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Showing posts from May, 2019

The Cabbage Fairy

Une naissance de cinéma?
A barely sixty second theatrical stylisation, which, by virtue of being recorded by a motion picture camera, becomes cinema. Here a woman, the "fairy" of the title, dances a magical dance among the cabbage patch. The early cinema was full of dances. Annabelle Butterfly Dance (1894) and the related Annabelle Serpentine Dance (1895) both by William Kennedy Dickson, A Serpentine Dance (1896), this time by Georges Méliès, and Au bal de flore (1900), also by Alice Guy-Blaché. Perhaps this was merely a convenience on the part of these early filmmakers desperate to find a particular subject matter that would lend itself to the specific selling points of the moving image? However, I like to think it was an effort to dramatise something of the dance of light that occurred when a strip of celluloid passed through the projector.
As the story continues, the "fairy" begins plucking newborn babies from the behind the cabbage leaves and placing them surrept…

George Lucas

Architect of the Modern Blockbuster
I recently began writing two successive blog posts that were essentially extended rants about the aesthetics of the modern blockbuster. So far I haven't been able to finish them, perhaps because deep down I suspect they contribute very little to the current discussion beyond clinging to an imaginary standard that never really existed. The crux of each post is tangentially related to the look and stylisation of the Hollywood blockbuster as typified by the contemporary films of the Walt Disney studio, and by extension, its ever ubiquitous Marvel subsidiary.
My main issue with these films - beyond their derivative nature, questionable moral subtext and obvious cash-grab mentality - is that, in their over-reliance upon green-screen technology, motion-capture imagery and elaborate computer generated effects, they seek to mimic the artificial look of the modern video game, but without the interactive, immersive aspects that make video games so compellin…

Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy

Adventures in jazz discovery
On a personal note, I love how so many of the great jazz albums use modern art imagery as an influence on their sleeve designs. "Bird and Diz" (1952), "Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet" (1957), "Time Out" (1959), "Mingus Ah Um" (1959), "Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation" (1961), "Getz/Gilberto" (1963). Like those albums and others, the cover art for "Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy" is pure abstract expressionism; the imagery capturing something of the sparse, near-ambient nature of the music contained within. As an explosion of modernism - which suggests images and emotions, as opposed to outright stating them in clear or simple terms - the artwork evokes the music and vice versa; creating a statement, both aesthetically and culturally; framing jazz, the genre, as somehow existing hand-in-hand with the earlier twentieth-century innovations in modern art.
As a record, or as an …

Let the Devil Tempt Us

Jean-Claude Brisseau In Memoriam
According to reports from the French mainstream media, filmmaker Jean-Claude Brisseau has passed away. A controversial figure in contemporary cinema, Brisseau had a style and sensibility that was singular, provocative and often charged with the supernatural. As an early disciple of Éric Rohmer, Brisseau shared his mentor's affinity for scenes of leisurely conversation, where set-pieces would often consist of two characters sitting down in a park or public space to discuss their relationships, the world and the mysteries of the universe. Unlike Rohmer's films however, such scenes were often punctuated by moments of brutal violence, a reverence to genre and explicit sexuality.
My introduction to Brisseau's cinema came in 2014 when I saw his penultimate feature, The Girl from Nowhere (2012). I can't remember what it was that brought the film to my attention but I do remember reading a plot synopsis and finding similarities to two of my favour…

The Lost Art

A Question of Aesthetics?
Below, several images from Sergei Bondarchuk's noted adaptation of Tolstoy's "War and Peace", released in four feature-length instalments between 1965 and 1967, and included here as a reminder that "epic cinema" - even at its most conventional and mainstream - was once purely visual and spectacular in a way that the modern "event" cinema scarcely is.
Stumbling across an image from Bondarchuk's film on social media I was immediately struck by its iconography, its scale, its bold shot composition and its tremendous use of light and colour. Looking at this initial frame was like looking at a painting; it brought to mind the work of the great masters,Velázquez, Turner,Friedrich, etc. Following the link from the initial image brought me to the indispensable Blu-ray review site DVDBeaver where my mouth fell open at the sheer scale and spectacle of its captured images.

War and Peace [Sergei Bondarchuk, 1965 - 1967]:
Images taken…