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Posts Tagged ‘cinema

“Film lovers are sick people”*…

 

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An overview of how film works, the different types of film, and its place in the world of modern digital storytelling…

* François Truffaut

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As we tell truth at 24 frames per second, we might send beautifully-composed birthday greetings to Stanley Kubrick; he was born on this date in 1928.  A renown film director, screenwriter, producer,cinematographer, and editor, Kubrick got his start as a teenaged photographer for Look Magazine.  In 1950, he made the move to cinema, going on to direct 16 films, produce 11, write 13, shoot 5, and edit 4– among them, Lolita (1962) and Dr. Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971)Barry Lyndon (1975), The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987), and Eyes Wide Shut (1999).  most of his films were nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes, and/or BAFTA Awards.

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Written by LW

July 26, 2016 at 1:01 am

“TELEPHONE n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance”*…

 

Christian Marclay’s “Telephones” (1995), a 7 1/2-minute compilation of brief Hollywood film clips that creates a narrative of its own. These linked-together snippets of scenes involve innumerable well-known actors such as Cary Grant, Tippi Hedren, Ray Milland, Humphrey Bogart and Meg Ryan, who dial, pick up the receiver, converse, react, say good-bye and hang up. In doing so, they express a multitude of emotions–surprise, desire, anger, disbelief, excitement, boredom–ultimately leaving the impression that they are all part of one big conversation. The piece moves easily back and forth in time, as well as between color and black-and-white, aided by Marclay’s whimsical notions of continuity…

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More on “Telephones” here; and on Marclay, here.

And as a bonus, this from burgerfiction.com:

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* Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

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As we check caller ID, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that Charles F. Jenkins was the first to use city telephone lines to transmit a facsimile photo from 1519 Connecticut Ave in Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Navy Radio Station NOF at Anacostia– a demonstration for representatives of U.S.Navy and the Post Office Dept.  (Earlier in the year, on June 11, a photograph had been sent by radio across the Atlantic from Rome to Bar Harbor, Maine.)

Jenkins is better remembered as a pioneer of early cinema and one of the inventors of television– he racked up over 400 patents, mostly in those fields– and as the recipient of the first commercial television license.

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Written by LW

October 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life”*…

 

From The Great Train Robbery, 1903

In 1888, Thomas Edison wrote that “I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear, which is the recording and reproduction of things in motion.” The system was comprised of the Kinetograph, a motion picture camera, and a Kinetoscope, a motion picture viewer, and was mostly created by Edison’s assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson. (The system was likely inspired by the zoopraxiscope created by photographer—and murderer!—Eadweard Muybridge to show off his motion photographs.) Early films from the Edison Manufacturing Co. showed off “actualities”: celebrities, news, disasters, and expositions. But later, the company switched to creating narrative films more in line with what we watch at the movies today…

These earliest films, often a minute or two in length,  could be purchased for $6.60 (about $169 in today’s currency).  But readers can see a selection of Edison’s early essays, streamed for free, at “10 Early Films Made by Edison’s Movie Company.”

* Federico Fellini

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As search for the concession stand, we might recall that it was on this date in 1732 that Louis Timothee (sometimes rendered “Lewis Timothy”) became the first salaried librarian in the American Colonies. A printer and protégé of Benjamin Franklin’s, Timothee served as the part-time librarian for the Library Company of Philadelphia, one of Franklin’s first philanthropic projects, from its founding on July 1, 1731.  As the project took hold, Timothee’s position was elevated to a full-time, paid position.

The Library Company of Phildelphia

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Written by LW

November 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams”*…

 

From Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker

Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) firmly positioned himself as the finest Soviet director of the post-War period. But his influence extended well beyond the Soviet Union.  The Cahiers du cinéma consistently ranked his films on their top ten annual lists. Ingmar Bergman went so far as to say, “Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.” And Akira Kurosawa acknowledged his influence too, adding, “I love all of Tarkovsky’s films. I love his personality and all his works. Every cut from his films is a marvelous image in itself”…

Now one can watch Tarkovsky’s features (and a trio of shorts) online– and for free.  Find the links in this chronological listing or among Open Culture’s collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

* Ingmar Bergman on Andrei Tarkovsky, in Laterna Magica (The Magic Lantern : An Autobiography).

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As we slip into the dream state, we might send mysterious birthday greetings to Robert Bruce Montgomery; he was born on this date in 1921.  A respected composer of “serious” of vocal and choral music and of film scores under his own name, he is perhaps better remembered by his pen name, Edmund Crispin.  As Crispin (a name he took from Michael Innes’ Hamlet, Revenge), he wrote nine marvelous mystery novels and two collections of short stories, all featuring amateur detective Gervaise Fen, an eccentric Oxford don.  Your correspondent’s favorite is The Moving Toyshop— but they’re all a treat:  a mixture of Innes**, John Dickson Carr, and the Marx Brothers.  After retiring from whodunits, Crispin edited several mystery collections and science-fiction anthologies– with no apologies or excuses for presenting SciFi as a legitimate form of writing– an iconoclastic attitude in the 1950s.

** “Michael Innes” was itself a pseudonym, the pen name of Oxford literary critic and scholar J. I. M. Stewart

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Written by LW

October 2, 2014 at 1:01 am

Hair today…

This outrageous display of facial hair configurations made an appearance at the 4th Annual National Beard and Mustache Championships in New Orleans earlier this month. Luckily Las Vegas-based photographer Greg Anderson was on-hand to give us a front-row seat as the bizarre spectacle of facial hair paraded in front of his camera lens.

The championships involved some 150 contestants from the U.S., U.K., and Canada who competed in 17 different categories. If this isn’t enough, here’s a giant gallery of 164 portraits from the event.

From This Is Colossal

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As we think on tonsorial temerity, we might send illuminated birthday greetings to Louis Lumière; he was born on his date in 1864.  The son of a portrait painter who added photography to his repertoire, Louis joined with his brother Auguste to pioneer cinema.  Their father returned in 1894 from a trip to the U.S. where he’d been enchanted by Edison’s kinetoscope.  The brothers (who’d already pioneered new darkroom techniques for still photography) were excited…  until they understood that Edison’s display could only be seen by a single viewer at a time.  Louis envisioned something different: a projected image that could be shared by an audience, in the same way that audiences share a play.  With his brother’s help, Lumière designed the Cinematograph, a self-contained camera and projector that used a clawed-gear to advance sprocketed film. It was the first apparatus for making and showing films to audiences in a way that would be recognizable today as “going to the movies”; thus the Lumière brothers are often credited as inventors of the motion picture.  In any case, the principle at work in the Cinematograph was the principle used in movie cameras and projectors for more than a century afterwards.

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Written by LW

October 5, 2013 at 1:01 am

Traduttore, traditore…

 

Over at the always-fascinating Langage Log, Victor Mair responds to an amusing– but as he points out, slightly misleading– piece in The Daily Mail.  In “Lost in translation: Hilarious advice signs from foreign airports… where their English leaves a little to be desired,” The Mail features a series of Asian signs awkwardly, if not entirely incorrectly, translated– like this one:

But as Mair observes, some of the signs featured are perhaps even more amusing, precisely because they are perfectly accurately translated:

Though the English may sound strange, neither of these signs is mistranslated. That’s what the Chinese really says:

       yóuyú mǒuxiē yuányīn yánwù 由于某些原因延误
“delayed due to some reasons”

       wénmíng jīchǎng 文明机场
“civilized airport”

These two signs are examples of what might be called “un-Chinglish”. Technically, their “lost” quality is due not to mistranslation but to unfamiliarity with the sociocultural expectations of the circumstances in which they are found…

… which is all just to remind us that the world is even more wonderfully weird than we know.

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As we treasure our phrasebooks, we might send epic birthday greetings to a man whose work transcended translation, Akira Kurosawa; he was born on this date in 1910.  One of the most influential filmakers in cinema history, he directed 30 films in a 57 year career.  His Rashomon, a surprise Golden Lion winner at Venice in 1950, went on to commercial success in Europe and the U.S., opening those markets to Japanese film.  He went on to make such masterpieces as Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954), Yojimbo (1961), Kagemusha (1980), and Ran (1985)… a body of work for which he won essentially every major film award offered in Japan, Europe, and the U.S., including a Lifetime Achievement Oscar (1990).

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Written by LW

March 23, 2013 at 1:01 am

And in conclusion…

The final image in Russ Meyer’s epic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Monte Patterson has done us the terrific service of creating The Final Image, a Tumblr that collects– yes!– the final images of films.  And by way of context, he’s included an illustrative introduction…

… Let’s examine the mise-en-scène of Big (1988, dir. Penny Marshall). After experiencing the age of 30 for a week, Josh, back a boy again, walks up a road with his best friend, Billy, much like the beginning, except this time new meaning is attached. The road seems wide and endless as it inclines out of the top-right quadrant of the frame, symbolizing the big road ahead for the boy. After a Josh reverts to his child form and is reunited with his best friend Billy. From these details, we can compile a list of the formal elements that comprise the mise-en-scène of this final image.

Formal elements of the Big final image:

  • composition: wide shot
  • subject framing: lower center
  • sets: residential street
  • props: bicycle, baseball bat, skateboard
  • actors: adolescent boys, one who has lived as a 30 y.o.
  • performance: the boys sing and leisurely walk up the street
  • costumes: kids clothing, shirts untucked
  • lighting: daytime, sunny
  • camera movement: fixed
  • sound: diegetic ambient, non-expository dialogue, film score

This list is the formula for a satisfactory emotional outcome of this film. As Josh ascends the road, we are happy he has returned home, and are aware of the wisdom he’s gained from what he experienced as an adult.

More of the essay, and many more final images at The Final Image.

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As we compose ourselves,we might recall that it was on this date in 1880 that Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first wireless telephone message on his newly invented photophone from the top of the Franklin School in Washington, D.C.  Bell believed that the photophone, a device allowed the transmission of sound on a beam of light, was his most important invention.

Bell’s photophone worked by projecting the voice through an instrument toward a mirror. Vibrations in the voice caused similar vibrations in the mirror. Bell directed sunlight into the mirror, which captured and projected the mirror’s vibrations. The vibrations were transformed back into sound at the receiving end of the projection…  which is to say that the photophone functioned similarly to the telephone, except that the photophone used light as a means of projecting the information and the telephone relied on electricity.

It was many years before the significance of Bell’s work was fully recognized, as the original photophone failed to protect transmissions from outside interferences (such as clouds) that disrupted transport.  Its practical application awaited the development of technology for the secure transport of light… which is to say that Bell’s photophone was the progenitor of modern fiber optics, the technology that is, with wireless, displacing Bell’s much more famous creation.

 One of Bell’s drawing for the photophone (source)

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