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Archive for February, 2010

Ernest Lubitsch

The primary conflict in his films battle between sexual attraction and the particular state of being of individuals as part of society. An individual has a social position that pulls him in a certain way whereas his sexual attractions might direct him in another. Forbidden Paradise,Cluny Brown,

The Love Parade, Merry Widow and the Student Prince.

In films like Marriage Circle,Lady Windermere’s Fan,So This is Paris,One HourWith You,Angels the character felt their marriages and desires coming in conflict. In Ninotchka and To Be or Not to Be political beliefs pull one way,passion another. In Trouble in Paradise the thief finds his vocation coming in the way of desire.

He simply handled the explosive subject of sex in such ironic and clever ways to take all the passion out of it and turn sex as in the matter of intellect. He could in his silent films convey while shooting of two persons in the same room how they felt for one another with the agency of inanimate articles buttons,mirrors, gloves or hats. Whereas in his sexual comedy he made the sound track and the picture work in opposition. In The Love Parade Maurice Chevalier tells a risque anecdote-if the camera stays outside a window and reveals him telling about an incident that we cannot hear we make up in imagination the words he must be saying. In Merry Widow we see Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald at a cafe table and the camera doesn’t stray below the table and is above the table cover and on them. Only MacDonalds,’Stop that’,and ‘Don’t do that’ inform us what is going on beneath the table. What we cannot see is left for us to imagine. In the film Angel Lubitsch conveys the essential yet delicate information that the Grand Duchess’ ‘salon’ is merely an euphemism for brothel. He doesn’t show customers or girls working there but he manages to treat an explosive subject without unduly drawing attention to it. He flouted the silly Hollywood Code whenever necessary. Lubitsch showed that sex was merely one kind of an activity between the extreme views advocated by Hollywood: sex destroys or Sex is nonexistent.

compiler:benny

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Just One Point

I came across an old post of mine dated 13 February2009 titled Truth Has Many Shapes. Yes it has many shapes but all shadows of the Real all going angles and circles. Otherwise why would so many religions lay claims on man?

benny

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In the Middle Ages Rufus the Robber King wanted to make his kingdom grander than all other kingdoms of Europe. He asked Pope Weasel I for his blessings. Having got it  he rounded up all Jews and on pain of death he made them cough up their wealth. The Pope said,’it is tainted, blood is all over your hands.’ So he suggested a way to make his sins disappear. A series of Crusades was the result. Accordingly the king went to war with the infidels for the glory of God. He robbed all the way to Jerusalem and raped women and put every Moslem he could find to sword. Rufus the Robber King saw to that none lived to tell the carnage and wanton destruction he had unleashed in his wake. The Church prospered and Robber King made his kingdom preeminent among all European kingdoms. Having made Europe a graveyard the king ordered a day of great rejoicing. Throught the kingdom church bells rang and in the great Cathedral King Rufus XII and and members of the royal house gathered to offer thanks to God. Great bells pealed while the choir sang Te Deum. Such joy reverberated throughout the kingdom was only matched by bitter wailing from cottages where women lost men or and mothers their sons.

There arose great many who had been watching the kings who had amassed greater power and wealth. When they piously declared God as the cause for their glory the skeptics said,’God is dragged through mud by rascals. Now God has become their accomplice!

It was indeed so. God became a synonym for every evil that these blackguards let loose. Sure enough churches became empty and places for Saturday night revels.

Soon enough the Royal House of Albion had to go into war with the House of Watercress over a trifle. King Rufus was certain God was on his side. Whereas King Baldwin of Watercress knew God was on his side. After these two kingdoms decimated each other the remaining made peace guaranteeing peace in their life time. But as they went their own ways they were met by brigands who were determined to string them up from every tree.

‘Why we never hurt you or robbed you.’ cried they. They replied,’ We are people of the forests and most of us live in caves. Peace of our forefathers echo now with ‘war’. How can we live in peace when every tree murmurs, ‘avenge us?’

‘Having disturbed the peace of our gods and ancestors do you pretend that you are innocents?’ the brigand chief asked them.

Both Royal Houses, whoever left of these knelt down and prayed ‘God Help us!’

But no help came.

2.

*God is Truth. He does not take sides for good or evil. Yet He has set in motion the events to play with reference to Truth. He has left His Word, prophets and Nature to teach us how to live our lives. The Royal Houses of Albion and Watercress had made war so often to make every one confuse the good and evil. Worse still it blighted the very Nature. The very emblem of God is in Truth that Nature testify even though it is a mirror image.

Nature abhors falsehood. It demands satisfaction.

*We call God’s help for satisfying our petty, and sometimes ignoble wishes. Nature is the mirror of God. Our nature included. If our nature cannot live in peace with one another one may be pretty sure it will compromise environment and nature in general.

benny

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Anatomy of a Prayer©

Mrs. Gladys comes home with a package tied with pink ribbon.

She lays it carefully hidden from her daughter. She is a single mother whose life is arranged about her daughter on whom she hopes much. While waiting for her to come home she has time to finish her chores for the day. After setting the table for two she kneels down in prayer. This time her prayer takes a keen and urgent tone. The reason she has bought with a dollar she could spare a ticket.

She prays devoutly. Angel of peace hears it and addresses Father of Time,’O Father hear her prayer.’

She prays,’Please Lord I have paid my last dollar for a ticket. Let it win the lottery. A million I could do for her future. So she may bring glory to Your matchless name.’ The angel once again approached the Ancient of Days saying,’Think she could further your will on the earth. Grant her wishes.”

God answered,’I have set the O’Reilly the beggar to win the prize. ‘ The angel was sure that the lottery would only hasten his end’. ‘Do not speak of things before time. His free will must abide with my will. ‘ God refused to answer her prayer.

Later the angel reported the disaster that came on O’Reilly as a result of his winning.’

Before the angel could speak something ill of Majesty God corrected him and the angel knew that it was his free will and not God”s Will was at fault.

Angel of Peace in a flash saw the events that were set before the worlds began into which His Will had entered every gap, space and fields of action where His Will let events take their course but also kept his Majesty in wisdom and Power intact.

Still the angel had a doubt. He asked,’Mrs Gladys prayed earnestly for a million, a measly million to you, but would have changed her life completly. How did you set her mind at rest?’

Not in a way you would have foreseen. That is for sure,’ God answered.

Mrs. Gladys with trembling hand opens the paper to check whether her ticket won the sweepstakes or not.’Oh no!’ she has wasted one dollar. But somehow bravely she assures God would take care of her and her daughter.

Before hitting the bed she reads as was her practice the Bible. The promise,’My Grace is sufficient for thee,’ somehow gives her an extra power. She had read the line often but that night the promise takes something of a personal bond. Next morning  she dismisses the idea of instant riches as something not worthy of her.

She herself explains her foolish notion of lottery as a solution to her problems thus ‘Granting me one million because I prayed would have meant for God  taking back His Will for a trifle.’

She also realized if God wished, had million ways of granting her prayer than a lottery win.’How foolish to think lottery as my salvation?’

Mrs. Gladys that evening gave a new change of dress for her daughter. It was her present before she went to study medicine in the University of Dublin. Because He knew what was the burden of Mrs. Gladys he preserved her daughter while terrorists struck at random. The Catholics rained death and the Protestants did all they could. While the country went mad with hatred, Glady’s daughter kept her head, treating the wounded and helping both sick and the helpless. She didn’t make millions either for for herself or for her mother. Mrs. Gladys worked for her living that she could without much difficulty. Her life was ordinary but she had a sneaking suspicion that her life was on a higher ground. Simple questions of living, -paying rent, clothes to be purchased, groceries to be had weekly and how to handle her workplace and neighbors were vital but in discharging her obligations to herself and others she saw God’s loving Hand. It was as though in her lowly station of life He himself came down to give a hand. She could experience in the mundane the Highest: for God indeed was her support and comfort.

Glady’s daughter worked her art healing and comforting as long as she could. She was well into her work neck deep,- too much involved in her service, to ask herself if she were happy or not.

Prayers are not answered in the way you plan, but prayers are the means to taste His goodness on everyday basis. Right kind of prayer shall  make you experience His presence even when you have hit the low.

Those who pray merely for things shall only see things when their prayers bring desired results. His glory shall only be seen by those who wait for His mercy and Lovingkindness.

‘Let thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven..’ Do we really mean what we pray every day? Or are we merely giving  lip service to God?

benny

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The Studio Years by Gerald Mast

(notes taken from the essay as titled above.b)

The System came up along the slow evolution of cinema as an art. In 1916 Adolph Zukor( Famous Players-Lasky company) assumed control over Paramount distributing company. In 1924 Marcus Loew set up MGM studio with Louis B.Mayer as head of Production. By 1925 the Warner Brothers Company,the Columbia Pictures Corporation,Universal Pictures and the Fox company had been set up.

Like the production of Ford motor cars out of Detroit the heads of the Production planned an entertainment factory from which a large number of goods(films) of consistent and dependent quality were to roll out without any snarl. Like any factory, guiding principle of a studio was division of labor, by which each department contributed to the whole. Writers, actors,technicians and mechanics were all part of it. Studio publicity was another that pitched the finished product to the public. Time saving devices were more welcome than inspiration a human quality that made writers or stars at time excel themselves from their usual. There was a front office that planned the year’s production,managed all the budgets and kept the assembly line smoothly running.

Introduction of sound system meant a bigger financial out lay that only big studios could afford. Conversely it made the studio more rigorous with their production costs. The informality of early silent films was gone and in the complicated technically savvy world of dream factory nothing was left to chance or human tantrums. The stars emoted come what may according to detailed shooting scripts that went dead against the intent of the author and script writers who still nursed certain literary integrity. Their principles and feelings had been bought by the studio when they signed the carefully worded contracts prepared by their lawyers. The studios had also battery of legal firms that helped them to control the production all along the line.

From 1930 to 1945 the Studio system reigned supreme.

When films found their feet among masses the need was to produce more while the demand was very strong. With the crash of 1929 and lives of men growing desperate, films as an escape from everyday circumstances were real. Those who produced them knew they had to account for every cent they spent. They knew the commercial need for large quantities could only be justified when these were of good quality and technically competent and also were entertaining. After the World War II the studio system died when television came into vogue. It brought entertainment right into homes of Everyman. There was no more need for such quantity as the studio system planned for a year.

2.

The Hollywood Studio system was uneven. Take two giants as MGM and Paramount studios. In the former Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg had much more control than the other . Paramount was a studio of directors and writers-Ernest Lubitsch, Joseph von Sternberg,Cecil B. DeMille and Billy Wilder. This also had such names as WC Fields and Mae West. MGM was the studio of stars- Greta Garbo Jean Harlow Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. MGM inherited the Marx brothers and made their zany chaotic routine fit with their intricate production numbers and trite plot and the result was lacklustre. Similarly Buster Keaton was flattened out when MGM took control. In the 1930s the MGM policy seemed wiser of the two. Audiences treated MGM films as the most impressive and artistic of their day and Paramount’s chaotic individuality ran the studio into severe financial difficulties and imposed restructuring of the studio in 1935 . Paramount lost in the process WC Fields Marx Brothers to name a few. Today the MGM films look flat and dead besides the exuberant vitality of Paramount’s.

The studios also differed in the genres they handled. RKO was remarkable for the smooth comedies with Cary Grant,and both the adventure films and comedies directed by Howard Hawks.Warner Brothers was most remarkable for its gangster,musicals and biographies. 20th Century Fox excelled in historical and adventure films directed by John Ford,Tyrone Power,Henryhathaway,Henry King. Universal excelled in the horror films-Frankenstein,Dracula,WolfMan, and the comedies of WC Fields.

Most directors were staff directors-competent,proficient and unimaginative technicians who took every script the received ,shot it and then passed the footage along to the editing department for shaping into its final form. There were exceptions to these those who were to individualistic that they like great stars could do films for other studios other than the ones thy had signed their contract. Walt Disney and Charley Chaplin worked for themselves. Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Jean Renoir and Clair made films for the studios and were imported from abroad. Maurice Stiller, Orson Welles( destroyed by the studio) couldn’t work within the system. Then there are directors like Lubitsch, von Sternberg, Hawks,Ford,and Capra who were products of the system and could work within it. In order to do their own Ford and Hawks had to make a number of mediocre films. These great directors avoided the Hollywood clichés and infused so much life about them to give the cliches a fresh cast and color.

Ernest Lubitsch for example could avoid formulas of what to say and how to say it. He even enjoyed playing with them. Central Lubitsch subject was sex, something that the studio system accepted as a necessary evil. In 1933 the formal code was to eliminate sex from the movies. In the studio years a woman was pure or fallen and a gentleman either faithful or a rake. Lubitsch could show that even faithful husbands have their rakish streak and women were not statues but women with powerful drives of their own. In an era of plaster-cast idealism of American male his cynicism was not as grotesque or bitter as of Erich von Stroheim.

On the whole studio system helped great many directors hone their skills and learn the craft. It was a liberating experience for them to make some good films if not the films that we treat as classic films. Mervyn LeRoy din’t direct a film as The Graduate of Mike Nichols. LeRoy made more films between 1930 and 1933 than Mike Nichols will make in a lifetime.

About the system there are two opposite critical opinions. The system created a very clear tension between art and commerce. Art defies mass production and assembly lines.The system bred popular entertainment, a myth as people who lapped up everything that flashed in front of their eyes. They were in awe of the stars, the glamor and the glossy perfection of a system that made the problems of life go away at least for a short while. The system played upon the wishes and dreams of the masses : the poetic justice worked too well and the crime paid in the end. Optimism of the good despite of every bad thing that visited them and reward of suffering the greed of crooked bankers, politicians gave them a false sense of American idealism as distinct from the way things worked in Europe. In a sense the system played too safe to displease public opinion and the powerful lobbies.(in the way the Motion Picture industry handled the Hollywood Ten during the Red Scare of 1947 one cannot miss fear of commerce than morals among the studio heads. They created a blacklist of their own.) The system stoked the gullibility of the masses and made them participants of a communal experience and a religious affirmation of the society. Such optimism which we see now by hindsight was based on misplaced naivete. Most films produced under the system are more interesting sociologically than aesthetically. The system ironed out what it considered as

too individualistic and no wonder MGM could not stomach WC Fields who,ripped up the sentimental cliches of propriety,Protestant ethics, or Marx Brothers who ridiculed high finance,higher education democracies and everything that the studio bosses held in mortal awe.

benny

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Notes made from Griffith to Eisenstein and Back-Peter A. Dart

Griffith and Eisenstein stand out in the history of modern motion picture as two giants, both were innovators who advanced the basic form and structure of motion pictures.Both came to films from theatre backgrounds.

Griffith’s influence on Eisenstein and V.I Pudovkin, Lev Kuleshov. But how much has Eisenstein influenced American film form?

Films of 1908 when Griffith began directing motion pictures films were crude: 10 minutes in length one reelers were made cheaply and sold cheaply to mass audience.In six years Griffith mastered the craft He realized Edvin S. Porter had only understood partially the basic storytelling . He shot one individual scene and edited, arranged in context of other shots. Griffith realized he could photograph each part of the scene with the final arrangement in mind, These details could then be arranged successively by which the audience could make their inferences. It involved them as well. In 1908 the scenes were shot as though film was like a stage play transferred into film. The close-up was unheard of. But Griffith began moving his camera for closer shots. He also tried extra shots of the surrounding locale for ‘atmosphere’. In case of dense action like a battle or a chase he used long shots or extremely wide angle shots. He began to move the camera while it shot a scene. Iris mask to block out extraneous details were also used by him. Selection of a scene arrangement of shots keeping in mind tempo pace rhythm and action added to the story telling new richness. Parallel cutting was the next innovation where two scenes one after the other giving an impression both were happening simultaneously. Emotional impact of two scenes was that the sum of parts were greater than the whole scene. Each scene resonated in the minds of the audience and gave emotional impact that was more than a straight story telling of Porter or other film makers before him.

Of his great films Intolerance(1916) had the greatest impact on Russian film makers.

Montage was the result.Montage of parallel scenes progressing where each detail of a scene though unrelated in its progression acquired a depth of its own:dynamic juxtaposition of these parts made them greater than single scene. Emotional, ideological and artistic power arising out of montage was the gift of Soviet film makers.’The school of Griffith before all else is a school of tempo. However he didn’t have the strength to compete with the young Soviet school of montage in the field of expression and of relentlessly affective rhythm.” Sergei Eisenstein

please refer pen portraits#46 for DW Griffith

benny

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Over the years I have found that I know much more than I give credit to myself. The only area where I had to be careful was in the timing and how I put them into action.

At a time when my first marriage was sliding into a point of no return I sensed my ex was setting traps  about me. One of that was in using our daughter against me. There was another issue, that of divorce. This was frowned upon in our society where religion was made a big thing and breaking commandments as serious as sin and damnation!After my first marriage I had  switched to Pentecostal worship as a sop to the belief of her.( Of course being among these closed in community I felt playing the part in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  I fell among thieves, literally.)

I had to take counter measures against the stratagems of these. With the passing of my father I was on my own. In a way it opened up a way out. I could think of asking for divorce, a matter which my father as a Christian would have found uncomfortable.

I had no problem with it. Only that there was a daughter to take care of. She was, as I sensed rightly, my ex-wife’s trump card. I knew it. Months before the split my ex was sending her to her parent’s house every weekend so I may have little chance of seeing her when I had time and leisure for it. I could see the way the game was progressing.

I was set that I would not allow myself to be emotionally blackmailed. My daughter was old enough to know her mind and make her wishes known. Since she was a willing tool I didn’t wish to make an issue of it. Mentally I gave her away to her mother.

In 1994 I decided to marry my old pen pal. I sent a letter to the last known address ( I had not heard from her for 23 years), and it reached her! It was a wild card but it hit the mark. Coincidentally I had a chance to go abroad and meet her. The chains of events were all showing in my favor.   I decided her children would be my children. It was indeed the case. After marriage I closed my practice and went to live with her. I could easily establish a friendly relationship with them. Because of this choice I could enjoy the best period of my life watching five of my grandchildren grow. Nothing else could match except the love and warmth I enjoy in my marriage. The manner in which events developed I could seize my chances and come out of what might have been a terrible situation.

Looking back I see that my mind could sense the way to effect an emotional healing. The cure was all in me.

benny

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