art Films and Italian Neorealism


Should European Art films be considered as an extension of Italian Neo-Realism Or as a separate category?

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Bicycle Thieves.

Italian Neorealism started as a counter response to classic Hollywood style. The same could be said about European art film. Though Italian Neorealism may hold more similarities to the classical style than later European art films, films like Bicycle Thieves and Rome, Open City were revolutionary in that their themes involved current social problems, centered around lower-class citizens and ultimately aimed to rally action against such injustices, things that were not seen in classic Hollywood. Italian Neorealism demonstrated the value of producing different types of cinema and therefore instigated the experimenting that ultimately led to European art films. Looking at it this way, the European art film movement was inspired by Italian Neorealism and who is to say if its presence would have been possible if Italian neorealism hadn’t opened the door first.


Rome, Open City

That being said, because of the vast stylistic and narrative differences between Italian Neorealism and European art film, it would be more beneficial to categorizes these as separate movements, linked only by lose influence. Bicycle Thieves and Rome, Open City both utilize very classical narrative techniques with very clear cause-and-effect logic and demonstrate temporal and spatial continuity. The characters present, maybe a bit more complex than classical Hollywood, can easily be categorized as good or bad. This is especially true for Rome, Open City where the Nazi officers embody the characteristics a comic-book villain.  These films contain a fair amount of expository information, enough at least to grasp the lives of the characters, and contain family-centered values

La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita

Many films classified as European art films diverge even more from the classic Hollywood set-up. Looking specifically at La Dolce Vita, the film contains almost no expository information, is lacking any family or community presence and the episodic structure used thwarts any kind of temporal continuity. La Dolce Vita is absent of any type of cause-and-effect logic and vacant of protagonist motivation or deadlines to move the plot along. While Rome, Open City has a handful of deadlines (the wedding, the planned killing of the priest), La Dolce Vita only advances because of the next episode. Therefore, the narrative as a whole is merely a segment of the life of one man.

Many European Art film’s focus is on the individual and problems of the individual, instead of social problems tackled in Neorealism. Films like Eclipse and Voyage to Italy deal with problems of helplessness and alienation and often the dramatic conflict stems from an individual’s inability to connect with those around them.  In Italian Neorealism we barely are allowed into a character’s subjectivity where in Voyage to Italy, Katherine’s (Ingrid Bergman) subjectivity is a heavy focus of the film.

One similarity that can be seen between Neorealism and European Art is the increased use of on-location shooting. However, the motivation and overall effect of this is different between movements. For Neorealism, the use of on-location shooting was motivated by the desire for realism and also because of the small budget available. For European Art films the location often plays a role of its own and its emphasis is to suggest its influence on the characters. For instance, in Voyage to Italy Italy itself can be considered an additional character. By continuously cutting back and forth between the characters and their surrounding, Italy can be seen acting on and influencing the couple’s subjectivity and behavior.

European Art films also are vastly different from neorealism in their use of certain devices: authorship, reflexivity and ambiguity. The idea of authorship can be seen in movies like Persona, specifically in the beginning sequence with various clips of cartoons, naked body parts, spiders and then a boy looking into a screen. This part of the film has no relevance to the narrative and its incorporation is only explained by the director’s (Bergman) desire. Reflexivity can be seen in films like Contempt where the film calls attention to itself being a film. Ambiguity can be seen in the film Eclipse where character action is often unexplained or undetermined and conclusions of the film are left open-ended. Though these features are not placed within all European Art films, they demonstrate the experimental qualities that all European Art films hold. This radical type of experimenting is not seen within Italian Neorealism and because of this reason European Art films should be considered a separate category.