Sunday, October 26, 2008

Journal Response 2 - "Outward Bound"

When It Was Blue is a film that I would expect to, one day, be shown in this class. An adventure of sight and sound, it is a 16mm, combination of black and white and color, double projection piece. Images of wildlife, wilderness, and man taken from across the globe are projected one over the other, in the same fashion as Vanessa O'Neill's Suspension. Filmmaker Jennifer Reeves used contact printing and hand painting(much like Andrea Leuteneker) to manipulate her footage, spending more than four years on it. She originally screened a shorter version in 2005, but grants allowed her to re-edit and extend the film to about an hour. Musician and composer Skúli Sverrisson(known for working with experimental musicians like Laurie Anderson and Blonde Redhead) provides the soundtrack, and will be accompanying the film with live music during upcoming screenings. The article mentions many others who have pushed film's possibilities. We are firmiliar with a few of these examples from class, such as David Gatten's What the Water Said, Stan Brakhage, and our own Julie Murray is mentioned as well(I wonder if she knew that already). When It Was Blue is screening October 29-30 in New York, but I hope that I will get an opportunity to see it sometime, as it sounds like a wonderful experience.

The article can be found here

Journal Response 1 - "Construction Zone"

Lola Montès is a great example of how an epic film with an extravagant budget can be overlooked by the mainstream audience. Some have proclaimed it the greatest film ever made, yet, I had never heard of it until reading this article. The film tells the story of Lola Montès, an aging dancer who is known more for her escapades with famous men than for her choreography skills. The director, Max Ophüls, was well known for his lavish sets and use of smooth crane and dolly shots. Ophüls’ former work had been in black and white; Lola Montès was his first color feature and was shot in Cinemascope. These were only a couple of the elements that added to the complexity of the project. Another was language; the film was shot with German, French, and English speaking. The film’s premiere in France caused riots, much in the same way as Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses. The negative response of the audience led to heavy re-editing of the film and its chronology. A storyline that originally showed Lola’s life through the use of flashbacks was cut and reordered. Ophüls work was butchered at the hands of his production company with the hope that it would prove to be a success at the box office. Each release did no better than the last. Max Ophüls died of a heart attack after the third release of the film in 1957. One other attempt was made at restoring Lola Montès to its former glory in 1968, but some footage was still missing. The recently restored version follows the original vision of the director and was overseen by his son, Marcel Ophüls. It showed at the New York Film Festival this year, setting a record for the most screenings of one film in the festival's history; three times.

The article mentions Ophüls’ use of dangling ropes in his shots, which was one of the ways he managed to break up the composition of the frame. Props, curtains, and filters were used to bring the story and set to life. Each era of Lola’s life is set apart from the others by its colors. This manipulation of color brings The Bear Garden to mind, specifically the powerful emotions that Andrea Leuteneker portrays throughout the film using yellow, red, and blue. Lola Montès proves that even a film by a well known director that has a large budget can involve experimental technique, but that it won’t necessarily contribute to its success. The restoration of the film gives it another chance at acceptance; hopefully the audience won’t be as brutal this time around.

The article can be found here

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Robert Schaller Workshop Response

The word filmmaker is generally used for people who shoot their own movies, but artists such as Robert Schaller give it a whole new meaning. He actually makes his own film by hand. The process can be tedious and time consuming, but it provides you with a canvas unavailable to those who only use lab produced films. There are many different types of emulsions that one may mix and apply to film strips, each yielding different results. Some emulsions will crack and peel while drying, producing a reticulation effect that some consider desirable, as it provides rich texture. The thickness that emulsion is applied and the texture of the brush you use to apply it will also affect the look of the exposed film. Thick patches of emulsion show incredible contrast and detail, while thinner spots have little contrast and images appear ghost-like. When an artist makes their own film, they only have a certain amount of control over the product, so it is crucial to pay close attention and take accurate notes. This balance of control and chaos can lead to interesting experiments with the physical and chemical aspects of making a film.

I had the opportunity to mix a black and white emulsion using potassium bromide, silver nitrate, gelatin, and distilled water. You want your materials to be as pure as possible, gelatin being the only exception. The impurities found in store bought gelatin, such as sulfur, are important to the emulsion making process. If one uses a purified gelatin, this and other chemicals must be added to produce the proper reaction. There are two main variables when mixing emulsion. The temperature you mix it at and how slowly you mix the chemicals both influence the size of the silver bromide particles. Adding the chemicals gradually over time will cause the silver bromide particles to grow larger, therefore becoming more sensitive to light. When mixing the silver bromide solution, you want the crystals to grow as large as possible. The emulsion is not as sensitive to light as that used in lab produced film, so you want to make it as sensitive as you can. Once the emulsion is fully prepared, you are ready to spread it on film strips and let it dry. This type of film is not recommended for use in a standard camera. The variations in emulsion thickness can cause it to jam, and flakes of emulsion can damage the internal components.

Making film by hand was a very informative and interesting experience. Not only did I learn the process used to make film, I now have an understanding of what chemically occurs when emulsion is mixed and film is exposed to light. Taking part in Robert Schaller’s workshop has inspired me to look for new ways of making and exposing film. I am looking forward to experimenting with this process in the future.