Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wall, Corridors and Doors

The Constructs and Confines of a Mind

French new wave film L’Annee Denière à Marienbad recreates the process of memory with walls, corridors and doors— the constructs and confines of a mind in action. Walls, corridors and doors pose as symbols of these constructs and potential obstructions within the film. Although one may initially acknowledge these collaborative elements as parts of a large building, one can also construe them as parts of memory’s architecture. Alain Resnais uses walls, corridors, and doors to portray the construction of memory and its functionality.

L’Annee Denière à Marienbad simulates the process one goes through to remember. When one initiates the recollection of memory, he may or may not be successful. The ability of one accessing his memories depends on the constructs and confines of his mind.

Walls construct rooms to store memories, which create confinement. Corridors guide thought to consideration, or recovery, of memory. When the recollection is successful, one is able to travel through these corridors, think, and acquire the memory from within these walls. This involves reaching a memory that is not blocked. However, when one is not able to obtain memory, doors block a concrete memory.

Doors are the access point of recalling memory. If they do not open, acquiring memories is not possible. Distortion may also exist as content, within any space, and may cloud memories by creating a distraction that obstructs thoughts. Therefore, memory is blocked or locked from access. These constructs and actions all take place in the mind, which is where this film is located.

During the beginning of the film, an interior monologue repeats three times. Within this monologue, the main character X repeats, “…Always walls, always corridors, always doors…” (Resnais). While this takes place, there are observations of the hotel’s architecture. Here, the sound and mise-en-scène present the premise of this film’s theme: The construction, confines, and contents, the action of the mind’s memory and how they may dysfunction. Because the script provides this interior monologue, the film invites the viewer into X’ inner thoughts, his mind: what he is thinking, how and where he is trying to recall his memories of a woman called A. Because of this, walls symbolize memory storage.

A wall has several fundamental purposes. They are vertical surfaces that enclose and divide spaces like rooms. Within the rooms of the mise-en-scène specific actions take place, therefore, this is where memories are stored.

For instance, X recalls A in the boudoir on numerous occasions. These different scenarios create variation as if the memory is unclear or distorted.

Although the cause of distortion is not present in these particular scenes, the thought process is continuously attempting to seek the memory of what occurred last year at Marienbad with her. Instead of completing the thought of the memory, he engages in possibilities. Where his accuracy fails, his imagination prevails. This process of variation also exists in other settings within the film.

During other variations, he and she are on the terrace and in another, he attempts to win a game against M (the third and last character of substance in the film). They are also in the lounge where the mise-en-scène does reveal a form of distortion.

For instance, in the lounge scenes, people construct distortion. These people are within the scenes; however, their purpose is merely to fill space, to crowd his thoughts. Periodically they move, and then all of a sudden they freeze their motion. Their existence creates this distortion. Being in a room with her amongst these people distracts the memory of his and her relationship. The walls that create these rooms (in order to store memories) also hang and store images.

One scene shows a painting of the hotel (where this film takes place) hanging on a wall. This picture represents a visual memory of how the hotel’s exterior appears. In this film, walls not only combine to create confinement, but also spaces that may or may not be located.

To locate access to a memory, one has to attempt to locate these rooms. Corridors provide a link to access by leading him to access. Therefore, in L’Annee Denière à Marienbad, corridors symbolize the process of trying to locate memory.

This process involves him taking a passage, which then translates to the action of thought. Within the scenes that take place in the corridors, he and she converse or he converses to the viewer. This is his process of recollection. His falling in and out of discourse with her illustrates that he is thinking about her but the memories are not concrete. Her presence merely illustrates her significance as part of the memory.

She cannot help him in this process because she is only a figment of his memory. Throughout the film, although she is responsive and escorts him through these corridors, she thinks that he is mistaken in thinking that they know each other. However, what she thinks is not the premise of this film; how he thinks is— through corridors.

Again, this is his location of travel in order to gain access to his memories, definite or indefinite. Within corridors, he tries to find the location of his memories. Within these scenes they predominately walk, take some form of a journey, to reach the location of the memories. These corridors lead to doors, which may or may not open rooms. In this film, doors symbolize his potential access to his memories.

They determine whether he gains access to rooms. Doors lack presence in this film. This is because the portrayal of his access to memory is sketchy. He has to repeatedly retrace what happens in Marienbad a year ago. By the end of the film, the details of the event are still unclear. His limited access to these doors is the main cause of distortion in this film due to their lack of existence. By not showing him opening, entering, or exiting any doors his recollection is not concrete. Therefore, he lacks a firm grasp on his memories.

By making walls, corridors, and doors symbols of the constructs and confines of the mind, Alain Resnais was able to create a visual infatuation with the primitive aspects of memory. As long as a mind is functioning, there will always be walls, always be corridors, and most certainly always be doors. They will exist in the mind to help or hinder the ability to recall memory. By Alain Resnais illustrating these symbols through architecture in the mise-en-scene and sound, he provides the viewer with a more tangible concept of how memory functions. We are left wondering if the event he sought actually occurred of if it was a figment of his imagination, déjà vu or a dream. If one cannot recall his entrance or exit, how can he really remember his complete journey?

Works Cited
L’Annee Denière à Marienbad. Dir. Alain Resnais. Perfs. Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoëff. 1961. DVD. Argo Films. Fox Lorber 1999.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg

Jacques Demy creates a whimsical façade in The Umbrellas of Cherbough.

The key in comprehending the significance of the umbrella is to first understand its various contexts. First, umbrellas protect us from certain elements. Second, they can be a force or influence. Third, they can also be something that includes many different parts. The weaving of these contexts creates a whimsical façade.

The musical genre acts as an umbrella in this film. This genre acts as a shield that makes a series of melancholy themes more tolerable: France’s draft related to the Algerian War, sad love story that includes not only an abrupt ending of a relationship but also the unexpected pregnancy of an unwed mother and the gradual failing of a family business. This abundance of sad themes is far more tolerable because they are portrayed through song. The umbrella also symbolizes influence in this film.

Supporting character Madame Emery personifies this influence. This is clearly illustrated within the story. Madame Emery wants her daughter Geneviève to marry a man of higher status (Roland Cassard instead of Guy Foucher). Her wishes eventually come true. The umbrella is also laced within the mise-en-scène.

This is because the story surrounds Madame Emery’s umbrella shop. This shop is the center of all other connecting themes.

Basically, the umbrella is related to many different aspects of The Umbrellas of Cherbough. It is not only a physical attribute within the film, it is also symbolic in its use as a form of genre, its direction, as well as the relationship between Madame Emery and Geneviève within the plot. Again, this makes very difficult themes easier to watch, therefore, the weaving of the many contexts of the umbrella creates a whimsical façade.

Une Femme est Une Femme

Through the use of primary colors Jean-Luc Godard portrays a visual sarcasm in A Woman is A Woman.

Through primary colors he is able to stylistically mimic the immature persona of main character Angela. The primary colors [red, blue and yellow] are consistently used within the mise-en-scène: yellow pajamas; Angela’s red clothes; Émile’s blue clothes, etcetera. Primary colors tend to represent the earliest time of development in humans— children. This is exactly how Angela behaves.

Main character Angela, played by Anna Karina, is immature. She has temper tantrums and constantly reacts as a brat. She wants what-she-wants-when-she-wants it and will not humor reason. She wants a baby even though the way she lives is not appropriate to raise a child: she is in a unstable relationship, her boyfriend does not want a child and she works as a singing go-go girl.

In contrast the definition of a woman is an adult female; however, the main character clearly lacks the maturity of an adult. Although it is blatantly obvious that Angela’s dialogue, behavior and actions reflect an immature woman, perhaps even under-developed, the colors accentuate this behavior. Angela’s playground is within an adult theme. Red blue and yellow illuminate this playground, therefore, creating visual sarcasm.

Jules et Jim

We tilt a plank balanced by her,
pushing ground to soar to insecure
heights, a flight that lands bottomless.

Through her we seek to find what is lost
within ourselves, made weak by her
cracked shell, we dwell within her presence
or lack thereof, like doves we fly,
then our beaks streak the obvious
glass, crash into shallow puddles.
The smudge is clearer than our minds.

As our ankles hit the soil,
we tilt our weight onto our hearts,
smother our sense of direction
in the reflection of her scattered
bosom, schisms and wilted looms
we fall through, plunge to catch erratic
mannerisms of an obscure

femme, dim light is our savoir, we
savor the question of her, chase
and flirt with the whims of her,
“especially me,” Jules said. Jim
begs to differ, for the stiffer
part of him becomes limp from attempts
beyond sarcastic-intimate

lips. Frozen frames of smiles, frowns and gazes
blaze his bones, the only moan he
sounds is the sealed lid of an urn.

L’Anee Denière à Marienbad

Marienbad, memory bad,
a masculine voice hypnotizes
a stuttered view, fertile infinitude
of déjà vu: “…always walls,
always corridors, always doors…”

Walls contain a boudoir, her body
flanks siamese photos, hold rooms of
empty people equal in hollow
movement, hangs images of terraces,
a fountain that towers our shadow,

or not, many times we stood, once I
fell, a lapsed sound covers her stare,
a garden with a maze of static
and grey evergreens, bird’s eye views
of ceilings, baroque trim, tilt down to

corridors whether crowded or
vacant lead to doors, to rooms with walls,
contain a boudoir, her body flanks
siamese photos, hold rooms of empty people
equal in hollow movement,

hangs images of terraces,
a fountain that towers our shadow,
or not, many times we stood, once I
fell, a lapsed sound covers her stare, a
garden with a maze of static and

grey evergreens, bird’s eye views of ceilings,
baroque trim, tilt down to confirm
intimate factions the distraction of

doors may pivot or remain rusted
shut, locked, block exit, slide or revolve
entrance, means of access from corridors
whether crowded or vacant lead to doors
to rooms with walls contain a boudoir,

her body flanks siamese photos, hold rooms
of empty people equal in
hollow movement, hangs images
of terraces, a fountain that
towers our shadow, or not, many

times we stood, once I fell, a lapsed sound
covers her stare, a garden with a
maze of static and grey evergreens,
bird’s eye views of ceilings, baroque trim,
tilt down to walls: corridors: doors.

Tirez sur le pianiste

Shoot the Piano Player, directed by Francois Truffaut, embodies a sense of balance.

Main character Charlie experiences extreme highs and extreme lows. This translates through the storyline. At one point, he is in love and ends up playing as a very successful concert pianist. At another, he is alone and playing at a neighborhood pub. The ending of his relationships with women intricately illustrate the same.

Although both of his women (in his intimate relationships) both die, they die due to opposite circumstances. On one hand, thugs shoot Lena. She runs through crossfire and stray bullets kill her. On the other hand, Theresa commits suicide because she fells death is the only resolution to her self-disguise. Therefore, thugs kill one and one kills herself. This existence of balance also exists in genre.

Francois Truffaut mixes genres in the film to even out the depressing misfortunes of Charlie, drama; slapstick and comical dialogue mingle within this story. By intertwining opposing extremes via plot and genre, he succeeds in portraying a sense of balance.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cléo de 5 à 7

The world certainly does not revolve around Cleo in Cléo de 5 à 7 by Agnes Varda.

This is beautifully staged in an ongoing mise-en-scène. The main character Cleo walks through the city while trying to mentally distract herself from fears of a medical test result. In one of the most memorable shots, Cleo is in the store front of a hat shop. As she peruses an array of hats, the viewer is detached from her every move. This is because the camera’s focus is intentionally set on the reflection of the street. In this reflection buses and cars speed by and pedestrians scat about. This motif of life’s contiguous motion’s and struggles is also reflected in the sound.

In one particular scene, that not only exposes the vibe of a local café in Paris but also Cleo’s fixation on vanity, the sound plays the mortar of this motif. After Cleo decides to play one of her own songs on the jukebox, the sound is saturated by miscellaneous conversations that range from relationship matters to the Algerian War which took place during the creation of this film. The most amusing commentary was someone referring to Cleo’s song as noise.

This film is not only visually pleasing but philosophically interesting. It caused me to consider the significance of an small individual in a large world. At the end of the day, no matter what is on my mind, life goes on in the city and everywhere else for that matter.

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Love, She, meets War, He:

She is a blood-crusted gauze
cradles the flaws of discretion
which lessen the count of nostrils
that share the air. He is a

jagged wound swooned by ice daggers,
phallic-iron barrels, orphans
and widows with infant worms,
stern blood hugs tangled limbs.

Close up views, hues of black
and white, skin scorched, tingles
the finger tips of she
as she grips him in a vague
embrace, the scars melt
the body heat of Germany with
Japan's, a set of hands, wrists,
forearms and elbows twist,
a kiss ignites a familiar
corpse. He thinks she knows nothing
but she knows everything.

Like an atom bomb he
incinerates the petrified
skin on her heart, scrapes the bottom
and finds a reflection
of himself, it bleeds until
his corpse encases his breath.
The scars remain. They breed
on the backs, arms, eye sockets
and minds, mock admirable
decline. He thinks she knows nothing
but she knows everything.

Her tongue is torn. The part closest
to the spine has incomplete
sentences, a reference
to Love’s embrace of lost touches.

The latter fulfills the need
for questions, current actions
feel the same. Is he the blame
or she?