Saturday, 5 July 2014

Filling in the blanks

At the beginning of the first session of my evening class on film, the tutor asked each of us why we had signed up and what we wanted to get out of the class.  All of us (only eight this term and all women) said something very similar - we want to fill in the blanks.

We all watch films, some have studied film theory decades ago and we have a decent grounding in understanding themes etc. but what we don't have (and hope to gain) is a basic knowledge of the history of cinema, rules of different genres, the importance of editing, mise en scene, sound, lighting and so on. 

In the first week we were introduced to the course outline (a mostly chronological journey through film from the Lumiere Brothers right up to contemporary art house cinema) and began to look at how films are constructed.

The first film clip we watched was the well known long take intro to Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. I've seen this film a few times, the first being a re-mastered version of the film at the Dublin Film Festival years ago.  It is a great film, quite a difficult watch at times but one with which I felt familiar.  The lights went up after the clip and I immediately thought that we would be discussing the long take. I hesitated to give the obvious answer to the tutor's question about what was noticeable about the scene and waited for someone else to chip in.   The interesting thing for me were the things the other students said.  So, I was a bit cocky about how obvious it was to mention the long take but there were other aspects about the scene discussed that I'd never noticed before...

...the zig zag nature of the action with people, vehicles and animals crossing the street at very pleasing angles...

...the shift in focus from the couple in the car to Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh...

...the change in feel from very choreographed, smooth long take to post explosion hand-held, documentary camera work.

And that was it. I felt thrilled at having learned something new about a familiar three minute film clip from seven strangers, some of whom were watching the film for the first time.

The rest of the evening ran similarly, although we did watch some clips that none of us had seen before and all learned together, chipping in with our little insights. 

I'm really looking forward to the rest of the course if this is what I can expect each week. I'll be back again with other insights as I go through the course.

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