Bonnie And Clyde

December 11, 2010

Based on the true story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde was a statement film- Director Arthur Penn made sure his movie will be remembered for a long time. And he succeeds. Although the film very loosely bases itself on the true events of the real Bonnie and Clyde, it never seemed like a legitimate biographical account of the lives of the outlaws. Instead, Penn opted for a more comic, yet dark, type of film.

A curiously odd movie, Bonnie and Clyde, as mentioned earlier, is based on the outlaws by the same name. With that said, there’s more dramatized scenes than scenes actually based on purely real events. Add that to the fact that Penn gave the film a more comedic and dark theme, and Bonnie and Clyde is a pure Hollywood original. Albeit, one that the studios didn’t trust to make any money. In fact, they were so sure the movie would flop, (from Wiki) they gave the producer 40% of the gross.

The movie went on to earn $70 million worldwide by 1973. But, why? A movie about giving thieves and murderers a celebrity status, while infusing sex and violence throughout shouldn’t earn that much, should it? Well, Penn knew what audiences want. And they wanted sex and violence. Also, the time period when the movie came out was a time of change in America- movies had more sex symbols than ever, and violence was rampant throughout. It was a perfect movie, at a perfect time.

Of course, that doesn’t take anything away from the movie itself. As mentioned earlier, Bonnie and Clyde was a mix of violence, sex, and dark comedy. It was a strange movie- campy, yet bloody; odd, yet a perfect symbolism of the glorification of crime. The theme of “crome doesn’t pay” is made very apparent throughout. The deaths of the entire gang was bound to happen. But, the way Penn went about the climax was very shocking.

All in all, Bonnie and Clyde was different in many aspects, but dealt with very much the same concept of how the mighty will always usually fall.

Film Analysis- Psycho

December 9, 2010

When a film combines tension and suspense to create a powerful and unpredictable atmosphere between itself and the film viewers, the final results can be a mixed bag. Some viewers may shrug it off proclaiming it to be another one of those movies, while other see it as an annoyance. But, when done correctly, even perfectly, the audience is at awe. Sounds unnerve, music becomes panic-stricken occurrences, and cries of pain end up being eye-shutting moments of terror. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho does so, with grace, but without any restraint. The 1960 horror classic to this day gives its audience fits, making them uncomfortable and a sense of not knowing what will happen next. It’s a testament to Hitchock’s brilliance that even in present times, a film with little gore can cause so much negative emotion.

Released in 1960 to an unaware public, Psycho at received mixed to negative reviews. But, that didn’t stop people from not going to the local theaters and waiting for hours to experience Hitchcock’s masterpiece. And because this period in America was a time of change and a movement away from traditional values, Psycho was a perfect embodiment of the changing views of many Americans.

The scene that perfectly captures the thematic issues Hitchock wanted to portray- the elements of unpredictability and suspense- to his audience is during the death of Detective Milton Arbogast. The scene begins with Arbogast, played by Martin Balsam, walking into the home of Norman Bates. He sees the stair case and looks up. It’s a medium close-up shot, until he decides to walk up. While he is climbing up, the camera changes shot to a close-up of his feet climbing the stairs. As the scene continues, we hear ominous, yet gentle music being played as the background music- a sign to things to come. The camera then goes back up, as if at the top of the stair case, it’s looking and following Arbogast as he slowly walks up the stairs. The music becomes louder, more ominous- but, again, it’s a gentle tune.

Arbogast looks back, and as though it was the perfect moment, the camera is aimed at the floor of the door closest to the top of the stair case. The door slowly opens- we see light, and what seems like the shadow of a figure waiting for the right moment. The music becomes even more ominous. The camera goes back to Aborgast, climbing the stair case once more. The camera then goes up- a ceiling view of the top of the stair case, Arbogast, and the opened door near the staircase. Arbogast finally reaches the top, and within a millisecond, the music changes to the title music- the screeching of violins that creates a bone chilling feel. The figure hastily walks out from the door with a knife in his hands. Arbogast didn’t see it coming- the figure stabs the detective, and the camera does a close-up of his face, bloodied from the cut wound received from the maniacal figure. He begins to fall down- the camera follows, but stays transfixed on the man’s face. We see shock, terror, and everything in between expressed on Arbogast’s face. He finally falls on the floor, the camera falling with him, and the figure ends his deed with multiple stabs to his body. The camera focuses on the knife- we hear cries of anguish.

The audience is petrified. And Hitchcock knows it.

Dark, sinister, and uneasy throughout, Hitchcock makes his audience go to places emotionally they don’t want to go. The atmosphere created from the very beginning creates a menacing setting. The audience knows what will happen- they just don’t know the how, the when, the where, nor the who that does the killing. Although most filmgoers state that the infamous shower scene may have been the best scene in Psycho, the unpredictability of the scene stated above gives goosebumps to those who have already seen the scene multiple times. The camera angles, the ominous music, the screeching of the violins played perfectly at the sight of the mad man- Hitchcock makes the combination of suspense, tension, and terror to perfection.

Psycho

December 1, 2010

Released in 1960 with a budget of $806,000, Psycho gave its viewers one of the greatest stories and twist endings during that time period. First time viewers were shocked, and deservedly so. The movie itself just seems to ooze claustrophobic areas and camera-closeups that would make anyone uncomfortable. And that’s just some of the less violent scenes.

Scenes such as when Marion gets pulled over by a policeman and when she is confronted by the peculiar motel owner, Norman, are very tense. Add the fantastic music and you have scenes filled with tension that otherwise wouldn’t. And this is all because of the masterful directing of Hitchcock. His eye on certain shots really gives the viewers a profound effect that hasn’t ever really been established before Psycho.

The plot is almost as thought-provoking as the shots and cinematography themselves. Part drama, part suspense, and part horror, Psycho quickly establishes itself as a movie unlike any other. Commercials for Psycho led us viewers to believe that Marion’s character would stay alive unti the end. But, instead, Hitchcock pulls a fast one, and gives us one of the more terrifying scenes in film history:

All in all, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho redefined the horror genre. It wasn’t a film filled with gore. It was a film filled with dread and tension in every single shot. Psycho gives the audience everything it has, and sometimes gives too much- there were reports that had many viewers faint during the infamous shower scene. It does what so many other horror movies fail to do- it makes the audience feel as terrified as the protagonist herself. Stunning, controversial, and filled with scenes of violence without the violence, Psycho is a one of a kind horror movie that, to this day, still gives fear to its audience.

Early Summer

October 25, 2010

2 hours and 5 minutes of watching a family doing normal “family things” and a marriage sprinkled in the middle of it. Sounds boring, right? Well, honestly, it was. But, after a day of completely taking it in, I have to say this was a very interesting take on the family life.

Released in 1951, Early Summer gives us a look into the lives of members of a family as they go about their normal routine of cooking, working, and having fun as a family. As the movie progresses, we find out that the younger lady in the household (the sister of the father) is being pushed by both her parents and her brother and sister-in-law to a find husband. The rest of the movie is about her deciding who to marry and how to spend the rest of her life.

The director of Early Summer, Yasujiro Ozu, apparently, didn’t like the use of plot. This seemed appropriate for Early Summer-at least the first half. In fact, if it weren’t for the brothers being there for comedy relief, the first half of the film would’ve been a complete snore-fest. It doesn’t pick up until the sister was told that she had a marriage proposal. From there out, we see how she goes from one individual to marry to another, and how her family, grudgingly, let her go about her decision.

Although I wasn’t much of a fan of his movie, Ozu showed us something really striking. As I stated before, the first half seemed of the film seemed to only be about the life of a particular family in post-war Japan. He used a very odd technique in his camera angles, making it seem like we, the audience, were there during every scene that had the family as the major component. And, I thought that was VERY well made, considering that I’ve never seen how families in Japan go about their business. It was very new to me, and very interesting.

Overall, Ozu really did show us a plotless film. It looked like he just left a camera running in a family’s home. It’s a very intriguing way of filmmaking, one that he expertly does. It’s unfortunate, though, the movie was so boring.

‘The Public Enemy’ is, not a man, nor is it a character — it is a problem…” So ends The Public Enemy– a reminder that even the great and magnificent can fall to his knees. Of course, in the The Public Enemy, it isn’t the great and magnificent- it’s more the ruthless and powerful that falls to his knees. And it is this thematic issue the director, William A. Wellman, uses throughout his impressive and thought provoking film.

Filmed in 1931, The Public Enemy (Warner Brothers) chronicled the life of a gangster during the 1920s. Of course, during the time the film was released, much of the audience were feeling the effects of The Great Depression. But, in a way, those dark times helped the movie succeed even more because it showed a low-level thug who stole to get by (which was what many Americans did during this time), then become lavish and rich. In a way, this was, more or less, the American Dream (rising and becoming a powerful individual from nothing) which was all but dead during the Depression.

The particular scene that envelopes the thematic issue of the great, falling is seen in the final “showdown” between Cagney’s character Tom Powers and the rival gang that killed his best friend. The scene starts with heavy rain falling throughout the setting- which may mean a foreshadow of something ominous and foul that is about to happen. The camera pans in to a medium shot of a member of the rival gang smoking. He is inside a building named “Western Chemical Company.” We can assume this is the gang hideout/meeting place. The camera then fades in to Tom Powers in a trench coat and hat, with a smug look on his face, waiting and leaning on a pole. Again, this is an example of foreshadowing of events to come. The camera then goes to a wide shot from behind Powers’, so we see the entire building. Suddenly, two cars come by and stop in front of the building. Around 10 individuals come out and enter the building. Powers’ hides- we now know that he is looking for them. This goes back to the thematic issue that, because of Powers’ rise as a gangster and his overall cockiness, he believes he can take out all of them.

The camera then goes back to Powers face in a medium closeup. His facial expression shows that of agitation and fury. Then a closeup of his face- he smiles and grimaces. Again, the thematic issue of the powerful comes back here. He doesn’t flinch- from that point on he KNOWS he’ll take out of all of them. The camera then follows him into the building. We hear multiple gunshots. Powers’ comes out of the building in obvious pain. As he comes out, he goes down and picks up what seems like rocks and begins to throw them into the building’s windows. We can tell that he cannot believe that he’s been shot. Powers’ begins to stumble around the street. The rain begins to pour harder (foreshadowing), and Powers stumbles to his knees. He then says, “I ain’t so tough” in a painful and shocked way. He then falls on the street curb.

The scene I analysed describes the perfect example of the thematic issue the director uses in The Public Enemy. Cagney’s character, the man that thought he could do anything, falls down on a street curb in the pouring rain. This scene, especially the last few shots, are the embodiment of the issue of how even the “all powerful” can’t stay away from his eventual downfall. It’s a powerful thought, and one that comes up again and again in later films.

The Public Enemy

September 6, 2010

Wow, what a movie.

Made in 1931, The Public Enemy gives us the life of a mobster during the Depression Era. Sure, nowadays the “rise and fall” of a local “Wiseguy” seems almost as old as other movie cliches. But, think about when this movie, whose “protagonist” is a cocky, ruthless, cold-blooded, and brutal individual, was made. The 1930s! A time where the American Dream was nothing more than a nightmare for most Americans. The movie itself was violent, belittled women, and gave the whole world a glimpse of the life of a mobster.

Again, this was the same Era that brought about Tarzan, The Ape Man and Popeye, the Sailor Man.

And, of course, the film was met with criticism, namely scenes depicting offstage violence and the well-documented “Grapefruit Scene”-

But, at the same time, it was critically acclaimed. And why wouldn’t it be? This was Goodfellas (my favorite movie of ALL time) before Goodfellas. The acting was top-notch. James Cagney gives the performance he was born to do. He showed us the outer actions and the inner thoughts of a mobster at that time through his acting. Cagney gave us emotional outbursts and subtle actions that truly defines his character. I’m willing to say that the Academy completely did the man wrong not nominating him for Best Actor.

The Public Enemy was, without a doubt, one of the first true mobster movies. I hate to admit it, but I highly doubt Goodfellas would be what it is today if it weren’t for The Public Enemy.