By Nina J P Evans

Monday, May 31, 2010


Mothlight by Stan Brakhage (1963) was made by sticking bits of found foliage to tape and then running it through a projector.

There’s no sound on this animation you can choose your own and in doing so change the context of the visual dialogue completely. It’s an experimental short film that has no narrative and is open-ended. What I liked about the Stan Brakhage piece Mothlight (1963) is the random appearance of the flicking shapes of light—captured in this keyframe type of animation. The patterns, lines and textures are held together by the fragility of elements found. Using plants and insects to explore the themes of mortality and innocence. It has that DIY ethos quality to it that makes you want to head straight out of doors with some transparent tape and get creative, ripping the wings off many insects to do so, though the Victorians were much crueler with their collections of stuffed animals.

On closer examination of the tape you get the feeling of less randomness and a much more studious, time-consuming methodical process. There is an interweaving of compositional elements arranged that have been almost plotted like constellations on to a clear tape into strategic juxtapositions. Stan Brakhage clearly demonstrates his skills of both an artist and experienced animator that really understood time and motion to perfection as the animation is absolutely mesmerizing.

As your eyes move over the spider webs there is a subtlety of new angles formed by the crossing over of repeated elements. The wings likewise fan out and change in colour variation and are repeated with the same methodical, almost scientific approach to collecting, sampling and repeating. Forming patterns of elements that are composed in such way as to create movement with a lyrical quality. The film suggests that these strips may have been superimposed to create a more naturalistic effect.

This animation technique is reminiscent of Kyle Cooper’s outstanding title sequence Se7en. Se7en uses a layering effect with graphic elements scratched out onto film, working with the medium itself. Using a dynamic frame rate and unfamiliar juxtapositions meticulously crafted. The appearance of randomness is the same.

View title sequence in Se7en
More about Stan Brakhage

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival in 1989. At the time this was completely unexpected for the critics to receive the movie so well. In his pocket the director Giuseppe Tornatore had a bought a return ticket, an escape into exile if required, thankfully this was not needed!

Seeing the movie after that was absolutely magical. It is a metacineamatic masterpiece with a wonderful soundtrack. The cinematography is set in Sicily was beautifully composed—shown through a subtle, but shifting time spanning 30 years. The script was excellent without falling into the trap of being cliché or overly sentimental. The only problem that I had with it was with the deluxe edition box set, I wasn’t too sure which film version I preferred. The one that was previewed at Cannes and won the grand prize or the directors cut which was much longer, explaining the story of the lovers later reunion in much fuller detail. The edited version kind of added to the utter despair of not knowing… creating a greater sense of mystification within the piece.

The story depicted the truth of having a very successful careered life as a movie director at the cost of a failed romantic life and family life. Beautifully visualized by the Filmatic visual montage of stolen kisses, the scene is also interesting as your viewing film you are seeing a film in the film. The stolen kisses are a montage of censored imagery controlled by the local priest:
The priest has the power to censor films before his flock views them. This was not a complete exaggeration, the Cento Cattolico Cinematografo established in 1936 to censor films continued to classify films, according to the church’s lights.
The postmodern cut-up montage reassembled out of the original film contexts, was poignant and emotionally charged. The footage reflected the nostalgia of childhood (his memories shared with Alfredo). Combined with an emotional sense of passion for the medium rekindled:
Six, five, four, the numbers wind down. And, there, on the reel, are all the expurgated scenes from the movies of his childhood: All the censored kisses. All the censored passion. All the censored life.
In this scene especially Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack fits Cinema Paradiso perfectly.

The film was both scripted and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. In cinematic terminology it is known as a metafilm, holding the audience to not forget that they are watching a film and caught up in it simultaneously. We therefore experience the films theme the loss of innocence to a much greater effect—through its richness and brilliance of story telling. Here’s some dialogue between Alfredo and Salvatore—enjoy.
Alfredo: Living here day by day, you think it’s the center of the world. You believe nothing will ever change. Then you leave: a year, two years. When you come back, everything’s changed. The thread's broken. What you came to find isn't there. What was yours is gone. You have to go away for a long time... many years... before you can come back and find your people. The land where you were born. But now, no. It’s not possible. Right now you’re blinder than I am.

Salvatore: Who said that? Gary Cooper? James Stewart? Henry Fonda? Eh?

Alfredo: No, Toto. Nobody said it. This time it's all me. Life isn’t like in the movies. Life... is much harder. ~ Cinema Paradiso

Chris Botti & Yo-Yo Ma - Cinema Paradiso 
Ennio Morricone - Cinema Paradiso