Brendon Bouzard

Every time I watch Rosemary’s Baby I hate Guy more. John Cassavetes is SO GOOD in that role — in such a non-showy performance, such a self-effacing performance that allows Ruth Gordon and Mia Farrow to steal the spotlight.

Which is not to say they aren’t great, too, but he’s such a creep. Ugh.


Rewatched Rosemary’s Baby last night. Still perfect.

This time I paid close attention to the way Polanski moves between sticks and dolly shots, or sticks and handheld. 

It feels like this: here’s a status quo. AND HERE’S THE FORCE INTERRUPTING THE UNIVERSE. Very sort of standard, classical filmmaking, but instructive.

Apologies for this shitty-quality image, but it illustrates a shot I really love:

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Again, a really classical trope. Hitchcock used this to introduce the mother in Notorious. Sam Mendes uses it to introduce Javier Bardem in Skyfall — that uninterrupted take as the antagonist enters into the frame, then walks into a closeup, or here a close two-shot. The commanding reveal of their power, their intensity. 

I love the balls of just… creating “tannis root.” Not bothering to do research on Satanism or witchcraft and sort of inventing a mythology, and doing so in a way that comes up again and again and becomes one of the dominant narrative elements of the film. It’s a really freeing gesture — give something artificial a life of its own, and we’ll never question it.


Scattered Clouds feels minor compared to Yearning or When a Woman Ascends the Stairs and yet it still has that quality I love about Naruse. His work has been described by Kurosawa as “like a great river with a calm surface and a raging current in its depths.” There’s so much anger — so much bitterly real human drama here, about the changing mores of Japanese society, but the films are about how people can’t break free of the societal ties that bind.

Unlike Ozu, Naruse isn’t nostalgic about the past, isn’t sentimental about the strictures of conservative Japanese society.

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I love the color palette and how it expresses that sort of tension — all muted browns and greys and blues. Is this Naruse’s only color film? It’s the only one I’ve seen and the only one with any availability in the United States. I think he handles color better than Ozu — all those loud splotches of red and yellow that feel so tonally at-odds with Ozu’s larger aesthetic project of minimalism and restraint.


Rewatched Picnic at Hanging Rock — an old fave.

Interesting to think about that film’s structure — unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. The film’s inciting incident happens about forty minutes in, and the film is structured like a delta — sort of streaming outward in multiple directions as we watch how the disappearance of the girls destroys the lives of everyone around them. 

Love the use of superimpositions. Why is this out of style?

I know this is the pretentious side of how I think about film, but it really is fascinating how much this film is cognizant of and explores certain theories of colonialism and geography and the place of women in Victorian society (etc. etc.) 

A lot of this film is shot rather conventionally — moving masters and fairly standard coverage. But the film is so good at articulating things you don’t think film can articulate: the way a teenage girl senses her impending doom, the futility of crawling atop a rock, the feeling of being in an inexplicable trance.


Something it does wrong:

MUSIC.

Which is not to say that what’s here isn’t great — plaintive jazz-guitar peels over strings. But the film falls back on the same two or three musical cues over and over again — the film is so dynamic in evolving the relationships of this family, so good at using camera language and really classical blocking to talk to the way these relationships are evolving. It’s too bad the music — as good as it is — says the same thing over and over again.


Thoughts on shooting in widescreen:

Unless you eschew “taste” (Seijun Suzuki — though I do love his films), shooting in widescreen pretty much demands that you find an appropriate distance from your actors.

Most of the singles in Yearning are shot from the waist up — it feels very heightened when Naruse goes chest-up, and he saves tight close-ups of our protagonist’s face for the two most emotionally heightened moments.

The final shot:

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Also one of the longest lenses used in the entire film, which renders the moment uniquely subjective in a film that, while filled with subjectivity (POV shots, dramatic irony, moments with Reiko and Koji alone), allows us to watch Reiko’s thought process.

The fact that Hideko Takamine’s performance is so stellar helps.

Edited to add: here’s about the closest shot we get in Everything Goes Wrong, which I just realized has a lot of weird thematic resonance with Yearning:


Yearning (1964, Mikio Naruse)

What an amazing film. Just — see it. I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who’s reading it, but just see it and take in the incredible pleasures it has to offer.

Lessons to learn:

1) Such respect for actors — holds close-ups for the major moments, plays much of the film in wide and medium-wide. It’s so simple — very little exaggeration or expressionism on part of the camera. Clean, simple shots and intelligent blocking.

2) Setting up motifs — the film sets up a motif of tracking shots following Reiko and Koji in conversation. And it pays off to beautiful, devastating effect in the final scene.

Something to watch again and again and again.


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Mahler (1974, Ken Russell)

Maybe I’m just a sucker for the music. I dunno, there’s so much that works here for me that the segments that don’t — including one really bizarre tasteless Early Woody Allen sketch of Mahler submitting himself, surreally, to the anti-Semite Cosima Wagner — kinda don’t matter, especially when the ending is so sweet. 

Love the choreography of music and action — such a strong sense for the sweep of the music.

Things to remember for future use:

1) A slow hand-operated zoom (that’s not trying to fake ‘documentary’ style) — feels homemade, feels nervous, feels trepidatious.

2) The climax — a relatively locked-off, 70mm two-shot of Gustav and Alma on the train. Beautifully acted, beautifully earnest stuff.

3) The scene in which Alma makes the world around the Mahler’s country estate “quiet” in order for Gustav to work. Again, choreography of sound and image — the vertiginous shots of traditional folk dance, the zoom into bells of a church bleeding into chimes in Mahler’s music. The match cuts in and out of some of the flashback or fantasy sequences.


Everything Goes Wrong (1960, Seijun Suzuki)

Tawdry little oedipal crime melodrama. 71 minutes long and packs a lot of story into it. As always with Suzuki, directorial wizardry is the star: the narrative’s basically incoherent, save two great dramatic scenes. The best is one in which a young woman throws herself at a businessman to raise money for an abortion — and that encounter is interrupted by the businessman’s mistress and her son. Terrific use of WIDESCREEN, melding speedily-moving, expertly handled master shots that boom, whip-pan, and tilt wildly with strong blocking. 

Things to remember for future use:

1) the insane long-lens moving close-ups. Really radical stuff, very emotionally violent. Probably 100mm+ on 35mm anamorphic widescreen.

2) the killing of Mr. Nanbara — expertly handled. Extraordinarily violent without actually showing anything. The shot that surveys the damage — rapidly moving down and up. Really stellar stuff, would be great to rip off.


Shift of Focus

As part of my preparations for the next few years of work, I’m going to be refocusing this Tumblr a little bit, honing in on key films that are major influences or films I haven’t seen by filmmakers who are major influences. 

You’ll find fewer images and more notes about key scenes, subject matter that interests me, perhaps even shot-by-shot breakdowns. This Tumblr has always existed to bolster my study of film as practice, and this is simply getting deeper into the core of it.

Here are some films and television shows you’ll find analyses of in the coming months:

Written on the Wind
Imitation of Life
Tokyo Drifter
Gate of Flesh
Rosemary’s Baby
Shadow of a Doubt
Marnie
Mulholland Drive
Lost Highway
Suspiria
Lola
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
Germany, Pale Mother
Caught
Le Plaisir
The Reckless Moment
Lola Montes
Don’t Look Back
Deep Red
Black Swan
Take Aim at the Police Van
Jigoku
Repulsion
The Tenant
Le Pont Des Arts
The Piano
Bright Star
Autumn Sonata
Cries and Whispers
Safe
Kuroneko
Hausu
Twin Peaks (series and Fire Walk With Me)
Peeping Tom
All About My Mother
The Night of the Hunter
Carrie
Sisters
White Dog
Vertigo
Shock Corridor
The Red Shoes
Black Narcissus
All that Heaven Allows
The Tarnished Angels
Mad Men (specifically the episodes Dark Shadows, Signal 30, Lady Lazarus, and The Phantom, all from season five)