Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Film Noir: Crime, German Expressionism & Femme Fatales

There was one Lit Talk session which was particularly interesting.

Mr Lim, our Philosophy teacher, presented on his favorite philosophy book while Ms Leuar presented on Film Noir, which captivated my attention completely. 

Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression, which is another topic I'll be studying in Advanced History.

Nightlife is an aspect of city life that has always fascinated me. Quoting from my World Scholars' Cup Special Area resource in 2012, "It is fitting that electricity, the invention that gave rise to modern nightlife, also helped five rise to cinema, and to its depictions of night in city." That brings me to film noir, a genre which unfolds in dark city settings. As critic Roger Ebert put it, they are full of

"locations that reek of the night, of shadows, of alleys, of the back doors of fancy places, of apartment buildings with high turnover rate, of taxi drivers and bartenders who have seen it all."

Film noirs portrayed an urban landscape of ruthless individualism and stories of characters who lived in crowded places but led lonely lives.

Ms Leuar told us about the origins of film noir in German expressionist filmmakers such as Fritz Lang.

And that was when a picture of a sultry woman dressed in a sexy skin-tight outfit complete with a cigarette and stiletto came onto the screen in the Heritage Gallery-- the infamous and timeless icon of a femme fatale.

I have an fascinating thought that I'd like to share: doesn't film noir seem like the modern-day interpretation of the Gothic genre? Both have gory undertones with thrilling stories and similar motifs of darkness, loneliness and death (in certain cases). 

Since I'll be studying Gothic literature in Term 3 with Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, perhaps I can make more connections then. 

Here's an interesting article I found, I will put the link down in case I want to go back to it in the future:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Because Titanic Is More Than Just A Tragedy

I've been plagued by all the romantic possibilities surrounding Titanic, which ought to be just a tragedy, after watching James Cameron's film of the same name (because how can you ever forget Jack?). 

Strangely enough, I've never considered looking into more interpretations of this oceanic disaster until the lesson when we first did a compare & contrast study on Hardy's Convergence of The Twain (which I like very very much) and Mahon's After the Titanic

Since I didn't manage to attempt a comparative essay on these two poems, let me jot down my thoughts here. 

I absolutely adore the way Hardy portraying the tragedy as one of the whole mankind, focusing on the scale, whilst Mahon chose to show the depth of the tragedy by illustrating it as the tragedy of the person. 

Convergence is narrated by an omniscient observer who takes on a slightly critical tone, seeing past the personal sufferings of the people aboard the Titanic the night it sunk, instead, rebuking the Titanic for it being a fruit of humanity's propensity to indulge in excessive luxury and the ultimate display of human vainglory. I liked the thread of a higher power being at work, referred to as the "Spinner of the Years", almost reminiscent of one of my favorite idioms: Man plans & God laughs. I don't feel sorrowful over the Titanic's sad demise by the end of the poem, but rather I am oddly comforted by how the demise was probably preordained and could not have been stopped anyway. 

The collision between the pride of men and the power of nature "jars two hemispheres", so monumental that perhaps it cracked the complacency of the civilized world. This offers a rebuke stronger than Mahon's sympathetic portrayal, maybe a warning to humans "not to be so proud". 

In comparison, After the Titanic seems more personal and much less unique in perspective. 

However, to be frank, I might be biased since I am an ardent supporter of Romanticism and Hardy's poem is right up my alley! A shout-out here to William Wordsworth whom Hardy was inspired by :)