Film Studies Week Eight PERFORMANCE Characterization, Stage and Screen Acting, Stanislavski and Method Acting, Improvisation, Truth and Believability, Celebrity and the Star System, Casting, Relationships. Feature: Citizen Kane Auteur: Orson Wells
Announcements Week Eight
Also … Motif and mise-en-scene review today including new ideas about “composition.”
How are your research papers coming along? Anybody have directors or genres they wish to pitch as topics?
Barsam’s Writing About Movies can guide your information design. (No way you can buy a paper and have it correspond to our requirements.)
Discussion from last class Story Structure? Inciting incident? What else is this same event once you know the ending of the film? Sound (Meaning of “diegesis”: “Fictional world presented in a film.”) Examples of Synchronous? Nonsynchronous? Diegetic? Nondiegetic? Nonsynchronous diegetic? How about Synchronous Nondiegetic? “ Mickeymousing” anywhere? Character motif through sound? Foreshadowing? What mood was set up with the music? How about emotional shifts? Donnie Darko de-brief -- page 1
Other considerations? Writers seldom resist the temptation to get pedantic. They’ll sneak a thesis moment into their script -- Hear anything in Donnie Darko that expressed a central idea? What do we know about the director, Richard Kelly? Household name? Auteur? Why or why not? What makes Donnie Darko a study in performance excellence? Donnie Darko de-brief -- page 2
Performance and Movie Actors Screen acting is an art where actors use imagination, intelligence, psychology, memory, vocal technique, facial expressions, physicality, and an overall knowledge of the filmmaking process to realize, under the director’s guidance, the character created by the screenwriter. Charlie Chaplin, the most famous movie star of his era, admitted: “Film acting is unquestionably a director’s medium.” The movie actor is a tool of the director -- another language system (signs/signifiers/signified) through which the filmmaker communicates ideas and emotions (semiotic theoretical perspective.)
Whether the performer’s or the director’s decision … the goal of both stage acting and film acting is believability and truth. The many fundamental differences between film and stage acting include physicality, vocal requirements, and facial features. “The camera loves you baby!!” In screen acting, the essential relationship is between the actor and the camera. The stage actor deals with more “physicality” -- full body expression as their entire body is always on view. For acting in cinema, the more “realistic” the director’s techniques, the more necessary it is to rely on the abilities of the actors because of long shots, long takes where the camera is essentially a recording device.
The more “formalistic” the director, the less likely he or she is to be dependent on the actor’s contribution. Hint “stylist flamboyance.” In film, “the shot” is the basic building unit and therefore, the actor doesn’t have to sustain performance. The actor often just “is.” The screen actor does not “build” emotionally as the stage actor must. On screen, concentration for short periods. (This does not require long rehearsal periods.) See Barsam page 235 for sidebar on “Analysing Acting.”
The Star System - t he backbone of the of the American film industry. Stars’ influence on fashion, values, public behaviour is enormous. Remuneration (fees) are staggering. In 1910, (Canadian) Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin were the highest-paid employees in the world. In the 1940s, top stars received 3,000 letters per week and this was used as a barometer of their popularity. Fan clubs also indicated popularity with MGM stars Clarke Gable, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford at the top. Stars fulfill an ancient need, almost religious in nature… supernatural … immune to the ordinary.
Personality Stars - commonly refuse all parts that go against their type. Eg Mae West. Others? John Wayne, the most popular star in film history, was the archetypal westerner -- a man of action rather than words. His iconography is steeped in distrust of “high-brow culture” and intellectuality. Stars are signifying entities. When following semiotic theoretical perspectives , a film analysis must take into account the star’s iconographic significance. Casting a personality stars ensures a ready-made ideology -- a set of values that are associated with the star because of previous work. (Personality stars are top box office.) Also see Barsam pg 216.
Actor Stars - refuse to be typecast and attempt the widest array of roles possible. Eg Robert De Niro . Others? Sometimes take unpleasant character roles rather than conventional leads to expand their range (variety and breadth). Distinction between a professional actor and a star is based on mass popularity. Perhaps the ultimate glory for a star is to become an icon in American popular mythology.The iconography of a star can involve communal myths/emotional richness.
Styles of Acting -- External and Internal (Page 218 Barsam) “ Method acting” developed by Constantin Stanislavsky, at the Moscow Art theatre, favours the exploration of the character’s inner spirit which must be fused with the actor’s own internal emotions. In emotional recall (emotional memory), the actor delves into their own past to discover past feeling analogous to their own . British acting traditions tend to favour mastery of externals, based on observation. Believability achieved through process of external “mask.”
Styles of Acting cont. In the 1960s, French New Wave directors (Truffault, Godard) popularized the technique of improvisation with performers on camera. Their reason was to capture a better sense of discovery and surprise (truth and believability?) Further examples of improvisational acting styles are Second City live theatre in Toronto (and SCTV), Loose Moose Theatresports (developed in Calgary and played around the world, and Saturday Night Live -- Canada’s legacy to the performance world.
Upcoming Clips and Citizen Kane Look for: Relationships. Personality, Charisma, Believability, Presense, “Chemistry.” Your theories on “Acting Style.”
Coffee and Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch, 2003) Writing credits Jim Jarmusch Genre: Comedy / Music / Drama (more) Plot Outline: Short stories from Jim Jarmusch that all have coffee and cigarettes in common. Cast, next screen … From imdb Performance
Coffee and Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch, 2003) Cast includes: Roberto Benigni .... Roberto Steven Wright .... Steven Joie Lee .... Good Twin Cinqué Lee .... Evil Twin/Kitchen Guy Steve Buscemi .... Waiter Iggy Pop .... Iggy Tom Waits .... Tom Cate Blanchett .... Cate/Shelly Alfred Molina .... Alfred Steve Coogan .... Steve Genius/GZA .... GZA GZA)RZA .... RZA Bill Murray .... Bill Murray From imdb Performance
Orson Welles and Citizen Kane WATCH FOR Jarring combinations of realism and formalism that occurs at the levels of the film’s style. The way that Welles is attracted to themes associated with classical tragedy: the downfall of a public figure because of arrogance and pride. The dozens of symbolic motifs. Technical (camera angles), content (fences), and Rosebud. Fragmentation motif explains his complex personality. (REVIEW) Welles as expert of dynamic staging and mise-en-scene. (REVIEW)
Systematic Mise en Scene Analysis 15 pt. Systematic Mise en Scene Analysis Review this for quiz next week. Chapter Four Giannetti.
Dominant. What is our eye attracted to?
Lighting Styles and Key: High-key, low-key, painterly, linear?
Shot and Camera Proxemics: What type of shot? How far away?
Shot Angles. High, low, neutral.
Colour values. What is dominent colour? Colour symbolism?
Lens/filter/stock. How do these distort or comment on photography?
Subsidiary contrasts. What are the eye-stops after the dominant?
Density. How much visual information is packed into the image? Is texture stark, moderate, or highly detailed?
Continued next screen
“ Photographic considerations”
Systematic Mise en Scene Analysis 15 pt. Systematic Mise en Scene Analysis 9. Composition. How is the 2-D space segmented and organized? What is the underlying design? Balance, Emphasis, Rhythm. 10. Form. Open or closed? Does the image suggest a window that arbitrarily isolates a fragment of the scene? Or is it self contained? 11. Framing. Tight or loose? How much room do the characters have to move around? 12. Depth. On how many planes is the image composed? Does the background and foreground comment on the midground? 13. Character placement. What parts of the framed space are occupied? 14. Staging positions.Which way to they look vis-à-vis the camera 15.Character proxemics. How much space between characters? Continued …
Review … Mise en scene review Point #9 Composition
Principles of Design
Balance: Weight, Position, Arrangement.
Emphasis: (Focal Point and Hierarchy)
See page 224 in Barsam for an example of Citizen Kane and Framing/Composition.
Visual Weight Where you position a mark on a page affects its visual weight. In visual perception different areas of the page carry more weight, for example, the centre of the page is very powerful. Painting, Edith Kabuthia
Balance -- Symmetry Where the visual elements are evenly distributed on either side of an imaginary vertical axis, like a mirror image. Equal distribution of weight on either side.
Citizen Kane (Orson Wells, 1941) 2 hours (119 minutes) Writers: Herman J. Mankiewicz (screenplay) and Orson Welles (screenplay) Genre: Drama Plot Outline:Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance. more Awards: Won Oscar. Another 4 wins & 9 nominations more Cast Orsen Welles … Orsen Welles Joseph Cotten ... Jedediah Leland Dorothy Comingore... Susan Alexander Kane Agnes Moorehead... Mary Kane Ruth Warrick ... Emily Monroe Norton Kane Ray Collins ... James W. Gettys From imdb