Claymation and Stop Motion films

We often enjoy animated films because of the beautiful artwork that goes into them.  Companies such as Pixar and Disney, as well as Studio Ghibli in Japan, are well-known for their excellent storytelling through animation.  However, there are other types of  animation that are just as amazing and innovative, such as claymation and stop motion films.  With these films, the creators hand-make the set pieces and the characters and spend hours upon hours moving the pieces to create shots for the film.  It is an extremely detailed and time-consuming work.  In honor of those creators, I would like to present a list of five films that exclusively use claymation and/or stop motion.

  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

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Bored with the same old scare and scream routine, Pumpkin King Jack Skellington longs to spread the joy of Christmas. But his merry mission puts Santa in jeopardy and creates a nightmare for good little boys and girls everywhere.

  1. Fantastic Mr. Fox

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Mr. and Mrs. Fox live a happy home life underground with their eccentric son Ash. Mr. Fox works as a journalist, but against the advice of Badger, his attorney, he moves his family into a larger and finer home inside a tree on a hill. The treehouse has an excellent view of the nearby farms of Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Ash becomes hostile when his cousin, Kristofferson, joins the family for an extended stay. Mr. Fox decides to raid the farms, but this leads the farmers to stakeout the treehouse. The farmers try to dig the Fox family out, but they dig even faster. Mr. Fox organizes a tunneling project to burrow under all three farms and steal all the chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys.

  1. Coraline

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A young girl walks through a secret door that she has found in her new home and discovers an alternate version of her life. On the surface, this parallel reality is eerily similar to her real life, but much better. When her adventure turns dangerous, and her counterfeit parents, including the Other Mother, try to keep her forever, Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination, and bravery to get back home and save her family.

  1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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Christmas will be cancelled unless Santa can find a way to guide his sleigh through a blizzard.

  1. The Boxtrolls

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A community of quirky, mischievous creatures who have lovingly raised an orphaned human boy named Eggs in the amazing cavernous home they’ve built beneath the streets of Cheesebridge. When the town’s villain, Archibald Snatcher, comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls, Eggs decides to venture above ground, ‘into the light,’ where he meets and teams up with fabulously feisty Winnie. Together, they devise a daring plan to save Eggs’ family.

Bonus: All of these titles are available at Media Services!

 

-Alanna Dawley

 

Introduction to Anime

Japanese anime tends to have a reputation in the western world for being wildly “out there” and the only people that tend to like anime are just as wildly “out there.” But anime has a very broad selection of genres that can appeal to anyone, just as western film and TV. And honestly, you have probably already seen some anime that has gained popularity in the west (i.e. Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Inuyasha). For those who are curious about delving deeper into the world of anime, but don’t know how or where to start, here is a list of great anime films and series (separated by genre) to get you started!

Action

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Cowboy Bebop

The futuristic misadventures and tragedies of an easygoing bounty hunter, Spike Spiegel, and his partners. Set in the year 2071, this episodic crime noir begins on the Spaceship Bebop, where Spike’s group of bounty hunters are constantly looking for their next bounty head.

Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe, this series is well-known for it’s cool atmosphere and widely revered soundtrack.

 

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Samurai Champloo

Fuu, a waitress who works in a teahouse, rescues two master swordsmen, Mugen and Jin, from their execution to help her find the “samurai who smells of sunflowers.” The show follows the three as they journey through Edo period Japan in search for this mysterious samurai, all the while getting into trouble everywhere they go.

Another acclaimed series by director Shinichirō Watanabe, Samurai Champloo combines a historic backdrop with modern hip-hop styles and references.

 

Comedy/Slice of Life

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Fruits Basket

After her mother’s death, Tohru Honda finds herself living with the “prince” of her high school, Yuki Sohma, after her tent is destroyed in a landslide. Yuki, along with the rest of the Sohmas have a secret though. When hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they transform into animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Shenanigans ensue and new friendships are formed in this heart-warming series directed by Akitaro Daichi.

 

clannad          afterstory

Clannad & Clannad: After Story

A high school student, Tomoya, who cares little about school or others meets a lonely girl, Nagisa, who had to repeat a year while all her friends finished high school. They become unlikely friends as he helps her to revive the drama club. Making friends along the way, their bond grows deeper and they decide to become a couple. The After Story takes place immediately, where the first “season” ends, following their relationship.

This series (one of my personal favorites) is as hilarious as it is heart-breaking. You learn so much about the characters and their lives. I can’t recommend this series enough. Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara.

 

Psychological/Thriller

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Elfen Lied

University students Kohta and Yuka (Kohta’s cousin) save a girl around their age called when they see her washed up on a beach. They quickly realize this girl, called Lucy, isn’t human. She is a Diclonius that has a escaped from a government facility where she was being studied. Committing mass murder in her escape, the ones responsible are desperate to find her. This proves difficult when her personality is split from a head injury, causing her to shed her violent persona for a clueless girl who doesn’t know what she is. Directed by Mamoru Kanbe.

 

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Ergo Proxy

In a post-apocalyptic future, humans live in peace with androids in a domed city called Romdeau. However, a strange series of murders has intrigued bored inspector Re-L Mayer when it appears robots that have been infected with a virus, causing self-awareness, seem to be responsible. This series, directed by Shukō Murase, has been critically praised for it’s well-paced plot and atmosphere.

 

 

Romance

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Children Who Chase Lost Voices

A coming of age story involving young love. Asuna hears mysterious music coming from a crystal radio, left to her by her absent father, that leads her deep into the hidden world, Agartha.

Beautiful artwork combined with an adventurous plot, this film is a must-see for everyone. Directed by Makoto Shinkai, who has been called “the new Miyazaki.”

 

 

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Garden of Words

A 15-year-old boy and 27-year-old woman find an unlikely friendship one rainy day in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. These two broken pieces come together and heal one another as they learn what it is to walk.

I cannot even begin to describe how amazing the artwork is in this film. If you won’t see it for the story, which is beautiful, then see it for the artwork. You won’t regret it. Also directed by Makoto Shinkai. Surprise, surprise.

 

Drama/Tragedy

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5 Centimeters Per Second

Told in three interconnected segments, we follow a young man named Takaki through his life as cruel winters, cold technology, and finally, adult obligations and responsibility converge to test the delicate petals of love.

Beautiful artwork mixed with a tragic plot about the heart-break of love, this film is another masterpiece directed by Makoto Shinkai.

 

 

Wolf Children

College student Hana falls in love with another student who turns out to be a werewolf. After he dies in an accident with uncertain circumstances, Hana decides to move to the rural countryside where her husband grew up to raise her two werewolf children.

A story about family and understanding, Wolf Children will tug at your heartstrings. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda.

 

 

And, of course, anything created by Studio Ghibli is a must-see…

spiritedaway  poppy  howl

 

 

 

**All movies mentioned above are in our collection at Media Services**

“Feast of Experimental Films #DirectedbyWomen”

women directorsMedia Services will host a buffet of experimental film shorts on Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 6-10pm, in the Wells Library, Hazelbaker Lecture Hall (Room 159).  Founded by IU Cinema staffer Barbara Ann O’Leary, the Directed by Women international film movement calls film lovers everywhere to watch as many films by women directors as possible during a 15 day ‘Worldwide Film Viewing Party’ Sept. 1 to 15.

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Attendees will be treated to fascinating experimental works by local and IU alumni filmmakers to include: Barbara Ann O’Leary, Jülide Etem, Laura Ivins, Marie Ullrich, and Nzingha Kendall to name a few. Other contributing filmmakers include: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Barbara Hammer, Cecilia Barriga, Julie Dash, Lauren Cook, Leslie Raymond, Maureen Blackwood, Nikki Pinney and lots more! We invite you to come share in this movement.

home away from homeThanks to Festival Committee Members: Barbara Ann O’Leary (IU), Monique Threatt (IU), Nzingha Kendall (IU), Joan Hawkins (IU), Russell Sheaffer (NYU), Jeremy Harmon (IU), Laura Ivins (IU), Noelle Griffis (NYU), and Megan R. Brown (IU) for their invaluable contributions to the project.   Light snacks permitted.

Here is a tentative schedule of events. You can view most of the titles on Vimeo. Read more about the #DirectedbyWomen movement here.

Time Title of Film Filmmaker Length
6:00-6:10 Festival Introduction Barbara Ann O’Leary 10
6:11-6:15 Attention to Detail Guides the Dreamer Barbara Ann O’Leary 3.5
6:15-6:19 Ah Augusta Dayton 3.5
6:19-6:22 Inuit High Kick Alethea Arnaquq-Baril 3
6:23-6:27 Menses Barbara Hammer 4
6:27-6:42 Trickle Down Theory of Sorrow Mary Filippo 15
6:42-6:47 Point de Gaze Jodie Mack 5
6:47-7:01 Meeting Two Queens Cecilia Barriga 14
7:01-7:11 Stretch Break 10
7:11-7:16 Blue Diary Jenni Olson 5
7:16-7:18 Subjugate Serendipity and Pride Jülide Etem 2
7:18-7:21 PXXXL Lauren Cook 3
7:21-7:28 Thru the Trees Laura Ivins 7.25
7:28 – 7:30 Autumn Song Nzingha Kendall 2
7:30-8:04 Illusions Julie Dash 34
8:04-8:14 Stretch Break 10
8:14-8:23 Rife w/ Fire Leslie Raymond 8.56
8:23-8:26 Voice Tales Nikki Pinney 2.5
8:26-8:37 Home Away from Home Maureen Blackwood 11
8:37-8:42 Sonnymoon – Wild Rumpus Lauren Santoria 4.53
8:42-8:47 Disappearing France Marie Ullrich 5
8:47-8:55 Amazonia Nandini Sikand 8
8:55-9:05 Stretch Break 10
9:05-9:24 All Water Has a Perfect Memory Natalia Almada 19
9:24-9:53 Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen 29

VRT Announces Outstanding Notable Videos for Adults

The American Library Association (ALA) Video Round Table Notable Videos for Adults Committee has compiled its 2015 list of Notable Videos for Adults, a list of 15 outstanding films released on video within the past two years and suitable for all libraries serving adults. Its purpose is to call attention to recent video releases that make a significant contribution to the world of video. The list is compiled for use by librarians and the general adult populace.

The Notable Videos for Adults committee selected 15 outstanding titles from among 64 nominees for this year’s list of Notable Videos for Adults.

•   The Act of Killing (2013) 122 minutes.  Drafthouse Films.  Available from http://drafthousefilms.com and various distributors.Death squad leaders of the 1965 Indonesian massacres reflect on their crimes and reenact them in the style of Hollywood movies. ~ Media Browsing collection

 •   After Tiller (2013) 88 minutes.  Oscilloscope Laboratories.  Available from http://www.oscilloscope.net/films/ and various distributors. The few remaining doctors performing late term abortions in the United States discuss their chosen profession and look ahead to an uncertain future for reproductive rights. ~ Media Browsing collection

•   Anita: Speaking Truth to Power (2013) 77 minutes.  First Run Features.  Available from https://firstrunfeatures.com and various distributors.  Anita Hill finds her voice as an advocate for women’s rights and gender issues after her testimony at the 1991 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. ~ Media T&R collection, IUPUI

•   Dirty Wars (2013) 86 minutes.  IFC Films.  Available from various distributors. Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill traces the rise of the Joint Special Operations Command, a U.S. covert fighting force, which conducts civilian torture and killings across the globe. ~ Media Browsing collection

 •   Five Broken Cameras (2011) 90 minutes.  Kino Lorber.  Available from http://www.kinolorber.com and various distributors. Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat documents the damage done to each of his five video cameras during nonviolent protests against Israeli settlements. ~ Media Browsing collection

•   Gideon’s Army (2013) 95 minutes.  Third World Newsreel.  Available from http://twn.org  Three dedicated Southern public defenders with staggering caseloads represent indigent clients within a problematic legal system. ~ Media T&R collection

 •   Harvest of Empire (2012) 90 minutes.  Third World Newsreel.  Available from http://twn.org A comprehensive geopolitical picture of the economic and historical realities that have guided waves of Latin American migration to the U.S. ~ Media Browsing collection

 •   Inequality for All (2013) 90 minutes.  Anchor Bay Entertainment.  Available from various distributors. Former U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains the growing chasm between rich and poor and its consequences for American society. ~ Media T&R collection

 •   Internet’s Own Boy (2014) 105 minutes.  Ro*co Films Educational.  Available from http://www.rocoeducational.com and various distributors. This portrait of Aaron Schwartz, programmer and Internet activist, highlights the many contributions and ideas he left behind after his suicide in 2013. ~ Media Browsing collection

 •   Let the Fire Burn (2013) 95 minutes.  Zeitgeist Films.  Available from https://zeitgeistfilms.com and various distributors. An account of the events leading up to the explosive confrontation which decimated the Philadelphia MOVE community, told exclusively through archival news footage. ~ Media Browsing collection

 •   Los Angeles Plays Itself (2014) 169 minutes.  Cinema Guild.  Available from http://cinemaguild.com and various distributors. Los Angeles’ imprint upon the American imagination is examined in this video essay of the city as character and subject in motion pictures.  ~ on order

 •   Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012) 107 minutes.  Docurama.  Available from various distributors. The serial sexual abuse of hundreds of deaf students by a Milwaukee priest exposes patterns of secrecy and denial within the Catholic church hierarchy. ~ Media Browsing collection

 •   Particle Fever (2012) 99 minutes.  Ro*co Films Educational.  Available from http://www.rocoeducational.com An international team of physicists work to complete the Large Hadron Collider to prove the existence of the Higgs boson particle. ~ Media Browsing collection

 •   Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (2013) 92 minutes.  First Run Features.  Available from https://firstrunfeatures.com and various distributors. Expands the history of photographic arts by exploring African American personal identity and representation through family portraits and albums. ~ Media Browsing collection, IUSB

 •   Who is Dayani Cristal? (2013) 85 minutes.  Kino Lorber.  Available from http://www.kinolorber.com and various distributors. Mexican actor and activist Gael Garcia Bernal traces the tragic journey of an illegal immigrant from his Central American village to the Arizona desert. ~ Media Browsing collection

 Be sure to check with the Wells Library Media & Reserve Services for availability of titles.

 

New Titles — November 10th, 2014

Feature Films

death wish

Death Wish

Bronson is an urban liberal who becomes a vigilante in search of the gang of thugs who raped his daughter and raped and murdered his wife.

hidden city

Hidden City

In London, a journalist and a picture researcher uncover a secret from the past and discover hidden aspects of the city.

romance with a double bass

Romance with a double bass

Smychov, a double-bass player, is on his way to play at the betrothal ball of a princess. Arriving at the palace too early on a hot summer’s day, he decides to take a quick skinny-dip in the royal lake. Unbeknownst to him, the Princess has decided to do the same

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November Staff Picks!

 

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Some selections from our No Shave November shelf.

The horror flicks and campy, witchy TV series have been tucked back into the regular browsing stacks. The icy November wind has brought in a gust of new films for your perusal on the Staff Picks shelf, located across from the our front desk, centered around a few seasonal themes.  Here are some featured titles; let us know if you have any suggestions for films you’d like us to include!

Native American Heritage Month:

  • Long Journey Home, a documentary about the former chief of the Delaware tribe in Indiana.
  • Barking Water, a quirky road movie about an elderly native man reconnecting with his family and his past.
  • Up Heartbreak Hill, a PBS documentary following three Navajo teenagers at a reservation high school.

No-Shave November:

Thanksgiving:

  • Pieces of April, a comedy of errors resulting when conservative suburban family’s prodigal daughter hosts their Thanksgiving dinner on the Lower East Side.
  • The Ice Storm, in which two Connecticut families find their lives spiral out of control over Thanksgiving weekend, 1973.
  • Capturing the Friedmans, a documentary about a family torn on Thanksgiving Day apart when the father and youngest son are charged with horrific crimes.

Wild Card:

  • Our fourth and final shelf will rotate weekly and take its theme from a holiday, actor’s birthday, or topical event that falls on that week. This week: it’s Matthew McConaughey’s birthday today, so expect only the rangiest, drawliest films with the most distant stares.

Star-struck: Celebrity, Obsession, and Film. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

American
2007
Andrew Dominik

What American doesn’t at least know the name Jesse James? Hero, thief, badass, murderer there are as many legends surrounding the man as there are opinions. However he was viewed by the public, one thing about Jesse which was indisputable was his fame. He has been the subject of innumerable fictions both during his lifetime and after, which helped generate distorted perceptions of his character. The film seeks to right things and show Jesse James as he really was.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford tells the story of the outlaw’s last days and the life of the man that shot him in the back. He is 34 years old, a family man who lives in the suburbs. Nothing about him says train robber or murderer to the casual observer. He is shown baking with his children or taking leisurely strolls through his neighborhood, the very model of a respectable citizen. Robert Ford is 19, socially awkward, and lives with his head in the clouds. He is shown to be the butt of his brother’s jokes and generally looked down upon by his family. He has a rather unsettling obsession with the James-Younger Gang, and a desire to advance his position in the world by any means necessary.

The film opens on the James Gang’s final robbery, a train job near Blue Cut, Missouri. By now the Younger brothers are all in prison and Jesse and his brother Frank must rely on local hicks for manpower. Robert Ford is among the new recruits. Robert actively seeks out the James brothers and is rebuffed by Frank, but welcomed by Jesse. After the robbery, which yields much less than Jesse expected, Robert is allowed to stay in the outlaw’s house, but only to help Jesse move house. There, he meets a few more of Jesse’s associates, including the womanizing Dick Liddil and Jesse’s arrogant cousin Wood Hite. As the association deepens between the Fords and the Jameses Robert begins to understand what kind of man Jesse really is. Jesse has been made paranoid by his long years as a criminal and suspects that members of his gang might be trying to turn him into the authorities for a bounty.
The Fords managed to avoid any suspicion of this until Jesse’s cousin Wood attacks Dick Liddil, who is staying with them, for sleeping with his stepmother. Robert Ford shoots Wood and the Fords hide his body in a ditch on their property. Figuring it is only a matter of time before Jesse puts two and two together and kills every last one of them to avenge his cousin’s death, the Ford brothers decide to take the state up on their offer of a bounty for Jesse’s capture.

From a cinematographic standpoint, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is probably one of the best shot films of the 2000’s. Long takes are used to show the passage of time and to emphasize the tranquility of the natural setting in direct contrast with the slow-building tension between the characters. Even action scenes are filmed with long takes, eschewing the rapid cuts that films like The Wild Bunch helped to popularize. The pacing of the film is deliberately slow, and events in the plot are presented in an episodic, slice-of-life manner. A narrator is used, generally to provide background information. The narrator’s utility lies in that he grounds the audience in the facts of the situation, reflecting the overall goal of the film: to show the real Jesse James. Also notable is the extensive use of chiaroscuro in its night scenes while daytime scenes use a mixture of harsh sunlight and a restricted pallet to produce a washed-out look, echoing old photographs.

The overall tone of the film is melancholic, with moments of levity mostly supplied by the sometimes witty dialogue of its principle characters. There are also brief instances of black comedy such as the inept shoot-out between Dick Liddil and Wood Hite, where they miss every shot they take despite being only about three feet away from each other. But the centerpiece of the film is its study of the title characters. As we get to know Jesse James and Robert Ford better out disposition towards them becomes a mixture of pity, sympathy, disgust and horror. Jesse in particular is revealed quickly as a psychotic bully whose mean temper leads him to cruelly beat a recalcitrant railroad official within an inch of his life and later torture a teenage boy for information on the whereabouts of a gang member he suspects of plotting against him. However, he is humanized by his clear love for his family and is worn so thin by his paranoia and fear that he’s just a shell of man. Robert fidgets his way through most of his early scenes and any attempt he makes to assert himself is dismissed. Everything from his shyness to his reliance of fantasy to his desire for greatness speaks of a deep-seated self-hatred, and all of his mannerisms seem slightly off. He is capable of being quite cold-blooded, a sterling example being when he calmly shoots Wood Hite through the head.

In terms of celebrity, Jesse is a man trapped by his own legend while Robert is an obsessive fan who cannot see Jesse clearly at first. When he finally does, he sees the real Jesse James cannot live up to his legend. When Robert finally kills Jesse out of fear and resentment he briefly becomes a legend himself, but the nation’s love of Jesse James warps Robert’s public Image into conniving back-shooter. Robert is ultimately destroyed after a lifetime of humiliation in a similar manner to Jesse, shot in the back by a deranged loner with a hatred of Robert’s legend. In many ways Robert is a stand in for the American public (and by extension, the audience), we are right beside him as Jesse’s legend is torn down. Unlike Diva, when what is beneath the publicity is revealed the fan can find nothing to love. Understanding is still reached in this case, but to understand a career criminal like Jesse James is to fear him.

The Necessary Film and What it Means

When I was 19, I had very strong feelings about the 1997 Harmony Korine film Gummo. The film presents a fictionalized Ohio town, ravaged by tornado, drugs, poverty, and other cruelties, in a loose barrage of vignettes, some characters recurring and some appearing in raw visceral glimpses like sideshow performers seen through a tear in the tent. And a sideshow of depravity it is–twin skinheads beating each other up over shoes, barely pubescent boys killing neighborhood cats for money and huffing glue, toddlers in cowboy suits screaming obscenities in a junkyard, a murdered grandmother in an iron lung and her tremulously effeminate, be-mulleted grandson, a toe-less albino with a Patrick Swayze obsession–alternately shot on Hi-8 video, dizzying 8mm and 16mm amateur handhelds, and on 35mm with hypnotic fever dream virtuosity by French cinematographer Jean Yves Escoffier.

I had a poster the size of a pool table on my dorm room wall, and I could (and still can) quote it front to back.

It was also what I’ll call my Necessary Film: if someone wanted to date me, they had to watch Gummo and like it. To like me they had to like the dead cats, the gap-toothed rabbit boy with the accordion, the grinding death metal and warbling Roy Orbison soundtrack: all of it

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Star-struck: Celebrity, obsession, and film. Diva

This is the first in a series of film reviews I am writing for the library blog. I will usually do these in groups of three movies which I feel are thematically related. For my first three I’ll focus on films about the strange unrequited love that celebrities inspire in their most intense fans. It’s a trip that will span from the (relatively) innocent to the downright sinister, and even into the completely psychotic. I am excited to go on this journey with you and hope you’ll enjoy it as we travel the strange world of a fan’s obsession
 

Diva

French
1981
Jean-Jacques Beineix

Beineix’s highly stylized thriller Diva was in many ways the inaugural film of the French Cinema du look movement that would come to define popular film in western Europe throughout the eighties and early nineties. The core aesthetic principles of cinema du look were its emphasis on intricately crafted yet sensational visuals and a general foregoing of substance in favor of style. In more action heavy films, such as Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, this translated into complicated chase or fight sequences while in quieter (for the style) films like Diva romantic or dramatic scenes would rely on deliberately overblown visual cues. In terms of social themes, cinema du look tended explore the idea of close-knit groups of friends being the primary support system for the characters rather than the traditional family. One could argue that this was a return to the exuberance of the French New Wave after the depressing realist cinematic movement of the seventies.

Diva’s plot is not particularly complicated, at least no more so than any other thriller. A young Parisian mailman called Jules happens to be an opera fan obsessed with the titular diva, Cynthia Hawkins. Hawkins is famous for both her virtuosity and the fact that she never makes recordings. One night she gives a recital in Paris, singing the aria Ebben? ne andro Iontano from Catalini’s La Wally, which Jules secretly records. However, matters are complicated when Jules also comes into possession of a recording which implicates a high-level police official in a prostitution ring. Meanwhile Jules also makes the acquaintance of a French-Vietnamese girl named Alba and, though her, a mysterious bohemian known only as M. Gorodish. The police official is frantically searching for the tape, and Jules soon has a pair of ruthless hitmen dogging his trail as well as a pair of Taiwanese gangsters who have learned of his pirate recording of Hawkins’s performance and wish to acquire it. Despite the danger growing around him, Jules attempts to take his adoration of Cynthia Hawkins to the next level be introducing himself to the singer. She is initially repulsed but is then bemused at the idea of having a fan like Jules and a romance of sorts develops between the two. As the hunt for the incriminating tape intensifies, Jules must rely on Alba and Gorodish to help him disentangle himself from the precarious web of intrigue he has fallen into.

As a story Diva leans on the contrivances of the thriller genre with a certain degree of self-awareness. Combined with a wonderful verve, means that nothing comes off as forced and there is a freshness to the entire enterprise. The pacing is careful and deliberate. Each facet of the story is resolved with a sort of quirky elegance that only the most careful attention to plotting can make possible. Visually the film makes a very effective use of its muted color palette, at its most dynamic creating a world of greens and blues against black and grey backgrounds. Colors are used as a way of cueing viewers in to the nature of a scene with greens used to suggest danger or malicious intent and blues used to suggest safe havens in the darkness. Romantic or joyous scenes are often attended with a veritable riot of color. The characters are more than well-written enough to hold the viewer’s interest, aided in no small part by the performances given by their respective actors. Jules is portrayed as an eccentric dropout whose sincerity and conscience ultimately transcends his rather creepy obsession with Cynthia Hawkins and allows actual love to take hold between them. Alba and M. Gorodish steal each scene they appear in. Alba manages to be both fey and brash, and seems to coyly dance her way through each scene, M. Gorodish is played as an almost enlightened figure whose whimsy is more than a match for Alba’s. Cynthia Hawkins is sympathetic and believable as a successful artist trying to hold true to her principles as the world changes around her. Special mention goes to the character of the assassin Curé, who brings a deadpan menace every time he slouches into a scene.

Diva uses the relationship between Jules and Cynthia to explore the often one-sided and anonymous love that a particularly passionate fan has for a performer or a celebrity. In this case we begin with Jules’ immature obsession with Cynthia. In the beginning she is only partially real for Jules, almost like a distant star: unreachable but somehow casting her twinkling light into his life. As their relationship develops Jules actually gets to know the real Cynthia and the fantasy he has built up around her begins to crumble. When the recording Jules has made of her concert apparently falls into the hands of the Taiwanese gangsters, who plan to copy and sell the recording with or without the diva’s consent, Jules realizes that his selfishness has brought actual harm. It is only after he returns the recording to Cynthia and admits his mistake that the diva and her fan are able to truly relate to one another. The film closes with Jules and Cynthia embracing on an empty stage, while the pirate recording plays in the background.

Laughs Of The Decades: A History Of Comedy In Film

Comedy has always been not only one of our most popular forms of entertainment, but has also acted as a vehicle for social and cultural commentary, a reflection of the good and bad in society, and a way for individuals to diffuse the hardships of existence with an hour or so of uninhibited laughter.

The subversive nature of comedy can be traced all the way back to some of its earliest stars. Charlie Chaplain became well-known for his outspoken political views. Indeed, he paid a steep price for this, as his political views were seen by many as radical at the time, leading to his eventual exile from the U.S. Though he eventually re-entered the country to be honored at the Academy Awards in 1972, the controversy permanently damaged his relationship with the nation.

The power of comedy didn’t buckle to societal pressures. With the 60s emerged a revitalized interest in the incorporation of social and political commentary into comedic film. It became commonplace for films to incorporate sensitive social and cultural issues, using comedy to make statements about them. Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, parodied the Cold War mindset of the time, pointing out the absurdity of the concept of mutually assured destruction, bringing us memorable one-liners like “No fighting in the war room!” Similarly, The Graduate commented on the rapidly changing sexual attitudes of the time, presenting sexuality in a groundbreaking and up-front manner that was considered incredibly provocative at the time.

Social and cultural subversiveness in film carried on into the 1970s, with films such as  Catch-22, which continued to communicate an anti-war message. The lampoons of satirical film extended beyond just social and cultural concepts, but to other films, with the advent of parody. Directors such as Mel Brooks helped pioneer the parody genre of film, releasing films such as Young Frankenstein.  

The premiere of Saturday Night Live in 1975 was a pivotal moment in the comedy industry, bringing the subversive ideals of comedy film to television. Simultaneously, numerous new faces entered the realm of standup comedy. Eventually, comedians such as Richard Pryor, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Steve Martin and many more who found there start in stand-up and on SNL would go on to prosper in the film industry, spawning such classics as Animal House, Harlem Nights, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, The Jerk, and numerous others.

The parody genre went on to spawn other highly influential parodies, such as the 1980 disaster film spoof, Airplane!, which is considered by many to be the quintessential, fast-paced gag and spoof-based film. As the 80s carried on, however, comedy began to evolve drastically.

The 1990s saw a continued evolution of the comedy genre, with a renewed interest in romantic comedies. Films such as When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle helped usher in a new wave of films which incorporated both romantic and comedic elements.

Comedy today is much different than it once was. Like any other art form, it evolves with time. 2001’s Zoolander was a fan-favorite, and developed a cult following, but its release, only weeks following the tragic attacks of 9/11, severely impacted its commercial success. In some ways, Zoolander can be seen as a bookend to an era of comedy film known as “joke-based comedy.” Films such as The Hangover and I Love You Man, pioneered a different approach to comedy, deriving humor from the journeys of characters, and plot-driven, relatable situations.

What’s in store next for this pivotal genre of entertainment? Will the new era of jokeless comedy continue define the genre? Will we get something entirely new? Only time will tell…

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