Love and Chaos Part 8(H) Alan 2

6th July 2021

CAFE CINEMA, Berlin - Mitte (Borough) - Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Phone  Number - Tripadvisor
A typical Berlin art bar, showing films, staging poetry slams etc. This one is in Berlin Mitte, from Google Images

Part Eight. Berlin. October 1995

Alan sat alone at the small desk, hunched over a tiny film viewer, watching and rewatching a section of film. The wall was covered with thin strips of film of varying length. The top of each one had a piece of white paper, giving information that anyone but Alan would find incomprehensible.

He turned the handle, watching magnified images pass through the tiny monitor. He consulted his notes and selected the best takes from each scene, then the exact frame to be cut. He marked the frame with the puncher on the monitor. Carefully, lovingly, he removed the film from the cog wheels and held it up to see the tiny indentation. He aligned this on the spokes of his film cutter and guillotined the end. The selected piece was then labelled and stuck on the wall, at a precise point, between the scenes coming immediately before and after it.

Alan picked up the film curled on the table, held it up against the light, squinting as he saw with his eye where the next scene began.

He ran this piece of film through the monitor to find the exact spot where it should begin.

So he spent the whole evening, editing his short film.

He loved everything about making films. He loved getting the initial idea, the casting and telling the actors about the story and the style he intended to use. He loved the filming, meeting up, drinking take-out coffee, preparing shots. Now he loved the end stage, the editing and splicing. He was alone, peaceful, and had complete control over the images.

He couldn’t wait to run the rough cut through the monitor, make the final micro cuts, then play it through the projector, and see his work on the cinemascope that was the bedroom wall.

He laughed to himself when he looked at the projector. He had told Vincent about needing a better quality one, and the actor had suggested the flea market by Tacheles.

Sure enough, on the muddy wasteland there were two or three tables that had old cine equipment. Alan asked one stall holder the price of an exquisite machine and was ignored. Vincent came over and winked at Alan. He picked up the projector and then put it down. He asked the price of a totally different item, appeared uninterested and seemed to wonder off. The Stall holder sat down, back to his wurst roll. Vincent walked away; clutching the projector. Alan saw and was shocked, but played along. He stayed looking at some bits, then slowly turned and walked away at a very casual pace, showing that his hands were clearly empty and that he had absolutely no connection whatsoever with that other gentleman.

This acting lark was really easy, he thought to himself. Procuring equipment apparently posed no problems. Now for presentation.

Vincent had said that the film could be shown in the bars all over east Berlin. It was no problem to organise movie nights, and he mentioned some bars in Friedrichshain where he was known. One named Kinski stood out.

Alan still couldn’t believe it; actors, equipment, a processing studio and venues in which to screen. An audience ready and open to new work.

And Julie.

Alan was spending a lot of time on the close-ups of Julie. He had deliberately shot more than was required. He slowly turned the handle, so that no individual frame would stay too long under the lamp and burn.

He told himself that he was just admiring her beauty. Looking for her best angles, and deciding that all angles were her best.

He had several new scripts ready. The money for film stock and processing could easily be earned and Vincent had introduced him to a number of actors, would-be actors and people who had agreed to take part in the no-budget films.

His plans began to get more elaborate, longer films, dialogue, screenings at festivals. All was possible. He simply had to make it happen, stay focused. Berlin was his.

He followed these thoughts with others of a more personal nature, until he remembered he was on a deadline. The film could get it’s premier next Friday, if it was ready.

Alan got back to work, passing over the image of Julie with a gentle sigh.

But Alan hadn’t been prepared for the nerves. He had always imagined this moment, the screening of his first film, showing his work, his ideas, to a public of strangers.

The experience was different.

The venue, an official bar, was run by a group of young people but looked and felt like some of the more organised squat bars.

Vincent enjoyed the attention, the hugs and slightly exaggerated greetings, and Alan tried to get some of his energy and confidence. More and more people were coming into the bar, a large cine screen already in place, the projector protected. When Alan made some tests for focus, there was always someone to make rabbit-ear shadows on the screen. It got a little tired after ten or eleven times.

The time approached, as far as bars like this kept to schedules, and Vincent looked at Alan and suggested they had better start soon, or everyone would be too drunk to care.

But no Julie.

“Ja, sometimes rehearsals go on longer, maybe they had to do some new scenes. It is next week, things need working on.” Vincent referred to a play that Julie was in, a radical reworking of Baal, as Julie had described it, with a hint that radical was a very polite and optimistic description.

“Come, we show it now, then later, if she comes.”

Vincent, without waiting for a response, whistled to the bar man, who turned off the music. He put in a tape that Alan had prepared. The lights went down, to sounds of claps, cheers and whoops.

Alan’s heart froze. He was almost paralysed with fear. He reached out for Vincent’s beer and took a swig that drained the bottle. Then he hit the switch. The sound of the motor turning, a beam of light hitting the large screen. He indicated to the bar man to play the cassette, and as the first image of Vincent, in Close-Up appeared, five foot tall on the screen, the melancholic notes of Debussy poured into the room.

There were immediate claps and wolf whistles, followed by a general hushing.

Julie was next up, but the sight of her, in a short dress, sitting on the grass, just caused more and more screams. But this was good. Alan felt Vincent put his arm around him. He kept it there for the entire film.

The entire film was little over five minutes and got a further two minutes of non-stop applause. Alan beamed. His nerves, totally gone, he knew he would never again be nervous, his ideas were good, his films would get better and better. He would be a film director. He was a film director.

By the next screening, demanded by the audience, Alan was too tipsy to gauge the reaction. He had been congratulated by friends and strangers. Others had come up and pleaded with him to be in his next film. Others asked where else he was screening, had he heard about certain festivals, other Berlin venues ? Until the beer hampered his senses, he made a note of everyone, very clear, with name and contact number or address.


When Julie finally appeared, very apologetic, he greeted her, and she was noticed and lauded by the drinkers, not allowed to pay for her Sekt.

She apologised for missing it, leading Alan to suggest that she come over tomorrow and have a private screening. To his amazement, she accepted the offer and they set a time.

Vincent asked about the play and they spoke about the director, who changed his mind scene to scene, demanded re-writes, re-casting, costume changes. The actors now came in holding out their hands for new instructions, an in-joke being, ‘what was wrong with the last re-write ?’

“Not like Alan,” she said, patting him on the shoulder and leaving her arm there. “So, tell me, how was the film, tonight ?”

Vincent spoke, but Julie was looking at Alan. They smiled at each other.

The following night, Julie appeared exactly on time, as if she had arrived early and was counting down to when she could knock on the door.

She really liked the film, the style and the camera work. She was a little shy about seeing herself, but viewed it professionally and made tiny criticisms, all of which Alan dismissed.

Over coffee, Julie was relaxed enough to speak openly about the play. She had considered it a breech of professional conduct to be critical of a production, but she felt it was going to be a disaster. When asked why, she took her time and chose her words carefully,

“For one thing, there are too many people. The cast should have been cut, and actors doubling up. We never have a rehearsal with everyone there, always someone having to stand-in, and it’s hard to work up an reaction to someone reading a script without emotion.

“Then the constant script changes. We learn a part overnight, and find it’s been cut. Most of the actors don’t accept this and half an hour gets wasted when everyone shouts out their opinion.

“And we all have to work as well, there is no way we will get anything out this, financially. Not that it matters. But most of us work and have to give up our spare time. Can’t bear to see it so un-productive. There, enough moaning.”

Alan told her it was OK, he liked to hear an actor’s perspective and asked for tips. Julie thought for a little while, then began, tentatively,

“If I can make one tiny suggestion, it would be . . . how ? OK, just to be more confident. You know what you want. The actors don’t. It is up to you to tell them, what to do, not to get their suggestions. Because most actors will just suggest endless Close-Ups of themselves.”

There was a slight pause before Alan and then Julie laughed

“So I should follow Mr Hitchcock’s advise and treat actors like cattle ?”

“I didn’t say that !”

The conversation continued effortlessly. Alan said that despite the weather getting colder, there was still enough light to film in October. Julie laughed and said,

“Not for much longer. You’ll have to start directing theatre, because you won’t be able to film outside until April or May.”

Alan had never thought of this, but, of course he had an immediate cinema reference point.

“Like Ingmar Bergman ?” he said referring to the Swedish film and theatre director. “He would keep the same group of actors for both. Must have helped to develop a close working experience. Well ? Would you like to do some theatre with me ?”

“You have something ?”

“Well . . . I just might.”

As autumn once again became winter, there were other changes over Berlin. Alan would start to study theatre from the books available to him. Julie would start to get more and more attention for her craft. Daniel would rethink what medium he should use for his artistic expression. Chris would be very careful about what women he would fall in love with. A lost music student would search for direction. A Philosophy student would find his first semester harder than he ever imagined and would consider changing courses. And Richard would fall in love with a German girl who would make him happier than he had ever been, until, that too, went horribly wrong.

Love and Chaos Part 3(E) Hitch 1

9th December 2020

Young Alfred Hitchcock ~1920's : OldSchoolCool
Alfred Hitchcock (Google Images)

Part Three

Hitch

Young Alfred Hitchcock felt so proud. His father, a strict and nervous man, had entrusted his son with a duty that made the infant of four or five feel like a young man.

Hitch ran along Leytonstone High Road, in the East-End of London, to the police station, with no suspicion of the notorious family plot being hatched.

Alfred confidently approached the huge desk and, tiptoeing up, stretched to put the note into the giant hand of the formidable policeman.

The Officer took the note, unfolded it, read it, closed it again, and stared down at the beaming face of the boy. After a moment of silence, he said:

“Come with me.”

How honoured Alfred felt now, a respectable keeper of the peace was leading him by the hand and showing him the inside of the station.

They went up to a cell, which the Officer unlocked and beckoned the lad inside.

Alfred needed no second telling, he gladly entered.

Then the door closed with a heart-stopping crash, and he could hear the metal screeching of the heavy keys turning the locks.

There he stayed, in the terrifying cold of the dungeon, too small to look out of the bars, too scared to scream. He was petrified.

There he stayed for five or ten minutes, until he was finally released. The only explanation were the words that stayed with him for the rest of his life:

“This is what we do to naughty boys.”

Unsurprisingly, many of his films have the theme of an innocent man caught up in something he doesn’t understand or have control over.

Around fifty-five years later, the film ‘Psycho’ was released.


Thirty-four years after that, in 1994, a film student chose it as the subject of his thesis.

Alan Francis had moved up to London to read Film Studies, and shared a bedsit in Leytonstone with three other students. He frequently walked past the petrol station that has been built on the site where ‘The Master of Suspense’ was born.

It was Alan’s contention that ‘Psycho’ was as near perfect as a film could ever get. Rather than being threatened by television, which had devoured Hollywood’s audiences in the Fifties, Hitchcock, acting as his own Producer, had used a television crew, used to tight budgets and tighter schedules, to shoot the film.

Mosaic of Hitchcock's "Psycho" famous shower scene. | Hitchcock, Mosaic, Art
Mosaic of ‘Psycho’ at Leytonstone Underground Station

But he took time and care when needed. The famous shower scene took seven days to shoot, using seventy cameras for forty-five seconds of film.

Alan also mentioned that the film had cost eight hundred thousand dollars and before the decade had ended, had already grossed over fifteen million.

Over the Summer months, Alan waited with appropriate suspense, for his results. He had had enough with theory, he now wanted to make films. But the chances of breaking into the film business were not good. The best thing, he decided, was not to send off letters or work his way up in studios, but to actually make a film, to show people what he could do.

There were so many ideas stored up, so many theories of cinema to test out. All he needed was a camera. And actors. And film stock. For these, he needed money.

In July 1994, Alan looked for jobs and was accepted by a firm of business consultants. His theories on film would not be required for the post. So he saved his money. And waited.

Till the end of his life, Alfred Hitchcock never forgot the paralysing fear of being locked in that cell. And he was never able to remember what it was that he had done, that caused his father to punish him so.

Hitchcock: a short pilgrimage around Leytonstone | Leytonstoner

‘Noirish Project’ – Theatre, Literature, Pure Cinema

11th July 2020

‘Noirish Project’ (66mins, UK, 2018)

Written & Directed by James Devereaux

Available on:

http://jamesdevereaux.com/video-on-demand/

james devereaux, alfie black, noir-ish project
James Devereaux as Jimmy (left) with Alfie Black as Billy

Torrential rain illuminated by a single street light, a face emerging from the shadows, anxious and tense, a clock ticking, pounding agonisingly, a policeman appearing unexpectedly, the essential key dropped down a drain, precision planning, split-second timing, tough times and tougher men.

Such are the images evoked by the crime sub-genre ‘Film Noir’ (1) yet we, the audience, can sense that this is not what we are about to witness in ‘Noirish Project’, written and directed by James Devereaux.

I’ve known James for several years, so I have to recuse myself from a review or critique, and instead focus on the plot, the cinematic choices used in telling this story and what I think happened – clearly there is some ambiguity, equally clearly I will be discussing the entire film, so in the modern argot there will be spoilers.

To set the scene, I’ll give the synopsis, after which …

I’ll spill the beans on what goes down so listen and listen good … go to James’ website, rent or buy the film, watch it real close, then come back and read my two cents’ worth.

Synopsis

This is taken from the official website:

Bleak, melancholy, neorealist feature film masquerading as film noir. A couple of low-lifes try to make some quick cash but end up just waiting around.

Noirish Project is a melancholy and gently comic feature film about Billy, who steals his family’s precious pearls and hands them over to low-life Jimmy (played by James Devereaux), who in turn takes them to a fence. But when the pearls turn out to be fake, Jimmy barely escapes from the fence with his life, let alone the pearls. Billy and Jimmy endevour to get the pearls back before Billy’s family finds out they’re gone, but when the fence goes missing, they realise their story has only just begun.

Shot in black and white, Noirish Project is a neo-realist fantasy, featuring moments of peculiar poetry and gentle comedy.

Additionally, there exists a prelude short, giving some back story, but I’ll just focus on the main film. Characters studies and plot will be followed by a section on cinematic technique, then my conclusion.

The title itself conveys all the information we need; this is not Noir but Noir-ish (2). Unlike the Hollywood Noir formula, with meticulous planning, boosting, hi-jacking and heists, this is a ‘project’, reminiscent of an innocent school activity; innocence and (perceived) experience as personified by the two leading characters.

The reversal of Noir conventions is further evident in the naming of the characters. The strong, regal-sounding James, William and Richard are softened to the familiar Jimmy, Billy & Dickie. Another detour from genre is the blatant disregard to the film-makers’ mantra: ‘show, don’t tell.’ What makes the film so intriguing is that almost nothing essential to a Noir film is shown … it is all told, and told by Jimmy. Therefore, our interpretation of the film relies on how much we trust him, by extension, how much we trust his narrative. This cinematic ‘project’ hangs on the literary concept of the ‘unreliable narrator’. So what do we know about said narrator ?

Our first view of Jimmy is telling. He is shown in MEDIUM-LONG shot, walking along the street, and when he realises he’s been seen, he pulls his cap further down and slips into a side street. We often see him walking away from the camera, or with his back initially turned to us, before swinging around, as if he’s been composing himself for a performance, an act.

Throughout the film, with one exception, mentioned later, Jimmy hides under a cloth cap, and wears a long black coat, buttoned up to the top, a metaphor for how Jimmy plays his cards close to his chest and is, literally and figuratively, giving nothing away. His hands are often in his pockets, which we perceive to be deep; Billy will more than once encounter the expression ‘short arms, long pockets.’ (3)

Jimmy’s language is full of portentous saying, aggressive expletives and admonishments not to apologise. He is certainly playing his part, verbally.

As for Billy, he seems a man out of time, a misfit, anachronistically resembling a refugee from Renoir’s ‘La Règle du Jeu‘ (1939), alongside US literary icons Holden Caulfield and Ignatius J. Reilly (‘Catcher in the Rye’ 1945- 6 / 1951 & ‘Confederacy of Dunces’ 1960s published 1980) (4). Billy wears a dinner suit and bow tie (a ‘Dickie’ bow) and protects his head with a fur cap with ear flaps.

La Règle du Jeu [The Rules of the Game] ***** (1939, Marcel Dalio ...
Jean Renoir’s ‘La Règle du Jeu

holden caulfield | Jorge Sette "Linguagem"
Holden Caulfield from ‘Catcher in the Rye’

Jimmy has to work, to earn his crust, Billy is protected and pampered; so much is indicated by their outfits. Jimmy is also taller than Billy and uses this advantage on occasion. He will be the dominant character in this tale, and all tales needs a McGuffin to set the wheels in motion … but first, the two protagonists need to be in the same scene. Not so easy when the evasive Jimmy seems hell bent on evading Billy.

Finally, around three minutes into the film, they start a conversation. Jimmy speaks in cliches, conveying urgency and danger but, characteristically, avoiding specifics. What follows is exposition, and a further clue to the path the film will take. There is a robbery, a jewel theft, [not shown in the film], jewels pass to an intermediary, then to a fence (5) [not shown], the fence declares the jewels fake and almost kills the intermediary in anger [also, not shown]. The previous sentence could concisely encapsulate a typical Noir plot … but this is not a typical Noir plot. Furthermore, it is the audience who has to be on their guard. We have not been shown any of the above action, we only have direct and indirect speech to go on. The plot, as the saying goes, thickens, so let’s clarify.

Billy is the thief. We learn that he has stolen some pearls from his own family. Our view of Billy as an innocence is suddenly altered, his act is both cowardly and detestable (from Greek drama we know that crimes against the family never end well). Jimmy is the intermediary; he is not the fence but knows someone who is, a certain ‘Dickie’. Or does he … ?

I’ve termed such a situation ‘opennism’: to describe a situation which has multiple interpretations, and where the reader or viewer is much more involved, indeed has to be an active contributor to the story. Thus, the viewer can accept everything Jimmy says as the truth and enjoy the film on that level.

However, for me, the interplay between characters, the changes in power, the dynamic swirls seem indicative of something deeper. Jimmy looks a guy with something to hide, and I want to find out what makes him tick.

The potential for ambiguity starts immediately. The pearls, Jimmy informs Billy are fake … at least, according to Dickie. How many permutations does that simple sentence generate?

ONE: All is 100% true

TWO: Dickie knows the pearls are real, knows Jimmy can’t tell a genuine pearl from a breathe mint and lies to him, to avoid paying. Jimmy, humiliated, leaves without the pearls, trying to save face.

THREE: As above but when Jimmy protests, Dickie gets aggressive to forestall any further discussion, and gets rid of Jimmy.

FOUR: Dickie sees they are real and offers a price. Jimmy takes the money, lying to Billy, claiming he was almost killed to explain the lack or pearls and money.

FIVE: There is no Dickie. Jimmy is flattered that Billy thinks he is part of the underworld and plays along, seeing how far he can take it.

Billy himself questions Jimmy’s reply, doubting Dickie’s appraisal (to be clear … Dickie’s response as related by Jimmy). All that we know for sure is that Billy is left without the pearls (fake or otherwise).

What follows is the Hitchcockian ‘McGuffin’: to retrieve the pearls, to put them back before his family notices, a return to the status quo although he will still be in debt and won’t be able to flee, “To Mexico,” [that ultimate goal for crooks in US Noir films]. To do that, he has to convince Jimmy to revisit Dickie, and thereafter the film turns into a quest full of challenges to be overcome and dangers to be meet and, as the synopsis promises … a lot of waiting.

First stage is to return to the ‘scene of the crime’. Jimmy takes Billy to where he (claims) to have met Dickie. It appears to be some sort of clinic, a very basic clinic with a receptionist, whose occupation is signified by a single telephone, and a doctor, an older man in a suit, with a stethoscope serpent-like around his neck.

Jimmy is unable to communicate with the receptionist, who speaks like a witness caught by the police, afraid to squeal: “I don’t know nothing, I’m a nobody.” The doctor appears, perturbed and aggressive, demanding to know what is happening. Despite Jimmy’s explanation (for Billy’s benefit ?) the doctor claims to know nothing about any pearls, nor to know anybody by the name of ‘Dickie’, furthermore, he seems unduly unsettled when he hears that Jimmy has been, “Asking questions.”

The doctor then breaks the Hippocratic Oath by nearly breaking Jimmy’s arm, knocking his cap off and pushing our anti-heroes out of the building. Instead of following Jimmy and Billy, we remain in the clinic and listen to some very dubious dialogue, a text-book sexual harassment case. However, the ‘receptionist’ plays along, willingly, possibly suggesting that another type of film is about to be made at this location, and explaining why the ‘doctor’ was so anxious to clear the set.

Back outside, we have some more revealing character development. Jimmy, so easily threatened and beaten by the doctor, tells how he could have snapped the doctor with just a click of his fingers. He further suggests going for a drink in Dickie’s local and, setting a repeated pattern, asks Billy to wait. Jimmy later returns with some more reported speech: Dickie isn’t in the pub but the bar staff said that he was on his way. In fact, they were preparing his drink right now. Unfortunately [with a theatrical show of hands on chest], Jimmy has left his wallet, “In my other coat.” The audience may wonder if Jimmy even owns a second coat, but Billy is taken in and, despite the perfunctory protests, Jimmy accepts the offer of a drink. There follows a long take, in shallow-focus, of Jimmy and Billy playing pool or snooker, for nearly ten minutes. All that time, Dickie fails to appear.

Jimmy phones Dickie and engages in a very friendly conversation, but again, this seems put on for Billy’s benefit as we don’t see Jimmy paying for the call, nor do we hear any voice at the end of the line. The banter makes it sound as if Jimmy hasn’t seen Dickie for a long time, as opposed to a few hours ago, while Jimmy signals to Billy with smiles and repeats the name ‘Dickie’ more times than is necessary or natural. The upshot … Dickie will come to meet them so now they wait outside at a train station … and wait.

The Beckett parallels are obvious, albeit with one difference; only Jimmy knows if Dickie really intends to come or, as I posited earlier, if there even is a Dickie.

Tension builds as the characters, and the audience wait .. and wait. We hear the sound of trains arriving, twice … but as in Beckett, “Nothing happens.” Finally Jimmy goes to phone Dickie and offers to buy some coffee, with Billy’s money, naturally. In his absence, Billy asks how he will recognise Dickie (an issue that didn’t seem to occur to Jimmy, further strengthening the theory that Dickie was never going to arrive). The answer is shown, but again is literary: Billy wears a sign saying, “Dickie.”

Time passes, Billy portraying his innocent side, plays with a yo-yo. Not only does he play with a yo-yo but he evidently carries one with him. Later, innocent as a babe, he falls asleep, only to be awoken by Jimmy. The quest takes another turn. They must visit Dickie in his country home. There is, of course, no coffee for Billy, “There’s no time for coffee !” yet when Billy says he’s hungry, Jimmy agrees. We can presume that Jimmy’s had enough coffee, while he was off-screen, but is also hungry. Of course, Billy will be paying.

We cut to, appropriately enough, a waiting room and wait, then ride a prosaic commuter train to a country station.

A further dichotomy arises, that of city and country. Jimmy, a city dweller is out of his comfort zone, and what starts as a pleasant city-break, a walk in the woods takes a more ominous turn as Billy realises that Jimmy doesn’t know the way, that he has been lead in circles (in both senses) and loses his temper, though it is more childish petulance than macho aggression.

Finally, Jimmy sees the house, or perhaps we should say a house. This is far removed from a reclusive, inconspicuous country getaway. It resembles a Baronial manor, an estate run by the National Trust. Unsurprisingly, Jimmy instructs Billy to wait, at quite a distance, and unsurprisingly the wait is long. Billy falls asleep.

Jimmy has the pearls, in a black, plastic bag. Billy sees them and is content. The quest is over, now the return to the city. Under a soulless station underpass, Jimmy offers to buy Billy a drink … he was given some money, he alleges, from Dickie. For Billy, this day has been a rite of passage. He has failed in his criminal endeavour, and maybe also lost faith in Jimmy. He built Jimmy up, in his imagination, as someone ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. Now he’s not so sure. Billy declines the offer and exits with a, “See you around,” which is code for ‘I hope I don’t see you around.’

As for Jimmy, he has a little money in his pocket, whether from Dickie, or Billy, maybe even his own which he had all the time. He walks alone, pondering his day, then goes to a cafe, drinks coffee and watches the world go by.

The film uses, exclusively, a static camera (6) and the opening shot, is rather Zen-like in its framing. We see the city, the Docklands area of east London occupying the lower part of the frame, the upper devoted to the sky. The division sets a visual theme of two opposites (innocence / experience, city / country, breaking the law/ being caught), areas clearly demarked, not unlike a Rothko painting.

Mr Devereaux’s London story has similarities with ‘Tokyo Story’ (1953) by the Japanese director Ozu, also known for making films with a static camera exclusively. As in the aforementioned film, ‘Noirish’s’ opening shot has movement, here provided by two Tube trains, who could easily represent the two characters. One trains enters, slowly laboriously making its way across the screen, while a second train enters from the opposite direction at speed, leaving the shot while the first train is still trudging by. We first see Billy, sitting at a cafe, then Jimmy, walking rapidally.

We also feel how this will be ‘Noir-ish‘. The scene starts in clear day, not a rainy night and unlike the frantic, fast-cutting in action films, we have a long, very leisurely take. The film will use long takes frequently, many shots lasting well over a minute, in contrast to what audiences expect from a crime caper. By my calculation, the entire film is composed of just 150 shots. Compare that to the contemporary ‘Bourne’ films with an average shot length (ASL) of around two seconds (7) .

The static camera sets up the scenes rather theatrically. Characters enter and exit the scene [usually] from the sides in the city, while the transition to the country enables Jimmy and Billy to enter from the back of the scene and walk towards the camera. The viewer is allowed time to consider the action or situation as the camera often lingers a numbers of seconds after the actors have made their exit, and we are allowed to view the scene, as if that too were a character. The camera is passive, not active; will that reflect the ultimate actions of the characters ?

The static camera / long take dynamic is taken to the extreme in the pub interior scene, the pool scene. This could be a homage to Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’ (1948), shot in ten-minute takes, at the time, the maximum length of a film reel. In keeping with the film, we don’t see the game, just the players sitting and watching each other play and passing comment on the action.

The day ends with nothing gained, especially for Billy. He has a chance to repent, and his crime can be erased. It never happened. Throughout the film that are symbolic clues to indicate what could be the future if things had developed along a different trajectory. Jimmy and Billy are so often shown trapped or enclosed against walls, doors and windows. Waiting at the station, the pair are framed against a wire fence, resembling a prison yard with nothing but wasteland and a thick, high wall in the background. A police siren wails and even in the waiting room, a security camera can be seen, observing them.

During the train ride to the country, we have some focalisation, where we see Billy as Jimmy sees him; Billy has a false beard on. This could be a comic interlude, indicating Jimmy’s fatigue, a semi-dreaming state, or it could be a deeper realisation, that maybe Billy isn’t all that he seems. He too is putting on a front and Jimmy should be on his guard against this ‘innocent’. Jimmy has handled stolen goods, but Billy is the actual thief. So who is the worst of the two ? The final scenes, dialogue free, pure cinema, hold, I believe, the answer.

After Billy leaves, Jimmy walks, from the right into shot, as the train entered in the opening shot. He leans against a wall, framed, again like the opening shot, in the lower half, the upper showing a nondescript building. He smiles to himself. The film CUTS TO:

A street scene, two house doors next to an antique, bric-a-brac shop. The scene cuts back to Jimmy, in the Zen framing, thinking what happened, what could have happened.

Jimmy looks in the shop window. How easy to buy a cheap set of pearls and keep the real pearls. Billy would probably never know, and even if he did, what could he do ? He couldn’t beat Jimmy physically, nor could he report him to the police, nor hire someone from the criminal classes to beat Jimmy – Jimmy is the only person he (believes) to operate in that milieu. Like taking candy from a baby. Is that what Jimmy does ? The answer, for me, lies in a subsequent shot.

Jimmy is shown, back to camera, typically, walking away from camera, in a covered retail area. Concrete bridges create a heavy shadow on one side of the frame. Jimmy starts to move to the shadow … then changes his mind. He walks in the light and out of shot. Back at the antique shop, we see him look in, turn … and walk past the shop. He doesn’t go in, he doesn’t con his friend.

London may hold 8 or 9 million stories but Jimmy knows his isn’t one of them. He’s no Bogart or Mitchum, no Belmondo or Delon. He goes into a modest cafe, alone, and thinks about his day, how he played at being gangster, a life of thrills and danger but now he’s safe, protected behind a thick pane of glass, and watches the world, watches other people … watches.

References

Alfred Hitchcock: British film director, famous for crime and suspense movie.

Yasujiro Ozu: Japanese film maker, famous for his use of the static camera and low-angle ‘tatami’ shot. While the camera remains fixed, there is so much movement within the shot.

Jean Renoir: Regarded as one of the best ever French film directors

Mark Rothko: US artist

Untitled No 3 1967 Painting By Mark Rothko - Reproduction Gallery
A typical Rothko painting, showing clearly defined and separated areas

Notes

(1) A style of crime film popular in the 1940s and 50s, often with many night scenes and shadows, hence the name ‘noir’ which means black in French. The films were often about gangsters or criminals planning to rob banks, or rich people, then escaping but they were usually caught or killed by the police.

The Elements of Film Noir - Page 2 of 8 - The Script Lab
CNS media blog: Film Noir and Femme Fatale.

(2) The – ish suffix is applied to words to mean ‘a little bit,’ ‘to an extent.’ Examples would be,

“Are you free now ?” “No, I should be ready at 5-ish,” meaning some time around 5 o’clock.

“What colour is that ?” “It’s kind of blue-ish.”

(3) An humorous English expression to indicate a lack of generosity, meanness and selfishness.

(4) Famous and canonical ‘modern’ US fiction by J.D. Salinger & John Kennedy O’Toole, both of whom were troubled and ‘out of time’, but that is beyond the scope of this blog.

(5) Slang term for a person who buys stolen goods and then sells them to other people.

(6) The camera does not move at all. Characters can enter and exit the scene. Several directors use this style of filming, to various extents, in their films but I will draw comparisons with Ozu.

(7) Concerning the increasing speed of cutting in the Bourne Trilogy: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/jason-bourne-ruined-action-movies-hollywood-film-cinema-2018-4

Adult Speaking Class, Level 2: London – how do I get to … ?

29th June 2020

How do I get to … ?

London: Inside Buckingham Palace and Changing of the Guard ...

Asking and telling directions

Direction language

Expressions

Adverbs

Idioms

Look at the map. 

How to get to Buckingham Palace | Royal Collection Trust | Lugares ...

You are standing outside the Palace, at the corner of Birdcage Walk. You want to get to (go to) Victoria Station.

Excuse me, how do I get to Victoria Station ?

Walk straight down Buckingham Palace Road. Walk across the street and you can’t miss it (you will see it easily).

You are outside the front door of Harrods and want to visit the Royal Albert Hall

Harrods' 10 Secrets - Luxury Shopping in London - Black Platinum Gold
Pin by Karin Evans on London | Buckingham palace, London, Hyde park

WELCOME TO LEYTONSTONE

Leytonstone is an area in east London, and was the birthplace of the film director Alfred Hitchcock, footballer David Beckham and singer Damon Albarn of the band Blur.

Damon Albarn unveils blue plaque at childhood home in Fillebrook ...
Damon Albarn showing where he lived in Leytonstone
File:Damon Albarn (Waltham Forest Heritage).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Next, asking for local directions:

Sorry to bother (disturb) you, but I’m looking for a pub. Is there one near here ?

Yes, there is one quite close, ‘The Birkbeck Tavern’, maybe five or ten minutes’ walk away. Turn left until you come to Bridge Street. Turn left again, and keep walking, past the park, until you reach the bridge. Cross over, and Bob’s your uncle (there you are). It’s on the corner, you can’t miss it.

The Birkbeck Tavern, Leytonstone | Layers of London | Recording ...

NOW: A local map

Bushwood Area Residents' Association

You are in LISTER ROAD (at the bottom) and want to get to GROVE ROAD.

Take turns asking each other questions.

The red circle with a blue band is the symbol for an underground station, which we call ‘The Tube.’ Here is Leytonstone Tube:

Man charged over Leytonstone tube stabbing remanded - BBC News
Leytonstone | Central line : London Underground ( 1992 Tube Stock ...

Plan a day

What would you like to do, where would you like to visit ?

Things to consider:

Time / lunch / travelling around / a variety of activities

London video

Adult Speaking Class, Level 2: Cinema … what shall we see ?

9th May 2020

Cinema Choice

A lesson designed to encourage speaking and student interaction, especially useful for upper-intermediates or IELTS students, who are expected to be able to speak for two minutes fluently, with a good range of vocabulary, a knowledge of phrases and expressions, not to mention said speech to be delivered with pacing, rhythm and intonation. Furthermore, as previously demonstrated, long, complex sentences with ideas linked together with discourse markers.

Without further ado … let’s take in a movie

(to take in a movie = to go and see a movie, as opposed to watching a DVD, streaming etc)

Why going to the movies is [occasionally] worth the money | DECU

Vocabulary

I prefer / choice / my taste / not my taste / trailer / concession stand

all-star cast / director / film studio / controversial/ family film / book online

What’s on at the cinema ? What’s playing this week ? Not my cup of tea.

ACTIVITY 1: Use some of the words or expressions to talk about these photos:

Example

Types of camera shot

Alfred Hitchcock, a famous director from London, is demonstrating to the cameraman what shot he wants. Hitchcock was born near my house in east London and went on to work in Hollywood with all-star casts. However, I prefer his early films made in the UK although the famous or infamous film ‘Psycho’ is one of my favourites despite being extremely controversial.

Now … your turn

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review | Our Kids
regal concessions - Akali
Cinema Program – July 2014 - Arts Margaret River
How to buy movie tickets with Siri on your iPhone and iPad | iMore
20th Century Fox Logo | 3D Warehouse

Activity 2: What types of film can you name ?

Movie Genres Vector Art & Graphics | freevector.com

Horror // Action Stories // Sci-fi // Drama // Thriller // Romance // Biopic // Comedy // Western // Animation (Anime) // Musical // Documentary // War //

Stories about people’s lives and emotions // Space films, or films set in the future // Films about fighting and soldiers // Stories about real famous people // Loud, exciting films with explosions and fast cars // A cartoon, illustrated film // True stories with real people, not actors // Stories about police or spies or crime // Scary films about ghosts or monsters // A film about cowboys, set in USA // Love stories // Funny films // with singing and dancing

Which genres are these ?

Which do you prefer ?

Bande-annonce - Paprika - YouTube
Return to the 60s Movies: Where Eagles Dare (Richard Burton Blog-a ...
An American in Paris – Variety
Must Watch Documentaries About Our Environment
The Color Purple (1/6) Movie CLIP - Sisters Separated (1985) HD ...
Lon Chaney, Jr. as Kharis the Mummy | Classic monster movies ...

Prefer– to like one thing more than something else

I prefer drinking coffee to tea

He prefers living in Sai Gon rather than Hanoi

The students prefer the small room

Activity 3:

Look at an up-to-date cinema listing. Discuss what is on this week. Which films (if any) appeal to you ?

Phim Chiếu Rạp | Lotte Cinema Cộng Hòa

Which do you prefer ?

Going to the cinema, watching a DVD or streaming a film online ?

What are the advantages or disadvantages to each one ?

Must or have to ? Revision

The new Spider Man film may be sold out. We ______ buy tickets NOW !

I hate comedies ! Do I _____ to go ?

You _______ eat too much popcorn; it’s bad for you.

You ________to be over 18 to see this film

You don’t ____ to bring your passport to get intoa cinema in Viet Nam.

Adult Class, Level 3: Is was the butler, wasn’t it ?

11th November 2019 for 12th November 2019 AEF 10B pp. 98 – 99

Image result for hitchcock quotes

In the UK, we do have a morbid fascination with murder. This man is Alfred Hitchcock who made films from the 1920s to the 1970s, mostly suspense, thriller or murder dramas. ‘Hitch’, who was born where I live in east London, made many famous films but in my opinion ‘Psycho’, which was filmed in black and white in 1960, is his best.

Image result for hitchcock psycho

Do you know these British characters ?

Image result for sherlock basil
Image result for agatha christie books
What do the book titles mean to you ?

Sentence building:

Do you like to read murder mystery books or to watch murder films ?

Plan – don’t just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ ! Make a short introduction, just one or two sentences:

I enjoy all types of films, however I especially like a good mystery ….OR

I don’t really read much because I am so busy studying. However …

Say what film or book you like, tell me about the author and other books.

Tell me about the story and then why you think it’s good

Conclusion – “Maybe this book is not for everybody, but if you enjoy a great mystery story, then I would recommend it.”

Vocabulary building: Some useful words –

thrilling // suspense // gripping // well-written // superbly acted // atmospheric // creepy // scary // a page-turner // I was on the edge of my seat.

However, we must move from the world of fiction to the world of fact. Before we move onto a true story from the USA, let’s keep it closer to home.

What can the students tell me about Lê Hoàng Hùng ?

Image result for le hoang hung

Students can work in small groups. They have five minutes to make a short presentation. Information can be found on these sites:

https://freedomforvietnam.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/goodbye-to-another-journalist-in-vietnam/#comments

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Lê_Hoàng_Hùng

Then it’s time to get to tonight’s topic – murder, unsolved crimes and mystery. The lesson focuses on the mysterious death of the actress Natalie Wood. To introduce her, I’ll show a short clip of her acting, then the actual news report on TV on her death: 

Image result for natalie wood 1955

That clip, which has English captions, is from the film ‘Rebel Without A Cause’, from 1955. Now for the news footage:

Grammar: tag questions

Are you from Korea ? (a normal question, where we don’t know the answer)

You’re (you are) from Korea, aren’t you ? (using the tag ‘aren’t you’ to confirm what we think or know)

Take the pronoun (here it is ‘you’) and then the verb (‘are’). Invert the verb, that is, make it negative then add the pronoun. Hence ‘are’ becomes ‘are not’ = aren’taren’t you ?

Try these: First, decide on the appropriate pronoun (he, she, it, we etc).

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, ……….. ?

Natalie Wood was American, …………….. ?

We still don’t know who killed her, ………….. ? (here the verb is negative, so make it positive)

He’s a brilliant actor, ………….. ?

For the remainder of the lesson, I want the students to talk, talk and talk (and, yes, I mean in ENGLISH !)

Firstly, they can review tonight’s book work and air their views, thus enabling them to review negotiation language (I see your point but …. // I can’t go along with that // you raise an interesting point // I’m not sure I entirely agree … etc).

Questions:

What did they think of the subject ? (interesting, relevant, morbid, inappropriate)

Do they enjoy reading as part of class time ? Do they feel that is a good way to learn ?

How was the listening ? How much could they follow (understand ?)

What is their opinion on the amount of new vocabulary encountered ?

Naturally, I expect other students to play Devil’s advocate – to argue a point even if they personally don’t fully agree with it.

EXAMPLE: “Playing Devil’s advocate, I would say the best way to learn vocabulary is to read new words and see how they are used in a sentence.”

Activities – Just a minute

Here, students work in pairs – there are given a very open subject (work, food, family, their hometown etc) and have to talk for one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

Students can be given new questions and then made to change partners regularly.

Also, encourage peer help – allow the students to correct each other, as well as giving advice and encouragement.

And finally … Mysteries – what do you think ? True or false or … ?

Image result for loch ness monster

The Loch Ness Monster from Scotland

Image result for area 51

Area 51 in Nevada, USA. Did an alien spaceship crash here and aliens come to earth ?

Image result for man from taured

The mysterious man from Taured

https://www.freepressjournal.in/bizarre-news/taured-mystery-when-a-mysterious-man-arrived-at-japanese-airport-from-unknown-country