Tuesday October 2nd - FILM LECTURE.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Innis College Courses
Corinn Columpar

nd Tuesday October 2 , 2012 – FILM LECTURE Today’s topic: Mise-en-scene The stylistic system: The stylistic system of a film is defined by the patterned use of medium-specific elements. These are the specific means by which a film communicates. There are an abundance of elements which produce a whole. We must disentangle this weave of elements and examine them individually. But how do you do this? How do you assess a film’s components? You must think about film style in terms of these 4 categories: mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing and sound. Each corresponds to a stage of the production process Mise-en-scene: involves anything that appears on screen (make-up, lighting, actors, performances…). Involves everything that happens before a camera rolls. Cinematography: all technical factors that determine what camera renders from what is placed before it. Incorporates what happens when camera is actually rolling. Is camera static or moving over course of a shot for example? Editing: Everything that happens in post-production Sound: This is not the final stage of the production process because recording sound is part of the entire process of making a film. We take into consideration everything that we hear. As we encounter these elements, we will point out techniques in each category and show how they work in the film. What we attempt to do in lecture is reinforce Bordwell and Thompson’s materials. Screenings each week allow us to watch a film rich in techniques studied in class. In tutorial, we will broach key recurring questions concerning techniques. We will answer question like:  How is the techniques used and developed over the course of the film?  How does it contribute to the making of meaning? Mise-en-scene is very straight-forward, it is what is shown to the camera. In French, mise-en-scene is the term for directing. The mise-en-scene for a film are the elements film has in common with theatre (make-up, acting, props…). But cinema can transform all these elements. For ex, a theatre production could never use real world settings (like a rail-road) while films can do so. Films can distort forms and colors. In theatre, viewers are quite distant from actors while actors in film must adapt their performances to closeness of camera. Lighting in theatre deals with constants (position of audience, size of stage) while lighting scheme changes dramatically throughout a film. Setting: Clips from:  An American in Paris by Vincente Minnelli (1951)  Breathless by Jean-Louis Godard (1959) By setting we mean the location of the action. We must think of the function of the setting in the film. Ex, in Kane, Xanadu (huge fortress) shows how Kane and Susan become more and more isolated and estranged as they are apart physically. Here, setting is involved in creation of development between Kane and Susan. First crucial choice of filmmaker is to choose between a location or a studio. Second choice = how sparingly or lavishly to adorn that setting with props. In American in Paris, it is shot on a stage set. We can know this by the way the camera was panning – it is able to move without encountering unexpected elements. It feels as if setting exists just for us, it is a little too clean. One of drawbacks of filming on stage set: camera can’t do everything it wants to do. For ex, it can’t move to far away from set to make an extreme long shot. Why would a filmmaker choose to film on set? Because we have a highly controlled environment that allows for multiple spaces to be visible. The movement can be perfectly controlled and calligraphed in this environment. The film plays off choreography of actors and objects. From this highly controlled environment we get a perfect placement on props (we need a perfect choreography). Drawbacks: there are limitations in terms of shot scales (we can’t move too far away from the stage set, we will begin to see its edges). It is also not that realistic looking (which might be a problem for viewers). We have to take this for granted although the scene’s artificiality betrays itself. A filmmaker might also opt to shoot on a set to contribute to the ideological agenda of a film. 2 films that are shot on set: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) and Dogvillle (Lars con Trier, 2003). Cabinet: Film is considered one of hallmarks of German expressionism (these filmmakers attempted to exteriorize people’s inner/psychological/emotional states). Thus construction of sets was central to films. Set of this film produces a vision of world as seen through eyes of a mad man. Sets in films are hyper stylized, are characterized by harsh angles, harsh tones, spaces barely habitable. Dogville: von Trier decided to let drama unfold in very clearly fabricated stage set. He wanted to make sure the spectator watching Dogville is never completely caught up in story presented. Viewer must always realize that he is seeing something fabricated. He wants viewer to engage intellectually and emotionally by continually underscoring artificiality of movie. Today, many settings created with green screen. In Alice in Wonderland, actors deliver their performance before a green screen and with 3-D statues as characters. Her live action performance is added to setting. Scene from Breathless was filmed on location in contrast to American. Setting here characterized by deep-space (lots of distance between foreground and background). We have less reliance on props and more naturalness. Props are copies of Herald Tribune and Michel’s cigarette. Cigarette becomes very significant throughout film (he always fiddles it, fingers it to try to be like Humphrey Boggart). Generally, cre
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