Friday, 29 October 2010

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Metropolis (1927)

First of all, I must admit that although I hadn't seen this film before, I have heard and read a lot about it.  However, I was still amazed by the scale and drama of the actual film; apart from the acting and the fact that it's a silent film, it struck me as every bit as good as some modern films.  Anyway, on with the review ^^;

This film is monumental in every sense of the word; from the iconic imagery to the (now cliched) story of love, revolution and disaster.  However, none of this would be possible without the sets amongst which the action takes place.  Produced in model form, the enormous city of skyscrapers so big that they dwarf their human occupants is a triumph of art deco design.  The "tower of babel", from which Joh Fredersen looks over the city he created (and controls the running of), wouldn't look out of place alongside the empire state building, which it pre-dates by 3 years.  At the same time, the sheer scale of the architecture is at times reminiscent of the work of Adolf Speer (which it again pre-dates).  As Paul Brenner says in his review for, "(the)...massive production design that overpowers the actors on such a scale that they are transformed into moving masses of architecture themselves"
Whilst the "world above" is a triumph of art deco design, the "world below" where the oppressed working class toil to keep the "world above" running is another piece of classic set design, with mammoth machinery dwarfing its human slaves who tirelessly work to keep them in operation. This world is a much darker one, which serves to emphasise the disconnect between the two worlds, and is mirrored in the dark clothes of the grimy workers.
The film also makes good use of "dream sequences" to convey the hallucinations that the protagonist Freder Fredersen suffers, firstly upon witnessing an industrial accident, in which the machine is transformed into a monstrous temple, and the workers into sacrifices to it (which is of course closer to reality than most metaphors), and secondly when he is lying in shocked delirium, when the statues of the 7 deadly sins in the cathedral come to life.  Both of these scenes use heavy symbolism to convey the subtext of the film in what appears to modern eyes to be a somewhat archaic fashion, but none the less they serve to illustrate Freder's motivations in a way that it is hard to better.  As A. O. Scott says in his New York Times review, "Christianity, German romanticism, modernism and Marxism stampede through the movie like the crowds of angry workers and bourgeois revelers in the apocalyptic climax, but the confusion that results ultimately resolves into hallucinatory, visionary clarity"

Finally, this film is responsible for creating many of the images that we now consider to be the cliches of science fiction; from the mad scientist Rotwang, with his "just been electrocuted" hair and staring eyes, to the uncaring buisnessman, owner of all he surveys, Joh Fredersen; from the impersonal scale of the architecture to the robotic "mechanical (wo)man" built by Rotwang as a replacement for his dead love.  In some ways, it is the film that almost all subsequent science fiction movies have been in the shadow of; as Roger Ebert says in his review "The ideas of ``Metropolis'' have been so often absorbed into popular culture that its horrific future city is almost a given"

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Thumbnails 1

First 3 (very quick and dodgy) thumbnails

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The most striking thing in this german silent expressionist film is the set design, mostly constructed from painted canvas.  This helps create an atmosphere of madness and unreality, as the painted sets are full of distorted perspective and lighting.  In this world, the actors stand out through looking "realistic", standing vertically in defiance of the skewed verticals of their background.  This effect is enhanced by the distorted proportions of the furniture they interact with, such as the town clerk perched on a stool almost as tall as he is, hunched over to fit in the top of the screen.

As Julia Merriam of says, "The image of three-dimensional people walking through this starkly two-dimensional world is disorienting, making the universe within Caligari seem slightly off-kilter", an effect that serves to emphasise the fact that almost all of the film (except for the very beginning and end) is in effect a flashback, a story told by the main protagonist Francis (Friedrich Feher).  The fact that the non-flashback scenes are portrayed using realistic sets further serves to separate them from the main body of the film.
It is important to remember that the flashback is told through the eyes of a madman, and this perhaps helps to explain why the director chose to make the stylistic choice he did; the twisted sets help convey to the audience the "otherness" of the reality that Francis is living in.  I believe that this effect was best described by the original Variety film review, which said "Robert Wiene has made perfect use of settings designed by Hermann Warm, Walter Reimann and Walter Roehrig, settings that squeeze and turn and adjust the eye and through the eye the mentality." a description that captures the way the film distorts your view of the world within as you watch it.
The visual style of the film has rarely been imitated since, although its influence can be traced through to modern film makers such as Tim Burton, and the idea of using a twisted version of reality to convey that something is not literally real has been embraced by directors working on dream sequences and hallucinations throughout film history.  Overall, the film is best summed up for me by Nick Hilditch in his review for the BBC, who said ""Caligari" creates a charcoal-drawn world...The shadowy symbolism...showing that cinema was well suited to fabulous psychotic dramas. It is such an apt use of the medium as it existed in the first quarter of the 20th century that it is difficult to imagine the film done better with the benefit of sound, colour, or any innovation since."

Monday, 25 October 2010

Image dump

having taken a quick read through my extracts, I hit my favourite site for random images for some inspiration and came up with these

For the descent down the volcano:
(image credit: Michael Nichols, National Geographic) 

(images credit: Jason Gulley)
 For the Mushroom Jungle:

(image credit: Jan Vandorpe)

(image credit: Jan Vandorpe)

(images via 1, 2)

(image credit: TAND)

For the underground sea (or more specifically the underground thunderstorm):

((U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lloyd))

(image courtesy: Roger Taylor) 

Picture taken by Rob Dekker, courtesy: Madeira)

Unit 2 Book choice

I drew folder 2, which I find means I'm off into the subterranean depths with Monsieur Verne :D

As for the scenes, they are
  1. the descent into the volcano
  2. the mushroom forest
  3. the prehistoric sea shore
This should be fun...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Splice (2010)

Image copyright Warner Bros. Pictures
Welcome to the world of Splice, one where human cloning is illegal, but geneticists can randomly blend the DNA of whatever they feel like just to see what the result looks like without any form of oversight appart from the profit-driven demands of the slightly shady pharmaceutical multinational that has invested in their lab.  As you might expect, this recipe for disaster soon leads to trouble, as Rock-star scientists Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) chuck some human DNA into the mix and wait to see what happens.
On the surface, this appears to be a set up for a retelling of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, updated to reflect modern fears about genetic engineering, and at first it seems that this might be where the film is heading, especially when the result of said genetic meddling is possessed of a particularly toxic sting in the tail, and a highly violent nature.
However, the film quickly adopts a more psychological tone, as the creature quickly grows into something that the New York Times film reviewer Manohla Dargis described as "...a creature that, with her tail, skinned-chicken legs and cleft head alternately looks as harmless as a bunny and like something that might leap out from Ridley Scott’s “Alien” (or, scarier yet, a David Lynch film). "  We watch the tension that looking after this dangerous secret places on the relationship between Clive and Elsa, the former still believing that it was a mistake to let the creature live, the latter treating it like a pet at first, then almost a child.  Her affection for the creature that she has named "Dren" is almost reminicent of the mothers in "the Midwich Cuckoos", and is equally as unsettling.
The action shifts from the lab to the old farm that Elsa grew up on, which provides the scriptwriter plenty of opportunities to hint at the traumatic past she endured, and the neuroses that this has bred.  At the same time, Dren has matured to an eerily beautiful adolescence, trapped in the old barn that has been adapted to serve as her home.  At the same time, the relationships between Elsa, Clive and Dren shift, revealing, as Time Out reviewer Nigel Floyd says, "the arrogant human scientists revealed as monsters, even as the ‘monstrous’ Dren reveals her complex, vulnerable humanity".  This is helped by the fact that Dren is restricted to a (non the less expressive) limited collection of chirps and clicks, or spelling out words using scrabble tiles when she wants to communicate.

Image copyright Warner Bros. Films
Unfortunately, after what seems like a complex and psychologically ambiguous denoument, the director seems to have randomly tacked on another 30 minutes from the script for a cliche'd monster horror film, with hectic chases through dark and foggy woods and random shocks.  A cynical person might even go so far as to say the entire purpose of this section is to set up a cash-in sequel, although it does manage to squeeze in one final psychological shock.  Even this, however, seems mainly based on making Dren back into the monster that the entire film had been spent showing her not to be; although it might also be a homage to David Chronenberg's "The Fly". 
Overall, I think that SFX film reviewer Dave Golder put it best when he said "The film spends three quarters of its running time desperately – and largely successfully – fighting against being the kind of film you expect it to be, before becoming exactly the kind of film you expect it to be…"

Detective's Desk Maya Project

All default models, appart from the fan, which I replaced with mine.

Poker Chips Maya Project

Added a bump map for texture

Texturing (bottle & glass) Maya Project

Common Materials Texturing Maya Project