Thursday 29 November 2018

My favourite horror films

Generally I don’t consider myself a horror fan. But here are the films I like: 
The Innocents (1961), dir. Jack Clayton 
Eyes Without a Face (1960), dir. Georges Franju 
The Silence of the Lambs (1991), dir. Jonathan Demme 
Psycho (1960), dir. Afred Hitchcock 
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920), dir. Robert Wiene 
Hour of the Wolf (1968), dir. Ingmar Bergman 
Ringu (1998), dir. Hideo Nakata 
The Sixth Sense (1999), dir. M. Night Shyamalan 
The Others (2001), dir. Alejandro Amenábar 
Dead Ringers (1998), dir. David Cronenberg 
Plus a film I don’t know how I feel about: Suspiria (1977), dir. Dario Argento 

In this list, the 1st 2 are probably unusual choices. They are not the films people usually think of when talking about horror films, because they are more than horror—they have deeper meaning and convey something else. The films are eerie and haunting more than terrifying. The Innocents is possibly the most aesthetically pleasing horror film I’ve ever seen (not Suspiria), and among the best films ever made. 

Eyes Without a Face is very poetic—a word that we normally wouldn’t use for a horror film, but watch it and you’ll know what I mean. 
Once in a while I watch a film not in my favourite genres, and get a lovely surprise.

The jokes in Speak, Memory chapter 11

I’m still reading Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, slowly, because of all the other things going on. 
Look at chapter 11: 
“The kind of poem I produced in those days was hardly anything more than a sign I made of being alive, of passing or having passed, or hoping to pass, through certain intense human emotions.
But then, in a sense, all poetry is positional: to try to express one’s position in regard to the universe embraced by consciousness, is an immemorial urge.” 
That’s a good passage. 
And then I came across this line: 
“Vivian Bloodmark, a philosophical friend of mine, in later years, used to say that while the scientist sees everything that happens in one point of space, the poet feels everything that happens in one point of time.” 
I’m reading a copy that has no notes, no annotations. But I caught the joke—Vivian Bloodmark is Vladimir Nabokov, like Vivian Darkbloom in Lolita
It’s the next part that I don’t get: 
“Lost in thought, he taps his knee with his wandlike pencil, and at the same instant a car (New York license plate) passes along the road, a child bangs the screen door of a neighboring porch, an old man yawns in a misty Turkestan orchard, a granule of cinder-gray sand is rolled by the wind on Venus, a Docteur Jacques Hirsch in Grenoble puts on his reading glasses, and trillions of other such trifles occur—all forming an instantaneous and transparent organism of events, of which the poet (sitting in a lawn chair, at Ithaca, N.Y.) is the nucleus.” 
What are these references?

Monday 12 November 2018

The most interesting shots in Jack Clayton’s The Innocents

The Innocents is a masterpiece and it is great in many ways, but the thing that interests me the most is the framing—blocking, framing, and the use of space. 
In the previous post, you could see what could be done with deep focus, in Citizen Kane. Here is the combination of deep focus and CinemaScope. It is terrific. 


Some personal opinions: 
1/ I like deep focus, combined with B&W. 
2/ I prefer B&W to colour. The ultimate B&W films for me are: 
- Persona 
- Citizen Kane 
- 8 ½ 
- Ivan’s Childhood 
- The Earrings of Madame de… 
- The Innocents 
3/ Whatever people say, I still prefer continuity editing and smooth cuts to French New Wave-style jump cuts. And prefer (complicated) long takes to lots of cutting. 
4/ The Innocents is probably the best film to learn from when it comes to blocking and placing multiple actors in the frame. An observation: it seems to be easier to frame when the actors are not looking at each other. I’m also thinking of the juxtaposed faces in Ingmar Bergman’s films.

Wednesday 7 November 2018

The most interesting shots in Citizen Kane

To steal in the future. 
Orson Welles is probably the best director to learn from, in terms of staging and framing.