Six Clichés We May Not Even Recognise

Clichés of the future Recently, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the future. It’s very strange that in 80 years, people may look back on some of the films of today as overly stylised – a product of the period. That’s indicative of the credit crunch one critic might say; Obama’s election influenced that another might add. It’s also strange to imagine that scenes, characters and events may be regarded as clichés in times to come; perhaps even be spoofed in the cinema of tomorrow. So, in honour of future film making, I present 5 cliches which I feel will epitomise the last ten or so years of Hollywood cinema .5. The head in the bath scene.We’ve all seen it. Even Britney did it in that music video with the paparazzi and the ambulances. Wrestling with inner turmoil, depression or drug addiction, the protagonist takes a bath and submerges their head under the water and stares up – directly up into the camera. There’s something suicidal about it, but also something pointless. I only put my head under the water to wash my hair.4. Psycho Exes.Congreve told us that ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ but cinema adds that ‘hell hath no fury like an ex who’s undergone psychological trauma and died.’ Leonardo De Caprio’s last two films are all about the horrors of dead exes; whether it be the haunting madness of his murderous wife in Shutter Island or the inescapable, mindshattering, psychological terrors of a French lady in Inception. For Exhibit C, I give you Scott Pilgrim VS the World, a cavalcade of psycho exes.3. Poor architectural planning.If Cinema has done anything for science, it has taught man that anything can explode. We now know that most buildings contain one section, at least, which is so explosive that the slightest spark could cause the next Chernobyl. If that doesn’t work then an unnecessary set of ninjas armed with a time bomb will suffice right? And even without the ninjas things can still collapse, flood or melt. Why follow the actual storyline, when you can change Vesper’s suicide into a race for survival in a collapsing/flooding Venetian palace with broken lifts? Yes Casino Royale I’m looking at you.2. Not so CPRWhile we’re slating Casino Royale did anybody notice that Bond’s CPR was rubbish? It was more like one last fondle than a life-saving first aid practice. Vesper’s last thoughts were probably ‘is that it? Aren’t you supposed to keep going a lot longer than this scene allows for?’ CPR sometimes puts the Casual in Casualty with doctors hilariously punching the pulp out of a plastic dummy. Just so nobody reading this does a Daniel Craig in a real situation and ends up neglectfully killing somebody, CPR is supposed to be done until circulation is restored or the body is pronounced dead by a professional, not for 10 seconds with feeling.1. Manhattan lifestyle.I abhor this cliché. Romantic comedies seem to thrust it in my face repeatedly. Everything is set in affluent areas, nice flats, huge houses, fashionable bars, everybody has some kind of job in publishing or journalism in offices which don’t look like offices with psycho bosses that give you crazy assignments like ‘go undercover in a high school AS A STUDENT.’ If I see one more awkward romance begin in an lift I may die.Callum Haire

Image credit- David Iliff 

  

Around the World in 50 Films: #4 Belgium - Jeanne Dielman

'Those with patience and an appreciation of the art will be rewarded with a cinematic experience like few others.' Why I chose this: I am a huge fan of a number of directors who have been clumped under the so-called Contemporary Contemplative Cinema aesthetic. Chantal Akerman falls under the same banner, but is a director who's works I am unfamiliar with. I put off watching Jeanne Dielman due to its length and reputation, but felt that the empty Belgium review was calling for it.I like to think when I'm watching films. If I'm not thinking, I often grow bored and fidgety. Films can generally get away with not making me think if they have a particularly excellent atmosphere, but generally I like them to present an interesting matter, explore it and move at a pace slow enough for me to digest the content and mull over it. It is for this reason that where many would see Jeanne Dielman as the most boring, pretentious "film" they know of (perhaps rivalled only by Sátántangó), I see it as a beautiful, hypnotic and cerebral work of art.Coming in at a whopping 3 1/2 hours, Jeanne Dielman is as heavy on your schedule as it is light on plot. The hours we witness map over three days in the titular character's boring, sterile life as she washes dishes, polishes shoes, makes dinner and turns the odd trick to bring in some money. Most of these events play out in real-time, shot with a static camera, and are repeated with slight variation over the diegetic days. Viewers who aren't used to the glacial, contemplative style of film-makers such as Tarr, Sokurov and Weerasethakul will most likely feel bored, frustrated and alienated by the pace and ultra-subtle thematic explorations, but those with patience and an appreciation of the art will be rewarded with a cinematic experience like few others.There is a very good reason for the painful presentation of the content. The normality of the tasks which Jeanne executes coupled with the pace heightens the viewer's awareness to the small details of her life and the small variations over the days. Where someone forgetting to turn on a light in the hallway wouldn't even register to the audience in most films, here it is a huge red warning light of things to come.Akerman's main aim is to depict the unrelenting tedium which many women become trapped in (or did in 1975). It is not only Jeanne who is a victim of this; the old woman in the post office and cashier in the shop where replacement potatoes are bought both seem to be in the same near-comatose state. It is suggested that decisions for these women are largely made by other more vital people, most obviously in the butcher-shop conversation and Jeanne's meatloaf. Although viewers may disagree with either the content or the way in which Jeanne deals with it, the way Akerman puts across her message is still impressive.Delphine Seyrig is wonderful as always and a rather interesting choice. On one level, Seyrig has always been a women's rights activist, so it is both ironic and fitting that she plays the role of Jeanne. On another, this woman who has been described as the thinking-man's sex symbol is reduced to the most painfully normal woman possible. Also interesting to note (or at least it was when I was on a particularly abstract thought train during the film) is the difference in the treatment of time between this film, where it is concrete and hyper-real, and some of Seyrig's other films, such as Last Year at Marienbad and Daughters of Darkness, where it is transparent and out of reach.Jeanne Dielman is a very esoteric film, but those which can appreciate the deliberate pace and subtle build-up may find a new favourite.Also recommended from Belgium:Man Bites DogRosetta

 Simon Brand

Image credit - tintincai

Around the World in 50 Films: #3 Brazil - Black God, White Devil (1964)

Simon Brand gets to grips with the 1964 film Number three, exciting times. Something a bit different this time.Why I chose this: Because it would be boring if I liked every film I reviewed for this series. Also because I want an outlet for ranting about how bad this film was and this series was lying around, unsuspecting. Enjoy.I am a very open-minded person. I also tend to see the good in things, be it people, food or film. I can generally look past the flaws in a work if it really has something to it and pride myself on being able to take something from almost every picture I watch. This film was complete and utter rubbish. Let me tell you why.I was looking forward to watching this film all summer while I was back home. I saw it described as a mystical, visually stunning and hugely original take on the Western genre. This sounded very much like El Topo - one of my favourites - so I was very much interested in seeing it. As happens with most of the films I stumble across, it was quickly lost in my vast watchlist, popping up at me whenever I trawled through it and making me more eager to get a chance to watch it. I noticed that it was available at the University library, so decided to wait and take it out after the holidays. After returning to my studies and settling in, I saw it on the shelves of the University's collection and instantly grabbed it. I watched it the same day and was dismayed to find that it wasn't so much a film, rather than a series of scenes made specifically for the purpose of mutilating my brain cells and making my eyes bleed.Almost every review I have read describes the film as a visual feast, or cinematographical masterpiece. I'm sure they must have watched El Topo instead and mistaken it for a similar film. The cinematography was a mess of amateurish fast pans, random zooms and shaky handheld camerawork where it didn't make sense. When the camera was put in one place and held there, some moments of beauty shone through, but they were then promptly defecated on by a zoom to half of someone's face.The editor on the film is called Rafael Valverde. I have concluded that Mr. Valverde is, in fact, a drunk Edward Scissorhands. I can find no other logical explaination for the random cuts, arbitrary scene endings and general lack of coherence present in this insult to film-making.The sound effects team were obviously tourists who happened to be passing by one day. I counted two different sound effects for gunshots (which there are a lot of). If Wikipedia is to be trusted, the director was 25 when he began writing and directing the film. Some simple calculations gives the conclusion that the film was around 7 years in production. The credits list a foley artist for the film. For these numbers to work, he must have spent around two hours working and seven years picking his nose, laughing at the actors or working on a film worth the time spent watching it.Speaking of laughing at actors. I spent a fair amount of time doing this as soon as Corisco - a bandit with a God complex - shows up. Three moments in particular demonstrate perfectly his skill at ruining a scene. The first is a tender moment when he seems to connect with a young girl in his entourage. They circle each other, the camera circles the other way, the music swells and they move in to kiss. He then proceeds to rub his beard all over her mouth and tries to eat her face. A second, where he and his cowherd-turned-bandit compatriot are discussing morals and other characters. It was one of the few scenes in the film which felt right. The camera stayed still on a well-composed frame of barren wasteland, the dialogue was meaningful and the plot seemed to be making sense. Suddenly, Corisco takes great offense at something his friend says and jumps towards the camera, arms flailing with all the tone and subtlety of an ape on acid and shouts "LIES!". Everything the scene built up to is instantly torn down in one masterful moment of awfulness. The third and most glaringly horrible is his death (oh yeah, spoilers, I hope by now I've convinced you not to see the film). Shot to the sound of the same bullet as near everyone else in the film, he stays standing and - I'm not joking here - tosses his arms out like Rose in Titanic and spins around for a bit. He then falls to the ground and I cheer internally, hoping that we are now near the close of the film.The really sad thing about this film is that I can tell the filmmakers tried to accomplish something here. There are interesting themes and profound dialogue hidden somewhere in the gruesome mess which point to the framework of an excellent film.Simon Brand Recommended from Brazil:Not thisBlack Orpheus City of God Pixote Central Station

Image credit - Andre Maceira

Melancholia (2011)

Don't you hate when an alien planet ruins your wedding? If you were Justine from Melancholia, you’d have a tough time. A creepy boss, divorced parents, strained sibling relations, apocalyptic nightmares; tough times indeed. And that’s before a rogue super-earth called Melancholia decides to crash your wedding.Lars von Trier’s new film is nothing if not surprising. With a synopsis that sounds like The Wedding Crashers directed by an insane astrophysicist and a somewhat misleading trailer featuring a melting golf course and killer wool I wasn’t sure what to expect. I spent at least half of the film waiting for the aliens to arrive.What you get here though is not aliens and (unfortunately) not killer wool. Melancholia is in fact a searing study of depression and a modern take on celestial apocalypse. The film begins, like most medieval apocalypses, with a vision of the forthcoming destruction of Earth. We see each portent of the apocalypse as a spectacular slow-motion photograph: birds will plunge from the sky, a mother and son will sink into a nuclear sludge, a child will sharpen a stick in fear. The message is simple: the end is nigh and even our most primitive instincts can do nothing to save us.The film's subsequent events do nothing to wane the wounding horror of this prophecy. Justine’s wedding reception is pretty much a cavalcade of self-inflicted awkward and disastrous events. The sheer drama of things means that Melancholia veers close to farce here:  Justine's sister Claire’s husband unreasonably rants at Justine about the expense of having the reception in his house when in reality hiring a venue would have been much costlier. A scene in which the mother of the bride gives her speech at the reception, damning the institution of marriage from behind the folds of a massive blue tie-dye T-shirt also seems unlikely in its venom. Why did she even attend?The film’s second half is where things really get going. As Melancholia approaches we are encouraged to view the prospective reactions of the humans on earth, the panic of Claire and the calm acceptance of Justine. Dunst’s days are done as arm-accessory Mary-Jane in Spiderman; here she is fatalistic, scarred and dramatic. One can’t help but think of space opera when Claire finds Dunst bathing naked under the ethereal glow of the approaching planet like something out of a sci-fi geek’s  wildest fantasies.In fact rather a lot of the film feels spacey. Because of the lack of 20th century reference and ambiguous location it’s often difficult to place things in time and space, thus increasing the crushing sense of isolation in Justine’s depression. If it weren’t for the cars and clothes Melancholia could have taken place literally on another planet: scenes in the country manor golf course seem oddly futuristic, conversations and interactions are tinted with a freaky yellow glow and cars reversing are reduced to red lights shrinking into the darkness. The location of the film also invites speculation; despite the American accents, there is something very British about the idea of an overcast country manor wedding with stables, golf course and a butler. Surprisingly the film was filmed in neither: it was shot in Sweden.This speculation is exactly what director von Trier wants and succeeds in; you leave the cinema desperate to relate to somebody the horrifying magnitude of whatever the hell it was you just saw. I won’t spoil the ending but it is the only time in my life that I have thought that, perhaps, a wedding could be a more socially divisive collision of worlds than an interplanetary apocalypse. I feel that these crazy conclusions are exactly what Trier wants the viewer to have; Melancholia is in fact a film that screams for speculation, interpretation and analysis and the splitting of its two halves only encourages comparison between them. There is also something painful about the denial you go through as a member of the audience: its impossible to explain why without revealing the end, but Melancholia is a film as much about your reactions and thought processes as it is the characters’. All in all I loved it. But I wish there had been more of the killer wool. Callum Haire 

Image credit - 55Laney69

Around the World in 50 Films: #1 Sweden - Persona (1966)

Around the world in 50 films

This review marks the first of many to come. I have set myself an aim to watch andreview a film from as many countries as possible for the St. Andrews Award andmy own pleasure. The initial target is fifty, but that may increase dependingon how I feel.

Tracing my love for foreign, artistic and generally weird films back to one pictureleads me to Ingmar Bergman's Persona. I took this out of the University libraryon a whim after an online recommendation and was awestruck from the initialmontage. It seems a perfect choice for my first review, so here commences myepic journey around the world of film.

Bergman has made a great number of influential, complex and beautiful films, butPersona stands among the most singular of his works. It concerns ElizabethVogler (the incomparable Liv Ullman), a stage actress who suddenly turns muteduring a performance. She is committed to a hospital, where a nurse named Alma(Bibi Andersson) is put in charge of her. When they are sent away for a respiteat a secluded summer house by the beach, Alma confides all her cares and fearsto Elizabeth and their identities become blurred.

 The film - as most created by Bergman - is less about the story and more about thequestions which it asks and the answers which it gives (or doesn't give). Theexplorations of identity, motherhood, art and the human psyche are deep andcomplex, requiring multiple viewings to truly appreciate.

If philosophical musings aren't your cup of tea, then the film can simply beexperienced passively as a work of art. The cinematography of frequentcollaborator Sven Nykvist is breathtakingly beautiful; he captures everyexpression on the actresses faces perfectly and composes each frame with theskill of a master artist. The lighting at once seems natural and dreamlike.This is particularly notable in a scene near the beginning of the film whereElizabeth's face as she lays on her bed slowly darkens as light leaves theroom. The shot is both beautiful and terrifying.

Bergman has a knack of coaxing the best possible performances from his cast and thisskill is displayed to its full power here. Alma seems completely open, innocentand full of vitality. As the film climaxes however, we witness a venomous,grudging side of her. Bibi Andersson plays both of these parts perfectly;exposing an almost childish naivety with animalistic reactions to hurt andbetrayal. Liv Ullman is silent for almost the whole film, but gets across moreemotions than most could dream of with just her face.

Persona is a film which has remained a favourite of mine and one which I take somethingnew from every time I watch it. If you like your films dense, beautiful andatmospheric, I urge you to watch it.

Also recommended from Sweden:

Any other Bergman film

Roy Andersson (Songs from the Second Floor, You the Living)

Lukas Moodysson (Lilja 4-Ever, Show Me Love)

Tomas Alfredson  (Let The Right One In)

Körkarlen (The Phantom Carriage)

Simon Brand

Image credit - quicheisinsane

Diamonds in the Rough: a Study of the Character Actor

Madeline H Lucas is keen in the hunt for up-and-coming cinema gold Colin Firth is an actor almost everyone will be aware of, one way or another. For years it was often in association with the famous (or perhaps infamous) pond scene in the BBC's 1995 adaptation of  Pride and Prejudice, a proto-Daniel Craig Bond Moment, if ever there was one. Even to this day, Firth is often characterised as being synonymous with Mr Darcy. Yet, despite this recognition by association, Firth has never been short of respectable roles in a broad array of films, both British and International. Finally, after an acting career spanning more than 20 years, Firth reached the limelight of Hollywood - instantly becoming a household name - with his most recent films: Tom Ford's A Single Man, and the multi-award winning Oscar-favourite, The King's Speech  for which Firth received the highest of all cinematic accolades, the Best Actor Academy Award.Perhaps fortunately, I did not see The King's Speech prior to the Oscars, and so was able to watch it for the first time a few months ago with the retrospective knowledge of all the acclaim it had received. I thought it was a good film. All in all, it built gradually towards its climax with the appropriate wartime Britain delivery of a stiff upper-lip: restrained, unsentimental, utilitarian. As a biopic it stayed true to actual events, dipping marginally into the cause of King George's stutter, but remaining focused for the most part upon his ascension to the throne, and ending with the prospect of him becoming the British monarch in a time of war. His friendship with his speech therapist, Lionel Logue, was touching, the unfolding drama was moving, the conflict fitting, and yet, at no point did I feel my belief suspended. Throughout the entire film I was thoroughly aware that I was watching Colin Firth acting, rather than 'Bertie' himself.Colin Firth is a thoroughly well-known British actor, which in accord made me wonder where the image and renown of an actor indeed does seem to overtake the art of their craft. It is a case where publicity - or perhaps better described as the celebrity factor - overtakes the talent - or lack thereof.An apt example is Johnny Depp, who, prior to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was relatively unknown in the mainstream world, and more associated to the offbeat, indie scene -- the quirky eccentric. Today, he is seen as an elegant, debonair actor with great panache, no longer a Hollywood exile but a crowd-pleasing entertainer with an established reputation as a versatile actor. His ability to inhabit his character is natural - in performance and appearance. The same goes for Heath Ledger, Robert Downey Jr., Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day Lewis, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, and many other actors who have not been typecast and have managed to express their broad ability in film. What these actors have in common is that they are all recognisable by appearance: household names with - for the most part - deserved acclaim.But maybe this is their downfall.Now, when watching Brokeback Mountain or The Dark Knight, I suspect the viewer will see Ledger the actor rather than Ennis Del Mar or the Joker. Johnny Depp may never escape from the icon he made of himself as Jack Sparrow, and although it certainly was a moment of characterising excellence for his character to be portrayed as such, Depp will always be seen as that witty Keith Richards-esque buccaneer to some degree.Which draws me back to Colin Firth. While my opinion of The King's Speech was moderately impressed, despite doubts that the acclaim for it was a little excessive (what is known in film lingo as a 'glowjob'), it was only by seeing another film of Firth's recently that I could put my finger upon what it was that so bothered me about this actor. While watching Tom Ford's A Single Man, I realised this: in almost all his roles, Colin Firth is always the same character barring a small divergence here and there. Indeed, his characters are often so similar even his physical appearance doesn't change. He is certainly not a particularly expressive actor, and not physical either. He is inelastic, removed, unfluctuating - every inch the Mr Darcy of times gone by. His voice remains in a contented and invariable permanence of tone and vernacular.Having some interest in fashion I was sure I would enjoy A Single Man, but like all fashion designers, Tom Ford is too self-aware and his impression upon the film is heavy-handed. It was, for me, a film that tried its best to be culturally and intellectually high-brow with its study of a homosexual man suffering a grievance under the oppression of a homophobic society amidst Cold War distractions. But instead it ends up being as pretentious and shallow as a petri dish. I would rather watch The History Boys any day. The acclaim for this film was fitting in that it was a mainstream success and therefore - like The King's Speech - good fodder for the Oscars. But it was not, in my opinion, an exceptional film, and similarly, Firth's performance was nothing out of the ordinary.A great delight in film is discovering obscure diamonds in the multitude of rough. It is also, despite the hypocrisy, greatly satisfying when these little-known gems get recognition from ever-larger audiences. For example, before his tragically premature death, and certainly before Brokeback Mountain was on our screens, I remember following curiously the career of Heath Ledger after seeing him in the hugely entertaining A Knight's Tale and 10 Things I Hate About You; and Robert Downey Jr. has been on our screens for years, in exceptional performances (despite his off-screen antics): see Richard Attenborough's 1990 biopic, Chaplin, Less than Zero, or Wonder Boys as just a few examples of this most brilliantly versatile actor's capability.At other times, the diamonds are even rarer. Two of the greatest shows of acting capability (and equally the directing/writing brilliance of Bruce Robinson) are by Richard E. Grant in the cult-classic Withnail and I, and How to Get Ahead in Advertising. Meanwhile there are actors at this very moment who are still somewhat unrecognised to the general public - actors who I can see steadily gaining acclaim over the next few years. Tom Hardy is only just coming to the surface of mainstream recognition, after starring in Nolan's Inception and with the prospect of his forthcoming part in The Dark Knight Rises. His role as the eponymous 'Bronson' is truly inspired brilliance. He is certainly one to watch, and can be seen currently in the just-released Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.Likewise, Lee Pace's astounding performances over the past years, such as his role as a transgendered man in the true story Soldier's Girl, and his largely-improvised performance in the visually stunning The Fall, are fitting examples of true method-acting, and have set him on the track to greater - and well-deserved - recognition. Casey Affleck inhabited his eponymous role in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, revealing an exceptional level of talent later seen in Gone Baby Gone; Edward Norton has long proven his ability - from Fight Club to American History X, The Painted Veil and The Illusionist. And Sam Rockwell's versatility is obvious across the broad array of parts he has inhabited over the years. It feels good to say that the list surely runs on beyond my own knowledge of film. And there are surely even more examples to be found beyond the English-speaking realms of cinema.So here is a toast to the often under-appreciated yet wholly deserving talent that lies beneath the surface of Celebrity and Academy Awards in the movie-making business. There are actors out there who treat their profession as an art form as much as anything else - they pick their roles with prudence, invest themselves into their characters, inhabit them and strive to portray them as multifaceted individuals. Alec Guinness, Kevin Kline, Scott Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Steve Buscemi, Jeff Daniels, Warren Oates, Ben Kingsley, Richard Griffiths and so many others achieved it. Here is to the future of the Character Actor.   

Madeline H Lucas
Image credit -  nicogenin

Around the World in 50 Films: #2 Italy - Red Desert (1964)

Around the world in 50 films  Number two in my series. That means I'm actually committing to doing this: not letting it get lost in the sea of other projects and responsibilities that come with being an Honours student. I'm here to stay.Why I chose this: Antonioni's films have been sitting like a gaping hole in my generally broad film-watching spectrum. I hadn't seen a single one until around a month ago when I watched Blowup and was left unimpressed. I decided last week, however, to persevere and watch some others on his impressively large list of supposed "masterpieces". This lead me to taking out his whole 60s trilogy on alienation (L'Avventura, La Notte and L'Eclisse) alongside his first colour film, Red Desert, from the library.I appreciated L'Avventura for its cinematography and mysterious tone, but didn't feel any connection to it. I loved both La Notte and L'Eclisse for a myriad of reasons which would require another few articles, so I will spare you that. A few days later I sat down to watch Red Desert and was absolutely blown away. It now sits as the only Italian film which I have rated 10/10, which I think is reason enough to include it here.Andrei Tarkovsky once said in an interview that colour film is no more than a commercial gimmick and that he did not know of a single film which used it well. This statement seems more and more true as cinema ages. The magical years of Technicolour, hand painted sets and true experimentation with colour are gone. Directors tend to see colour as being simply "there" (e.g. almost every film which will show at your standard multiplex), use it for some heavy-handed symbolism (e.g. Schindler's List, A Single Man) or use it as a bland wash to give a film a certain 'look' (e.g. The Matrix, A Very Long Engagement). In this writer's mind, colour should not be a simple tool for getting across some arbitrary point, it should live and breathe in the world of the film. When used correctly, it can strengthen tone, develop themes and reflect the state of characters. Sharp readers may protest that A Single Man - which I listed among films which use colour 'wrongly' - does use it for the latter. The difference is that the utilisation goes against what is happening in the film. When a film is trying to explore the subtlety of human affection and loss, whilst going against this subtlety with its techniques (desaturated colours = sad, saturated colours = happy-ish), the impact of the content is lessened.There are, of course, modern exceptions to the 'rule' of mediocrity. Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique comes to mind, alongside the films of artists like Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar Wai. These exceptions included, I feel that nothing can match the surreal beauty of Technicolour experimentation. I find myself captivated by the colours in films such as Black Narcissus, The Holy Mountain and Suspiria. Red Desert now stands at the top of my list, which is sadly ironic, as Tarkovsky pointed to the film as one he thought used colour badly further into the interview I mentioned earlier. Slightly tangential exposition aside, this brings me to what Red Desert does which sets it apart from its peers. Here the colours meld, clash and overlap in a variety of ways to effectively mirror the feelings of the protagonist, Guiliana (Monica Vitti) in the landscape itself. Similar to the way in which Antonioni uses cityscapes and buildings in his alienation trilogy to show how small and lost we seem in our creations, the colours mimic Guiliana's distance from reality and emotional confusion.In true Antonioni fashion, the plot isn't so much a story as a series of events driven by the characters and their environment. Guiliana is the psychologically disturbed wife of a factory manager. She begins to question everything about her life when she meets a restless engineer named Zeller (Richard Harris) who seems drawn to her.Vittorio Gelmetti's atmospheric electronic score, coupled with distorted industrial sounds create an uneasy soundtrack to the film. Passionate scenes are punctuated by fog horns and brief escapes to nature bring with them the sounds of fire from factories. These make the cold, industrial modern world inescapable - a theme visited many a time in the film.One of the most unforgettable scenes in film history occurs when Guilliana escapes to a dream world in her head. The sea and sand of a beach glisten with natural beauty. This land is hers alone. Whereas in the real world, the machines make their monotonous pounding, here, the rocks are alive and sing with a serene and strange voice. Then suddenly we are drawn back into reality, forced to confront sickness, an ugly, derelict Earth and the ever present alienation of a modern world.Red Desert is one of the most original pictures I have had the pleasure of seeing. It is at once beautiful in its composition and ugly in its nature, pessimistic for the state of a place which birds won't even come near, yet optimistic for our chances with learning to adapt. A film for anyone who has ever struggled to find connections in our world. Also recommended from Italy:Antonioni's alienation trilogyFederico Fellini (La Dolce Vita, La Strata, Nights of Cabiria)Vittorio Di Sica (Umberto D, Bicycle Thieves)Roberto Rossellini's War TrilogySergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in the West, Man With no Name trilogy)Pier Paolo Pasolini (Salo, Arabian Nights, Mamma Roma, Canterbury Tales)Dario Argento (Suspiria, Deep Red)Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust Simon BrandImage credit - FoXmMuLD3R    

Pixar Short Films Collection

In keeping with current events, the Pixar talk on Tuesday 19thas part of ‘On the Rocks’, I thought I would discuss their perhaps lesser known short films. You may remember ‘Partly Cloudy’ the story of where storks get the babies from and that one cloud that just can’t help but make dangerous infants such as porcupines and crocodiles, Or perhaps you’ve seen ‘Luxo Jr.’ the animation about a baby desk lamp and its toy ball. Well there is an entire DVD of these little treats. Ranging from the amusing dancing sheep having to deal with shearing season in ‘Bounding’ to the downright terrifying ‘Jack-Jack Attack’ laser shooting, fire exploding baby, there is something for everybody, even a heart breaking tale of a unicycle that wants to go back to the circus. My own personal favourite is ‘One Man Band’ in which two street musicians compete for a coin, with their performances becoming increasingly extravagant but ultimately competition gets no-one anywhere and the wishing fountain begins to look more and more welcoming for the coin. This film is a wonderful example of the incredible musical scores that feature in each of the shorts. Far from merely being something to keep the cinema keen-beans occupied as they turn up early for the feature, each of these shorts is definitely worth a watch in their own right. And no excuses – at an average of two to four minutes each they are the perfect uplifting revision break.

 

Lucy Neville

The 'Classic': Why do we return to the same films?

PictureI’m a film geek who tried to watch a bit of anything and everything with wages disappearing into DVD shops and cinema box office tills. Like most people this season I’ve watched, and whilst enjoyed might not be the word, found myself entertained by The King’s Speech and The Black Swan whilst trying to find the time to convince people to watch NEDs and Tangled with me. But I always seem to find the time to squeeze in a golden oldie or two. Be it curled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate or drinking beer with friends, a classic film always goes down well. But just what makes a film a classic and why do we find ourselves drawn back to them for comfort and entertainment?This classic film can be found in almost every genre. From the war epics with ‘The Harvest of Death’ shot showing fields of corpses in silent reverence, to the fated romances ending so predictably in farewells surrounded by steam from the departing train (or aeroplane in the case of Casablanca). That gangster film and the inevitable shoot out or the thriller where that plot twist you have learnt so well still shocks you even on the 15th viewing. It is this formula, it seems fair to argue, which pulls us back in every time. Like an addiction the film enthusiast craves to stay one-step ahead of the plot whilst still allowing themselves to be caught up in the moment. A predictable film is disappointing but one which shocks us whilst displaying the formula appears to have a strong power over its audience. Great waves of emotion swing through these classics, tragedy and comedy having been the key elements of entertainment since Ancient Greece. A film may have the ability to reduce us to tears or school children repeating lines for hours on end, but it is, in my mind, this safety blanket formula which draws us back for more.Camera work, direction, acting, soundtrack, these all hold key influences over a film’s sustainability but without the formula they will barely be seen as good examples of film perhaps studied by academics or those trying to broaden their library of films, they will never be the classic that can both disturb and comfort on a rainy day.So, like a good gossip with a friend you know all too well, set aside a few hours and just lose yourself in the beauty of a classic movie.Lucy NevilleImage: http://billsmovieemporium.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/casablanca.jpg?w=394&h=311