Film appreciation course – part 1

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am a massive movie fan and have written hundreds of film reviews for my web site.

I’m spending this weekend at the offices of the “Guardian” newspaper attending a two-day film appreciation course. Most of the event is hosted by Danny Leigh, “Guardian” film writer and co-host of BBC’s “Film 2012” which I watch religiously. He is staggeringly knowledgeable about cinema and delivers his material quite fast while energetically pacing the room and waving his arms.

In his Introduction, Danny described his love of film as being because he sees it as “an intersection between imagination  and industry” and offered that “I am incredibly suggestible and never see plot twists coming”.

Section 1 on Acting was taken by Peter Bradshaw of the “Guardian”. He contrasted the traditional, old-fashioned style of acting by someone like Laurence Olivier with the more modern, Method type of acting exhibited by the likes of Dustin Hoffman.  He showed five film clips including the famous “Are you lookin’ at me?” scene from “Taxi Driver”.

Section 2 on Sound was delivered by Danny. He explained that the main language of cinema is visual and that therefore sound is perceived as the secondary language and suggested that this owed a lot to the first 30 years of the history of cinema when all movies were silent. He pointed out that today lots of the sound in films is not recorded at source but added in post production. He showed eleven clips including the dramatic ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ sequence from “Apocalypse Now” [my review here].

Section 3 on Direction was taken by Danny. He explained the ‘auteur’ theory of direction where the director is seen as the author of the film and the camera is seen as his pen. He contrasted this with the usual situation where the studio – usually in the form of the producer – has the final cut of the film. He showed eight clips including the opening scene of “Citizen Kane”.

Section 4 on Editing was covered by Danny. He described editing as the construction of the narrative and the rhythm of a movie and explained how the creation of a film can be seen as three essential elements: writing, shooting, editing. He showed nine clips including the sex scene in “Don’t Look Now”.

The first day concluded with the showing of a strange, short French film called “La Jetee” which apparently inspired “Twelve Monkeys” [my review here].

Fascinating stuff and more tomorrow …


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