Sunday, November 29, 2009
Here's a motion test I shot some time ago... actually it was before I had the Lumix camera, done with my Hitachi. I think I used a big zoom lens, which probably accounts for why out-of-focus things look so weird here. I was trying to develop a certain kind of motion that I could see in my head for this film... the characters and the camera all moving in unison like an orchestrated dance.
Oh and yeah, I know... he has some kind of neck spasm there. Rotational movement is hard to keep under control... so I learned something valuable from this test! I've learned how to use a framegrabber a lot better since then, though I really haven't tried another head turn like this - something I ought to do soon.
Monday, November 16, 2009
This is amazing!! Just posted on the message board, and in production for some time already over at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Germany... stopmotion puppets placed in a CG environment that was created (and framegrabbing done) using Blender open source 3D software. I must say, this definitely looks like one of the coolest films I've seen being made recently... for a long time actually. I wish I had come up with this idea!!!
Check out their blog: http://www.artificial3d.com/omega/
IN a pair of recent posts - Analyze this and the followup Analysister -I brought up the idea of some aspects of a movie (surface story) being readily discernible to the left (logical) brain and some, more subtle parts, to the right (intuitive) brain. I had never thought about this until making the Analyze this post and discussing the way Kubrick's films seem to work on a viewer. For convenience's sake I've included a table below listing the well-known attributes of these two hemispheres of the brain.
Right Brain vs. Left Brain
This theory of the structure and functions of the mind suggests that the two different sides of the brain control two different “modes” of thinking. It also suggests that each of us prefers one mode over the other.
Experimentation has shown that the two different sides, or hemispheres, of the brain are responsible for different manners of thinking. The following table illustrates the differences between left-brain and right-brain thinking:
It suddenly occurred to me that this division between two different ways of thinking sounds very familiar... in fact I've encountered very nearly the same division between ways of thinking - one logical and focused, the other intuitive and 'fuzzy', but in a non-scientific context:
The Apollonian/ Dionysian dichotomy
Apollonian and Dionysian are terms used by Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy to designate the two central principles in Greek culture. The Apollonian, which corresponds to Schopenhauer's principium individuationis ("principle of individuation"), is the basis of all analytic distinctions. Everything that is part of the unique individuality of man or thing is Apollonian in character; all types of form or structure are Apollonian, since form serves to define or individualize that which is formed; thus, sculpture is the most Apollonian of the arts, since it relies entirely on form for its effect. Rational thought is also Apollonian since it is structured and makes distinctions.
The Dionysian, which corresponds roughly to Schopenhauer's conception of Will, is directly opposed to the Apollonian. Drunkenness and madness are Dionysian because they break down a man's individual character; all forms of enthusiasm and ecstasy are Dionysian, for in such states man gives up his individuality and submerges himself in a greater whole: music is the most Dionysian of the arts, since it appeals directly to man's instinctive, chaotic emotions and not to his formally reasoning mind.
Nietzsche believed that both forces were present in Greek tragedy, and that the true tragedy could only be produced by the tension between them. He used the names Apollonian and Dionysian for the two forces because Apollo, as the sun-god, represents light, clarity, and form, whereas Dionysus, as the wine-god, represents drunkenness and ecstasy.
I discussed this in an old post on my original blog: http://www.darkstrider.net/july8_2005.html
Sorry, I can't link directly to it... I used to hand-code that blog and didn't know how to separate posts, so I can only link to the entire page, but it's the second post. Just scroll down a little bit. I was profoundly taken by this idea when I first encountered it in Camille Paglia's book Sexual Personae, and she really made me aware of these two different modes of perception/cognition. These little tables I posted here and similar ones you see on the web are very brief and only cover the basics, but Paglia dissects it quite deeply. She also relates these modes of thinking to what she terms the Male principle and the Female principle... left brain/ Apollonian being the male and right brain/ Dionysian being the female. Don't oversimplify and think she's making a general division between men and women... people have some of each tendency in their makeup, just as we all use both left and right brain. Many women exhibit strong male tendencies while many men have female tendencies.
Well, when I connected these various ideas together, it became clear to me that they are very real tendencies that exist in all of us. Modern sbrain science, as it often does, is merely re-inforcing ancient wisdom. The Greeks were aware of this dichotomy centuries ago, and now it's been discovered in the very structure of the brain itself... so science has only shown us figuratively where Apollo and Dionysus live. It makes me wonder... how many of the other Olympian gods could be said to embody some part of human nature... god of war... goddess of the hunt, goddess of love.... interesting. And doubtless not new! Only something that hadn't occurred to me before.
So.... taking all this into account... the idea of a dichotomy in modes of thinking that's existed in human nature for a long time and that it's cropped up in various ways, both scientific and mythical/artistic, I began to wonder if it's reared its head in any other ways. And sure enough, a couple similar dichotomies presented themselves to my questing mind.
Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.
In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.
Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.
This is just a section of an article posted here.
To condense these tendencies down to their most basic (for purposes of simplicity) we could call one Focused and the other Vague or Fuzzy. Which then led me to my next (and so far last) revelation...
Rods and Cones
Two different kinds of 'photoreceptors', or neurons, in the eye. Rods are responsible for night vision and peripheral vision... they're not as 'focused' as the cones, which see detail and color. Therefore the vision of the rods could be characterized as 'fuzzy' or vague, but in some way superior to the rod-vision. Have you ever noticed that , if you're looking up into the night sky, very dim stars or very distant galaxies (which at first look like dim stars) can't be seen by looking directly at them (cones) but only by looking a little bit away, activating the rods.
To me all these various dichotomies sound very similar. In fact I'd venture to say taken as a whole they point out the same basic division in the human being... a divergence between different modes of... is it perception, cognition, or interpretation? Hard to say. And I won't make any statements here, aside from bringing up what I think is a very interesting conundrum revealing itself to us in various ways - Mythical (a way of giving meaning to things we don't understand) Scientific (a way of studying nature) and Political -- and that might have a profound meaning as far as what it means to be human.
... And with this post, hopefully I conclude this little obsession that began just before Halloween when I happened to catch The Shining on cable TV (little realizing the bizarre series of ideas it would lead me through!) and can now get back to work on my film!!
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Ok, after making that last post I still feel the need to go deeper into the subject. That post somehow turned into a general primer about film analysis. All well and good, but I never even got to what I originally wanted to say!!! Oh, and about the name for this post.... it's based on a great album title- Nemesister by Babes in Toyland. Thought it was appropriate since this is a sister post to my last one...
Ok class... last time we covered hidden narratives buried in films by Kubrick and Lynch. One thing I'd like to point out that they both have in common - besides liking to hide secret narratives in their films - is they both make very dreamlike films. Actually that's related to the fact that they like the hidden narratives.... see, a film that reveals secret messages when analyzed is quite a bit like a dream. One major difference though.... to understand the meaning of a dream you need to know the dreamer's personal meanings for all the symbols... a very deeply individual matter fit only for a psychoanalyst (the dreamer himself probably doesn't WANT to know what all his dreams mean!)
I think it's time for me to talk a bit about dreams. I've always loved dreams (try to have them every night). I've also always loved stories and movies that are LIKE dreams... but there are definitely things that work in dreams that WON'T work in movies, and vice verse. Probably the most important difference is that dreams don't need to make sense... you're ASLEEP, so your conscious mind isn't trying to make sense of things. But a movie does need to make sense, at least to some extent. The plot can be all mixed up... as long as the movie makes sense on some level... possibly there's an EMOTIONAL throughline the viewer can follow.
Once you've established that throughline (whatever it might be) you can work in underlying hidden narratives like Kubrick or Lynch do. But unlike the completely personal language of symbols in a real dream, they use universal symbols that will be understood by everyone (everyone who notices them that is... most won't see it if it's beneath the surface). And here's what I love about this.... let's say you notice something fishy in a Kubrick film and start to research a little... or maybe you've read an analysis and decided to look deeper on your own. His messages lead you to mysteries that exist in the real world!! That's not to say that I believe all his conspiracy theories are valid... but the threads he weaves into the tapestry of his films does lead you on to theories that can be found all over the internet... googling names from his films will point out all kinds of weird things... most of which he probably intended. That fascinates me, that a mystery embedded in a fictional movie can lead to a mystery in the real world. It's as if the movie opens up a whole vista...
Also on the subject of the dreamlike nature of their films... my longtime readers (those who manage to wade all the way through these lengthy and text-dense Cinemastudies posts) might recall an article I posted some time ago about Josef Von Sternberg (click his name in Labels below if you're interested). There are several posts on my blog about him actually... I'm referring to one I didn't write but just blatantly ripped off and posted here. Sorry, too lazy at the moment to look up who did write it! But the gist of the article was that while Sternberg was working in Talkies (he did start off in silents) the dialogue was merely a smokescreen to deflect viewers from the REAL story, which was always told VISUALLY. Unlike the vast majority of modern movies, where the story is told almost exclusively through dialogue with visuals just serving as moving illustrations, Sternberg, Kubrick and Lynch tell their stories visually. They of course use dialogue and sound, but as artistic counterpoint to the visuals, to enhance them and provide subtext rather than to illustrate them. There are many people (myself among them, though I wasn't there at the time) who feel that something beautiful was lost when sound came to the movies - or rather I should say when the human voice came to the movies (When MOVIES became TALKIES).
Think of it this way... visuals are processed by the right brain - the intuitive brain, while verbal language is processed in the logical and detail-oriented left brain. The right brain is the realm of dream imagery... free association and metaphor. Spoken language doesn't enter into this realm. Music does (instrumental music). Well ok, to be more accurate, some kinds of singing and spoken poetry DO access the right brain, but not general dialogue the way its spoken in movies these days. In a film by the likes of Kubrick or David Lynch, we watch the STORYLINE with the left brain while the right brain silently absorbs the symbols and metaphors underlying the surface. This means their films ARE structured like dreams... there's a Manifest content (surface story) and a Latent content (subtext). This thought really boggles my mind... I think it explains how the subliminal messages can leak through into the right brain (dreaming mind... the ancient, animal mind... the artist mind) while the left brain (logical, modern) remains unaware of them. The left brain is detail-oriented and can only concentrate on one thing at a time (works "in serial") while the right brain sees patterns and works holistically (works "in parallel). But we usually don't notice what the right brain is doing... it's very quiet while the left brian talks constantly and loud. I've heard them compared like this... think of the left brain as the sun and the right brain as the stars.... there are still stars in the sky in the daytime, but you cant see them because the sun is too bright. If you could filter it out then you could see them.
Very interesting to think of making movies that really affect us like dreams...
Saturday, November 07, 2009
"A real film maker, when formulating a new project, will start out with a series of conceptual messages and ideas that he/she wishes to communicate to an audience. These will be fleshed out into a fictional storyline scenario and, layer by layer, a workable script and aesthetic / technical style will be developed in accordance with those concepts. That is the artist’s approach to film.
Modern film making in Britain and America, even at the level of short film making, almost universally starts with the desire to make money … NOT ART!"
This quote comes from an essay written by Rob Ager called The great disaster of modern British/ American film. I discovered Rob's excellent website in a rather roundabout way recently... essentially because just before Halloween I happened to catch Stanley Kubrick's The Shining on cable TV, which reignited my interest in the movie and in Kubrick's films in general. I suddenly realized that, in spite of my tendency toward study and analysis I had never looked at an analysis of any of Kubrick's films. Well, this was a colossal oversight that needed to be remedied immediately! So a little Googling landed me on his website; CollativeLearning.com, where he has analyses of a lot of great films including all of Kubrick's important ones. I also discovered very cogent and insightful analyses of some of my other favorites like Alien, Bladerunner, The Exorcist, and the best and most comprehensive and clear-headed analysis I've ever found on David Lynch's enigmatic Mulholland Drive - a film that's led me on a merry chase through a lot of online analyses, some of which I felt came close to the mark but all of which left big holes. Ager has filled in almost all of the holes!
The unfortunate part of this is that, since discovering Ager's incredible site, I haven't done anything on my film. But now I've waded through almost all of his articles and soon will be free of this obsession... at least until the next one pops up.
I most highly recommend reading these analyses for anyone interested in being a filmmaker of any sort, or even just to anyone who loves movies and wants to maximize their enjoyment of them. Let me begin by defining just what a film analysis is, and how it differs from a film review or film criticism.
A film review... also sometimes referred to as film criticism, is done by a film critic... someone like Roger Ebert of any of his cohorts throughout the years on his various shows. Essentially it's just a brief synopsis of whether a movie is good or not according to that reviewer's or critic's system of judgement. Usually a reviewer or critic will watch a movie twice or sometimes 3 or more times... the first time they just watch as anyone would, just to absorb the experience the movie provides. Then they'll jot down some notes and start watching it again, this time dissecting as they go and taking notes as they watch. Generally twice is enough, then they assemble their notes and tidy them up for publication. What they're basically interested in is whether the movie is enjoyable and how it stacks up against the standards in its genre.
But film analysis on the other hand is much more comprehensive and less judgmental. An analyst isn't concerned with telling a general audience what to go see this weekend -- instead an analyst is an investigator... delving deep into a film to extract what the filmmaker might have buried in it. Most films don't stand up to analysis of this sort... most Hollywood movies are simply formulaic clones (as suggested in the quote above) with little or no substance under the flashy exterior. But some directors do approach the craft of filmmaking as an art... for instance Kubrick, Lynch, and several others. Their films are made with great attention to detail and they take great care in creating meaning. Often there's a hidden subtext or even several of them. Identifying and decoding these subtexts takes time and effort and a lot of thinking. Usually a film won't be analyzed when it's first released.... it takes time to determine whether a given film might have anything under the surface worthy of the demanding process of analysis. So it's often older films which have shown themselves to have some substance beneath the surface that are candidates for this treatment.
A film analyst will begin like a critic... the first time they watch a film they're just watching it, like any audience member. But their keen moviegoing eye will notice subtle clues to the presence of hidden depth. Strange things characters might say, or weird occurrences... maybe a sign that's shown with strange wording on it. Especially important are things that are repeated. Visuals or sounds or statements... these are called motifs when they're repeated, and such repetition usually means the director put them there on purpose. Or that he just wasn't paying attention, which usually isn't the case with a director the caliber of Kubrick.
So... with the clues noted, an analyst will then watch the movie many times, and might watch certain parts of it over and over... using freeze frame and slow motion. Now certain things are more evident thanks to Blu-Ray and its greater visual clarity over regular DVDs... things can be seen much more clearly, and sometimes a particular release will have a better sound track that allows things to be heard more clearly than in other versions. Other things an analyst will pay attention to are the director's other films, anything that's known about the director such as any personal obsessions or interests he might have, news items about him, his biography... on and on. Sometimes clues can be found in advertising for the film, or in earlier versions of the screenplay or the book on which it was based.
Wow... I'm really whaffling on, aren't I? I didn't mean to go on for so long about this. My point in explaining what film analysis is all about was to educate my more 'general audience' readers about the level of depth and complexity that often exists without most people suspecting it in certain films. Most of us are only aware of the surface story in movies... and in most movies that's all there is. But in films by the likes of Kubrick or Lynch there's a lot more, and to me it's very gratifying to puzzle it out. One reason I love this process is because it gives a movie a vastly longer 'shelf life'... you can keep coming back and watching it and gain new insight into it for many years. Most decent movies are only good for 2 or 3 viewings and that's it, and even then they don't reveal anything new after the first viewing (unless you missed something). But to experience a Kubrick film with the help of good analysis like Rob Ager provides is to peel away layer after layer and reveal levels of meaning you never suspected were there... it's literally like an excavation... think of a movie as a building, and most anywhere you dig there's nothing but dirt underneath... but Kubrick builds over sites that are rich in subsurface detail. Quite literally in the case of The Shining.. the Overlook Hotel was built on top of a Native American burial ground (and so was the hidden narrative... quite to my surprise!)
Take for example The Shining. I hadn't seen it since shortly after the movie came out in 1980. Even then, much younger and uneducated about filmmaking, I was aware that something weird was going on in that movie that I wasn't understanding. Everyone was... and that's why even though the surface story itself is pretty messed up, it's always been considered one of the masterpieces of cinema. If you watch the movie, there's some really awful acting, and from great actors like Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall! Really hammy amateurish stuff... which is even weirder when you take into account the known fact of Kubrick's perfectionism and the fact that he'd often demand as many as 140 takes on even simple shots!!
Well I won't write any more. I could easily go on and on... but I'll just leave it at that. Anyone whose interest has been piqued by this blog entry please visit Rob's incredible site and read some of the analyses. Rent the films in question and watch them, with his findings in mind, and see if it doesn't enhance the experience. For me it most definitely does, though I know some people prefer to just see a movie as entertainment and leave it at that.
Ager has more on his site than just film analyses... the quote at the top of this entry actually comes from an article he wrote. Here's a page from his site collecting several of his articles, and I've enjoyed almost every one.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Amazing!!!! The same guy who posted Fimfarum has now also posted Krysar in its entirety!!! I know, The Motion Brigades has all these films plus many many more posted, but unfortunately his are in low quality.... Subbedfilms has them in much higher quality. I hope he doesn't mind me posting them on my blog like this. To see his channel double-click on the video itself.