Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)

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"Have you ever heard the expression ‘let sleeping dogs lie’? Sometimes you’re better off not knowing" – Jack Gittes

Chinatown tells the story of Jack Gittes, a private detective who specialises in matrimonial cases. Gittes is hired by Evelyn Mulwray, who suspects that her husband Hollis, builder of the city’s water supply systems, is having an affair. After revelations about the identity of Mrs. Mulwry arise, Gittes finds himself embroiled in a web of scandal, deceit, incest, murder and municipal corruption.

Polanski’s use of wide, panoramic shots throughout create the emphasis on not just focusing on the character, but looking at the big picture. The camerawork and cinematography is simply enticing and sets the 1920s mood subtly.

 

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“Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my daughter.
[Gittes slaps Evelyn]
Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!
Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my sister…
[slap]
Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my daughter…
[slap]
Evelyn Mulwray: My sister, my daughter.
[More slaps]
Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!
Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my sister AND my daughter!”

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LE BAL. Ettore SCOLA. 1983.

One cheesy dance-hall, no dialogue, some wonderful music equals great visual jokes, tragic observation about mankind and  the 50 year history of Europe in front of you. Different characters live through their dances from 1930s to the 1980s as the time passes by and politics, social behavior, and fashion change with each new epoch… For less than two hours we would go through the wars, peace, racial conflicts, student riots of 1968 while Ettore Scola’s camera never leaves the ballroom.  The film was nominated by the Academy for the Best Foreign Language movie award. It should’ve been nominated for the best Universal Language award – the language of music and film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVJdvA4eSGg

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An image I shall never forget is that of Antonioni and Kurosawa accompanying him around the shrine—three of the cinema’s great masters laughing and chatting informally. Ray gave off an intense self-confidence without seeming in the slightest degree arrogant or complacent. Never sentimental, he probably agreed with the king in The Chess Players, who says that “nothing but poetry and music should bring tears to a man’s eyes.” While in Agra, he told Kurosawa about a huge tree in India that measured almost one mile in girth. Much later, Kurosawa wrote to him, reminding him of that incident and saying, “I have always felt from the first time I met you that you are the kind of man who is like a huge tree. A great tree in the woods in India.”

-Peter Cowie on Satyajit Ray

[Criterion]

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A.V. Club: What can cinema do to an idea?

David Lynch: Cinema is a medium that can translate ideas. But wood can translate ideas, too. You have wood and then you get a chair. Some ideas are for different things.

AVC: Does that translation draw out parallels between different ideas that you weren’t aware of when you started?

DL: For sure. I wasn’t aware of anything. Then, suddenly, you’re aware. It’s like somebody giving you a puzzle piece without any kind of frame—you get a puzzle piece and then a few more. It doesn’t help you much, but you love the little pieces. You don’t know if they relate. In this process, hopefully, a feature film script will emerge. And then, one day, you’re surprised by how it all comes together.

[A.V. Club]

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Film Comment:Would it be conceivable for you to make a computer-generated film in the manner of Pixar, provided it were possible to render fully realistic, lifelike images of humans?

Michael Haneke: Absolutely. It could be total cinéma d’auteur. But the pleasure and the value of collaborating with others, primarily with the actors, would be gone. The kind of tension that you always look for, between a written part and a real person who inhabits that part with all the additional qualities that are unique to this actor—that element would be gone.

[FilmComment]

Jan Švankmajer on the recurrent theme of food in his films.

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"[Food] is one of my persistent obsessions that had its source in my childhood. I was a child who did not want to eat. My parents were desperate. They would pour fish oil, fortified wine and various other liquids into me to enhance the taste of food, and they would send me to ‘fattening’ camps and other such places. I ended up so weakened and bony that I could not stand and my mum had to push me in a wheelchair. I was not even accepted in school. Besides, a chewing mouth is quite a fitting symbol of this aggressive, all-devouring civilization." 
 
"Food is perhaps the most apt symbol of our civilization because in its insatiable aggression, our civilization consumes everything around us: nature, animals, whole ethnic groups, cultures… everything gets digested in its utilitarian maw only to be excreted as money—the excrement of our times. Just like a small child our civilization considers its excrements to be the most valuable product it managed to squeeze out, and uses it to reward its favorites." 

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You once said that where a person lives tends to affect them. Los Angeles is a very particular, peculiar environment. What is it about this city that appeals to you?

Number one, the intense light. Also the different feelings in the air. But like every place it’s always changing. And it takes longer to appreciate L.A. than a lot of cities, because it’s so spread out, and every area has its own mood. What I really like about it is, from time to time, if you drive around – especially at night – you can get a little gust of wind of the great days of the silver screen. All there in, like, living memory. It just makes you wish that you’d lived in those times. I think that if you could go back, that’s the one place that you want to go back to. Maybe they didn’t appreciate it at the time, but it was an incredible place to be at the beginning of cinema. – David Lynch