The SHOT – Reading the Screen

November 15, 2008

= the smallest unit in film – when the camera starts / records / then stops
– compared to language (word, letter) – a shot in film is like a sentence
– when you write, you start with a sentence or a phrase (are you writing an essay, letter, poem…and you build your structure from there)
– every film starts with a shot (feature film, documentary, animation…and you build your film from there)
– film maker decides how the shot will be setup

– how the film image is photographed – based on film stocks and immulsion (b/w, high contrast, low contrast…)
– technicolor was an invention developed in the 1930’s
– tinting = dip b/w film into a bath of dye
– toning = positive print developed and dye is added

DAISIES – dir Vera Chytilova

– film made just prior to the Soviet takeover in 1968 – they went nuts over it and forbid her from making any further films
– great example of toning

– overexposure and underexposure
– under crank film speed was a throw back to early film days from manually cranked cameras = high speed when projected
– over crank = slow motion when it plays through the projector
– wide angle lens = distortion – normal lens is 35 to 50 mm – telephoto lens = character takes forever to move forward:


– depth of field refers to what is in focus in the frame
– deep space – director stages action that is in focus on several different planes (Citizen Kane)
– selective focus = multiple plane action but only one is in focus
– CITIZEN KANE = faster film, shorter focal length lenses, deep focus
– pulling/rack focus = Mission Impossible – Jean Reno holding the rope in the air duct – in comes the rat and he is terrified

– super imposition = one image over another and put in through the projector
– rear projection = driving and projecting a street scene behind the actors
– front projection – camera films through a 2-way mirror
– mattework = actor is filmed on a blue screen

Aspect Ratios
Academy Ratio = 1.33 / 1 (oldest and was the standard for a long time)
Widescreen = 1.85 / 1

– extreme long shot = panorama – cannot see people – just the landscape
– long shot = large area but also has characters
– full shot = full figures and it is the size of what would be a stage
– medium long shot = from the knees up
– medium shot = waist up (also known as the sitcom shot)
– medium close up = head and shoulders

– close up = head / hand / foot only
– extreme close up = extremely close viewpoint of one part of someone’s anatomy (Citizen Kane = saying Rosebud – only see his lips)

– cut away / insert = information only – hands reading a letter / inserting a key into a lock
– point of view = what the character sees
– mask = character looking through a telescope / keyhole = black mask area to signify this
– over the shoulder = conversation shot
– dirty over the shoulder = shoulder is in frame of the conversation shot
– reaction shot = very manipulative (AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH reaction…)

– straight overhead = bird’s eye view (Lullaby of Broadway / Mystic River – when Sean Penn realizes his daughter is the body)

– high angle = when the camera is looking down on a subject (used as to be read as having a certain significance – subject is read to be vulnerable, powerless or insignificant)
– eye level = documentary and comedy in order to see what is happening
– low angle = camera is low looking up (subject seems menacing, overpowered or important)
– extreme low angle / worm’s eye = camera in the floor looking up
– oblique/canted/dutch angle = tilted or askew (Do The Right Thing)
– mobile camera = camera is stationery but the camera pans from right to left (street shot panning and then stops when main character enters frame and starts following them in the other direction
– tilt = camera moves up and down (camera tilting down to show Dorothy’s Red Ruby shoes)
– switch pan = camera is stationery but there is a swoosh showing a change (Citizen Kane breakfast scene in the first marriage)

– zooming in and zooming out = camera doesn’t move but moving in with the zoom (implies finding out what the character is thinking – or Godfather zoom out intro with Marlon Brando)

– snap zoom = instead of cutting back and forth they use this instead (see kung fu movies – camera follows the action of the punches/kicks

– dolly shot = use push in or pull back
– tracking = dolly shot where they actually lay down tracks
– traveling/trucking = camera on a vehicle and film the people on that vehicle
– hand held = camera operator following the actors (the conformist / blair witch)
– vertigo = made famous by Alfred Hitchcock (dolly in as you zoom out or vice versa)
– steady cam = Goodfellas shot
– space cam =  flying aircraft with a camera built into it (Into the Sea with Javier Bardem)
– crane shot / cherry picker
– jib shot = camera goes up or down along a mast
– aerial = airplane shot

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA – dir. David Lean
– incredible range of shots used in this film

– Spike Lee started internships with the unions so that they would hire more women and people of colour
– based on an actual event of a race riot that took place in Howard Beach
– several black men had a flat tire in front of an Italian bar and were chased out by the Italians are one tripped and was killed when hit by a car
– 24 hour period from one morning to the next – set in the neighborhood
– Samuel L. Jackson plays the DJ and ties the setting and characters together
– Radio Rahim was always shot solitary to showcase his lack of wanting to be part of the community and low angle to show him being imposing
– statistic of when the temperature goes over 95%, the murder rate rises as well as people lose their tempers much easier
– film ends with differing quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X (non violence versus intelligent self-defence)
– restlessly wandering camera – starting on a closeup then move all over the place

TOUCH OF EVIL – dir. Orson Welles

– probably the most famous sequence shot / long take
– instead of close up, followed by pan to long shot, a long series of shots are choreographed into one single shot


– filmed at the height of a person kneeling on a Japanese tatami mat
– usually full shots with people moving in and out of the frame
– focuses on family drama / stories – focus on Japan but they are universal
– flips traditional Hollywood convention by crossing 180 degree line where characters and settings flip perspective


– director had a schitzophrenic mother – very aware about being different and the community’s reaction to her mother
– draws each phase on a piece of paper – each frame is photocopied onto glossy paper -indian ink is drawn in on top of the drawing and then uses a razor blade to scratch into the ink – background is on a separate piece of paper and scanned in – superimposed to form the final image

Do the Right Thing – Reading the Screen film of the week

November 12, 2008



Opening Credits with Rosie Perez

Race Rant

Love vs. Hate

Sal and Pino

– opening credits featuring Rosie Perez dancing – who could forget her in this movie with that accent
– that’s the truth ruth – samuel l jackson
– doing the ying and the yang, the flippity flop
– great pan shot rising up from a crane
– shot under Smiley looking up – centered in scene with church behind him
– interracial relationship between MOOOOOKIE and rosie perez (black and puerto rican)
– in comes Danny Aiello with his 2 sons at his pizza shop
– John Turtorro “detests this place like a fucking sickness”
– “This is a respectable business”
– “I’m gonna kill somebody today” – Danny Aiello = prophetic words
– Spike Lee looks so short and small and dopy looking
– mother sister is the actress who played denzel washington’s mother in american gangster
– ossie davis – “It’s gonna be a scorcher today!”
– quick cut shots from person to person as the conversation flows from person to person
– “You the man – I’m just visiting” – martin lawrence to radio rahim
– ossie davis to mother davis conversation – camera angle is slanted from either side to side as they talk to one another
– 3 older black men talking against a red brick wall – prophetic for the heat wave they are experiencing
– nothing but italian men on the wall of the pizza place – “How come no brothers on the wall?!?”
– Mook…stay black!
– Always do the right thing…that’s it? that’s it – I got it…I’m gone (conversation between ossie and mookie – same slanted angles again)
– everyone seeks their relief from the heat in different ways – head in the ice filled sink / cold shower / cold beers / turning on fire hydrant
– everyone makes way for radio Rahim when he comes across the fire hydrant
– but here comes mr soprano bad guy and he gets his car soaked
– moe and joe what sir? did you happen to catch their names?
– samuel l jackson is trying to get spike lee’s attention in the background as he talks to vito’s son on the street
– battle of the beat boxes between the puerto ricans and radio Rahim – camera pans back and forth between the two like a spectator at a fight
– enter celtics fan who scuffed black rage’s white nike sneekers
– this is a free country – a man can live wherever he wants
– slow motion scene as the cops and the 3 middle aged black men eye each other – with sombre solo piano soundtrack overtop
– either you korean motherfuckers are geniuses or you black motherfuckers are dumb
– ossie davis’ speech to the younger generation…”You don’t know shit!”
– nigger this nigger that – favorite basketball player is Magic Johnson – favorite actor is Eddie Murphy – favorite singer is Prince
– deep down I think you really want to be black – get the fuck outta here!
– mookie’s rant – to italian brother’s rant – puerto rican rant – italian cop – korean shop owner rant
– young black girl drawing a picture with chalk on the street of a house, car, sunshine (only place where it will happen for black people)
– slanted camera angles again between Vito and Radio Rahim – as conversation flows
– slave days are over – my name aint Kunta Kinte!
– Pino wants out of the pizeria in the black neighborhood – but Sal’s Famous Pizzeria is here to stay and that’s the way it is
– you better boycott that god damn barber who fucked up your hair!
– if you really tried hard, you could really put your energies into something positive
– Mookie and Pino can’t believe the conversation between his sister and Sal
– D MOTHER FUCKER D!!! – motherfuck YOU!
– older man takes a piss on the wall in front of the others
– Sal is in love with Mookie’s sister Jade
– TAWANNA TOLD THE TRUTH – graffiti on the wall – what does it mean?
– when main characters do sermon like dialog, the camera is always below them looking up as they are centred on the screen
– thank god for the lips, for the neck, for the knnecaps, for the elbows, for the thighs, for the right nipple, for the left nipple
– almost like a zoetrope effect with the light shinning through the ceiling fan – very prolific against their faces
– fight between pino and vito – the light overtop is going from side to side – highlighting the tension between the 2 brothers
– who the fuck does he think he is…fucking don corleone?!? – for making me turn down my box – didn’t even say please
– business was terrific – we had a great great day – nothing like a family working together – gonna rename it Sal and son’s pizzeria
– mookie, there will always be a place for you here – you’ve been like a son to me – four slices and then we’re outta here
– slanted camera angle again to highlight the tension – enter radio rahim and his crew
– I’ll tear your nigger ass off! – seems like Pino is enjoying it though
– the boom box is no more and the silence is deafening – I just killed your fucking radio
– Gary that’s enough – 3 times – SHUT THE FUCK UP – GET THE FUCK UP ASSHOLE! as radio rahim drops dead to the ground
– they didn’t have to kill the boy…as Mookie looks at Sal and his sons – walks over to grab the garbage can
– Da Mayor begs the crowd for calm – someone is gonna get hurt
– Sal finally realizes that he doesn’t understand the community – mookie grabs the garbage can and throws it into the pizzeria – starting the riot
– BURN IT DOWN BURN IT DOWN – mother sister as the camera shows a cracked frank sinatra picture burning
– I BLACK – WE THE SAME – says the korean shop keeper
– back come the cops again along with the fire department – but this time they have the riot patrol
– PEOPLE PLEASE DISPERSE! you’ve had your warning as the fire hoses are turned on the crowd – now they try to fight the fire fighters
– NOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooo – mother sister wails as she collapses in da mayor’s arms
– smiley puts up a picture of malcolm x and martin luther king on the the burnt out wall
– prologue with samuel l jackson – overture soundtrack overtop his speech
– are we gonna live together – together are we gonna live?
– mother sister and da mayor are finally speaking to one another and look down on the block
– my salary is two fitty a week as Sal throws the bills into mookie’s face
– you keep it, you keep it, no YOU KEEP IT – I don’t believe it
– “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral…” – martin luther king jr.
– “I don’t even call it violence when it’s self defense, I call it it intelligence” – Malcolm X
– final shot in the film is the black and white picture of malcolm X and martin luther king shaking hands and smiling

Reading the Screen – This week’s film clips

October 3, 2008

– what are your physiological responses to watching this film?
– how is the film engaging you?
– using new technology to inquire about itself (optical printer)
– goldrush to explore new possibilities that the technologies can usher in

Ballet Mechanique – dir Fernand Leger

Part 1

Part 2

Mothlight – dir Stan Brakhage

Wavelength – dir Michael Snow

Pas de Deux – dir. Norman McLaren

Part 1 – all I have to say is WOW – what an incredible film

Part 2

Un Chien Andalou – dir. Luis Banuel

Meshes of the Afternoon – dir Maya Deren

Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper – dir David Rimmer
– I couldn’t find a clip of the film, but here are some informational links if you want to learn more
– – – – – – – – – –

Pièce Touchée – dir Martin Arnold

“pièce touchée, Martin Arnold, Austria,16mm Film, b&w, 16 min
Arnold’s breakthrough film, pièce touchée, is based on a single 18-second shot from The Human Jungle (dir. Joseph M. Newman, 1954). Woman sitting in a chair. Man enters the room. Man and woman kiss. Exit man.”
– from the YouTube description

– this is only half of the film as a whole – could only get the first 9 minutes of the piece from YouTube

personal notes:

– b/w film – opens with a woman sitting on a chair in a living room reading a newspaper
– humming / mechanical noise overlay
– repetitive film – no movement at all other than fingers and head
– starts with only one frame then slowly builds up with the number of frames
– back and forth with forward and backward movement of the frames as the man enters the room
– mirroring imagery from left to right = cool effect on the eyes
– her head appears to swivel a complete 360 as the scene repeats and mirrors itself
– the man goes down and kisses the woman finally
– various editing techniques follow to the end…

in-class round table discussion:

– motion study / repetitive motion study
– changes of planes / changes of perception
– disorientation and uncomfortable
– dealt with time – kept revisiting and repeating frames
– absurdity of everyday domestic scene
– sound was mechanic humming
– story interpretation of repetition
– negation of story narrative
– metaphor / felt like we were inside a washing machine
– creation of new images using existing frames / transformation
– underlying issues of domesticity (violence / sexuality)
– issues of dominance, power and gender
– introduction of new editing techniques
– abstraction of shapes and creation of negative space
– interesting effects of animation (head spinning / rotating)
– soundtrack gives a dehumanized / mechanized theme to the piece (lack of humanity)
– unexpected editing techniques (reversals, mirrors, motion, movement)
– Experimental / Found Footage film piece
– too long? too repetitive? (was it intended?)
– no finality at the end – felt incomplete – where did it end? what does it mean?
– resolution irrelevant – it is an experimental film by nature
– A Touching Piece / Touched Piece – what does the title actually refer to?
– critique of cinema / society at the time (Hollywood system and view of society)
– expanded cinema (new term for avant-garde / experimental / innovative)