October 2009 Archives

The Color of Pomegranates

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Hey, I know I sent this by email.....but Thought I'd test my access so here it is again...(Thanks Schylur) Sergei Parajonov seduced me into his film through the stillness of the moving image and the vivid costumes. I think the poetic text and strange sounds played a large role in my admiration for this piece of work as well. It was all so strange and different from anything else I have seen. Even in it's surreal quality of distorting ideas of beauty and sorrow I found this work to be generous and inviting. I did have hesitations during the animal and blood scenes, but that is the tension being created by Parajanov and I can accept it. The storytelling was subtle and occupied my thoughts and emotions just enough to keep me captivated. (for most of the film) Seeing this film in two parts gave me time to digest the style of the film, and accepted it as an artwork, now the time and slowness of the film was being felt as we moved into the later years of life. The second half was less interesting to me because of this digestion time between my viewings. In response to that statement, the story had to be told. I am just more fascinated with the growth portion of the story. The imaginative attitude of the symbolism in the first half was curious and beautiful. The books and paper moving in the wind and the bright colors against the pale backdrop seem more prevalent to me, It also opened up my imagination as to how the rest of the story was going to be told. I really appreciate this film for it's full, lush moments. I follow along with my mind and my body, I mean this in relation to the stillness of the characters and their thought out moves paced my own moves in piecing together what was being shown to me. I don't have many references to compare this film to. I mentioned Matthew Barney and (I hate to say it, but) if this film had any influence on Barney's style, makes me appreciate Barney a little more. I do also want to mention my thoughts on, composition in a moving image. I have just started to understand and realize the importance of each frame as a part of the greater evolution that happens in a moving image. This film had an intentional composition in every square inch of the frame. And it was so satisfying to see the layers of content. For me, using film is a new language to learn and this film gave me some great vocabulary. Seeing this film gave me another approach to film that I hadn't been familiar with. I really enjoyed it.
The Color of Pomegranates -- response I knew nothing of this film going into it, and I hadn't seen the first half, so I had no idea what I was watching or how to interpret the film for most of the duration. There were, however, very specific aspects about the film that struck me. The intense iconography, symbolism, rituals and elaborate costumery were intriguing and beautiful to watch, almost like a visual meditation. The words and voice seemed right away to be from a poem, or maybe even a religious or sacred text. There was a definite rhythm which also made me feel like the film was a visual meditation. The camera was static and there was little movement/motion throughout most of the film, and this created a sense of photography rather than film, like a moving and vibrant photograph. The meaning of the film was difficult for me to interpret. I assume the film is about religion because the symbols and iconography dealt so heavily with symbolism from the bible -- the washing of the feet, the sacrifice of the lamb, the tomb resembling the tomb of Jesus. I'd like to do a little more research on the film and the artist, and then watch the film again. I have a feeling the film is much richer and subtly complex than I was able to grasp the first time around.
Initially, the asymmetrical compositions, the actors' and actresses' intense gazes, and the relationship of their bodies to the architecture in "The Color of Pomegranates" struck me. One of the beginning statements reads: "Books must be well kept and read, for books are Soul and Life. Without books, the world would have witnessed nothing but ignorance." This statement is followed with images of flooded books being drained of water creating a visual relationship between present and past. As the film progressed, my attention became focused on the way Parajanov constructed shifts between reality and myth heavily interlaced with religious iconography. The constant shifts between located and dislocated are created through the idea of systems of belief. The role of animal fluctuates between the human stand-ins to the sacrificed. Rituals are performed and the actions of the believers create a state for complete mental absorption to the point of becoming mesmerized. The obscure qualities of the following scenes have stuck with me. As a boy, Sayat climbs the ladder with huge books to get to the rooftop where he carefully follows exterior walls to the place he sets the book for perusal. We see the potential danger, but that melts away when he is standing on the rooftop surrounded with open books whose pages are turning in the wind. Later a cherub spins behind a lavish frame that moves back and forth horizontally behind him as an adolescent who is experiencing love for the first time. The presence of a cloud inside the chapel during the digging of the grave creates ideas of revelation. Then sheep flood the floor to the point of needing to stand on the steps lining the wall to bear witness to death. As Sayat lies down amongst a field of candles, he sees himself as a boy floating above with angel wings. Chickens franticly move about the scene knocking over the lit candles. The closing statement reads, "Whether I live or die, my chanting shall wake up the crowd. And nothing may vanish from this world on the day of my final departure."

On "The Color of Pomegranates"

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My viewing of the film "The Color of Pomegranates" was hindered by the fact that I only saw the last half of the film. I must admit that I was unable to make any real connections to the film without knowing anything at all about the filmmaker, the style, or the subject matter. So I did a little online reading to get some background, and then I found the film posted on YouTube (in sections, of course) and watched it again. I was astounded at how much I felt like I was watching an entirely different film. Because the narrative structure of this film is loose and flexible and presented in a stylized, poetic manner, the viewer must bring a good deal of understanding to the film in order for coherence to be achieved. However, I only read a few things about Sergei Parajanov and Sayat Nova before I watched it again, and that small amount of information was all I needed to be swept away by the incredible cinematic images presented in this remarkable piece. I must say that the cinematography in "The Color of Pomegranates" was nothing short of extraordinary and inspirational. From the opening images of pomegranates slowly seeping red liquid through gauze fabric, it is clear that what is unfolding before the viewers' eyes is a carefully crafted mise en scène - the work of a true artist. Many of these images will never leave me, I am sure. I also greatly admired Sofiko Chiaureli's performance throughout the film, and it literally took my breath away when I realized he was portraying both the poet and the woman with whom the poet is in love! Moreover, Chiaureli's ability to effectively express so much across time and space - in a very restrained manner - is especially outstanding considering there was no dialogue. I do have some critiques of the film, however. The style of acting was too mixed - ranging from natural, as in the scenes with the young actor playing the poet as a child, to very abstract, as in the scenes "at court" with the riders on horseback and actors randomly tossing gold balls in the air. Some of the very abstract scenes verged on the absurd and were, for me, almost reminiscent of Monty Python (which premiered the year after this film was made, strangely enough). I also found the quality of editing to be far below the level of cinematography. I read that Soviet Union officials had the film re-edited after its release, and it may in fact be impossible to see the director's original cut. Perhaps that is part of the problem, but the three people credited on iMDB as editors had little to no experience with editing, and to me it was a huge problem. The pacing and rhythm were far too disjointed for a film that is both meant to be poetic and pay homage to a poet. And the sound was atrocious. Clearly, this film was not shot with sync sound (due to lack of budget I am sure), but the dubbed-in sound is just too obviously laid on top of the image without much care as to the sound seeming natural or even syncing up with the action. This could easily have been done at a higher level of quality with a more experienced sound editor. The Color of Pomegranates is undoubtedly a groundbreaking piece of film art that pushed boundaries and continues to awe and inspire. But the film is unfortunately mired down by the low quality of editing and the absurd style of acting in some of the scenes. The difficulties with the editing are most likely the result of the constant political oppression experienced by Parajanov, who was on the wrong side of Soviet favor and ended up doing hard time in a labor prison.
it was a beautiful film that seemed to have quite a bit of choreography incorporated into the piece. it seemed to be a very gesture heavy film with a lot of imagery and obvious symbolism to religion (the monastery) and to aspects of the characters life. it's like written in different stations. i admit it was a beautiful piece but hard to watch because it required full attention and i didn't see the first portion of the film, so i came in with a limited knowledge of the piece. 

i love the fact that the piece was in armenian, it seemed to show a world that is both forgotten (soviet union collapse) and unknown to a lot of western film. i wanted to know more about the directors other films, and more about his life. i also felt a sense of pain when i watched the last scene of the movie when death occurs and all the candles are being knocked over by the chickens. it's probably one of the most profound of all the scenes as it was emotionally compelling. i feel like i'd need to watch this again in a different mindset to really be able to grasp this piece as i'm not used to reading film that has a narrative but is very nonlinear.

Film Night Wednesday 7 pm

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I am hoping to show

"Go! Go! Go!" by Marie Menken  (1962-1964)  11 minutes

"Notes on the Circus" by Jonas Mekas  (1966)  12 minutes

and maybe another if there is time.
hope to see some people there to share and discuss!

The things that really stood out to me in the film were the unsaturated colors, the rhythm of the shots, the beautiful compositions-almost read as a series of photographs-a slideshow. I must say a lot of the religious symbolism and historical references flew over my head. I definitely saw it as a critique of the church, a critique of a traditional power structure. I could be wrong. After the film was over I felt like the rhythm was like the experience of paging through a book. Almost like finding an old hardcover tome in the special collections library covered in dust, filled with hand colored scenes on yellowed vellum. Each frame/scene in the film was about 10 seconds long, with the exception of a few quick 1 second images that really broke the rhythm with an exclamation point. This film seemed to live somewhere between a photograph and a film. A series of photographs that had slight movement. Photographs as if they became alive for a moment. My favorite compositions were of rooftops covered with enormous opened books with their pages blowing in the wind. 'Heavy' religious texts no doubt. The costumes were breathtaking. They made the film for me. Compositions and costumes in this film get me excited about photography as a medium again. I am curious to see Paradjanov's other films to compare. Are they similar? A sequence of static shots? All historical content? How am I to protect my wax-built castles of love? Sam
I had seen the film once before and had mainly focused on the composition and static camera.  The extreme amount of detail, costuming, and color richness was very attractive to me.  However, it was difficult to decipher specific meaning from the film.  This time around, I tried to figure out what Parajanov was trying to communicate.  The first half that we watched last week really seemed apparent to me to come across as a message or more like a warning to beware that children pay attention to what it is that they see and what they read.  The reoccurring figure of the child throughout juxtaposed with images of books, religious iconography, and war gave this message.  Knowing a little bit that this was about the poet Sayat Nova was slightly confusing because there were so many strongly linked images to the life of Christ, specifically toward the end: the sacrificial lamb, the washing of the feet, the text speaking of the dead one having left them behind as the women mourn in the tomb.  It also seems to have the feeling of time passing.  There is a constant swaying throughout.  The textiles, the drums, the weaving, hands moving, the gold ball.  Everything is constantly swaying and in motion with a singer, an instrument or a beat.  This is consistent with what seems to be a graduation or aging of this child into a man throughout and into death.  

Film Night

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This is the list for our Film Night series.  Feel free to add to the list.  Please include a short explanation (1 or 2 sentences) for your picks and the running time of the film.  Links to IMDB or trailers welcome.

The Brothers Quay
Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (14 min.) Virtuoso stop-motion animation; b/w play with lines and vibration; I spoke with Sarah about the piece after watching her film with the lines of yarn, and I think those interested in stop-motion must see this.

Lumiere et compagnie (88 min., each film 1 min.) 40 directors were asked to shoot a film using an old Lumiere camera.  The rules were: 1) the film could be no longer than 52 seconds, 2) no Synchronized sound, 3) no more than 3 takes.

Kim Ki-Duk
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (103 min., I can show scenes) This is in response to a class discussion on "visual" films.  Kim Ki-Duk is one of the most important Korean filmmakers today. His films tend to mix extremely beautiful, Tarkovsky-esque quiet shots with extreme violence.

Andrei Tarkovsky
Stalker (163 min., scenes) In response to Ryan's film in which I commented that the landscape seemed to be the main character of the piece.

Shinya Tsukamoto
Tetsuo: Iron Man  (67 min., scenes) Stop motion animation with chopped-up live action editing.  Simply an amazing film that you must see if you're interested in stop motion animation.

Guy Maddin
I'm not sure what film of his I'd like to show yet, but I'd like to show something he's done in Super 8 such as Cowards Bend the Knee (60 min., scenes).  Amazing surrealist filmmaker from Canada who takes a lot of inspiration from the silent film era.

Andrzej Zulawski
I think it might be worth showing scenes from Possession (127 min., scenes) or On the Silver Globe  (166 min., scenes) for Tim. Zulawski is a Polish filmmaker whose films are heavily influenced by theater and feature spastic, extremely volatile performances in constructed worlds where everyone is insane.

Alejandro Jodorowsky
Jodorowsky came up in our viewing of Parajonov's Color of Pomegranites.  I may show scenes from one or more of his films, possibly El Topo, since I'm still waiting on some Interlibrary Loan DVDs.  I have his box set.  Jodorowsky is a surrealist filmmaker with a carnival background who made films in Mexico, which often feature striking visuals, carnival-type performance art and the grotesque.

"How To" Guides

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Below you will find some easy "how to" guides.  These will cover some of the more common technological tasks you will need to do in order to produce film or video.  Feel free to refer back to these if you need help.

How to Digitize Video
How to Post Video to MediaMill

Click here to view guide: SchuylersFilmLoopMech.pdf

Alex's Project ideas

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For my second project, I'll be exploring the concept of "Minnesota Nice" as set in a Hitchcock ballroom dance sequence. "Minnesota Nice" is a perfectly happy and hokey concept when you're from the city and people are exposed to diversity, but to people with a mild interest in escaping rural life while living in southern Minnesota, it's a frightening and crushing social force that I hope to examine.


To accomplish this, I'm going to need to track down a lot of talent to properly fill a "ballroom", which will be created using Studio B and plenty of noir-ish lighting. I think accomplishing a sense of menace won't be too hard. There will probably be other room for social commentary throughout this piece. I'm hoping that this will turn out to be a two- or three-reel film, maybe even a partial installation. We'll see.


In addition, I'm going to explore a more "cinematic" visual style that involves smoother (perhaps even dollied) shots. I feel like a stylized and slick style will work as a nice dramatic counterpoint to the inherently terrifying visions of "Minnesota Nice" that I've seen in my life. It's like a mix of Deliverance and A Prairie Home Companion, but twice as spooky.


Critique date: 11/04


Last processing date: 10/29.


Start date: Friday, 10/16

Tentative shoot dates: 10/17, 10/18, 10/25, 10/25

Editing from 10/29-11/03. Hopefully I can accomplish this in two days and then tweak as necessary.


I tentatively plan to continue exploring Minnesota culture throughout the remainder of the class. I expect that my work will turn colder and darker and more introspective as it gets colder and darker outside and my usual SAD kicks in. Perhaps I'll do a film about SAD (without being too reminiscent of the Weisman exhibit of two years ago). The natural beauty of Minnesota may be a topic, too - perhaps a road trip to northern MN to capture the changing of the seasons could be my third or final project. These will hopefully incorporate more installation-type work.

I am thinking of doing one of my last three project on a night time video. I want to see how the video changes if I only have the light from the reflection of the moon. Then, I want to do another video with different lighting. Then, for my last video, I want to shoot a video and edit it with after effects. I want to add some animations to the video. I thank it will be interesting.

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