Scene Analysis | Stalker as Slasher

(Due to copyright issues, please view the clips on YouTube)

By Larry Cherkasov

Stalker (1979) slips in and out of science fiction film typology, and in this scene, it becomes slasher. Not one of the Stalker-Writer-Professor trio is sliced into gore and bits or screams, but the buildup to the point at which the cameraman grows tired and rests in the abandoned vehicle suggests an ineffable sinister force—the Zone—stalking its prey.

The camera closes in on the broken-down car, replete with tangling weeds and scrap metal garbage, biding its time once inside. No soundtrack plays, but the slight crunching underfoot signals the presence of a set of feet, two or perhaps five, slowly creeping in on whatever resides inside that little frame that the car’s left center window forms. The Stalker rears his head to volunteer himself as victim, followed by the Professor, who suddenly lurches backwards, staring right into the center of the camera, eyes wide and confronted with his mortality. The two men are joined by the Writer, who whispers out “Lord!” thus either greeting his God, or invoking Him.

The film at large is not a slasher, but its techniques create an effect that shares the genre’s self-awareness and playfulness in its use of camera as character. The camera in Stalker not only plays the creep in this scene, slowly but confidently moving around with impunity, but also at the film’s beginning, inching, or rather millimetering, into the box-shaped room, panning across the faces, of the wife, then the child, then the Stalker, tracing their features out in relief. If in the former scene, the camerawork assumes at least an earthly predator, who needs feet to stalk, the opening scene reminds the viewer that the Zone evades categorization, hovering in impossible shots and peering in on intimate moments at angles of its choosing. When mysteries reserved for the physical location of the Zone pervade the Stalker’s own home in the final scene, Tarkovsky reminds us one final time of the Zone’s chilling abstraction.

Larry Cherkasov is studying English in his final undergraduate year at Harvard College, focusing on the literature of poverty in the early twentieth century.

Notes on Badlands

By Tyler Patterson

Certain films seem to exist outside time. They’re so enchanting that they suspend time’s steady march forward. Even after the ending, they leave the viewer feeling less like they just watched a movie and more like they traveled to another place. They create a world so enduring that it lingers and lives in the viewer long after its life on the screen. This has more to do, perhaps, with the mood–an inexplicable aura–of the film than any narrative elements. If these qualities were used as a sort of litmus test for the longevity of a film, then Badlands, Terrence Malick’s first feature-length film, would succeed wildly.

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Scene Analysis | Your Vice… vs. The Shining

By Brad Avery

Directed by Sergio Martino, Your Vice… is a loose adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Black Cat. The story involves an alcoholic writer, Oliviero (Luigi Pistilli), who regularly abuses his unraveling wife Irina (Anita Strindberg). After a string of murders leaves Oliviero the prime suspect, Irina becomes complicit in helping to dispose of a corpse so that more suspicion doesn’t fall on him. As paranoia and infidelity cause the couple’s psyches to dissolve, they begin plotting to kill each other. The film reaches a series of successive emotional heights in its final act, deviating wildly from Poe’s writing with a scene where Irina finally murders Oliviero.

If this plot sounds familiar, that’s because Kubrick has translated it into the iconic “All work and no play” scene of The Shining (1980). While The Shining (1980) is notorious for its dramatic alteration from the source material in favor of original expression, the final product feels so singular that it may come as a surprise to some viewers that parts of the film are as a matter of fact borrowed images.

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Don’t Torture a Duckling and Religion in the Eyes of Fulci

By Greg Mucci

Lucio Fulci left behind a legacy steeped in horror—dozens of films ranging from sex romps, spaghetti westerns to science fiction socio-political fables—after his death in 1996 from complications with diabetes. Coined the godfather of gore alongside maestro Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci can be instantly recognized by fans of horror for his contribution to the ever-fluctuating zombie genre with Zombi 2, a 1978 spiritual successor to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, titled Zombi for Italian audiences. Fulci followed up Zombi 2’s box office success—grossing more internationally than Dawn—with City of the Living Dead in 1980 and The Beyond in 1981. Both tackle themes of religion and the supernatural, and showcase some of Fulci’s more inspired splatter moments; a power drill through the brain, a face doused in acid. For fans of giallo—a genre blending mystery, murder, and psychological elements with that of the slasher genre—Lucio Fulci had been a household name since 1969’s One on Top of the Other; a film that heavily prefigured the shift into erotic thrillers of the 1990s, such as Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct. However, his garish visual flare and the sleek stylistic choice of the giallo genre wouldn’t stalk hand-in-hand until Don’t Torture a Duckling; Fulci’s lambaste of the Catholic Church. Dealing heavily in the sin of sex, Duckling would ultimately find itself blacklisted all around Europe, marking it as Fulci’s most controversial examination of religion.

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What Have You Done to Solange?: Tracing the imagery of violence and eroticism in our collective psyche

By Selin Sevinc

Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange? is a prime example of the 1970s giallo films where murder mystery often driven by sexual themes meets psychological horror. No wonder the popularity of gialli eventually gave birth to the American slasher movie: the core of this peculiar subgenre consists of gory violence powered by voyeuristic fascination and a basic whodunit plot shadowed by the gruesomeness of the central crime. Solange showcases the elements of giallo in many ways and succeeds at expressing, and even exploiting, the societal obsession with sexual violence directed toward women.

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Special Pages | Watching Columbus with Kogonada (Q&A excerpt)

Yangqiao Lu (YL): I want to start with some basic questions, and then I’m going to open it up to the audience. You started with a background in criticism and writing, and you sort of fall into this tradition of some critics and academics becoming filmmakers. And there’s a strong tradition in the history of cinema, like the New Wave and still today there are a lot of critics are using filmmaking as a creative outlet for their thinking. So I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about that transition from cutting film into pieces to putting together, from criticizing something to this creative process. How did you become a filmmaker?

Kogonada (K): OK. And also, just thank you guys for being here on a Sunday afternoon, and thank you for the Brattle Theatre. This is an incredible theatre. I think filmmakers that I know who’ve never practiced film criticism, the way they talk about films is a kind of film criticism. So some of us have had an opportunity, and I had an opportunity to make a living deconstructing films for a while. I don’t think I’m original. I think it’s a part of the conversation of cinema if you love the medium, as I do, and you are thinking through all those decisions and the choices the filmmakers that have meant something to you have made. So I had an opportunity to actually do a form of visual criticism, which was really great training to make films because I actually got to do the sort of deconstruction, and reconstructed through editing, but it was always with this dream or aspiration to make something larger, to make a feature. There was a programmer who’s not there any more at Tribeca who had reached out to me and asked if I was ever going to make a feature that they would be really interested, and that was a real moment for me to say if I ever want to make a feature, I should start doing that.

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A Bay of Blood

By Michael Roberson

For 1963’s landmark The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Italian horror legend Mario Bava is credited with pioneering the giallo film, one of the most influential horror subgenres. But with 1971’s A Bay of Blood, Bava mixed the giallo film’s black-gloved point-of-view killers and highly stylized murder scenes with the body count framework of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None to create an even further-reaching subgenre: the slasher film.

A Bay of Blood (which is also known by a wide variety of alternate titles; Chain Reaction, The Ecology of Crime, and my personal favorite, Twitch of the Death Nerve) features one of the best opening scenes in the giallo canon. After some introductory establishing shots of the titular bay, we see a lonely countess in a wheelchair slowly meandering around her waterfront mansion. Through a trademark giallo point-of-view shot, we witness a black-gloved killer throw a noose around her neck and kick her wheelchair out from under her: a typical but impeccably stylish beginning for a giallo. After her death, Bava throws us a curveball. Rather than serving as the expected setup for a whodunit, the camera pans up from those black leather gloves to reveal the killer’s face. Just as the killer begins staging the crime scene, setting out a forged suicide note, a second killer appears and stabs him to death.

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In Memoriam of Peter Hutton

By Tyler Patterson

If the moment I started studying with Peter Hutton had a color, it would be cerulean. I don’t know which other could articulate the curious alloy of surging energy and contagious calm that he brought to his teaching. If I were of a certain persuasion, I would call the ensuing feeling oceanic, and chuckle at the way it loosely evokes imagery from his film At Sea, which blew my mind and those of all of my classmates, but the implicit over-seriousness of describing it as such verges on hero worship, a counterproductive habit that Peter taught me to work beyond. Imperfect as the metaphor is, invoking a color of electrifying clarity will have to do for this belated eulogy for the teacher who helped me move from darkness into light—or, better put, who helped me locate the light in darkness—more so than any other teacher. He did so with humbleness, grace, and simplicity, qualities that I believe any teacher worth their salt ought to strive for. Peter embodied these qualities, and so many more, and I am eternally grateful to have studied with him.

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Spooky Action at a Distance: On the Many Benefits of Exploring Vampire Subjectivity in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive

By Tyler Patterson

Jim Jarmusch’s 2013 vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive is like a master class in solving quirky filmmaking puzzles. How does a director make a movie in which the characters can survey and comment on the whole of history without having the film succumb to hackneyed tricks like time travel? Jarmusch’s solution: Make the protagonists undead. Make them vampires. But if one of the aims of the film is identification—i.e., the viewer being able to identify with the protagonists and thus take part in their often-plaintive (re)view of history—then how does the director create this effect when his protagonists are the embodiment of horror? By inverting the traditional relationship between the feared vampires and fearful people and having people be zombies to the vampires. These are some of the brilliant moves Jarmusch deploys in his hypnotizing contribution to the filmic version of literature’s sexiest, weirdest, and most blood-thirsty genre.

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Scene Analysis | The Comedic Tilda Swinton in Trainwreck

By Juan Ramirez

Trainwreck held a lot of surprises for the year 2015 – mainly that Amy Schumer could ditch fart jokes and command an audience’s attention longer than the length of a Hulu clip and that director Judd Apatow’s career wasn’t on a steady decline. Though those revelations were nothing short of incredible in a summer season filled with Pixels and Ted 2, neither compares to the one-two punch of casting Tilda Swinton, the Oscar and BAFTA-winning actress, and then using every trick in the cosmetology book to disguise her as thoroughly as possible. Continue reading