words and art by w a l t e r w s m i t h

Weekly Movie-Making Moments in Film

Images For HD Video: The Perception Of Time (A Beating Heart Remix)

Reality is the way we see things …

http://youtu.be/2fYwhvPeRds — The Perception Of Time (A Beating Heart Remix) Copyright 2012 – Walter W Smith – Music by Stars of the Lid

While watching a recent NOVA program, entitled The Fabric of the Cosmos, I once again became fascinated with the subject of “time” and our perception of it. It appears scientifically, that time exists in a “space-time continuum”.  Simultaneously existing. Integrated. Both influencing each other. A theory developed by Albert Einstein. My video delves into the human condition of the beating heart as an integral part of past, present and future; as being one without division; all that ever was, is, and will be.

This reality, if one takes the scientific approach, will create for us, another way of thinking about our lives. It can produce an uncertainty of sorts. Does it relinquish us from our past? Does it make the present moment more significant? Does it liberate us from the fear of the unknown–the future? Do our attachments, our thoughts, even our beliefs change and reconstruct themselves? Does our change in perception change even our bodies on a molecular level? Do we become more infused with All There IS?

Yes, I believe so. I can only feel emancipated. Why, because it connects me to everything. I can feel my heart beating as it once did and as it will forever. I can sense the surge of the cosmos and the essence of eternity existing within my very being.

It is beautiful … my reality of time and my beating heart.

P.S. in 1984 I saw the production of Einstein on the Beach at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It is a post-modern opera produced and created by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass. It is based on Einstein’s theory of the space-time continuum. Beautiful and energetic, I highly recommend viewing it on YouTube.

Here is a link to a segment of Einstein on the Beach.

http://youtu.be/Q80xaxpBWjY — Knee Play 5 by RQLVN


Images For HD Video: Sometimes In The Waking The Reality Is More Pressing Than The Dream

There are times when I have a visual dream. In the waking. A collage of kinetic images. And as painful as it may sometimes be, I can but only love … living my art; finding fuel for it in the most unlikely places …

a new day …

This piece is an exploration of the moment when waking from a dream. The dream persists, but so does the realities of life:  Our personal journey. As they intrude. Crash. Collide. And take us for a ride along the highway of uncertainty. I think it is here, in this moment, that we can rise from our slumber with our greatest fear or with our greatest hope. As we face the day, with our portfolio of experiences, memories, and designs, we can, with internal intent and wisdom, begin our search for a better tomorrow.

http://youtu.be/58Nwb7HmbLQ  –  Sometimes In the Waking the Reality Is More Pressing Than the Dream 3:10; music by Nine Inch Nails


Images For HD Video: An Unfolding Night Next To You (A Scattered Storm Remix)

The night holds many mysteries when time stands still….

she remains transfixed
trapped in summer's night
contemplating the approaching storm

Searching for chance in the process of creating art.

Within the context of my digital and video work, the objective is to find visual ambient experiences. The process at times, is a stationary camera. Post-production: Unedited film, or with very minimal post editing and digital effects. With this piece, I altered the color tonality. The difficulty in the piece was balancing the black sky, now slightly colorized, while maintaining a brightness/contrast without compromising the visibility of the lightning strikes.

Art can be discovered by random chance.

An Unfolding Night Next To You is the first in a series of new HD experimental video work-in-progress. Some years ago, my first exploration of the still camera and chance recording was an hour-long piece entitled Oceans of Art. This 2012 video was filmed during a late night drive on HWY 221 in South Carolina through a scattered rain storm. Darkness, lightning strikes, pressing rain, and the headlights of passing cars all merge with the music of sound design artist, and master of glitch Alva Noto, creating an eerie journey into meditative abstraction. Rain drops falling on the window shield create a mosaic of pixel forms. These forms are constantly moving and manipulating the video. While sporadic lightning strikes fill the night sky. Patience is in order to gather the full ambient feeling of the piece. Things are there.

Recommended viewing: In a very dark room by single candle light.

http://youtu.be/-KKafg4qoaQ   –  Copyright 2012 – Walter Smith


Images For HD Video: Water For Meditation (Sunrise Remix) and On Water

Exploring nature through video …

I enjoy working with video. It has always been a true love of mine. It is however, a very challenging medium. It takes time to learn new programs and to obtain the right equipment. And it is expensive. Exhibiting video art in a gallery usually requires a grant. And grants are difficult to come by these days. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, I was awarded a couple of grants for a video installation and a multimedia collaboration. All in all, through recent years, and mostly because of the expense, I’ve shifted from video art to digital imaging. 2-dimensional work. Photography, prints, and digital art.

However, I do want to invest more time in video making. At the heart of this endeavor is having the right mindset for video. Filming. Set design. Editing. Video making is much different from taking photographs. I must remind myself not to think in terms of large production. But rather find inspiration and subject matter in the in-between spaces. Mood. Ambient nature. Form. Simplicity. Lo-tech – high-tech.

The pieces “Water for Meditation” and “On Water” are two perfect examples of ambient nature. They are not very complicated to film and produce, yet fulfill, in this instance, my desire to create an ambient environment for meditation. Transporting the viewer to a moment of relaxation. “On Water” is micro short (26 seconds) in length, while “Water for Meditation” is nearly six minutes long. I prefer long meditative pieces, however I realize that it takes a considerable amount of investment on part of the viewer to “sit” through the minimal motion of a piece of great length. All in all I hope to produce in the future some rather experimental pieces. Incorporating original imagery and music created by me. Work that at this time is a mystery to me.

Below are 2 links to my YouTube channel and the video pieces; “Water For Meditation” (Sunrise Remix) and “On Water”.

Please enjoy. Any feedback is well appreciated. In the future, I hope to post videos more regularly.

Namaste

http://youtu.be/pyYahhz2svM  –  Water For Mediation (Sunrise Remix)

http://youtu.be/wGXnumdn_Ys  –  On Water


Weekly Movie-Making Moments In Film: HBO’s Girls and the Video by Robyn – Dancing On My Own

A moment to enjoy a little TV, finding creativity in the work of others….

So I am watching the third episode of HBO’s really cool new hit show “Girls”. During the ending credits, the song showcased is “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn. Okay, I don’t know if I am in the know or not (too much ambient electronic music) but I had never heard of Robyn prior to this song. Where’s my MTV when I really need it? But I digress, this song was way too cool. And when I watched the video, I was totally caught up in the strong, dynamic visual moves of her dancing and the editing with the live club dance scenes. And have you ever considered how interesting it is, when watching a rather good show or movie, the song or songs, during the ending credits can make all the difference? It keeps the mood going–bringing back the emotional pulse of the film. Last year, I was very much into HBO’s “Making It In America” and there was an episode that featured a group of the show’s characters biking after a roof-top party. Through the streets of New York City they trekked—at night. Now that is the way you live in the city. Which reminds me … I miss Philadelphia, the painting parties with artists and the late midnight runs with my boyz Trash (10 miles in 1hr 45 mins, in our twenties). But again I digress. At the end of the show the producers came up with another hip song to keep the flow. The song was “Midnight City” by M83. Pulsating, hip, cool. And yes this band I had heard of before (“Too Late from the CD Saturdays = Youth).

Music can make any art form feel prolific and elevate its content and mood….

I really like the programming on HBO. Everyone I am sure is familiar with their big hit “Game of Thrones” but I really do suggest you give “Girls” a look. And although “Making It In America” is not currently available on HBO demand, you certainly can get a hold of it.

Enjoy the video clips….

Girls – Trailer

http://tv.yahoo.com/girls/show/47563/videos/28822433

Robyn ‘s – Dancing On My Own

http://youtu.be/CcNo07Xp8aQ

M83’s – Midnight City Live on Carson Daly

http://youtu.be/q3w9mfk7D9c


Weekly Movie-Making Moments In Film: Berlin Alexanderplatz by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

A scene from Berlin Alexanderplatz

It is 2012, and thanks to the Criterion Collection and NetFlix I am able this weekend to once again view the epic masterpiece Berlin Alexanderplatz by Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. In the 1980’s Philadelphia’s PBS station WHYY aired the entire 16 hour film. I was totally amazed at the dark story of a man and his descent into a personal hell; as well as its historical portrayal of Germany in the pre-Nazi era. This is a disturbing film, yet beautiful and engrossing. It’s cinematography and storytelling captures the imagination with vivid realism.

Here is a short synopsis.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s controversial, fifteen-hour-plus Berlin Alexanderplatz, based on Alfred Döblin’s great modernist novel, was the crowning achievement of a prolific director who, at age thirty-four, had already made forty films. Fassbinder’s immersive epic, restored in 2006 and now available on DVD in this country for the first time, follows the hulking, childlike ex-convict Franz Biberkopf (Günter Lamprecht) as he attempts to “become an honest soul” amid the corrosive urban landscape of Weimar-era Germany. With equal parts cynicism and humanity, Fassbinder details a mammoth portrait of a common man struggling to survive in a viciously uncommon time.

The English trailer for the film Berlin Alexanderplatz

http://youtu.be/qTjFWAvJTvI

A short tribute to a modern Berlin Alexanderplatz

http://youtu.be/wC2equOfOvc


An Introduction To The Creative Process Of Artist Gotye: The Making Of Eyes Wide Open

It is always interesting to delve into the mind and creative process of an artist. What tools he uses. What fuels his imagination. How he views the world around him. How to translate that experience into art.

Gotye takes us on a shot venture through all these elements.

http://youtu.be/b_iuE_L2wys


Weekly Movie-Making Moments In Film – The Woman in the Dunes by Hiroshi Teshigahara and based on the novel by Kobe Abe

I have recently seen the wonderful Japanese film Suna no onna (Woman in the Dunes) 1964 by Director Hiroshi Teshigahara. It is an extraordinary film. Beautifully crafted. Surreal and mesmerizing. I highly recommend it. Below is a link to an analytical review and a link which contains the featured film. The film is available on Net Flix as well. The film is 2-hours and 27 minutes long. I have included a short synopsis of the film below.

http://youtu.be/P-2xec9Ebg0  – video essay by James Quandt – part 1 (please note, I was unable to find part 2 of the essay). Part 1 ends abruptly.

http://youtu.be/H-5fY8hZdTs – Feature Film

An entomologist, Jumpei Niki (played in the film by Eiji Okada), is on an expedition to collect insects which inhabit sand dunes. When he misses the last bus, villagers suggest he stay the night. They guide him down a rope ladder to a house in a sand quarry where a young widow (Kyoko Kishida) lives alone. She is employed by the villagers to dig sand for sale and to save the house from burial in the advancing sand.

When Jumpei tries to leave the next morning, he finds the ladder removed. The villagers inform him that he must help the widow in her endless task of digging sand. Jumpei initially tries to escape; upon failing he takes the widow captive but is forced to release her in order to receive water from the villagers.

Jumpei becomes the widow’s lover. However, he still desperately wants to leave. One morning, he escapes from the sand dune and starts running while being chased by the villagers. Jumpei is not familiar with the geography of the area and eventually gets trapped in some quicksand. The villagers free him from the quicksand and then return him back to the widow.

Eventually, Jumpei resigns himself to his fate. Through his persistent effort to trap a crow as a messenger, he discovers a way to draw water from the damp sand at night. He thus becomes absorbed in the task of perfecting his technology and adapts to his “trapped” life. The focus of the film shifts to the way in which the couple cope with the oppressiveness of their condition and the power of their physical attraction in spite of — or possibly because of — their situation.

At the end of the film Jumpei gets his chance to escape, but he chooses to prolong his stay in the dune. A report after seven years declaring him missing is then shown hanging from a wall, written by the police and signed by his mother Shino.


Weekly Movie-Making Moments In Film: Joe Frank Theater

The ongoing work of avant-garde monologist Joe Frank….

Memories

http://youtu.be/jO1mgTvLfa4

During the 1980’s while listening to NPR Radio, I came across the incredible surrealist work of monologist Joe Frank. His dark story of angst and misplaced reality quickly fascinated me. His work over the years has been a strong influence on my writing and my visual art. I am very pleased to introduce to you, my readers, to the beautiful work of Joe Frank. – Walter Smith

Joe Frank (born August 19, 1938) is an American radio personality, known best for his often philosophical, humorous, surrealist, and sometimes absurd monologues and radio dramas.

Early life

Joe Frank was born Joseph Langermann in August 1938 in Strasbourg, France near the border of Germany to Meier Langermann (then 51) and his wife Friederike (then 27), while in transit from Germany (where they were living, although they were Polish citizens). Being Jewish, his family was fleeing Nazi Germany and moving to New York City, where they arrived on April 12, 1939. Bills to allow the family into the country were passed in the U.S. Congress twice, the first having been vetoed by President Roosevelt. Joe’s father died when he was 5 years old. The next year his mother married Freddy Frank and changed Joe’s last name. In his twenties, Frank studied at Hofstra University in New York and later at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Frank taught English literature at the Dalton School in Manhattan when he became interested in the power of radio.

Early Career

In 1977 Frank started volunteering at Pacifica Network station WBAI in New York, doing experimental radio involving monologues, improvisational actors, and live music during late night free-form hours. In 1978 he moved to Washington DC to serve as a co-anchor for the weekend edition of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, his first paying radio job.

During this period he wrote, performed in, and produced 18 dramas for NPR Playhouse, which won several awards. His 1982 monologue “Lies” was used as the inspiration for the Martin Scorsese movie After Hours, without permission.(He later settled out of court for a “handsome” settlement.)

KCRW, 1986–2002

In 1986, on the invitation of Ruth Hirschman [Seymour] the general manager of NPR’s Santa Monica affiliate KCRW, Frank moved to Santa Monica, California where he wrote, produced and performed in his own weekly hour-long radio program, “Joe Frank: Work In Progress.”

While at KCRW, Frank received several awards, including a Peabody Award and two Corporation for Public Broadcasting Awards, one for his acclaimed three-part series “Rent-a-Family.” Frank was also a Guggenheim Fellow.

Joe Frank continued to work at KCRW until 2002, and his work evolved, as evidenced by the diverse series he produced: first Work in Progress, then In The Dark, followed by Somewhere Out There, and finally The Other Side.

Radio programs

Frank’s radio programs are often dark and ironic, and employ a dry sense of humor and the sincere delivery of ideas or stories that are patently absurd. Subject matter often includes religion, life’s meaning, death, and Frank’s relationships with women.

Frank’s voice is distinctive, resonant, authoritative, and—because of his occasional voice-over work—often oddly familiar. At the 2003 Third Coast Festival he explained that he was “recording in Dolby and playing back without it—which created Joe’s now familiar intimate and gritty sound.”

Adding to the atmosphere of Frank’s monologues are edited loops of instrumental music from sources as diverse as Miles Davis, Steve Reich, Tangerine Dream, Can, Air and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

The repetitive music and Frank’s dry, announcer-like delivery are sometimes mixed with recorded phone calls with actor/friends such as Larry Block, Debi Mae West and Arthur Miller, broken into “acts” over the course of each hourlong program.

Frank’s series The Other Side included excerpts from Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield’s Dharma talks at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. In an interview on KPFA’s the Morning Show, Kornfield was asked about working with Joe Frank. Kornfield explained that although he had never met or talked to Joe Frank or heard his show, he didn’t mind Frank using the lectures and that many of his meditation students had found Kornfield through the show.

Other work

  • He can be heard on the song ‘Montok Point’ on William Orbit’s album Strange Cargo Hinterland.
  • “The Decline Of Spengler” Stage Play (New Directions 48, New York)
  • “A Tour Of The City” Stage Play (Tanam Press, New York) was produced by Theatre Anima at Hangar #9 in the Old Port of Montreal in 1990, and was directed by Jordan Deitcher.
  • The Queen of Puerto Rico and Other Stories,, William Morrow and Co, New York, 1993. ISBN 0-688-08765-5 a collection of short stories: Tell me what to do—Fat man—Night—Date—Walter—The queen of Puerto Rico—The decline of Spengler

2002–present

Since 2002, Frank has performed on stage in Chicago at the Art Institute of Chicago and Steppenwolf Theatre, in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall and in Los Angeles at the Hammer Museum and Largo at the Coronet, as well as other venues.

In 2003, Joe Frank was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Third Coast International Audio Festival.

His body of work (over 230 hours) continues to be aired on the Pacifica Radio affiliate station KPFA in Berkeley, California and many NPR stations including WNYC New York, KCRW Santa Monica and WBEZ Chicago. The entire archives, Joe Frank film shorts and other extras, are available by subscription to his web site. Show CDs, downloads, and iPods are also available through his website.

Frank’s new web site launch in August 2010 now includes free daily downloads of stories excerpted from his radio shows.

Frank continues to write new work for the stage and his website, and posts frequently on Facebook.

Inspiration to other artists

Frank’s body of work has inspired a variety of other artists including:

  • Ira Glass of This American Life: “Ira Glass worked under Frank as one of his first jobs in public radio, and credits him as his greatest inspiration.”
  • David Sedaris, writer
  • Troy Schulze, a theater artist in Houston who created the show Jerry’s World (2003) for the Houston, Tx.-based theater group Infernal Bridegroom Productions. Utilizing material from several Frank shows, the piece was deemed “Best Original Show” in Houston that year, by the Houston Press.
  • Jeff Crouse, artist and technologist, created Interactive Frank, which uses content from the web to dynamically create a Joe Frank Show. “The user types in a sentence, and Interactive Frank takes over, scouring the web for another sentence that follows a sentence with the last three words. Frank can also find streaming audio to accompany the generated narrative based on a word analysis, and it can read the narrative using an online text-to-speech generator.”
  • Filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Mann, David Fincher and Ivan Reitman have optioned or bought stories from Joe Frank’s radio shows.

Voiceover and acting work

Joe Frank has done voice over work for commercials including Zima, and Saturn Corporation. He was the voice of the computer in Galaxy Quest and provides voiceover for:

  • “Wild Rescues” on Animal Planet
  • “Conspiracies” on A&E
  • “Ends of the Earth” on the Learning Channel
  • “Hurricane X” on the Discovery channel
  • “Sexy Beast” film: narrator on trailer. This trailer was nominated for best film trailer in 2004.

He also had a small acting role in The Game.

Awards

  • 2003
    • Third Coast International Audio Festival Lifetime Achievement Award

During NPR Playhouse

  • 1982
    • Broadcast Media Award
  • 1983
    • Radio Program Award from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting
    • Gold Award from the International Radio Festival of New York
  • 1984
    • Gold Award from the International Radio Festival of New York (second)
    • American Nomination to the Prix Italia
  • 1985
    • Special Commendation from the Berlin Prix Futura

During Work In Progress

  • 1988
    • Major Armstrong Award
    • Corporation For Public Broadcasting Program Award
  • 1991
    • Peabody Award
  • 1993
    • Guggenheim Fellowship for Radio Art

Weekly Movie-Making Moments in Film: Attack the Block – 2011

The city series….

Yo - the aliens are coming

One of the things that I have always questioned is this … Why don’t the aliens ever attack the ghetto? I mean, all the alien invaders when they invade seem to end up in the midwest; or on someone’s farm; in the backwoods; at the lake during vacation; or the town you would never visit with a population of 10—anywhere but in the hood.

Well those days are over. We be talking about the really cool, down by law, and just totally sweet, street-wise, hip new film (out this year) entitled “Attack the Block”. I could say more but I will let the trailer say the rest. But I will conclude by saying I think it is a must see film if you like the dark comedy science fiction genre. There are great moments in the film. Nothing gave us a laugh more than one of the characters saying …”fire in the hole” or “aliens got talent” in reference to America’s Got Talent and Simon Cowell.

Attack the Block is a 2011 British science fiction action film written and directed by Joe Cornish. The film stars Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard. Set on a council estate in South London on Bonfire night, the film follows a street gang which have to defend themselves from hostile alien invaders. The film was released in the United Kingdom on 11 May 2011. Attack the Block is the directorial debut of Cornish.

http://youtu.be/AUFaLAMojfA

A scene from the film - is that what I think it is

No safety in here


Weekly Movie-Making Moments In Film: Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite

Nerds of the World Unite….

What a great film and one of the best original comedies to come along in quite some time. I’ve always loved films about high school angst, going back to those great John Hughes films of the 80’s. Not everyone can relate to a film like Napoleon Dynamite; many have found its charm to be wanting and distasteful. However, I can identify with its peculiar awkwardness, that I too shared with others in high school. And just like Napoleon, art was often my escape. It can be said that Napoleon’s nerdy demeanor is always just a moment away from giving you the side-splitting laugh you always dreamed of 🙂 – Walter Smith

http://youtu.be/H2Kh7umdOrk – Napoleon Dynamite Trailer

http://youtu.be/kr7djGY1fhA – Napoleon Dynamite Dance Scene

Synopsis: The directorial debut of filmmaker Jared Hess, who  also co-wrote the screenplay, Napoleon Dynamite is a quirky, offbeat comedy set in the small Idaho town of Preston. Jon Heder stars in the titular role, a carrot-topped oddball with a decidedly eccentric family that includes his llama-loving, dune-buggy enthusiast grandmother. The story centers on the local high school’s race for class president. Using some nontraditional means, Napoleon is determined to help his pal Pedro (Efrem Ramirez) run a winning campaign and defeat popular girl Summer (Haylie Duff). Also starring The Drew Carey Show’s Diedrich Bader, Napoleon Dynamite premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. …

Dancing to the song Forever Young

The Promise – Lyrics to the song, The Promise by When In Rome. The ending theme to Napoleon Dynamite. Enjoy the musical flashback to the 80’s.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMZL9pd4Q8M


Weekly Movie-Making Moments in Film: Sunshine / 28 Days Later / District 9

Sunshine by director Danny Boyle

The sun at less than 1% sunlight filter

Sunshine is a 2007 British science fiction film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland.

In 2057 the sun is dying, and mankind is dying with it. Our last hope: a spaceship and a crew of eight men and women. They carry a device, a massive stellar bomb with the mass equivalent to Manhattan Island, which will breathe new life into the star. But deep into their voyage, out of radio contact with Earth, their mission is starting to unravel. There is an accident, a fatal mistake, and a distress beacon from a spaceship that disappeared seven years earlier. Soon the crew is fighting not only for their lives, but their sanity.

The crew is made up of an ensemble cast consisting of Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, Chipo Chung, and Mark Strong. The script was based on a scientific back-story that took the characters on a psychological journey. The director cast a group of international actors for the film, and had the actors live together and learn about topics related to their roles, as a form of method acting. To have the actors realistically react to visual effects that would be implemented in post-production, the filmmakers constructed live sets to serve as cues. Previous science fiction films that Boyle cited as influences included Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 1972 Tarkovsky’s Solaris, and the 1979 science-fiction horror film Alien.

Sunshine is one of my favorite films of all time. I have seen it several times and it never ceases to entertain me as I embrace its stunning beauty.

I was first introduced to the filmmaking of Danny Boyle in 2003 with his kinetic, apocalyptic and frightening horror film 28 Days Later: In the film a powerful virus is unleashed following a raid on a primate research facility by animal rights activists. Transmitted in a drop of blood, the virus locks those infected into a permanent state of murderous rage. Within 28 days the country is overwhelmed and a handful of survivors begin their attempts to salvage a future, little realizing that the virus is not the only thing that threatens them.

28 Days Later by Danny Boyle

The only other film in recent production, I feel parallels Sunshine in its originality and vision is District 9 by Peter Jackson and Neill Bloomkamp.

District 9 synopsis: Over 20 years ago, aliens made first contact with Earth. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were refugees, the last survivors of their home world. The creatures were set up in a makeshift home in South Africa’s District 9 as the world’s nations argued over what to do with them. Now, patience over the alien situation has run out. Control over the aliens has been contracted out to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company uninterested in the aliens’ welfare – they will receive tremendous profits if they can make the aliens’ awesome weaponry work. So far, they have failed; activation of the weaponry requires alien DNA.

The tension between the aliens and the humans comes to a head when an MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), contracts a mysterious virus that begins changing his DNA. Wikus quickly becomes the most hunted man in the
world, as well as the most valuable – he is the key to unlocking the secrets of alien technology. Ostracized and friendless, there is only one place left for him to hide: District 9.

District 9 by Peter Jackson and Neill Bloomkamp

The roundup in District 9

All three films are distinctly different in their subject matter, but are so well acted, produced, and directed it is difficult to choose one over the other as a favorite.

So what do you think? Are you a big fan of the Science Fiction genre? Have you seen any of these remarkable films, and if so do you have a favorite? And what is your favorite film of this genre and why?


Weekly Movie-Making Moments in Film – Raise the Red Lantern

Raise the Red Lantern…the new wave in Chinese cinema

The beautiful Gong Li in Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern

http://youtu.be/EyubPCx52uk  – Starring Gong Li and directed by Zhang Yimou (trailer)

http://youtu.be/wB5vKVnJQtQ – A Woman’s fate (monologue)

http://youtu.be/WklufWNh300 – Third Mistress Singing

A woman's fate

China, 1991

Running Length: 2:05

Cast: Gong Li, Cao Cuifen, He Caifei, Jin Shuyuan,
Kong Lin, Ma Jingwu, Zhao Qi

Director: Zhang Yimou

Producer: Chiu Fu-sheng

Screenplay: Ni Zhen based on the novel Wives and Concubines by Su
Tong

Cinematography: Yang Lun and Zhao Fei

Music: Naoki Tachikawa and Zhao Jiping

U.S. Distributor: Miramax Films

In Mandarin with English Subtitles

Raise the Red Lantern is one of the more sublimely beautiful and
openly disturbing films of the 1990s. It is also the best work to date turned
in by the actress/director combination of Gong Li and Zhang Yimou — and this
includes other impressive films like Ju Dou and To Live. Raise the Red Lantern is one of those all-too-rare motion
pictures capable of enthralling audience members while they’re watching it,
then haunting them for hours (or days) thereafter. With its simple story and
complex themes and emotions, Raise the Red Lantern hints at the kind of
film a great director like Ingmar Bergman might have made had he attempted a
story set in mainland China.

The difference between
Songlian (Gong Li), the fourth wife of a rich landowner, and the other three
spouses, is that she is educated, and has been married (by her mother) against
her will. Now, her whole world is reduced to one small compound, and the only
people she sees are her husband, his family, and their servants. She is given a
maid (Kong Lin) with whom she doesn’t get along, and finds her new home to be a
cheerless place, despite all the bright colors that adorn the inside walls.

It’s the master’s
tradition to light lanterns outside the house of the wife he intends to join
for the night. Since Songlian is new to the compound, it is expected that he
will spend much of his time with her. However, on their first night together,
the master is called away to soothe his pampered third wife (He Caifei), who
complains of an ailment. From then on, Songlian realizes that she’ll have to
resort to deceit and manipulation to retain her husband’s interest. And, while
she doesn’t necessarily appreciate his attentions, she realizes that her status
in the household is directly proportional to how highly she is favored.

Within days of her
arrival, Songlian’s relationships with her “sisters” are established.
The first wife (Jin Shuyuan), an aging woman with a grown son, does her best to
ignore Songlian’s presence. She is tolerant — no more, no less. The third
concubine, a beautiful ex-opera singer, is fiercely jealous of Songlian,
worried that the master will find his new, educated bride more enticing.
However, the second concubine (Cao Cuifen) offers friendship and kindness to
the newest member of the family — or so it initially seems.

The Chinese government
didn’t approve of Raise the Red Lantern, and, if you look just below the
simple-yet-effective surface story, it’s easy to understand why. As structured,
this film can be seen as a parable for the corruption of modern society in
China. Songlian is the individual, the master is the government, and the
customs of the house are the laws of the country. It’s an archaic system that
rewards those who play within the rules and destroys those who violate them.
And, when an atrocity occurs (as it did in Tiannamen Square), not only is
culpability denied, but the entire incident is claimed not to have happened.

Looking beyond the
political meaning, Raise the Red Lantern offers a view of life within a
closed, dictatorial social community. Much of the film deals with the
ever-shifting balance of power between the various concubines. Beauty and
sexual appeal are secondary attributes in a battle of wits that demands guile
and duplicity. Bearing a male child is more critical to each woman’s standing
than possessing a pleasing countenance. While the master’s favor determines
which of his wives commands the most power, Zhang illustrates how easily he can
be manipulated.

The acting is effective
enough to illuminate the multi-faceted personalities of the concubines. Gong Li
shines as Songlian, who struggles to be as cold and calculating as her
“sisters” in playing the “game” until a tragedy destroys
her composure (and possibly her sanity). Gong’s performance makes it easy to
sympathize with Songlian; she is our guide through the strange,
ritual-saturated world of Raise the Red Lantern.

The film is beautifully
photographed using a process that captures the vividness of the many colors
employed by the director. Raise the Red Lantern is visually stunning,
and the appeal to the eye only heightens the movie’s emotional power. The
fullness of reds, oranges, and yellows is unlike anything that has been seen in
an American film for years. Zhang clearly understands at least one of the
fundamental rules of film making: that a great-looking picture will enhance a
superior story.

Songlian’s ultimate fate
is wrenching, and the closing scene represents a sad epilogue to a unique
motion picture experience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie quite like Raise
the Red Lantern
, and, since I consider it to be a defining example of
Chinese movie-making and one of the best films of the ’90s, I doubt that I ever
will again.

The mistress gets her due

Post note: This is one of the best films I have ever seen. 1991 was a great transitional period for me artistically and this film added to my sense of exploration into the art of creativity and the importance of subject matter.

Gong Li as Songlian


Weekly Movie-Making Moments in Film: Camille Claudel

A woman’s strength and determination is powerful….

A woman’s love is without equal…..

A woman’s suffering for that love is immeasurable….

Perhaps one of my favorite French films that depicts artistic creativity, strength, determination, love and obsession is none other than the film Camille Claudel finely directed by Bruno Nuyten and starring Isabelle Adjani as Camille—the young but gifted sculptress. In the film Camille possesses an artistic and romantic passion that consumes her. Her love for the sculptor, Auguste Rodin, and her life, ends in pain and lost.

Here is a clip from the film. What do you think? If you have seen the film, what is your opinion of Isabelle Adjani’s performance?

http://youtu.be/_yT-oSkrrh0


Weekly Movie-Making Moments in Film: Chelsea Walls

I thought I would start showing clips from some of my favorite films. Over the years, I have spent a considerable amount of time in theaters, and long nights viewing video tapes, and DVDs. And we cannot forget the ever consuming Netflicks via our computers. It is time to go deep, yes—very deep—and find those rare moments in classic film-making. These beautiful, intrepid, and visceral moments can be found delving into the issues of obsessive love, angst, betrayal, and tragedy (thinking of French, German and Asian films in particular). And what comes to mind when thinking of tragic French films? Well we can find the French catapulting our emotions in such films as: Un Couer En Hiver (A Heart in Winter) directed by Claudet Sautet, Damage with French actress Juliette Binoche and film direction by Louis Malle. And last but not least—my favorite French excursion into obsession is none other than the film Camille Claudel finely directed by Bruno Nuyten and starring Isabelle Adjani as Camille—the young but gifted sculptress full of artistic and romantic passion. Her love for the sculptor, Auguste Rodin—as you can imagine—will only end in pain and lost.

I hope over time to share from around the world some masterful works in cinema. However, to kick off this Weekly Movie-Making Moments in Film, I present what I think defines a good film moment i.e. strong characterization, heart-felt expression by the performer, and feeling as if you can truly relate to the scene or film in general. For this first challenge, I am selecting the “poem” scene in the film Chelsea Walls as recited by Rosario Dawson.

Tell me what you think of this moment in the film, and what you think of this concept in general. Do you have a favorite moment or film that has influence you in some way? Please share.

http://youtu.be/NUqRK8bwhwI