For this blog, I chose the cult classic, Fight Club. I think this movie is a perfect intersection of Classicism and Formalism. Director, David Fincher uses traditional psychological thriller methods such as quick cuts from scene to scene, loud diagetic sound, but he also employs techniques that are very different from the classic structure. Fight Club, from very beginning is a psychological thriller in a way I’ve never seen one done before. There are subliminal messages throughout, even spliced images within scenes to make the viewer feel as though the are going crazy while watching. There are even moments of stark realism, especially during the fight scenes. Each fight is filmed as though you are watching a documentary of an underground fight club.
The director does a good job of spanning these three fields (realism, classicism, and formalism), and this causes the movie to excellently perform in the genre, though it is so nontraditionally filmed. Each choice takes the view on a psychological journey along with the main characters of the film. The lighting choices, the splicing of scenes, the realism during fights, and the absurdity of some scenes allow this movie to capture an audience in a way that would typically be distracting.
Step Outline: The Talented Mr Ripley, Directed by Anthony Minghella
- TOM RIPLEY’S face against a black backdrop as his character narrates a voice over. The camera pans out to show him playing piano at a high-class garden party in New York. He meets DICKIE GREENLEAF’S FATHER who recognises his jacket as one from Princeton, where his son went. Returns the jacket to its real owner. He runs into a theatre. <All over opening credits. >
- He is a bathroom attendant at the theatre. Watches the concert being performed from the wings. Practices the piano alone on stage.
- Meets with DICKIE GREENLEAF’S FATHER who proposes that he persuade DICKIE to come home for a fee of $1000.
- JAZZ MUSIC PLAYS After learning of DICKIE’S love of Jazz music he memorises the songs and artists blindfolded. Packs his bags to leave and gets into a smart taxi. OPERA MUSIC as the ferry leaves port.
- The ship arrives in a bustling Italian port. The camera follows a blonde woman (MEREDITH) to whom he introduces himself as Dickie Greenleaf. They bid farewell.
- A blue bus journeys across an idyllic Mediterranean coastline. RIPLEY is awed. He arrives at a quaint harbour.
- RIPLEY practices his Italian whilst watching DICKIE and MARGE frolicking on the beach. Accidentally on purpose passes DICKIE and pretends that he recognises him from Princeton. DICKIE is unconvinced but MARGE invited him to lunch.
- RIPLEY spots DICKIE cavorting with an Italian girl.
- DICKIE returns to find that RIPLEY is at his house with MARGE. RIPLEY tells DICKIE that his talents are of impersonation and does a creepy impression of DICKIE’S FATHER. It is revealed that RIPLEY is being paid to take DICKIE home. They walk through the crowded streets.
- As RIPLEY is about to leave he purposefully drops Jazz records in front of DICKIE.
- DICKIE takes RIPLEY to a smoky Jazz bar. RIPLEY is awed and then he and DICKEI sing on stage together.
- RIPLEY agrees to stay on as “a double agent”. He hears DICKIE and MARGE discussing him and then does an impression of them to himself in the mirror. RIPLEY tells DICKIE he has a fiancé. DICKIE declares that he is never going back.
- DICKIE and MARGE take RIPLEY out onto a sailing boat to teach him how to sail. It is revealed that he can’t ski either – “such low-class”.
- MY FUNNY VALENTINE plays as MARGE and RIPLEY walk through the cobbled streets discussing their mutual love, DICKIE.
- RIPLEY and DICKIE ride a bike along the coast.
- RIPLEY and DICKIE perform together at the Jazz club.
- Back at the house, RIPLEY tells DICKIE how revealing handwriting is and then, later, when they play chess (DICKIE is in the bath) RIPLEY makes a pass at him.
- DICKIE suggests taking RIPLEY to Rome to buy a jacket. A café in Rome, FREDDIE arrives in a bright red car. They go to a record shop and FREDDIE and DICKIE ditch RIPLEY. RIPLEY morosely wanders around the tourist spots of Rome.
- DICKIE returns to find RIPLEY prancing around his room in his clothes to music. DICKIE is irritated. Downstairs, FREDDIE teases RIPLEY.
- RIPLEY, DICKIE, MARKE and FREDDIE go sailing. RIPLEY is sulking and MARGE comforts him, and tells him that the ski trip isn’t happening. FREDDIE catches RIPLEY watching DICKIE and RIPLEY have sex, FREDDIE asks, “How’s the peeping?”
- DICKIE’S Italian Girl watches the party coming to shore from a rock.
- There is a Catholic procession – singing and crowds. The Italian girl’s body rises to the surface shortly after the icon of the Virgin Mary does. There is panic and hysteria. DICKIE, MARGE and RIPLEY watch from the balcony. DICKIE lashes out and calls Italy “primitive.” Away from Marge, DICKIE reveals that the Italian girl was pregnant with his child and that he had refused to help her. RIPLEY says that it is their secret and they are brothers.
- The next day at the train station DICKIE announces that it is time that both of them moved on. Says that San Remo can be their last trip to together.
- On the train RIPLEY sniffs DICKIE. DICKIE wakes up and calls RIPLEY “spooky.”
- At a lively Jazz bar RIPLEY has to admit that he neither likes Jazz nor went to Princeton. DICKIE doesn’t seem to mind.
- They are alone together on a boat, scouting the shore for places for DICKIE to live. DICKIE tells RIPLEY he is relieved that he is going because he is a “leech” and “boring.” UNNERVING PIANO MUSIC plays as RIPLEY accuses DICKIE of being careless and selfish. As DICKIE goes to drive the boat back to shore RIPLEY hits him round the face with an oar. Blood comes pouring out of hisface but he is not dead. They wrestle. RIPLEY batters DICKIE to death with an oar.
Writing this step outline I was aware of the way that the director is able to slowly up the tension until the climax of the first third of the film occurs on the boat. We are made to follow Tom Ripley and we become unnervingly intimate with his sociopathic tendencies. The audience is well aware of Ripley’s true nature before the either Dickie or Marge are.
Take the 1995 Cult-Classic, The Usual Suspects, which is even funny at times, but still manages to keep the viewers on their toes!
Realism, Formalism, and Classicism
Pascal Laugier, a director in the fantasy/horror genre, produced a movie named The Tall Man in 2012. This movie received harsh ratings. It is currently rated at 48% on the movie review cite rottentomatoes.com. The synopsis: A rural town in Washington is undergoing an era of kidnapping. The parents of this town have come up with a name for the mysterious entity kidnapping their children. They call him The Tall Man. Julia Denning’s, actress Jessica Biel, son gets abducted and she will stop at nothing to retrieve her son.
This film utilizes all three film modes: Realism, Formalism, and Classicism. It opens with a clip of parents being interviewed by a news crew about the abduction of their children. This documentary-like style of opening gives the movie a real feel, as if the viewer has just turned on the local news. This sense of realism is also what essentially hurt the film’s ratings. During the first third of the film, many viewers predicted The Tall Man to be a ghost or a mystical creature, and expected for the movie to follow the Formalistic and bizarre theme seen in many horror films. Laugier actually resigned from being the director of the remake of the 1987 film Hellraiser because his ideals were not commercial enough. The story ends with The Tall Man being a typical human being, supporting the Realism in the story. Despite the harsh reviews, I enjoyed the movie. It had good shots, good audio, convincing special effects, great actors, and a very intricate storyline as do most full feature films with a Classicist theme.
The Butterfly Effect- (Prison Scene)
Props: paper with memories on it
Prison cell brightly lit
nonDiagetic sound of large heavy metal doors scrapping as they close and prison cell door in the background. Violins right before the action scene, turns into upbeat orchestra.
Diagetic sound is very secretive. Filled with questions. “Do you believe in that whole bit the lord works in mysterious ways?” (Evan to Carlos)
Costumes are prison outfits, Sweatpants and tee-shirts. Casualness is exaggerated in psychological thrillers. They are made to persuade the reader that the events unfolding can happen to them or anyone else in this world. Psychological thrillers tend to leave the viewer asking, “What if…”
This scene from the Butterfly Effect carries a numinous tone with its references to stigmata and divinity. The scene inaugurates when Evan Treborn, Ashton Kutcher, inquires the faith of his prison cell mate, Carlos, Kevin Durand. Carlos is baffled by Evan’s curiosity, but submits to his own whims of knowing when Evan insists on showing him something in private. In the well-lit prison cell Evan tells Carlos to watch for any signs of the Lord and begins to read a piece of paper containing his childhood memories. The suspense builds with non-diagetic audio and hazy camera effects until Evan in suspended in a lucid ubiquitous reminiscence of himself in his childhood classroom. He stabs himself in the hands with two sharp objects on his teacher’s desk and immediately wakes up from this memory with two newly formed scars on each palm. Carlos is convinced in Evan’s causality with the Lord, referring to Evan’s new scars as stigmata. Discovering this, Carlos agrees to help this mystical profit (Evan) retrieve his journal from rival gang leaders and escape from prison. The discussed scene is replete with a motif of Faith, something commonplace in many of our lives, which vouches for the practicality of the film and its genre.
This scene is not comprised of commendable acting from neither Kutcher nor Durand. The dialogue is generic and predictable. After Kutcher says “I think Jesus sent me to your cell for a reason.” all successive dialogue becomes negligible, and heed is given to the rising visual conflicts. The scene’s closing is captivating because it climaxes with Evan, Ashton Kutcher, vacillating between a safe-haven and an impending slaughter. This scene is not an archetypical psychological thriller movie extract due to the director aggrandizing action’s role, but it does
embody the wonder factor that a typical psychological thriller possesses.
The Usual Suspects veers between the Classicist and Formalist modes. I would argue that it for the most part classicist: the focus of the film is on the complex story that Verbal spins for Kajun under interrogation. It is vital for the success and cohesion of the film that emphasis is placed on narrative over form (although form is an important aspect of the film). It is a non-linear narrative told in flashback form – a tale that we are not entirely sure whether or not to believe. It is therefore essential that the Bryan Singer made the film more classicist than wholly based on the formalist mode. If there is one thing that most people remember about The Usual Suspects it will be the twist at the end – the cathartic moment in which Kajun drops his coffee as he realises the true identity of Verbal.
However, the cinematography of the film is obviously stylised formalistically. For example: the way in which the camera lingers over the debris at the dock in the first scene where Verbal is revealed to be hiding/not hiding. The director places the image of the debris into the subconscious of the audience despite it not having any relevance until the end of the film. Similarly, the way in which light is used to illuminate the faces of the actors throughout the film – particularly when they are confronted with the figure of Keyser Soze. This use of lighting is entirely unrealistic but acts as a visual indicator of realisation or surprise.
Someone must die, it’s inescapable,
If you had the chance to play god would you,
Let’s play a game—
Scanning the room,
Spotting the target,
TAKE THE SHOT
The mirrored imaged repulses you
If it’s worth it,
Suddenly rage fills you,
Your blood has been replaced with pure malice;
The blade raises in your hand…
the world is blank
When your eyes reopen,
Blood has been spilled;
It pours, it flows,
You watch the beauty of the crimson river as it exits your body,
wondering was it worth it?
Enter all protagonists into what looks to be a basement of a jail. It is dark, the bars of holding cells are reflected on the floor. One character seems to have a club foot and you can hear it sliding along the linoleum floor. The characters enter a line-up room, first in shadow, then a bright light is turned on quickly. You hear a buzz of an intercom and someone begins to speak. You are apse to see how small the line-up room is, it seems more like a box. You can hear the sound of lights buzzing, and the hum of the intercom.
Based on the scenery, you can tell this is supposed to be a serious scene. The silence and heavy presence of diagetic sound, keeps the viewer on edge, you are waiting for something to happen, and paying very close attention. The bright light, and confined space of the room also helps to do this.
Kevin Spacey does a beautiful job throughout the movie, and this is the first scene I think you begin to see it. He keeps the scene interesting. Most of the diagetic sound is coming from his body movements alone. He also creates interesting shadow because of how he chooses to position his body.
Dwayne Scott 3/14/14
Professor Van Jordan: Cinematic Movement
After The Dap
Rhyming isosceles they point after the dap.
And non-camaraderies conjoin after the dap.
From Rastas to swastikas to profits and agnostics,
All watch in aww no laws master the dap.
Street fights erupt between young teens and some think
That their friendship’s the shit after the dap.
No words spoken still a heart to heart moment-
The pressure of the chests’ connection after the dap.
The tan race is a fan base for handshakes.
Paparazzi paid in full capture the dap.
Through handshakes a real man detects fake.
You can tell he hates by the way he fastens the dap.
Business deals still concealed under the table,
Makes it hard to look a man in his eyes after the dap.
Crack sky rockets to push profit to thy pocket-
Government’s fatal exchange after the dap.
The misconception: you can snap tension with your tendons,
But you never know a man exact after the dap.
A man can judge another man’s clutch and reach a verdict.
No satisfaction means he’s wack after the dap.
A dry palm and a ripe clap and a snap
Makes a white kid think he’s black after the dap.
Now you’re probably thinking that you know D. Scott,
That’s the aftermath of being black after the dap.
American Psycho – Scene Building
The scene that I will deconstruct in this post is the ‘Hip to be Square’ Scene from American Psycho. The setting is Patrick Bateman’s brightly lit, minimalist apartment at night. Bateman wields an axe, wears a raincoat and brandishes a copy of Huey Lewis and the News’ Fore album. Paul (Jared Leto) lolls in a drunken stupor on the covered floor and sofa that have been prepared for his butchering. There is no non-diagetic sound. The sounds before Hip to be Square blares out are the unnerving sounds of Bateman glugging down his meds and the noise of the axe being placed on the floor.
The tone of this scene is at once comical and menacing. The scenery enforces this through building upon the things about Patrick we are already aware of. The naff modern art on the wall reinforces the superficiality and materiality that Bateman has set up his life around and the meticulous covering of the sofa and floor and the fact that Bateman wears a raincoat illustrate his narcissism and anal retentiveness as ridiculous.
Christian Bale’s portrayal of a psycho is almost slapstick: he dances and maniacally waxes lyrical about Huey Lewis:
“In ’87, Huey released this, Fore, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is ‘Hip To Be Square’, a song so catchy most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics – but they should! Because it’s not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it’s also a personal statement about the band itself!”
He grins at Paul and gesticulates as he circles his victim. There is a moment in the bathroom in which the comical element of the scene is entirely undercut when Bateman looks at himself solemnly in the mirror before sauntering out with the axe. The murder itself is the result of a slow and comical building of tension. “Hey Paul!” – Patrick brings down the axe on his head and proceeds to hack him to pieces. Christian Bale is entirely convincing as a narcissistic psychopath – at once a comedy villain and a terrifying product of American capitalism and materialism.
American Psycho feels unique within the Psychological Thriller genre as it is both utterly fantastical yet also incredibly recognisable. It captures the zeitgeist of the late eighties and successfully translates Bret Easton Ellis’s postmodern nightmare into film.