Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tim Burton on The South Bank Show

German Expressionism - Whole Movies and Inspired Contemporary Work

Persepolis and How director drew inspiration from Expressionist Film

Useful Links

German Expressionism - Film Noir and the relationship with Expressionist Movement

From German Expressionism to Film Noir

The term Expressionism has a deep resonance in the history of the cinema. As Thomas Elsaesser explains in ‘Weimar Cinema and After’, it is not just a stylistic term for some of the films from the early 1920s, but “a generic term for most of the art cinema of the Weimar Republic in Germany, and beyond Germany, echoing down film history across the periods and genres, turning up in the description of Universal horror films of the 1930s and film noir of the1940s.”

Clips mentioned in this section are not available to view on the website but are readily available to buy or rent from the usual outlets or from other mentioned sources. The journey of German Expressionism from art cinema to the Hollywood mainstream began with the exile and expulsion of many film producers, directors, writers, actors, and music composers from Germany after Hitler came to power in January 1933. Settling in California, these German emigres had a significant artistic influence on Hollywood filmmaking. This influence was most clearly felt, Thomas Elsaesser writes, “in the existence of that famous 'Expressionist' genre, the film noir, combining the haunted screen of the early 1920s with the lure of the sinful metropolis Berlin of the
late 1920s (the femme fatales, Louise Brooks and Marlene Dietrich) mixed with the angst of German
emigres during the 1930s and 40s as they contemplated personal tragedies and national disaster.”

The term film noir was first coined by French film critics in August 1946 to describe a daring and
stylish new type of Hollywood crime thriller, films such as The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity,
Laura and Murder, My Sweet. Standard histories describe film noir as a synthesis of hardboiled
crime fiction and German expressionism. The term is also associated, James Naremore writes in
‘More Than Night: Film Noir and its contexts’, “with certain visual and narrative traits, including lowkey
photography, images of wet city streets and romantic fascination with femme fatales.” Most
commentators locate the period of film noir as beginning in 1941 with The Maltese Falcon and
culminating in 1958 with Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. Some commentators believe that noir began
much earlier and that it has never gone away.

The hardboiled private eye stories of authors Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain
and Cornell Woolrich provided the narrative source for many classic film noirs. John Huston began
the trend of crime novel adaptations with his 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon. This was quickly
followed by Double Indemnity (directed by German émigré, Billy Wilder who went on to write and
direct Sunset Boulevard), The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce and the Raymond
Chandler adaptations, The Big Sleep and Murder, My Sweet. Other classic film noirs that feature an
investigative narrative structure include The Killers, Out of the Past, The Big Heat, Kiss Me Deadly
and the Big Combo. A direct connection between the crime films of the German Expressionist cinema and the Americanprivate eye movie is made in the work of Fritz Lang, the German émigré director who fled into exilein 1933. Lang brought the dark vision of criminality of his Expressionistic classics, Dr Mabuse, the
Gambler and M to Hollywood and became one of the most prolific directors of the noir genre. His
films include The Woman in the Window, Scarlet Street, The Big Heat, The Blue Gardenia, The Secret
Beyond the Door, While the City Sleeps and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Lang’s special subject was
the paranoid mentality. According to Martin Rubin, “No filmmaker has conveyed more powerfully
than Lang a sense of overwhelming entrapment, of a world whose every circumstance, every twist
and turning, every corner and corridor, seem to conspire against the individual and draw him or her
more deeply into a spider’s web.”

It is the visual style of film noir, rather than story or character type, that is seen as its defining
characteristic. The noir look was created by cinematographers, costume designers, art directors and
production designers. Its enduring influence on all genres of Hollywood filmmaking can be seen
today in films as diverse as Bladerunner, Seven, Barton Fink and Sin City.

The visual style of film noir, James Naremore writes, “is characterised by unbalanced and disturbing
frame compositions, strong contrasts of light and dark, the prevalence of shadows and areas of
darkness within the frame, the visual tension created by curious camera angles and so forth.
Moreover, in film noir, these strained compositions and angles are not merely embellishments or
rhetorical flourishes, but form the very substance of the film.”

The noir world is corrupt, threatening and violent. French film critics saw the typical noir narrative as
an existential nightmare from which the protagonist can never awaken. He is a doomed figure
journeying through an underworld of crime and deception until the final betrayal by the femme
fatale that he has fallen for. Expressionist lighting schemes and camera angles convey a sense of
entrapment as the hero makes his way through an often labyrinthine plot. In film noir, Expressionism found a worthy subject in the archetypal American antihero as film scholar Janey Place explains: "The visual style of film noir conveys the dominant mood (male psychological instability and moral uncertainty, paranoia, claustrophobia, a sense of doom and hopelessness, etc) through expressive use of darknesss: both real, in predominantly underlit and nighttime scenes, and psychologically through shadows and claustrophobic compositions which overwhelm the character in exterior as well as interior settings. Characters (and we in the audience) are given little opportunity to orientate themselves to the threatening and shifting shadowy
environment. Silhouettes, shadows, mirrors and reflections (generally darker than the reflected
person) indicate his lack of both unity and control. They suggest a doppelganger, a dark ghost, alter
ego or distorted side of man's personality that will emerge in the dark street at night to destroy him.

The sexual, dangerous woman lives in this darkness, and is the psychological expression of his own
internal fears of sexuality, and his need to control and repress it.”

A Personal Journey through American Movies: (02:06:36 02:28:00)

The BFI DVD ‘A Personal Journey through American Movies’, contains a 22 minute dedicated to film

noir. Martin Scorsese discusses the work of key émigré directors such Fritz Lang The American Cinema television series (available on video) The second volume in this series contains a 50 minute programme on film noir. A dedicated section of the programme explores noir lighting techniques.

A Brilliant Noir Site with a super section on Expressionism if you click on the shadow in the picture:

Monday, 5 April 2010

A bundle of FM2 Goodies


Eddie Izzard on British V Hollywood Film:

An Introduction to the Hollywood Film Industry:

Here is a fantastic link focused on the British Film Industry:

Exemplar Exam Questions

How important are film reviews in determining whether or not people choose to see a film?

What different kinds of attraction are offered to audiences by ‘home cinema’ compared with seeing a film at the cinema?

What is the significance of a large film company like Warner Bros being part of an even larger media empire (stimulus – chart)

How important is it for the British film industry to have internationally recognised stars? (The stimulus were film posters of Kiera Knightley)

What is the importance for audiences of the images used in movie posters and dvd covers? (posters)

What do you find interesting in the pattern of cinema-going by age group in the UK today? (British cinema ) (stimulus – chart)

What is the value to the film industry of having stories about the private lives of stars presented in the media? (Stimulus – articles)

Do you think it is a good idea to require UK television companies to put money into the financing of UK films? (Stimulus – articles) British Films

How are audiences attracted to different kinds of films? (stimulus – film posters)

How far does your experience of watching films depend upon the technology used to view them? (stimulus – user reviews of blue ray disc of “Black Hawk Down”)

(How far does the power of stars influence which films are made in Hollywood? (stimulus – comments on George Clooney and Tom Cruise on how George managed to get his films made and how Tom chose his films.)

What strategies do you think can be used to create a successful British Film Industry?

Stars and Hollywood Returns

This is a useful link for fairly recent figures on Hollywood stars and how much their films earn for every dollar spent on them. This could be helpful for star case studies, etc.

Hollywood's most expensive stars- they returned poor box office per dollar earned by them.

In pictures, with relevant information

British Films in Production

Here's a useful website for finding and tracking the production of a new film from the processes of production. You can then follow the film for its marketing and distribution and exhibition. This is great for FM2 case studies.

Financing Film in Hollywood
This blog has some excellent interviews with producers about Film Financing

ORANGE - Film Sponsorship and Product Endorsement


What do the terms “high brow” and “low brow” mean?

Would you say that in your experience going to the cinema is a “high brow” or “low brow” pastime?

What type or class of people do you believe go to the cinema? Does this vary according to the film, and/or depending on the particular cinema in question?

Think about your own cinema-going patterns.

Do you ever go on your own?

Do you tend to go with the same people to the same sorts of films?

How does the experience differ depending on whether you are on our own or with particular friends?

How do you decide what you are going to see and who you are going to go with?

Do you simply go to watch the film at a set time or do combine this with some other activity (or activities) such as shopping or eating out?

When did you first go to the cinema? What did you go to see? Who took you? What do you remember about the experience (not just the film but the event of going to the cinema as a whole)?

Questioning the importance of film gathering as 'entertainment'.

What kinds of entertainment did audiences gather to see in the past? What was the nature of the audiences’ experiences from other types of entertainment? (Who, what, why, when and how?) (Who, what, why, when and how?) Find out about a how crowds experienced narratives and stories in magic lantern shows, early theatre, ampitheatres, early music hall, etc.

Why have storytelling and performance always seemed to be important during such gatherings?

What do audiences gain from listening to stories and watching performance?

How did society or the community benefit from allowing the activities to take place?

Why should communities gather to see films and how are their experiences different from the experiences of audiences from previous forms of entertainment?