French New Wave Cinema, Meet Top Chef

I was catching up with my old lover TiVo last night, having been occupied every night for the past week and a half (by the end of this busy stretch, I’ll have had daily & nightly obligations for a solid two weeks).

Top priorities: America’s Next Top Model and Top Chef.

Top Chef‘s episode of two weeks ago, the one where they cater the dinner for the nonprofit, was especially timely in light of the work happening here on this blog this week. Aside from the fundraising aspect, I want to draw your attention to the post-elimination aspect of the episode, where the formerly-chummy contestants break down into a full-on shouting match that nearly becomes a lesbianism-fueled brawl (perhaps she needs “Pocket Shiva,” the calming doll device for lesbians, as recently seen on The Big Gay Sketch Comedy Show).

What you’ll noticed about this argument, and many reality-tv arguments, is the use of Godard’s jump cutting technique, where, to paraphrase the words of the NYT article referenced yesterday, Godard kept only the shots he liked and cut out anything he didn’t like. The jarring result is inspired and brilliant, and was then an entirely new approach to editing.

Now, it keeps the viewer from being bored and allows contestants to appear to be awfully articulate when arguing–or, at least, it preserves for us only their most serious examples of jackassery.

And really—isn’t that what television’s for?

I Know What You Did Last Weekend

Last night I paid money to see a Lindsay Lohan movie and I didn’t even regret it.

I Know Who Killed Me seems to want to be your typical revived-sniff film along the lines of the recent Captivity: young girl in trouble, is tortured by an unseen man for his enjoyment, etc. But it takes some strange twists and turns along the way—one of which lands squarely in absurdity—and is done with a fairly masterful cinematic hand.

Lohan’s performance is actually worth mentioning as she creates two unique personalities in the film: one, a red-drenched stripper in a “gentlemen’s club,” the other a seemingly Anne of Green Gables-ish student of creative writing (!) heading to Yale (!).

Although the plot isn’t what I’d call “gripping” (I’d unraveled the mystery halfway through, and I’m a dumb movie watcher, so if I figure it out–wow.), but what is unique about the film is its use of color. The use of blue and turquoise tones throughout the film becomes almost hypnotic in a strange way as I would say a majority of costumes, sets, and props incorporate the color. It does through mise-en-scene what a film like Traffic did in post production, drenching the actual film stock in a bluish tone to create mood. The effect is otherwordly and wonderful here. The two worlds in the film are constrasted using the blue tone and a harsh, seething red tone.

Along with the color saturation, the director has edited this film well, artfully, in fact, by using fades-to-red and fades-to-blues that are actually fairly haunting. The editing is, at times, effectively jarring as well, giving the overall narrative a choppy, truncated…dare I say amputated?…feel.

Although not what I’d consider a classic of cinema, this film was created by someone who is obviously a student of the classics of cinema, taking notes from both Hitchcock and Almodóvar along the way, and this is probably something I’d watch again, and not just because Lohan’s boyfriend is the film is endearingly earnest and cute, although those are both traits I applaud in a man.

You would also enjoy this film if you’ve ever fantasized about torturing Lindsay Lohan.

On Kaja Silverman’s Notion of "Suture" in Film Theory

Silverman writes, of suture, that the construction of the cinematic film as a physical object creates a kind of anxiety for the viewer. Because the image is bound on all sides by the periphery of the camera, the viewer’s point of view is limited, reduced, fixed. And because the images are “stitched together” on the film stock into a series of images, a form of “suturing” is at play in constructing the narrative.

Suture brings sequence together.

But suture is more than just the way images are connected: it is the space between images that signifies too. Think, for example, of two scenes in a film that occur in different settings with different characters. The moment between them is blank, no connective tissue, no identifying markers.

The audience is thrust out of the narrative for a second, must contend with the questions of “Where am I?” “Who am I? What is going on?” Until the narrative provides its markers to give the audience a clue about where they have landed in the narrative.

If you’ve seen 21 Grams, a film edited completely out of sequence so that the narrative is thematic rather than situational, you understand the anxiety of suture.

The space between images is as significant as the images themselves because it spurs a response in the viewer. We don’t experience “constant suturing” when the film is projected because the images flash by faster than the human eye can perceive them. But narrative sutures are obvious and jarring almost always.

In writing poetic sequences, it’s important to consider the ways in which your audience, too, will experience suture. Good audiences/readers will invariably “fill in” those blank gaps between poems or sections to help them identify “what is happening when.” For poetry, titles take on much of the narrative suturing responsibility for the reader—guideposts along the way—but they aren’t always necessary. In a book like Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, suture is significant and overwhelming as she darts from topic to topic, but the theme of the book and its jump-cut narratives remain in tact. This is because the reader trusts her as a storyteller and commentator. The suturing is built into the book—the jumps are meaningful and understandable.