Feed on

The notion of slant and filter as defined in Chapman’s article has sunk in quite a bit, but there are some instances in films that we’ve seen where I try to apply the terms and just get plain old befuddled.  So we’re all on the same page, let me copy down the definitions Chapman provides:

Slant – The narrator’s attitudes and other mental nuances appropriate to the report function of discourse.

Filter – The much wider range of mental activity experienced by characters in the story world – perceptions, cognitions, attitudes, emotions, memories, fantasies, and the like.

First example: in the fourth episode of The Singing Detective, there’s one sequence where young Marlowe is riding with his mother on the train to London. Young Marlowe is looking out the window at a scarecrow atop a hill when suddenly, the scarecrow waves. Then, eventually, the same sequence is replayed, but from the other side, crossing the 180 Degree line, showing the head of the scarecrow to be Hitler. Then, Hitler taunts a battalion of British soldiers and they in turn fire upon the scarecrow. So, as I understand it, the flashback sequences are all filtered through Philip Marlowe’s mental processes; we are witnessing his rendering of his past memories. One question I have is are we getting our fabula information filtered through the young Marlowe in the memories, with Older Marlowe as the implied filterer (or the more general focalizer), if you see the distinction? Further, in my mind, there is no possible way that in the memory sequence, young Marlowe could visualize the aspect of the memory with the soldiers. So, is this a flourish provided by the filtered memories of Older Marlowe, or a narrational slant? Or maybe, there are just multiple filterers coinciding with the different ages of Marlowe?

I understand slant to emerge when imformation is presented that cannot possibly be in the scope of knowledge of the filtering character. For example, the glimpse of both Leonard and Sammy in the same wheelchair towards the end of Memento. In my chronology of the fabula, Leonard had already experienced his wife’s rape and thus his memory condition, so how can he have remembered himself in that way? Are these latent memories still in his head that only come forth due to Teddy’s retelling? Are they projections of internal processes going off in Leonard’s head? Possibly, but couldn’t they also be the narrator inserting an opinion towards the correct way to understand the fabula? What has become clear to me is how complicated defining the cinematic language actually is.

Also, one last thing concerning filtering as it relates to Barton Fink. During the sequence where John Goodman’s character runs down the hallway and the walls light up in flame, is that filtered through Barton or John Goodman’s character. As we know, we are given a glimpse of where Barton was situated: in the hotel room on the bed, only able to see the little visible to him through the doorway (the fire lining the walls, John Goodman walking by and reloading his gun). I would presume that Barton may also be able to hear all that goes on outside the room, so it is not a stretch for Barton to filter that sequence based upon the visual and aural clues provided to him. But maybe, John Goodman’s character is filtering the sequence. We do know from Barton’s filtering that the hotel is hot, but maybe the fire along the wall is an external expression of John Goodman’s inner fury, in the same way that Wilson’s article uses the example of Bogart waking up from being drugged and having the spidery fog imposed on the screen while he stumbles around. This would tie into Wilson’s discussion of formal manifestations of subjectivity. Anyway, I’d like to hear of anybody has any opinions on these examples or could provide any other examples that might clear up any misuderstandings I have concerning the terms slant and filter

Being prompted by Professor Mittell to engage with the play between syuzhet and style, I stared at and scruntized the screen and discovered one thing: RED is everywhere in The Sixth Sense.  Bordwell speaks at length to the relationship between syuzhet and style, stating that “Film technique is customarily used to perform syuzhet tasks – providing information, cueing hypotheses, and so forth.” One prominent technique oft utilized by Shyamalan in all of his movies, especially The Sixth Sense,  is COLOR. Having seen the movie beforehand numerous times, I was familiar with the stylized use of the color RED. So throughout the screening tonight, I marked down every instance where the color red appeared. Also, by the color red, I mean THAT specific color red, indicating a conscious stylistic choice by Shyamalan.

52 scenes contained the color RED.

Here are prominent uses:

Funeral Sequence: Wife in Red Dress, Red flowers, Red Lipstick. The decorative box containing the cassette tape included a red adornment. In Mischa Barton’s bedroom, there is a starkly red “It’s never fun to be sick,” ‘get well’ card.

Cole’s Red Tent (equipped with a red flannel blanket and the Jesus figureine draped in a red shall)

Cole’s Mother often has red fingernail polish.

At the play sequence, the gem in Excalibur is red.

The red doorknob at Malcolm’s house; his wife is draped in a red.

The sequence with the dead bicycle rider: her bike helmet is red.

When Malcolm first enters the church after Cole, the church doors are red.

Malcolm’s wife wears red throughout most of the movie (except the sequence in which Malcolm actually dies).

When Malcolm and Cole are walking towards the beginning of the film, there is a red stop sign as well as a group of youth baseball players wearing…you guessed it…red caps.

The red balloon floating up the spiral staircase at the birthday party.

The Thermostat needle is red.

A faded red hospital instrument above Cole’s bed.

Cole’s mother finds Cole’s ‘upset words’ written in red ink.

Malcolm’s wife anti-depressants are red pills.

My list filled up two college-ruled sheets of paper front and back. The question I was forced to ask myself is: why so much red? I think that the obvious explanation is that the color red appears prominently when ghosts are present: particularly with Cole’s tent, the red door knob, the balloon, and Cole’s sweater. Upon first watching the film, this would become very apparent after a while, almost one of the ways in which Shyamalan teaches the audience how to watch the movie. However, watching the movie the second time, red is posited as a clue to Malcolm actually being dead. In a majority of the scenes with Malcolm and Cole, there is either a bright red or a shade of red present, oftentimes a subtle shade of red, which complements the hidden ‘double’ fabula that the article mentioned. When I watched the film this time, I noticed how many times red appears whenever Malcolm is around, almost throwing it in your face that he is actually a ghost. This is just one of the ways in which Shyamalan hides the ‘twist’ from the audience via cooperation between the syuzhet and the style.

Also, this color red allows for the audience (and me included) to make an hypothesis and test that hypothesis in accordance with Bordwell’s notion of the ‘spectator.’ Hypothesis: When the color red appears, a ghost will show up. Then, you could test that theory (multiple times even), and as an active viewer, we can figure out the connection.

Again, there are many examples of the connection between syzuhet and style. Hopefully we’ll chat about more tomorrow in class.


Three Acts

1/4, 1/2, 1/4

The Inciting Incident




Robert McKee…

Standard blogging form seems to look like this: Choose an enticing title so that internet surfers ride the proverbial wave onto your site; write in paragraph format; embed video or images along with text; flashy colors or themed designs or fonts or your ‘links’ all convey a sense of identity and personality, all of which could lead to a readership; an audience for your opinions concerning the world. Who’s to say that I can’t blog using screenwriting terms randomly placed across the page in order to visually show that the Screenwriting manuals and their tropes are merely tried-and-true success stories that lead to profit (well, maybe it doesn’t show the last part about profit). A set of norms/conventions has come to define the appearance of a blog in the same way that a successful screenplay is expected to work and conform to a set structure in order to be produced or even taken seriously by Hollywood. Could you understand a blog post discussing frustrations of screenwriting via a different formal presentation than expected? and How would we come to understand the meaning?

As I continue writing my own screenplay for a thesis, the MYMF reading really jazzed the side of me that really desires to create something original; the side of me that maybe wants 4 acts instead of three; a protagonist who rarely appears in the film but manages to drive the action. I want to push the boundaries of an accepted form, of accepted conventions, in order to create something that not only tells a story, but also says something about how we tell stories. This seems to harken back to our first day of class when we clarified our task for the semester: to examine how we tell stories. There are conventional ways and there are unconventional ways. It’s been said before, you must know the conventions before you can break them because that shows both a proficiency in the conventions themselves and the genius to mold the form into whatever you want. A powerful tool. I resist conventions; I accept conventions. More or less, these screenwriting manuals provide the tools within your toolbox to create a convincing storyworld presented via plot in a manner that will engage the audience successfully.

Going back to blogs, as I mentioned before, I want to see bloggers explore how breaking the conventions of the ‘craft’ can inspire new meaning or a better understanding of what’s being written. I’m familiar with video blogs, but I’m wondering if there are any examples of, say, intrepid bloggers successfully manipulating the CSS form in a manner which somehow magnifies or complements the meaning of their blog post or overall blog “voice” or message? The way German Expressionism visually and outwardly expressed internal emotions. I’m not saying my exercise in breaking blog conventions worked, but like any of the mediums we’ll be studying this semester (TV, Film, Video Games), we must be in tune to these subtle plays with conventions and how they invoke meaning both diegetically and mimetically? It’s just another tool in the toolbox…

In class on Thursday when we were discussing how a film could cue us to the subjectivity of the narration since, by default, a film is expected to utilize objectivity; similarly, the audience’s expectations, guided by cognitive norms, submit to the same objectivity. As I reflected about this notion, one film in particular struck me as representing subjective narration both diegetically and mimetically. Our Narrator, Walter Neff, and the Femme Fatale, Phyllis Dietrichson

Double Indemnity, a seminal film noir from 1944, concerns an insurance rep who “lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions (imdb.com).” Now, this plot summary does no justice to the complexity of the story, but this film noir hits all of the right notes: expressionistic lighting, femme fatale, murder, fatalism, crime, etc… Honestly, if you haven’t seen it, you must, and I apologize in advance if I reveal key events from the plot/discourse that could ruin your viewing experience.

Double Indemnity immediately cues us diegetically to its subjectivity by the narrator/protagonist framing the narrative with a confession of murder and the events leading up to that murder. Visually, we see the protagonist, Walter Neff, telling his story via a dictaphone. From this point on, the voice-over narration guides us into the body of the plot and how Neff became beguiled by both the femme fatale and thus the murder plot. What all of these techniques denote is the subjectivity of the events that follow: Neff is guiding us through the events, naturally providing us with one skewed (in my mind) perspective of the events leading to his eventual demise. What I think the film does very well is mimetically convey the inner conflict of Neff as he tells his story; almost as if the mise-en-scene visually invokes the emotional state of the fated character. It is as if the audience sees externally what Neff feels internally while narrating the tale. In one particular scene (the one in the photo above), Wilder constructs settings using both obtuse, Expressionistic lighting techniques to convey the turmoil of Neff. Furthermore, Wilder also prominently displays doorways, windows, portraits, and other architectural elements that appear as closed boxes or frames; as I saw it, visual cues suggesting Neff’s feeling of being trapped and unable to escape from his inevitable fate.

As I think we certainly showed in class, film diegesis and mimesis exist simultaneously within any film. They exist as weights on a scale: sometimes, more weight is placed on one aspect over the other. In this case, the narrative framework and plot construction of the story and its inherent subjectivity are complimented by aspects of set design and mise-en-scene that reveal the mental status of the narrator/protagonist.


Welcome to my blog. More to come very soon.

Welcome to my blog. This is a very rough palette at this point, but keep checking the site for updates, weekly posts, and discussions of the class’s musings.

In Tuesday’s class (9/9/08), we started the semester off by compiling a list of techniques and approaches that could answer the question: What helps tell a story? The list ended up being quite long and by no means exhausted all of the possibilities, but my brain has crawled out of its summer hybernation and has begun to actively recognize some of the techniques we discussed in Tuesday’s class. This leads me to the real meaning of my post. My friend e-mailed me a while back concerning a Spanish-language horror entitled Rec (2007) that scared him beyond belief, and being an avid fan of horror and frightful things, I decided to watch some of the more scary scenes on YouTube. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gWEy9uHACU

The basic story involves a Spanish TV News crew filming a documentary that follows firefighters and policemen on their nightly rounds. This particular night, they follow the firefighters and police to an apartment building where an old woman is trapped. From then on out, the film delves into horrific events involving viral infections and possession to name a few, but has been lauded recently as one of the most scary movie experiences in a long time by critics and audiences alike, which is awesome, because the current state of the horror genre, in my opinion, is not in good shape. Regardless, the point of this post is to highlight some techniques used to tell the filmic story. I think the most apparent aspect after watching the clip is the use of a first-person perspective embodied by the character of the cameraman. Especially in this instance, the cameraman represents the curiosity of not only the characters, but also the audience. His camera follows the action, shifts throughout the space, providing the audience with a limited, but adequate perspective of the action. I don’t like this phrase, but the audience is meant to “identify” with his perspective, but not necessarily his character. I make the distinction because I am interested in looking at how the 1st person POV can inform us about the character of the cameraman, because obviously the camera is not just here to provide the visuals, but infact exists as a character as well. I’d need to actually see the movie in order to make those distinctions clearer and more well informed. I imagine that questions like this will crop up throughout this class: how does a 1st perspective provide meaning for a narrative vs. a 3rd person perspective?

Besides being a frightening clip, I think the film ingeniously uses both the audio of the audio playback machine and the images and photographs scattered around the apartment to provide a scary mood for the film as well as to unravel the mystery that the camera crew (and subsequently, the audience) are wrestling with. It reminded me a bit of those scenes in movies where the camera pans slowly across a series of photographs to say something about the characters within those photos. Obviously, this knowledge adds to the fear within and characters and the fear within the audience, which ultimately builds to a startling climax, which, I’ve at least seen that part, is SCARY.

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