The Arts on Film: Young & Beautiful (2013)

It’s no surprise that once again I find cause to write another one of these posts after having seen a new Ozon film. Though his love of 1960s French pop is as strong as it ever has been its really through the dissection of one artist’s particular work that we have underscored many themes, ideas and conclusions that are examined by this latest film.

Young & Beautiful
tells a cockeyed coming-of-age story wherein a girl, Isabelle (Marine Vacht), after losing her virginity decides after a random solicitation to become a prostitute. Much of the film is about eschewing easy answers and furthermore rebuffing the notion that there is a singular explanation for her actions. It is rather not a mystery such as a investigation of characters and their reactions to given situations.

In many ways Isabelle’s tendentiousness to engage in such activity, her lack of compunction about it and the fact that she doesn’t really think about the consequences until things go very wrong are illuminated, or at least speculated upon, by dissection of the following poem by Arthur Rimbaud.

It’s not just the first line, but the explication by one student which surmises that there is no change only cycles that repeat really diagram a pattern of behavior that occurs in the film; not just by Isabelle necessarily but also by her family.

Ultimately, the film draws a similar schema to In the House in terms of familial claustrophobia, coexisting and commingling, but whereas it may be as intriguing intellectually, especially in the use of cited source material, it falls a bit short in the visceral arena.

Be that as it may, enjoy Rimbaud’s words free of the brilliant construction of Ozon’s scene and ruminate on them anew if you have seen the film.

Arthur Rimbaud

Novel

I.

No one’s serious at seventeen.
–On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade
And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need
–You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.
Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!
Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;
The wind brings sounds–the town is near–
And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .

II.

–Over there, framed by a branch
You can see a little patch of dark blue
Stung by a sinister star that fades
With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .
June nights! Seventeen!–Drink it in.
Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . .
The mind wanders, you feel a kiss
On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .

III.

The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels
–And when a young girl walks alluringly
Through a streetlamp’s pale light, beneath the ominous shadow
Of her father’s starched collar. . .
Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,
She turns on a dime, eyes wide,
Finding you too sweet to resist. . .
–And cavatinas die on your lips.

IV.

You’re in love. Off the market till August.
You’re in love.–Your sonnets make Her laugh.
Your friends are gone, you’re bad news.
–Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .!
That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;
You order beer or lemonade. . .
–No one’s serious at seventeen
When lindens line the promenade.

-Arthur Rimbaud

The Arts on Film: The Wind Rises (2013)

If one watches Hiyao Miyzaki’s latest, and reportedly last, film The Wind Rises it’s impossible to miss the influence of Paul Valéry’s poem on this film. In a bit of coincidence I had not heard of Valéry, or his works, until I saw the documentary The Short Game wherein his grandson was a subject and recited some of his words in the introduction.

That instance got me to look him up and I found his works scarce. Having heard another snippet in this film, and repeated often as the mantra of the story I searched again. I found the entire original French and translated included it below. This poem and others can be found here.

This one gave me chills and I was glad I found it.


Le cimetière marin

Paul Valéry

Ce toit tranquille, où marchent des colombes,
Entre les pins palpite, entre les tombes;
Midi le juste y compose de feux
La mer, la mer, toujours recommencee
O récompense après une pensée
Qu’un long regard sur le calme des dieux!

Quel pur travail de fins éclairs consume
Maint diamant d’imperceptible écume,
Et quelle paix semble se concevoir!
Quand sur l’abîme un soleil se repose,
Ouvrages purs d’une éternelle cause,
Le temps scintille et le songe est savoir.

Stable trésor, temple simple à Minerve,
Masse de calme, et visible réserve,
Eau sourcilleuse, Oeil qui gardes en toi
Tant de sommeil sous une voile de flamme,
O mon silence! . . . Édifice dans l’ame,
Mais comble d’or aux mille tuiles, Toit!

Temple du Temps, qu’un seul soupir résume,
À ce point pur je monte et m’accoutume,
Tout entouré de mon regard marin;
Et comme aux dieux mon offrande suprême,
La scintillation sereine sème
Sur l’altitude un dédain souverain.

Comme le fruit se fond en jouissance,
Comme en délice il change son absence
Dans une bouche où sa forme se meurt,
Je hume ici ma future fumée,
Et le ciel chante à l’âme consumée
Le changement des rives en rumeur.

Beau ciel, vrai ciel, regarde-moi qui change!
Après tant d’orgueil, après tant d’étrange
Oisiveté, mais pleine de pouvoir,
Je m’abandonne à ce brillant espace,
Sur les maisons des morts mon ombre passe
Qui m’apprivoise à son frêle mouvoir.

L’âme exposée aux torches du solstice,
Je te soutiens, admirable justice
De la lumière aux armes sans pitié!
Je te tends pure à ta place première,
Regarde-toi! . . . Mais rendre la lumière
Suppose d’ombre une morne moitié.

O pour moi seul, à moi seul, en moi-même,
Auprès d’un coeur, aux sources du poème,
Entre le vide et l’événement pur,
J’attends l’écho de ma grandeur interne,
Amère, sombre, et sonore citerne,
Sonnant dans l’âme un creux toujours futur!

Sais-tu, fausse captive des feuillages,
Golfe mangeur de ces maigres grillages,
Sur mes yeux clos, secrets éblouissants,
Quel corps me traîne à sa fin paresseuse,
Quel front l’attire à cette terre osseuse?
Une étincelle y pense à mes absents.

Fermé, sacré, plein d’un feu sans matière,
Fragment terrestre offert à la lumière,
Ce lieu me plaît, dominé de flambeaux,
Composé d’or, de pierre et d’arbres sombres,
Où tant de marbre est tremblant sur tant d’ombres;
La mer fidèle y dort sur mes tombeaux!

Chienne splendide, écarte l’idolâtre!
Quand solitaire au sourire de pâtre,
Je pais longtemps, moutons mystérieux,
Le blanc troupeau de mes tranquilles tombes,
Éloignes-en les prudentes colombes,
Les songes vains, les anges curieux!

Ici venu, l’avenir est paresse.
L’insecte net gratte la sécheresse;
Tout est brûlé, défait, reçu dans l’air
A je ne sais quelle sévère essence . . .
La vie est vaste, étant ivre d’absence,
Et l’amertume est douce, et l’esprit clair.

Les morts cachés sont bien dans cette terre
Qui les réchauffe et sèche leur mystère.
Midi là-haut, Midi sans mouvement
En soi se pense et convient à soi-même
Tête complète et parfait diadème,
Je suis en toi le secret changement.

Tu n’as que moi pour contenir tes craintes!
Mes repentirs, mes doutes, mes contraintes
Sont le défaut de ton grand diamant! . . .
Mais dans leur nuit toute lourde de marbres,
Un peuple vague aux racines des arbres
A pris déjà ton parti lentement.

Ils ont fondu dans une absence épaisse,
L’argile rouge a bu la blanche espèce,
Le don de vivre a passé dans les fleurs!
Où sont des morts les phrases familières,
L’art personnel, les âmes singulières?
La larve file où se formaient les pleurs.

Les cris aigus des filles chatouillées,
Les yeux, les dents, les paupières mouillées,
Le sein charmant qui joue avec le feu,
Le sang qui brille aux lèvres qui se rendent,
Les derniers dons, les doigts qui les défendent,
Tout va sous terre et rentre dans le jeu!

Et vous, grande âme, espérez-vous un songe
Qui n’aura plus ces couleurs de mensonge
Qu’aux yeux de chair l’onde et l’or font ici?
Chanterez-vous quand serez vaporeuse?
Allez! Tout fuit! Ma présence est poreuse,
La sainte impatience meurt aussi!

Maigre immortalité noire et dorée,
Consolatrice affreusement laurée,
Qui de la mort fais un sein maternel,
Le beau mensonge et la pieuse ruse!
Qui ne connaît, et qui ne les refuse,
Ce crâne vide et ce rire éternel!

Pères profonds, têtes inhabitées,
Qui sous le poids de tant de pelletées,
Êtes la terre et confondez nos pas,
Le vrai rongeur, le ver irréfutable
N’est point pour vous qui dormez sous la table,
Il vit de vie, il ne me quitte pas!

Amour, peut-être, ou de moi-même haine?
Sa dent secrète est de moi si prochaine
Que tous les noms lui peuvent convenir!
Qu’importe! Il voit, il veut, il songe, il touche!
Ma chair lui plaît, et jusque sur ma couche,
À ce vivant je vis d’appartenir!

Zénon! Cruel Zénon! Zénon d’Êlée!
M’as-tu percé de cette flèche ailée
Qui vibre, vole, et qui ne vole pas!
Le son m’enfante et la flèche me tue!
Ah! le soleil . . . Quelle ombre de tortue
Pour l’âme, Achille immobile à grands pas!

Non, non! . . . Debout! Dans l’ère successive!
Brisez, mon corps, cette forme pensive!
Buvez, mon sein, la naissance du vent!
Une fraîcheur, de la mer exhalée,
Me rend mon âme . . . O puissance salée!
Courons à l’onde en rejaillir vivant.

Oui! grande mer de delires douée,
Peau de panthère et chlamyde trouée,
De mille et mille idoles du soleil,
Hydre absolue, ivre de ta chair bleue,
Qui te remords l’étincelante queue
Dans un tumulte au silence pareil

Le vent se lève! . . . il faut tenter de vivre!
L’air immense ouvre et referme mon livre,
La vague en poudre ose jaillir des rocs!
Envolez-vous, pages tout éblouies!
Rompez, vagues! Rompez d’eaux rejouies
Ce toit tranquille où picoraient des focs!

The Graveyard By The Sea

Translated by C. Day Lewis

This quiet roof, where dove-sails saunter by,
Between the pines, the tombs, throbs visibly.
Impartial noon patterns the sea in flame —
That sea forever starting and re-starting.
When thought has had its hour, oh how rewarding
Are the long vistas of celestial calm!

What grace of light, what pure toil goes to form
The manifold diamond of the elusive foam!
What peace I feel begotten at that source!
When sunlight rests upon a profound sea,
Time’s air is sparkling, dream is certainty —
Pure artifice both of an eternal Cause.

Sure treasure, simple shrine to intelligence,
Palpable calm, visible reticence,
Proud-lidded water, Eye wherein there wells
Under a film of fire such depth of sleep —
O silence! . . . Mansion in my soul, you slope
Of gold, roof of a myriad golden tiles.

Temple of time, within a brief sigh bounded,
To this rare height inured I climb, surrounded
By the horizons of a sea-girt eye.
And, like my supreme offering to the gods,
That peaceful coruscation only breeds
A loftier indifference on the sky.

Even as a fruit’s absorbed in the enjoying,
Even as within the mouth its body dying
Changes into delight through dissolution,
So to my melted soul the heavens declare
All bounds transfigured into a boundless air,
And I breathe now my future’s emanation.

Beautiful heaven, true heaven, look how I change!
After such arrogance, after so much strange
Idleness — strange, yet full of potency —
I am all open to these shining spaces;
Over the homes of the dead my shadow passes,
Ghosting along — a ghost subduing me.

My soul laid bare to your midsummer fire,
O just, impartial light whom I admire,
Whose arms are merciless, you have I stayed
And give back, pure, to your original place.
Look at yourself . . . But to give light implies
No less a somber moiety of shade.

Oh, for myself alone, mine, deep within
At the heart’s quick, the poem’s fount, between
The void and its pure issue, I beseech
The intimations of my secret power.
O bitter, dark, and echoing reservoir
Speaking of depths always beyond my reach.

But know you — feigning prisoner of the boughs,
Gulf which cats up their slender prison-bars,
Secret which dazzles though mine eyes are closed —
What body drags me to its lingering end,
What mind draws it to this bone-peopled ground?
A star broods there on all that I have lost.

Closed, hallowed, full of insubstantial fire,
Morsel of earth to heaven’s light given o’er —
This plot, ruled by its flambeaux, pleases me —
A place all gold, stone, and dark wood, where shudders
So much marble above so many shadows:
And on my tombs, asleep, the faithful sea.

Keep off the idolaters, bright watch-dog, while —
A solitary with the shepherd’s smile —
I pasture long my sheep, my mysteries,
My snow-white flock of undisturbed graves!
Drive far away from here the careful doves,
The vain daydreams, the angels’ questioning eyes!

Now present here, the future takes its time.
The brittle insect scrapes at the dry loam;
All is burnt up, used up, drawn up in air
To some ineffably rarefied solution . . .
Life is enlarged, drunk with annihilation,
And bitterness is sweet, and the spirit clear.

The dead lie easy, hidden in earth where they
Are warmed and have their mysteries burnt away.
Motionless noon, noon aloft in the blue
Broods on itself — a self-sufficient theme.
O rounded dome and perfect diadem,
I am what’s changing secretly in you.

I am the only medium for your fears.
My penitence, my doubts, my baulked desires —
These are the flaw within your diamond pride . . .
But in their heavy night, cumbered with marble,
Under the roots of trees a shadow people
Has slowly now come over to your side.

To an impervious nothingness they’re thinned,
For the red clay has swallowed the white kind;
Into the flowers that gift of life has passed.
Where are the dead? — their homely turns of speech,
The personal grace, the soul informing each?
Grubs thread their way where tears were once composed.

The bird-sharp cries of girls whom love is teasing,
The eyes, the teeth, the eyelids moistly closing,
The pretty breast that gambles with the flame,
The crimson blood shining when lips are yielded,
The last gift, and the fingers that would shield it —
All go to earth, go back into the game.

And you, great soul, is there yet hope in you
To find some dream without the lying hue
That gold or wave offers to fleshly eyes?
Will you be singing still when you’re thin air?
All perishes. A thing of flesh and pore
Am I. Divine impatience also dies.

Lean immortality, all crêpe and gold,
Laurelled consoler frightening to behold,
Death is a womb, a mother’s breast, you feign
The fine illusion, oh the pious trick!
Who does not know them, and is not made sick
That empty skull, that everlasting grin?

Ancestors deep down there, O derelict heads
Whom such a weight of spaded earth o’erspreads,
Who are the earth, in whom our steps are lost,
The real flesh-eater, worm unanswerable
Is not for you that sleep under the table:
Life is his meat, and I am still his host.

‘Love,’ shall we call him? ‘Hatred of self,’ maybe?
His secret tooth is so intimate with me
That any name would suit him well enough,
Enough that he can see, will, daydream, touch —
My flesh delights him, even upon my couch
I live but as a morsel of his life.

Zeno, Zeno, cruel philosopher Zeno,
Have you then pierced me with your feathered arrow
That hums and flies, yet does not fly! The sounding
Shaft gives me life, the arrow kills. Oh, sun! —
Oh, what a tortoise-shadow to outrun
My soul, Achilles’ giant stride left standing!

No, no! Arise! The future years unfold.
Shatter, O body, meditation’s mould!
And, O my breast, drink in the wind’s reviving!
A freshness, exhalation of the sea,
Restores my soul . . . Salt-breathing potency!
Let’s run at the waves and be hurled back to living!

Yes, mighty sea with such wild frenzies gifted
(The panther skin and the rent chlamys), sifted
All over with sun-images that glisten,
Creature supreme, drunk on your own blue flesh,
Who in a tumult like the deepest hush
Bite at your sequin-glittering tail — yes, listen!

The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!
The huge air opens and shuts my book: the wave
Dares to explode out of the rocks in reeking
Spray. Fly away, my sun-bewildered pages!
Break, waves! Break up with your rejoicing surges
This quiet roof where sails like doves were pecking.

The Arts on Film: Museum Hours (2013)

Introduction

Enumerating how many artistic disciplines exist is not the purview of this series. Rather the idea of this series is to briefly explore an iteration, an instance, of another artform in the world of cinema.

Museum Hours (2013)

In an upcoming series of posts I will state that I believe that cinema is the ultimate artform because of its ability to encompass or represent all the forms that came before it. Its elasticity is such that I believe it will be able to dialogue with whatever comes next.

However, this film seeks to satisfy a simple aim by illuminating a work cited by a film. To learn more of it and the artist in question. In short, just a bit more than information the film deems suitable.

The temptation may exist for an artist to shoehorn his favorite influences in other media into a film regardless of how well they fit. Truly, though, a film is only exalted through the inclusion of a prominent figure from another artform when there is an intrinsic, unobtrusive link between the artist’s oeuvre and the story being told.

In the case of Pieter Bruegel, or Brueghel if you prefer, and Museum Hours the fit is quite a natural one for what occurs is that you have a painter who painted group scenes of peasant life which can be argued to have no center, or multiple centers, yet if you look at what is going on in each sub-tableau you can likely pick out the most important piece. Museum Hours is a film of a small population, but it is essentially the tale of two main figures in a multitude who work at or attend the The Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, other stories occasionally come in, other paintings but few we care or focus on. This is why these paintings are such a great fit. Here’s a closer look at some of them.

tumblr_mtgt7wsEJo1qzoziho7_r1_1280

tumblr_mtgt7wsEJo1qzoziho2_1280

tumblr_mtgt7wsEJo1qzoziho8_r1_1280

tumblr_mtgt7wsEJo1qzoziho5_r1_1280

tumblr_mtgt7wsEJo1qzoziho3_1280

tumblr_mtgt7wsEJo1qzoziho1_1280

tumblr_mtgt7wsEJo1qzoziho4_1280

The Arts on Film: In the House (2013)

Introduction

Enumerating how many artistic disciplines exist is not the purview of this series. Rather the idea of this series is to briefly explore an iteration, an instance, of another artform in the world of cinema.

In an upcoming series of posts I will state that I believe that cinema is the ultimate artform because of its ability to encompass or represent all the forms that came before it. Its elasticity is such that I believe it will be able to dialogue with whatever comes next.

However, this post seeks to satisfy a simple aim by illuminating a work cited by a film. To learn more of it and the artist in question. In short, just a bit more than information the film deems suitable.

In the House (2013)

In the House (2013, Mars Distribution)

I have had some troubles picking up this series wherein the other arts are featured in films. However, I’d rather feature a film that speaks very specifically about the works of an artist with less information than not to mention it at all.

In The House references several writers, naturally as the lead is a French teacher and frustrated writer and has a protege with a flair for the written word. However, just one painted is ever mentioned through the course of the film. That painter is Paul Klee.

In doing a web search I was able to get these screen captures that give you a closer look at the paintings discussed. One review cites the titles as Rettung,
Unterbrechung and Hoffnung.” Which if memory serves is right.

Any other light that can be shed on them would be appreciated.

In The House (2013, Mars Distribution)

The Arts on Film: Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

Introduction

Enumerating how many artistic disciplines exist is not the purview of this series. Rather the idea of this series is to briefly explore an iteration, an instance, of another artform in the world of cinema.

In an upcoming series of posts I will state that I believe that cinema is the ultimate artform because of its ability to encompass or represent all the forms that came before it. Its elasticity is such that I believe it will be able to dialogue with whatever comes next.

However, this film seeks to satisfy a simple aim by illuminating a work cited by a film. To learn more of it and the artist in question. In short, just a bit more than information the film deems suitable.

Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

Ivan's Childhood (1962, Janus Films)

This series does not occur without Edmond Davis-Quinn‘s poetry. I was reading it and got to thinking about what the last time I read a poem was. I knew it was likely an allusion to one in a film and so this series was born (and it won’t always be poetry but democratically traverse the arts).

When thinking of the idea of references to other artforms in films one of the first ideas of poetry in Ivan’s Childhood, Andrey Tarkovsky’s first feature film. There isn’t a direct quotation here but when I revisited this film (I viewing many of his works in hopes of having a better frame of reference for his book Sculpting in Time, which I still need to finish) I read the Criterion booklet and they translated one of Arseny Tarkovsky’s poems for the booklet.

In such films as Mirror (1975) and Stalker (1979), Andrei Tarkovsky explicitly references the poetry of his father, Arseny. Although no such direct quotation exists in Ivan’s Childhood, there are striking connections between the imagery in the film and his father’s 1958 poem “Ivan’s Willow,” thus distinguishing it as a possible source of influence. It was translated for this release by Robert Bird.

Ivan’s Willow
by Arseny Tarkovsky

Before the war Ivan would walk down the stream
Where they grew a willow, no one knew whose.

No one knew why it loomed over the stream;
No one knew this was Ivan’s willow tree.

In his canopied raincoat, killed in combat,
Ivan came back to his willow’s shade.

Ivan’s willow,
Ivan’s willow,
Like a white boat, it floats downstream.

Not only the images strike one as being similar, but also in referencing his father’s work, at least by inference, Tarkovsky may have by that means made the film more personal. For as cerebral as he was, he was still working from a very personal place and working from a short story, it was key to bring it closer to home.

While I came to greatly appreciate the works of Andrei, the works of Arseny were elusive. Now I search and see they are available. Perhaps, I anglicized his name wrong prior. Alas, in this booklet and in Tarkovsky’s films I caught glimpses of another artist, another work of art that intrigued me.

Ultimately, that’s the idea of this series: a quick underscore of another work highlighted in a film that’s worth noting. This was the first that came to mind and hopefully more will follow.

Short Film Saturday- The Hearts of Age

Here’s another short that comes from a cinematic legend’ school days. This is a silent (the score, which is very appropriate was added later on), surrealist piece by Orson Welles made when he was 19.

There are commonly referred to images throughout and it’s tonal more than anything else and effective being as such. There will be some discomfort for modern viewers as there is an actor in blackface, my assumption is that it’s done for effect and commentary.

Here’s the blurb from the site that hosts it:

The Hearts of Age is the first film made by Orson Welles. The film is an eight-minute short, which he co-directed with William Vance in 1934. The film stars Welles’ first wife, Virginia Nicholson, as well as Welles himself. He made the film while attending the Todd School for Boys, in Woodstock, Illinois, at the age of 19. 

The plot is a series of images loosely tied together, and is arguably influenced by surrealism. This once-rare film is easily seen today thanks to DVD extras and sites such as YouTube. Many point to it as an important precursor to Welles’ first Hollywood film, Citizen Kane. Welles and Vance were college friends. The latter’s only other film on record is another student short – an adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1932.

To view click the link below:

http://ubu.com/film/welles_hearts.html

Early Women Filmmakers Blogathon: Germaine Dulac

Introduction

When embarking on blogathon I tend to opt between either of two extremes: either I pick a subject I know innately, preferably looking at it from a vantage point I’ve note yet attempted; or conversely picking a subject which to become more enlightened about, in short, seeking a moment of auto-didacticism. It was with the former intent I embarked to write an introductory sort of overview to the works of Germaine Dulac.

The collegiate experience doesn’t permanently affix one’s critical or aesthetic modality of choice but it does greatly influence it. As such, my reflex knowing that I was covering a writer/director was to take an auterist approach seeing how one of her films was already being covered in-depth.

As it so happens this decision, based on the facts of her life and career, was of providence more than of my own making. I discovered that not only did Germaine Dulac write, direct and shoot films but she was also one of the earliest pioneers of film criticism. One of my longstanding complaints: the French pioneers of film theory such as René Tabard or Henri Langlois are hard to find in print and translated to English are hard to find.

8e214cd1deaac20a4845beb43f6fbb6e

Aside from her inclusion in the forthcoming Early Women Filmmakers box set from Flicker Alley in May, Tami Williams, PhD, is preparing Pure Cinema: Selected Writings of Germaine Dulac, for publication through the University of Wisconsin Press.

So more in-depth knowledge of her life and works are on the way, allow me a brief introduction that I hope will inspire you to look further into her fascinating life and work.

I. SEARCHING FOR PATHWAYS FROM UNIQUENESS TO UBIQUITY

Typically when women are breaking into male-dominated fields their inclusion and acceptance seems to be almost self-congratulatory on the part of the gatekeepers of the boys’ club (“See we let the girl in, aren’t we great? ‘Men’ on three!”). Take for example this article pictured below which that starts with the phrase “Germaine Dulac is the only female director in France at the moment.”

006

The particular nomenclature had her bristling against it, whenever and wherever she could Metteur being a phrase borrowed from the theatre, it bears noting that the standard credit for film directors in France is now mise en scène.

In response to a journalist who only cited the novelist of the source material as the ‘author’ of The Seashell and the Clergyman (Le coquille et le clergyman). She said:

“les intellectuels et le cinéastes se rapproches, or, ce sont des nuances de mots qui les séparent irrémédiablement”

the intellectuals and the filmmakers should develop a closer kinship to one another, for it is only nuances between words that irremediably keep them apart.

However, her push against the status quo wasn’t just against the parameters and influences on film, but also one that was very sociopolitical in nature. Aside from her activism in socialist causes, the onset of the Great War had her urging women to make their presence felt and a difference. While World War II was seen as a sociological flashpoint in the United States where the war effort suspended typical notions about the sexes and work, Dulac sounded the rallying cry in the War to End All Wars as it was on France’s doorstep:

“international task of French Women.” She urged her audience to “create things anew and according to your own spirit”

Yet while being quite involved in activism this did not slow down her varied productions during this time:

From 1916-1918, Dulac produced and directed six feature-length films, a six-episode serial film, a ballet-pantomime set at a cross-dressing masked ball, and a series of journalistic shorts, all of which are lost, though Williams thoroughly describes and analyzes the existing related documentation. After the war, though continuing to produce films on her own, Dulac mostly worked with independent producers, including Ciné-Studios, Film d’Art, Société des Cinéromans, and Delac, Vandal et Cie.

II. VANGUARDIAN

001-2

One of the traps when discussing a female pioneer in a field is discussing the precedent she set, or the way in which she was an antecedent of those in said field in her gender. Make no mistake, there were many instances wherein Germaine Dulac was out in front of all filmmakers in many ways.

Not only was she on the vanguard of thought, but there was little to no precedent for it. In a wonderful piece on Senses of Cinema (see it for a more in-depth reading of her career and works) that Dulac was indeed ahead of her time in championed the notion of auteurism that Truffaut, Goddard, Varda and others would rally around and propel in France in the ‘50s and ‘60s onward.

“This letter addresses a concept—authorship—that was not prominent in French film discourse at the time.”

-Rosanna Maule

If one were to look at her filmography, be it what is still extant or it in toto, one will find that despite its at time varied stylings it her works are typically distinctively hers. Much as the scattershot styles and genres the great Michael Curtiz directed in part as a result of the Studio system, Dulac’s varied output was dictated in part by the marketplace in which she worked.

Since the end of World War I, French cinema was hindered by an economic and institutional crisis, struggling to counteract Hollywood’s emergence onto the international film scene. The fragmentation of France’s film industry into various film companies, many of them small and independent, and the crisis of the national system of film distribution and exhibition coincided with the expansion of alternative circuits of film production and distribution by avant-garde filmmakers.

She was a woman definitely marked by her era and some of her quotes underscore the very issues that arise when engaging in feminist film theory as Patrice Petro astutely observes:

As the history of feminist film theory so clearly demonstrates, the very attempt to ‘find’ a female subject has led to a paralyzing situation in some feminist film histories, which tend either to affirm a socially constructed feminine identity or to reject any attempt at self-naming at all.

Yet one must not fall too deeply into the trap of examining films that at this point in time are around ninety years of age by current social mores. Be it in telling a tale of a wife distressed by her relationship with her oafish husband with a different kind of tragic capper (The Smiling Madame Beudet), A farcical look at a cruise romance (Invitation to the Voyage), or the impossible conflict of clerical celibacy as seen through the eyes of a woman (The Seashell and the Clergyman), her vantage point on these dramas was unique in and of her perspective alone even if she did not have different aesthetic aims than many, but that she had too.

“It is unacceptable that half of humanity continues to be written off.” Despite her exemplary career, during which she was compared to such cinema luminaries and innovators as Sergei Eisenstein and Jean Renoir, Dulac experienced erasure both during her life and after her death. Over a century later, women directors are still grossly underrepresented in the film industry, women’s stories dismissed as unbankable by producers, and it is still unacceptable.

Flitterman-Lewis expanded upon that notion by saying The Seashell and the Clergyman was “a more intriguing field of inquiry, for it thematizes woman as a force of desire within the production of the filmic writing itself”.

If you get too bogged down in labeling you could be missing the textual intrigue in examination of the technical. If you want to label her as a surrealist impressionist, you can What ratio she filmed these stylings in, and whether this film fully fits the surrealist mode, and if in The Seashell and the Clergyman she gets to shout “FIRST!” rather than Un chien andalou, is not as important as having created the work itself and how she advanced the aesthetics of visual of storytelling, and engaged in an active dialogue both in her work, in her writing on film, which establish an exchange between high and popular culture, art and commerce.

 “The avant-garde and commercial cinema, or the art and industry of film, form an inseparable whole.”

Germaine Dulac

968full-the-seashell-and-the-clergyman-screenshot

In this balancing act, Dulac found the equilibrium for other forms of exploration that paved the way for her presaging other cinematic developments.

Her filmic approach to sport in her documentary of the Tour de France anticipated Leni Riefenstahl. In 1919, Dulac set up her own distribution office in New York, becoming one of the first foreign filmmakers to do so. She also distributed several of her films through London studios.

Francois Truffaut on the set of Confidentially Yours (1983, Le Films du Carrosse)
Her dialogue between art and criticism and commerce and art she would foreshadow things not just like the The New Wave, where a group of young French critics viewed and studied film voraciously with the intent to study the landscape, but in embracing the avant-garde and popular cinema she anticipated not just one of the New Wave idols, Hitchcock, but in professing the auteurist belief can be found in more broadly accessible film types she anticipated the likes Spielberg.

III. QUESTING FOR DIALOGUE

this_is_theBeudet_original

Her insistence on creating and persisting upon a dialogue about the nature of film, challenging preconceived notions while the art was still in its youth, cannot be underestimated in its importance in affecting the form’s aesthetic development.

When the cinema was a purely visual art form there was truly more a case to be made against intersectionalism. With the advent of sound, cinema became the crossroads of all artforms, the cinema and its forerunners became much closer. However, seeking ones own voice, ones own means of creation, and standards of narrative and technique was a necessity. The only way to adequately establish such beliefs were to experiment and to share your thoughts with colleagues. This exchange of different ideas, especially when one has a unique view of cinema is a necessity:

I actually had the desire to become a dramatist, but when some pecuniary circumstances obliged me to abandon this first path to chose that, at the time more lucrative, of the cinema, I had no regrets. However, in the beginning I did not understand the importance of the cinematographic expression in its entirety. Only by using ideas, lights, and the camera was I able, by the time I made my first film, to understand what cinema was, art of interior life and of sensation, new expression given to our thought … an art non-tributary to the other arts, an original art with its own meaning, an art that makes reality, evades from it while incorporating it: the cinema spirit of beings and things!

And Dulac was certainly not one to run from nuance and say things that very nearly contradicted each other (but not quite), as this quote from the same interview proves:

I believe that cinematographic work must come out of a shock of sensibility, of a vision of one being who can only express himself in the cinema. The director must be a screenwriter or the screenwriter a director. Like all other arts, cinema comes from a sensible emotion … To be worth something and “bring” something, this emotion must come from one source only. The screenwriter that “feels” his idea must be able to stage it. From this, the technique follows.

Not only would this philosophy be embraced by the New Wave but further down the line would appeal to many modern day actors.

IV. NOUVELLES VOGUES

foto-germaine-dulac-2

The French word vogue is now so synonymous with fashion that it’s full embraced in the English lexicon, the name of a magazine, and a hit song by Madonna all bear its name. However, it is one thing to introduce things as the latest trends, but it’s quite another to explore new notions so throughly that they tend to permanently affect an aesthetic landscape, which is what it seemed Dulac did.

She maintained an ongoing dialogue between different models of cinemas that the auteur and the European art cinema would later crystallize into oppositional clusters, despite their interrelations in the film industry and in the production and distribution policies of European governments. She established a more consistent correspondence between film theory and practice, personal view and formal expression, aesthetic and technical considerations. Although her filmmaking career ended relatively early and she subsequently pursued a more administrative role at Gaumont, she continued to write and lecture on film, maintaining her intellectual and aesthetic commitment to cinema until her death.

WFP2-DUL06

Dulac avoided the contradictory intentions of auteur critics and filmmakers by keeping the contradictions in check through a dialectical position in her filmic and theoretical practices. From this perspective, her auteurism also invites one to reconsider the conceptualization of the auteur in different historical and critical frameworks.

If one were to take too cursory a glance at the career trajectory of Germaine Dulac one might be too quick to dismiss it, as one where she transitioned from more literary-based traditional films to impressionist and surrealist works to newsreels. However, the back and forth of these works is more involved than that, and her interests even more varied than that as she also wrote plays that were performed and engaged in theatrical criticism.

One need look no further than her Wikipedia entry to see disinformation spread with a generic, unsupported claim that “Her career as filmmaker suffered after the introduction of sound film and she spent the last decade of her life working on newsreels for Pathé and Gaumont.”

As if this was some sort of failure on her part, running the nonfiction film department of France’s oldest film distributor and writing presciently about the importance the newsreel could hold. Poor thing. It made me nearly want to create a Wikipedia account just to flag that nonsense.

The title of this piece has been purposely been selected for its trace of irony. For Dulac was not seeking the next trend like a bandwagon to jump on but instead was seeking to introduce new concepts and change the paradigm wherever and whenever she could. First, let us look at that aforementioned, and scoffed at by some Wikipedians, newsreel work:

091403_dulac-germaine_la_mort_du_soleil_1-1024x687

La Mort du Soleil (The Death of the Sun)

The team she headed at France-Actualités made and sold to distributors, including its patron Gaumont, a weekly compilation of about twenty minutes made up of short news items. In the 1930s, cinema programmes usually consisted of a short film, and a newsreel, before the “big film”. News theatres offering non-stop newsreels and cartoons were just opening. About five companies, including Pathé, Eclair etc., competed for contracts. A typical newsreel programme from the archives of France-Actualités, for 2 March 1934, ran for 20-30 minutes as follows :

  1. Belgium: accession of King Leopold
  2.  Lake Placid bobsleigh competition
  3. ‘Paris-humour’: a taxi-driver’s strike, using a puppet
  4.  Maiden voyage of the Normandie
  5.  The mysterious death of local councillor in Dijon*
  6. General review of the army garrison in Algiers
  7. Children’s string band in Montmartre
  8. Police work: how laboratories help trace criminals
  9. Film awards at Harry’s Bar, Venice
  10. Two air force planes collide in mid-air
  11.  Funeral of victims after a street riot
  12. Saint-Malo fisherman’s religious procession

When one characterizes working on newsreels as a career that is “suffering” the inference is that nonfiction films are less than, that person has without careful examination answered the question why film even needs to exist. Germaine Dulac examined that question, and make no mistake based on what little I read, and knowing there’s more to come, she never overlooked the basic question, which I’ve seen too few tackle:

When the cinema was first discovered and given mechanical and technical form by the Lumière brothers, it took by surprise a world by no means ready for it.

If we compare cinema with the invention of printing, that too had brought upheaval, by finding a completely new means of spreading the written word, but it did not create any new form of expression: on the contrary, it appeared in response to a need. […] Commercial entrepreneurs had created a “need” for cinema among popular audiences before artists had had a chance to reflect on its possibilities.

In fact many of Dulac’s crusades were not shortsighted in their aims but seeking to create a cinematic framework and reexamine definitions that were, in her estimation, too quickly set in place in the art’s infancy.

Her wish to unify creative responsibilities in the figure of the filmmaker insists upon the need to break away from the literary and theatrical notion of authorship in French culture. For Dulac, abolishing the expression metteur en scène (which she considered reductive because indebted to its theatrical origins) would have meant dispensing with a concept that at the time was, even more so than in literature, almost exclusively identified with male authorship.

The foreword-looking nature of her film thought was especially prescient when it came to the newsreel:

The public has learnt to notice any changes in their attitude, their appearance or their gestures. Familiarity starts to breed sympathy and perhaps understanding of ideas. Greater familiarity leads to more informed judgment. Walls come down. The vagueness of speeches can be harmful. The precision of the camera brings the clarity of truth.

Thanks to newsreels, we can enter into diplomatic discussions, into quarrels or alliances between peoples, and we can learn about their society.

The dialogue she was interested in was just not in traversing the divide of criticism and creation, but also in meandering from one style of filmmaking to another.

In remaining working on newsreels Dulac kept some of her focus always on what many (mostly men) thought the original function of the motion picture was going to be: the recording of real life events rather than staged, scripted dramas or comedies.

In her avant-garde work she focused on another major tenet of the cinema the juxtapostional relationship of images through editing technique, the quasi-musical rhythm it by itself could create, and the mimetic ability to reflect the workings of the conscious and subconscious mind, as well as the alchemical tricks that could be achieved by techniques in post production such as super-impositions split-screens and the like.

33588526-600x457

The Dancer’s Prism

While traveling back and forth between the artifice and veracity of film she was able to underscore the impartiality necessary to accurately convey current events and what cinematic techniques could be manipulated to mold interpretation. In short, she put out a primer on how to interpret the influence of propaganda on newsreels and films.

The cinema, with its whirlwind of moving images, delivers what we all dream about, all the things that escape conscious thought.

What lessons could have been learnt if the cinema had been invented a hundred years earlier, if it could have captured the ancien régime and then the events and people of the French Revolution!

In future years, historians will unquestionably go to this source rather than to written documents, because thanks to film, they will be able to reconstitute an event not merely in the imagination, but with an exact visual image.

The result of this little survey was as follows: the items I had selected from the weekly programmes were actually dependent on each other: one thing had led to another. When stripped of irrelevancies, their graph told an inexorable tale. The cinema was truly in the service of history.

This is another example in which the cinema binds together the scattered forces of humanity and coordinates them into a single current which thereby gives them wider distribution.

If that isn’t enough to convince you that her aims were for the future and the overall betterment of the artform, perhaps nothing else could convince you, but in fact there is more.

From 1930-1935, Dulac was the artistic director and nonfiction filmmaker at Gaumont, one of France’s largest and oldest production houses. She also assisted Louis Lumière in creating France’s first major film school, L’École Louis Lumière, where she taught until her death in 1942. Dulac was fundamental to the 1935 nationalization of the French film industry and in 1936 helped establish the Cinémathèque française.

If you reached this point and are itching to see some of her work, my mission has been accomplished. Below is what was readily available online. Enjoy!

V. PURE FILM: Or, Don’t Take My Word for It Just Watch

Dulac_imagequote_01

First, what is one of her seminal works.

“Throughout the picture,” writes critic Nathan Southern, “Dulac uses such devices as slow motion, distortions, and superimposed images to paint Beudet’s various emotional states onscreen,” an intersection of form and substance that resulted in a picture that “instantly established Dulac as a force in world cinema.”

 

The Smiling Madame Beudet (La Souriante Madame Beudet) (1923)

 

Invitation to the Voyage (L’invitation au voyage) (1927)

The following quote perhaps describes this film best, for even through its experimentations in repetition, in shot length, even without the framework of the source material, and the tongue-in-cheek commentary keeping this quote in mind one will see it embodied on celluloid.

A film’s characters are not the only important things; the length of the images, their contrast and harmony, play a primary role alongside them. A new drama made up of movement, finally understood rationally, asserts its rights, magnificently leading us towards the symphonic image poem, towards the visual symphony beyond familiar formulas where, like music, emotions burst, not into deeds or actions, but into sensations.

Below you will find links to both a monochromatic and a sepia-toned version of the film. The monochromatic one features a more logical scoring option in my estimation inasmuch as I find jazz to rarely be fitting accompaniment to silent cinema, and is frequently anachronistic.

Monochromatic

Tinted

The Seashell and the Clergyman (Le coquille et le clergyman) (1928)

After more than seventy years, Germaine Dulac’s film The Seashell and the Clergyman surely merits that we take another look, as we reclaim Dulac’s rightful place among pioneering filmmakers of the early avant-garde. – Maryann De Julio 

 

Spanish Dances  (Danses Espagnoles)  (1928)

Some of the earliest works of the silent cinema were merely cinematic records of particular dance styles or routines. In excess of two decades later, Dulac here pushes that idea forward with the technology available to her.

Celles qui s’en font (1928)

The music video was hotly debated innovation in the music industry in the 1980s. Today, it is such an afterthought it’s rarely discussed at all. More than a half-century before that Germaine Dulac already experimented with the form.

 

Étude cinégraphique sur une arabesque (1929)

This was the first of Dulac’s shorts I watched. Borrowing nomenclature from ballet and combining it with her shock of images she creates a study in motion created by both her mise en scène and editorial choices. It is a symphony of movement.

 

Retour à la vie (1936)

I could not find a subtitled version of this film unfortunately. Some of the drama is readily apparent and visual. It’s only the detail that is lost in this talkie. However, it is another example of Dulac’s preoccupation with the juxtaposition of city life in Paris versus the very different provincial existence in the rural areas of France.

 

Coda

banner_2273

Beauty and the Beast (2017, Disney)

This Paris-province conflict is still a reality of modern-day France, and the examination that Dulac was so fond of sees itself exemplified this very year as Disney in expanding the story of Beauty and the Beast for the live action version had Belle, Maurice, and her late mother as Parisians until she was taken by the Black Death.

Film Thought: My Rating Scale is Optional

Rather than taking up room in a post I decided to write about this matter here.

Whenever I sit down and dissect a film down to all its component parts and how well I feel each facet affected the whole, of course, I can give it a score from one to 10. When I figured out how to write my rating scale, I worded it such that there can be varying degrees of film within each ordinal number but a definite stratification from one number to the next.

However, the nature of the internet is such that sometimes you will just want to scroll an article, or stop reading it after a certain point. That is fine. That is certainly the reader’s prerogative.

Hugo (2011, Paramount)

However, I saw a comment on Twitter that crystallized what I didn’t realize consciously:

If you’re not being forced to assign that grade, why do it? Why incentivize someone to skip your explanation? Why force a reader to fight against human nature to skip to the grade.

Most of the reviews I read that affect my viewing options do not have a number or stars but they stick in my mind based on how the reviewer discussed it.

The Critic

Memorably unfavorable reviews have made it clear to my mind why I would like something. I’d rather be intrigued by what is said about the film rather than a fairly arbitrary number that means different things to different people.

For example, many people would classify a film rated 5/10 as a middle of the road, mediocre film. However, when I rate something as a five I could tend to be quite angry at it because it’s usually a minor slip up that cost it being what I consider to be a good film (6-10).

Furthermore, there are many examples of times wherein I’ve dedicated many words or whole paragraphs of a review to explain “This movie does not work for me because but here are some reasons why you may enjoy it…”

59474ec20606a0b9eb51c0ed5e6d4996

This is the only image I could think of that matched the keyword “Enjoy.”

Having a hyperlinked number down there tempting eyes to skip explanations that may underscore why they’ll like or dislike a film.

So if I feel a film should have that number at the bottom of the review, I’ll surely add it. However, sometimes it’s caused significant consternation on my part and delayed getting reviews up. No more.

Hope you enjoy the numberless reviews to follow.

Film Thought: Showing Kids Jaws

As time moves on we must learn that things need to be contextualized. It takes no insight to show kids Jaws and sit there bemused as they’re unimpressed. The first thing that must be noted is that, in my case for example, Jaws wasn’t that old a movie when I saw it as a kid. Now things from five years ago may have the faint whiff of being dated already. I’ve caught myself thinking “Wow, that came out a while ago” about a fairly recent film.

The art, all arts, are evolving at ever-dizzying speeds because they have to to survive. That’s just the way things are. It’s not better, not worse, no judgment; just a fact. Therefore, Jaws is now an old film. Even I, who was a self-motivated film watcher needed, and relished hearing, the framework my favorite college professors  would create to establish what our mindset should optimally be going in. I was motivated to watch Citizen Kane on my own and Hitchcock and a few others and I got an innate sense for them. As I learned more film history and discovered more varieties and approaches. I benefitted from the brief intro.

Tendaciousness still will apply. You will like what you’ll like. I don’t care for The Social Network.  I am able to appreciate all the technical refinement and skill in the making of it. My background makes it such that I can ignore its departmental prowess. It cannot move me in any way as much as it tried, but I had the framework.

Jaws (1975, Universal)

Bringing it full circle to Jaws you can’t just put it on and say “watch this, it’s great.” You can’t really do that for any old movie, which it now is. Context before, and not during or after, is the only real way to ensure it may be appreciated. And, as is true with any kind of film, like what you like and let the kids respond to what they will.

One of the biggest fallacies around is the whole “you have to like this or you don’t like film” school of thought. Venture forth wisely, bringing some of your knowledge with you but your baggage with a film (good or bad) is yours, so don’t pass it on just try to help them see it the way you did once upon a time, even if it can no longer be looked at the same way.

Royalty on Film Blogathon – The Chronicle of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

Introduction

When I first read about the Royalty on Film Blogathon, one film jumped out at me immediately as the topic I should write about. Now, having selected The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as Best Picture at the BAM Awards I have written about it. However, a specific piece on the royalty featured within this film, and the interesting narrative and philosophical devices they are employed in was something I couldn’t pass up.

Method

Chronicles-of-Narnia-cover

The approach I wanted to take to this topic, because I love this story so, was to revisit the story in three different forms. Aside from a look at the film itself I also wanted to examine the two translations that any novel takes before reaching the big screen (novel to screenplay and screenplay to finished film). This is not a fanboy needing a talking down but rather a comparative analysis.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Its Royals

Background2

Now, one thing all versions of this particular installment of The Chronicles are focused on, is the power struggle, in external terms, of the chosen monarchs of this land (the Pevensies) and the presumptive tyrant (the White Witch), as well as the one between the White Witch and the Godhead of Narnia (Aslan).

Jadis, The White Witch, Chatelain of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands, Etc.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, Disney)

The bones both to the story and the arc of the White Witch’s persona are not only well established in the book but they are very well adhered to by the screenplay. She: hired Tumnus as a spy, talks to Edmund upon his arrival, harps on the Four Monarchs prophecy, per Lucy and others she has “no right to be queen,” levies constant threats in true authoritarian style, establishes the Secret Police, and seeks to consolidate her power at all costs.

The bits of detail in the book are left out of the film add a bit more depth but do not really rob the film of much: on occasion she is called Lilith, after “Adam’s first wife”; she is a Half-Jinn, Half-Giantess; and was the Emperor’s (akin to the Father in the Christian trinity) hangman.

Edmund Pevensie, King Edmund the Just

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, Disney)

One thing this particular filmed version of the story gets absolutely right beyond a shadow of a doubt is the complexity and conflict of Edmund’s chareacter. Oversimplification or piling on of him for his mistakes, as I witnessed in a stage version due to either the bastardized script or the unfaithful direction of the theatre company performing it; is not only a wrongful interpretation but angers me to no end.

In the novel we get insights like “Edmund did not like this arrangement at all but dared not disobey” and that “Deep down inside him he really knew that the white witch was bad and cruel.” However, simple visual literacy, as well as the adept personification by Skandar Keynes (which earned him a BAM Award Nomination as Best Actor also) make it quite clear that that doubt and conflict exist within him early on despite his regrettable decisions. In the book it’s stated in black and white he realizes he was lied to and regrets his decision. In the film there is less verbal fat and more visual fodder.

What the book includes for all the children are some of the things they either dreamed of before assuming the throne or did once they took it. Edmund dreamed of roads he’d build, a private cinema, giving the beavers lesser legal status, getting revenge, and building railways. It also describes his reign as one where he proves to be “great in council and judgment” and that he is “graver and quieter” than his siblings as he grows, no doubt influenced by these formative experiences upon coming to Narnia.

The-Chronicles-of-Narnia-The-Lion-The-Witch-The-Wardrobe-the-chronicles-of-narnia-26557043-1920-816

Now, the films spend even less time with the children being actually crowned monarchs than the book does, however, what it does do to compensate for that fact is have loyalists refer to them as “King” or “Queen” or “Your Majesties” and also show where these Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve act worthy of the thrones they will possess that are their right.

Edmund later leads by example, feels pity for Tumnus who he lead to his slaughter, is condemned a traitor and is to be sacrificed for penance and never pleads for his life. His actions in battle are not only part of his redemption but Peter vouches for him. He is also spared of details of the deal the White Witch and Aslan struck. All of this is reflected in the film.

He comes a long way, the longest way of all, from the young naïf swayed merely by offers of endless Turkish Delight.
Aslan

Aslan_res-e1325267362299

Being the deity of this world is frequently referred to as a king as well much in keeping with the Judeo-Christian tradition. He is touted as the rightful king, and in an example of terrestrial kingliness he holds private council with both the White Witch and Edmund (after his rescue). The film wisely follows the books example of having these conversations occur off (screen/page). We are witness merely to the aftermath and it adds a bit of mystery to the proceedings. His willingness to act as a sacrifice and also to want to spare Susan and Lucy the sight of his death but willing to accept their company for the journey is in essence a service a king would provide his subjects.

Lucy, the Valiant and Susan, the Gentle

171557_1232357045056_full

The evidence in the screenplay of the children working into their roles as monarchs is evidenced on the page as well. In one of the earlier drafts when the film version was still referred to as The Hundred Year Winter, Peter is referred to as nodding in “kingly” fashion in a descriptive the precedes the coronation. On page 68 of the script there is use of “majesties” in plural.

This is needed in the film as in the book their coronation is toward the end (pp.193, per the omnibus pagination), as are honors bestowed upon their friends (p. 194). Lewis concludes that “They governed Narnia well and long and happy was their reign” and “All foul brood was stamped out.” Furthermore, they “…made good on laws and kept the peace and saved good trees from being unnecessarily cut down and saved young dwarfs and young satyrs from being sent to school, and generally stopped busybodies and interferers and encouraged people who wanted to live and let live.”

0874eb7e635fe457545a8270cfde25f6

Over the years they earned their nicknames. In the films Aslan bestows the monikers at coronation. King Peter the Magnificent, Queen Susan the Gentle, Queen Lucy the Valiant. In the film, they had to earn the names along the course of the film such that Aslan could bestow them upon them. Also, having them be assigned territories of Narnia to take special care of to shutdown the nitpicker wondering why one kingdom needs four monarchs.

Peter’s nickname is best exemplified by his leadership leading up to and during the battle. Edmund’s name of Just is perhaps the most fitting for it is through being unjust himself to start that he starts to learn firsthand what is right and proper in given situations. Lucy’s valiance is on display from the start as she never wavers in her certitude that the quest to save Tumnus, and thus, Narnia, is right. Susan’s gentility is one you have to dig for. However, its her protectiveness of her siblings, wanting to see them out of harm’s way, her needing to be coaxed into battle, and trying to avoid the conflict if it an be avoided, is where it is seen most readily.

Escalation

The-Chronicles-of-Narnia-The-Lion-The-Witch-The-Wardrobe-the-chronicles-of-narnia-26561655-1920-816

In the script, and then in the film, you can see how certain aspects become emphasized. In the film there is more emphasis on the battle, which is dealt with in post-mortem in the book. In the script the White Witch more convincingly sways Edmund here than in the book because the language is simplified and less on the head. Tilda’s interpretation of the White Witch then takes the character to the next level.

In the book there is no incidence of Edmund and Tumnus in cells next to one another. This triangulation wherein the White Witch plays Tumnus off Edmund, exagerrating “He traded you in for sweets,” truly allows for additional depth for all character involved: Tumnus suffers further, Edmund experiencing this and plotting his escape aid him redemption, and the Witch is further vilified in cinematic terms.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, Disney)

As they prepare for war, Edmund really comes full circle fully committing to a battle he knows he must participate in. The emphasis of screentime spent on their training adds good bonding time for the siblings.

Susan asks: “Edmund already nearly lost his life! What are we supposed to do?”
Edmund responds: “Whatever we can.”

Conclusion

the-chronicles-of-narnia-the-lion-the-witch-the-wardrobe-the-chronicles-of-narnia-26562156-1920-816

Yes, the White Witch through being the antagonist and the reigning monarch, justly or not, takes the led in this film. However, as magnetic and magnificent as Swinton is; he desires and actions are all highly logical and compelling. Having those who are prophesied to inherit a throne slowly travel from a feeling of unworthiness to a desire for and a deserving of that seat is a more compelling journey. Furthermore, the return of a God-king to a land and an ousting of the evil ruler is also compelling. There are few characters in said books that are commoners at the end, but those who bring us into the story, those we travel with are those who will assume the thrones and those we follow. Aslan’s showing favor to the Pevensies lends truth of being anointed by God to this mythic landscape and provides the perfect counterbalance in this story.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is nearly flawless tale, and a main reason for this is the unique looks at regality it affords us.