Tag Archives: film

Assignment 4 -“A picture is worth a thousand words” (It’s a Lilly)

It’s a Lilly!

A still image from the end of the first act of the epic movie ‘Gone with the Wind’, Selznick International Pictures, Metro Goldwin Mayor, (AOL Time Warner Company).

It’s a Lilly!

The image

This image is fabricated, created from scratch in a Hollywood film studio.  The sky is hand painted using a technique called movie-matte-painting The tree and fence are just props.

The first impression I have, looking at this picture, is a sense of foreboding and a feeling of uneasiness.

What we see: a sunset, a triangular shaped cirrus cloud, a very low horizon, a picket fence and a small female figure.  We appear to be looking at her from in front and to her right, so as to see the silhouette of her chest.  Her left arm is just out of view, but her posture suggests that it must be mimicking the right. To the far right of the picture stands a tree. Its branches are naked.  One branch leans over towards the female figure and ends in a shape reminiscent of a hand-held scythe, with the tip of its blade pointing down on the figure below.

My interpretation

This is the final image from the last scene in Act 1 of the motion-picture ‘Gone with the Wind’. The audience has just witnessed this lady turn from desperation to determination; and the final image is made to look satanical with its fiery sky a witch like figure and a scary looking tree.  We are encouraged to draw parallels from our imagination.  I see Dante’s imaginable idea of ‘The Inferno’ and to quote from Canto III, lines 1 -3, ‘Through me you pass into the city of woe: Through me you pass into eternal pain: Through me among the people lost for aye.’ I am also reminded of the lines from psalm 23:4, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me…..

I see a lot of symbolism in this image:

From the point-of-view of the movie, The American Civil War was still within living memory of an elderly American generation; and perhaps because it was made with access to living witnesses some of the scenes are so remarkable (the siege of Atlanta for example). Therefore, the movie makers intended that this image translates that fences still need mending between the North and South.

However, I see the picket fence on several levels:

1, As representing home, family and her life; it is rickety and in need of repair.

2, Seen with a stripped tree, the broken picket fence also appears to suggest destruction and hardship.

3, The fences denote a road; and the setting sun behind her, with the fence leading to the foreground, connotes a journey.

The horizon has been set very low to give emphasis to the sky above Scarlet’s head, she stands as a small figure, as if under heaven or a damned soul at the bottom of the pit.  The sky is like her name Scarlet; and it is also acts as a signifier for many ideas: the unholy oath she just made in this scene, loss of innocence, war, and a sun setting over a disappearing civilization and way of life.

I see 1939 in this picture, war had been declared in Europe.  For many people watching this film, their own civilization was in danger of going the way of the South and the sun was setting over their world and their way of life.

The space for the sky on the left is filled with a triangular cirrus cloud with a faint suggestion of a crucifix in its pattern, strengthening this idea of heaven and earth.  This iconic symbol can be identified for denoting, love and peace; but it also connotes hope, forgiveness and unity under one faith.

The lone female stands like the tree leaning back angled in symmetry with its trunk.  Her arms hang down by her sides and her visible hand appears clenched.  Her posture suggests that she is standing to attention, just as a tired and battle weary soldier might stand.  For the American audience of 1939, the woman could be regarded on different levels, depending on who you were:

1 For middle-class white Southern and Northern citizens she is the fair and defiant but beaten and battered South.

2, She could also be symbolic for many working class Americans who suffered during the 1930s economic recession; and could be regarded as a figure denoting a nation that is getting back on to her feet and standing defiantly against her adversaries; thus connoting National strength and endurance.

3, In 1939 many people were still denied equal rights.  For the audience, this figure in silhouette could therefore be black, white, yellow or any cast the viewer chooses.  She is a woman, considered the weaker sex, but seen here to be strong and encouraging hope. “I know I have the body butt of a weake and feble woman, butt I have the harte and stomack of a king, and of a king of England too” Elizabeth I, 1588, Tilbury.

The tree is stripped and broken, yet it still stands, heroically defying the ill winds that have stripped it.  In his book, ‘Camera Lucida’, Roland Barthes described a feature in a picture that is a focal-point that he calls a ‘Punctum’ something that makes a nice picture an interesting picture.  I see the tree as the Punctum in this picture.  The silhouetted woman against the sunset and cloud makes a nice picture which Barthes calls the ‘Studium’ but the sinister tree with the branch hanging over her head turns this in to a more engaging photo (in my opinion).  The branch immediately above Scarlet’s head looks like a bony finger; it appears to point down on Scarlet like a condemning finger that is passing judgment.  In the context of the movie the tree could also represent the Union with its terrible judicial judgement on the South.

So why the title?

As the Technicolor movie camera began to photograph this scene a technician would have held a card with different colours printed on it in front of the camera to assist for colour calibration later on in development. The Technicolor team referred to it as a ‘Lilly‘ card if the filming was successful at the end of the scene the technician would call “It’s a Lilly!”

Word Doc.  Amended Final Draft-Its a Lilly-1

References

Link to Image http://dearmrgable.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/gwtw5555.jpg

The trailer to Gone with the Wind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFu-jemU-bA

Selznick International Pictures  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selznick_International_Pictures

David O. Selznick Biography  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_O._Selznic

MGM history  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

MGM website:  http://www.mgm.com/

MGM  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

AOL Time Warner http://www.timewarner.com/

Movie matte painting video – Gone with the Wind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idQOBhiF-DM

Movie matte painting video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_kaA6250S4

Met Office / Cirrus Clouds:  http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/clouds/high-clouds/cirrus

Dante Alighieri Inferno, Canto III Lines 1 – 3.  Translation by Henry Francis Cary, Published by London Folio Society (MCMXCVIII)

Dante’s Biography:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante_Alighieri

psalm 23:4 – Translation from the original tongues being the version set forth A.D. 1611 Revised A.D. 1881 – 1885 and A.D. 1901 compared with the most ancient authorities and revised A.D. 1952 (The Bible Revised Standard Version Published by WM Collins Sons & CO Ltd. For The British & Foreign Bible Society)

The American Civil War https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War

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

Scarlet O’Hara  Biography https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarlett_O%27Hara

The South  http://docsouth.unc.edu/

Confederate Army https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_States_Army

1930s economic recession  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression

Elizabeth I Tilbury speech http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/elizabeth-i-tilbury-speech

Rolland Barthes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes

Union Army https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Army

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

Technicolor color card ‘A lilly’  http://oz.wikia.com/wiki/Technicolor

The three strip Technicolor process  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technicolor#Three-strip_Technicolor

Technicolor Film Camera https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-T8MVrw1L0

CMYK https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CMYK_color_model

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Working in Black & White

Working in Black and White

Working in Black & White, by David Prakel, Basics Photography, Published by AVA.

I have just read this book on black-and-white photography which covers both for film and digital with advice on developing and darkroom techniques for those unfamiliar with it and for digital post-production editing with Lightroom and Photoshop.  The book covers all aspects, including going about thinking about tones rather than colour; but explain a bit of colour theory to help with understanding the mental and physical grey-scale conversion.  If using film cameras there is also an explanation of filters for both cameras and darkroom enlargers, how and why they are used and how digital software that mimics filters that can be used and again why.  This book also looks at returning or adding colour to black and white prints either digitally or manually for various artistic effects.  This book offers allsorts of fresh ideas that can be brought to your work.

I began photography with a Pentax K1000 SLR working with Ilford Black and White film that I used to develop and print myself.  I would recommend any modern photographer who has only experience with digital cameras to have a go converting some images to black-and-white and playing with the effects.

The main reason I chose to read this book now is because I am going on a couple of courses at the Nikon school in London doing Film-Noir style black and white portrait photography.

Hitchcocks, The Lodger.

Ivor Novello

The trailer to ‘The Lodger’.

Last week I watched an interesting documentary at the cinema about the interview and resulting friendship between Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock.  The documentary was about Hitchcock’s genius as a film director, which until Truffaut sang his praises was largely being ignored and undermined.

After watching the documentary, I purchased, ‘The Lodger‘ which is Hitchcock’s first film with his recognisable style. (he had made several others films before this one; but this is the first movie that was all his own.)

This was made in 1926 and is silent.  Hitchcock, keeps the text to a minimum, using clever composition and symbols to carry the narrative.  This is film making at it’s purist and at the height of it’s craft.  Although I am a still photographer, I look for ideas from the film makers who were inventing ideas that still photographers are today discussing and adopting.

In this image taken from the film, the lodger who is suspected as a serial killer looks out from his window and Hitchcock has cleverly cast a shadow of a crucifix on his face.

The film begins with this image, a girl is drowning, a victim of ‘The Avenger’.  Hitchcock set the camera facing up under a plate of glass and got the girl to lay facing down over the glass a lens.

In this scene the lodger, Ivor Novello, is pacing up and down in his room disturbing the others in the house.  Hitchcock, used a glass floor for Novello to walk on and super-imposed that image with the chandelier rocking by his heavy steps.

This was a cleaver idea, but Hitchcock didn’t think that it worked too well, he wanted the van to look like a face with the heads of the driver and mate as the eyes, the newspaper sign for a nose and the cars chrome bumper as the mouth.

As a story, perhaps a little naïve for today’s standards but enjoyable all the same.  If you are interested in film making it has to be one to watch.  Hitchcock couldn’t understand why with the advent of sound so much visual film making skills were quickly forgotten to be replaced with too much un-necessary dialogue.  He was always the believer that if you could tell it in pictures why explain it with dialogue.  It has been said that with a Hitchcock film, even his later ones, the story can still be followed with the sound turned down.  Now that is an artist in my book!

 

Truffaut Hitchcock

Truffaut Hitchcock

Truffaut Hitchcock, by Francois Truffaut, published by Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

This Easter weekend, I indulged in a little guilty pleasure.  Taking a break from my photography studies, I read a great book by Francois Truffaut, a famous French film Director and film critic.  He got to know and became friends with Alfred Hitchcock and spent a couple of weeks with Hitchcock in Hollywood interviewing the great man, which he published in this fascinating book.

I blog this in to my Context and Narrative working-log as I believe that as a photographer there is a lot that can be learned from Hitchcock.  For example, as a young British film-maker in the 1920’s, he noticed how the Americans always back-lit their actors; so that they appeared separate from the back ground, this was not practiced by other British film-makers at that time.  He understood the power of composition and had ‘the way of seeing’ as a photographer.  Some of his tricks can be replicated with a still-camera and therefor makes his creativity interesting to me, as I may be able to apply some of it from time to time in my own work.

Still photographer or movie-maker this is a good book to read, for a movie-maker I would suggest an important book to read.  Tomorrow, I am going to see a film about this interview between Truffaut and Hitchcock and I have found this extract of Truffaut’s recorded interview with Hitchcock as they discuss the making of Psycho https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV6NwhGp7VU on YouTube.

Langford’s Basic Photography, 10th Edition.

Langfords_Basic_photography

I first read this book when I was a teenager studying photography for an O-level.  I have been reading through it again and although much in the book I already know, it does no harm to re-cap on previously learned knowledge to both freshen up my memory and  discover additional information that that I previously didn’t take in at the time.  This edition was published in 2015 and refers to new features in Photoshop, Photoshop Cloud and Lightroom.

More importantly for me, this new edition has two very good chapters for digital workflow and Photoshop which I found very useful and helpful and good referral material for the future.  One very valuable piece of advice was to set up the colour spacing in Adobe RAW and Lightroom; so that all future photos that are imported are correctly set for the appropriate colour spacing for print and can then be later down graded for screen use if necessary.  This insures that valuable information on the original RAW file is not automatically thrown away before you even get started and can future proof your images.  Although the chapter on Photoshop is not a training manual in itself, it covers enough to get you started.

This book also covers working with and developing film and I may refer back to those chapters at a later date.  I still have much of my old darkroom equipment although I haven’t used it in over 30 years.

There is also a very useful chapter at the back on presentation of your final work, which I am sure will be valuable referral resource later in my degree course when I am required to produce work for assessment to exhibition standard.

No matter how experienced you think you are, I would always recommend that you have this book on your book-shelf anyway.