Category: Scene Analysis

July 31, 2018 / / Scene Analysis

In Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood (2014), nothing is as simple as it seems. “I’m going to high school,” Marieme (Karidja Touré), our careful, introspective protagonist says to her mother one evening. In truth, she has dropped out of school after being told – despite her protestations – that her only real educational future lies in learning a trade at a technical school. Instead, she has joined up with three other neighborhood girls, who soon become her sisters-in-arm as she navigates life in the banlieues of Paris. We know she is lying and, we suspect, so does her mother, though she doesn’t come out and say it. Some of the film’s most effective exchanges have no dialogue. Every gesture, every facial expression is charged with a sense of urgency that feels eminently appropriate.

July 20, 2018 / / Film Notes

The Green Fog (2017) is a mind-bending walk through the iconic narrative arc of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Commissioned for the closing night of the 2017 San Francisco Film Festival, director Guy Maddin (with co-directors Galen Johnson and Evan Johnson) pays a wonderfully subversive tribute to Hitchcock’s San Francisco-centric film by stitching together footage from movies and tv shows filmed in the Bay Area. Through the scrim of cut up and reworked scenes, the emotional peaks and valleys of Vertigo’s plot materialize. However, this approach never turns into a trivia game for cinephiles. Indeed, a particularly precocious cineast could spend the entirety of The Green Fog recalling the classic films that appear on screen (over 100 in total), pulling each title from the recesses of her mind. However, in traditional Maddin fashion, a more conceptual and active level of movie watching is required.

June 12, 2018 / / Scene Analysis

Blue Velvet (1986) is in some ways one of David Lynch’s most accessible works: it has a more conventional, linear narrative than many of his other projects, it can be understood as a thriller, and it fits into the film noir tradition. Audiences have a framework for processing the film’s scenes of brutality and perversity. For instance, upon its initial release, Gene Siskel compared it to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).

May 21, 2018 / / Scene Analysis

The 1943 Fox musical Stormy Weather is worth seeing not because of its conventional and wafer-thin backstage storyline, but because it offers the opportunity to see great musical numbers with the film’s two leads, Lena Horne and Bill Robinson, as well as other legendary African American artists like Cab Calloway, Katherine Dunham, and Fats Waller. Gifted African American performers were under-utilized and generally poorly served in Hollywood during the studio era, frequently relegated to stereotyped supporting roles or “specialty” numbers that could be excised from prints shipped to racially segregated areas of the United States. And while Stormy Weather is a product of its times and not without its fraught details – including a performance by a pair of comedians in minstrel-style blackface makeup – it also offers an indispensable peek at some extraordinary talents.

April 23, 2018 / / Scene Analysis

Phantom Thread is a movie about obsession. Call it love, admiration, compulsion or simply attention to detail, it is the central ingredient in Paul Thomas Anderson’s answer to the vintage Hollywood romance. Following the peculiar relationship between eccentric couturier Reynolds Woodcock and foreign waitress-turned-muse-turned-partner Alma, the postwar London-set film fits right in with the other classic love affairs of the time, save for its distinctly modern look at what is essentially a well-dressed, well-spoken battle of the kinks.

April 20, 2018 / / Scene Analysis

Have you ever had a complete breakdown in public; blurring the line between public and private spheres? In Her, Theodore faces this exact experience when his operating system lover, Samantha, breaks his heart. Samantha is not just in love with Theodore, but also 641 other users.

January 11, 2018 / / Scene Analysis

Director James Mangold’s Logan is rightly celebrated for bringing the superhero genre down to earth in the best possible way; the film is grounded in situations and characters – and, yes, acts of violence – that feel achingly real. Throughout, Mangold makes space for intimate moments that resonate, such as when Logan swigs alcohol alone while bandaging a hand that should have already healed, or an aged Charles Xavier tends a makeshift garden, or Logan’s daughter Laura stares wide-eyed out of a car window at a glittering city, the likes of which she’s never seen before. Indeed, one of the film’s most poignant scenes is both intimate and relatively quiet, though it begins with Logan snarling and growling himself awake from a nightmare.

January 6, 2018 / / Scene Analysis

Without the pomp of a grandiose opening shot, we are placed dead center in the fray of film Good Time, directed by brothers Josh and Benny Safdie. Stark fluorescent light floods the frame as a psychiatrist clinically interrogates Nick (played by Benny Safdie.) Nick is mentally disabled, and before he can make sense of the pain triggered by the psychiatrist’s pointed questions, his brother Connie (played by Robert Pattinson) bursts through the door.

December 18, 2017 / / Scene Analysis
December 9, 2017 / / Scene Analysis

Slow, plodding xylophone mallets pace the viewer’s heartbeat as Suzy Bannion makes her way into the frame, shrouded in black, face bouncing off yellow light, mascara projecting her eyeball out of the celluloid. With bated breath, she spies on a witch’s coven performing the rites of its leader, the yet-unseen Helena Markos, queen witch of the hellish Tanz Dance Academy. Because her peers have already met unlucky fates, she remains an attractive victim—horror movie precedent does not excuse a protagonist from impending death. Dario Argento stretches the suspense, loosely protecting Bannion with curtain as she watches her potential murder unfold, replete with unheimlich doppelgangers, blood-streaked Nosferatus, and reptilian skin piercings. Suspiria boasts impressive pacing because there are no jump scares, just dread until it happens.