26 Aralık 2009 Cumartesi

The Verdict: A Collaboration of David Mamet and Sidney Lumet

I was once asked during an interview about Eisenstein Montage Theory whether it has changed during the history of cinema or not? I responded without hesitation. No!
Of course, cinema is a form of art that is very much related to technology, and every new invention brings something to the craft, but essentials don't go away. When, in the fifties, American film producers chose to go with a wider and deeper screen called CinemaScope in order to make a difference against television, Andre Bazin called it "fin du montage". Of course, that wasn't true. When we think about dominant cinema, we still tell our stories within the cuts.
Here's what Mamet, the scriptwriter of "The Verdict" says about visual storytelling and montage.
There's another way to make a movie, which is the way that Eisenstein suggested a movie should be made. This method has nothing to do with following the protagonist around but rather is a succession of images juxtaposed so that the contrast between these images moves the story forward in the mind of the audience. This is a very succinct rendition of Eisenstein's theory of montage; it is also the first thing I know about film directing, virtually the only thing I know about film directing.
You always want to tell the story in cuts. Which is to say, through a juxtaposition of images that are basically uninflected image. A shot of a teacup. A shot of a spoon. A shot of a fork. A shot of a door. Let the cut tell the story. Because otherwise you have not got dramatic action, you have narration. If you slip into narration, you are saying "you'll never guess why what I just told you is important to the story." It's important that the audience should guess why it is important to the story. It is important simply to tell the story. Let the audience be surprised.
The movie, finally, is much closer than the play to simple storytelling. If you listen to the way people tell stories, you will hear that they tell them cinematically. They jump from one thing to the next, and the story is moved along by the juxtaposition of images - which is to say, by the cut.
People say, "I'm standing on the corner. It's a foggy day. A bunch of people are running around crazy. Might have been the full moon. All of a sudden, a car comes up and the guy next to me says..."
If you think about it, that's a shot list: (1) a guy standing on the corner; (2) shot of a fog; (3) a full moon shining above; (4) a man says, "I think people get wacky this time of year"; (5) a car approaching.
This is good filmmaking, to juxtapose images. Now you are following the story. What, you wonder, is going to happen next?

In that case, my shot list would be as following:
1. I leave the glass with the liquid in it in my room.
2. I have lunch in the restaurant.
3. I come back to my room.
4. A close up of the glass. Melted.
5. The expression of my face.
6. I enter in the studio, he is painting.

Well, I think that looks premising. But it can be better.
Now what Mamet argues here is interesting:
The truth is, you never have to establish the character. In the first place, there is no such thing as character other than the habitual action, as Mr. Aristotle told us two thousands years ago. It just doesn't exits...
...As long as the protagonist wants something, the audience will want something. As long as the protagonist is clearly going out and attempting to get that something, the audience will wonder whether or not he is going to succeed...
Now, after having red this, I will try to make a shot list of the very first scene of "The Verdict".

1. A working class funeral. There are about thirty people.
2. A man (Funeral Director) with a black suit fills the screen.
3. Second man (Galvin) puts discreetly folded ten dollar into director's pocket.
4. They all walk to the funeral parlor.
5. Widow is crying.
6. These two men approaches her.
7. Funeral Director: "Mrs. Dee, This is Joe Galvin, a very good friends of ours and a very fine attorney."
8. Widow nods.
9. Galvin: "I knew him vaguely through the Lodge. He was a wonderful man. It is a crime what happened to him. A crime. If there is anything I could do to help..."
10. Galvin removes his business card from his pocket and hands it to her as he was giving her money. (i.e., "Take it, I want you to have it...")
11. She takes the card.

25 Aralık 2009 Cuma


I experienced something very interesting yesterday. It reminded me ellipsis, transformation, time and change. I had to do a shooting for a project and I needed special liquid for the paint. Therefore, I went to see a painter friend of mine and took some liquid from him. We put it in a plastic glass and I left it in my room. It was early in the morning and he was just recently woke up.
I didn't know anything about the characteristics of the liquid and I thought I didn't have to. He just told me how to apply it to the paint and I didn't ask anymore questions about it.
After leaving the liquid in my room, I thought I might have lunch and I could hopefully do my shootings afterward.
After I came back, I realized that, the liquid melted the glass and was all over the place. The plastic had a strange look. It wasn't solid anymore but became much more into something more organic.
Because I didn't know anything about the liquid, I didn't realize the cause and effect. It reminded me that while I was somewhere else, something occurred in my room without my control but because of me. And this was a strange feeling.
One of the things that I immediately thought was the picture above. It is taken from the book "The Story of Film" written by Mark Cousins. Here, he mentions three filmmakers from different periods, who influenced themselves and changed and manipulated the same shot within the history of Cinema.
How directors learn from each other: Carol Reed has a visual idea, Jean - Luc Godard adapts it and Martin Scorsese modifies it still further.

At the same time, I thought about something completely different. Storytelling and Dramatic Irony.

Dramatic irony is described by Mackendrick as follows:
A situation where one or more of the characters on the screen is ignorant of the circumstances known to us in the audience.
Most stories with a strong plot are built on the tension of cause and effect. Each incident is like a domino that topples forward to collide with the next in a sequence which holds the audience in a grip of anticipation. "So, what happens next?" Each scene presents a small crisis that as it plays out produces a new uncertainty.
And this is a description given by Hitchcock about the relation between dramatic irony and suspense:
Let us suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. .The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequences. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it... In these conditions this same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen:"You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb underneath you and it is about to explode!"
The American Heritage dictionary defines irony as "The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning."

In my case, if I am the hero in my story and the spectator is following me throughout the whole story therefore their range of knowledge is equal to what I have, than what I experience and feel is the same that the audience has.(We expect the average audience not to have any knowledge about the characteristic of the liquid.) And that creates a certain identification between the reader, audience or spectator and the character.
Because I left the liquid in a plastic glass, it melted. Therefore I had to revisit my painter friend to get another one. And that was the main effect in the story. That I had to visit him again.
What I realized after I went to his studio is that he already started working. I didn't really realize the time has passed and I hadn't done any work until that moment. So, I was stressed. Something also was changed during that time. That he wasn't still hangover like I saw him the last time, but he started working during the time that I experienced all of this.

Some Books I Should Read Before The End of 2009!

Nicholas Ray: An American Journey - Bernard Eisenschitz

I was Interrupted: Nicholas Ray on Making Movies - Nicholas Ray

My Last Sigh: Luis Bunuel

The Interpretation of Dreams: Sigmund Freud

The Uses of Enchantment: Bruno Bettelheim

The Parade's Gone By: Kevin Brownlow

Picture: Lillian Ross

Hitchcock / Truffaut: François Truffaut

An Unspeakable Betrayal: Selected Writings of Luis Bunuel

Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of "Heaven's Gate", The Film That Sank United Artists - Steven Bach

Technique Of Film Editing - Karel Reisz, Gavin Miller