Week 8: Response to Manakamana (2013)

Watching this film, I have to admit that I fast forwarded many times, finding anything “unique and exciting” that might happen. The two-hour film basically only consists multiple cable rides taking different groups of people, about ten minutes each ride, to and back from Manakamana, the sacred temple in Nepal, which we never have the chance to even catch a glimpse of. An interesting technique used is that different ride scenes which were not supposed to happen after one another, are connected by being cut together their completely dark moments of passengers getting on and off (but in the end it is somewhat chronological, people go down at last after they went up first).

However, the sounds are really well done. In the stations, the sounds outside of the cables are emphasized; outside in mid-air, the sounds inside the cables are amplified. Meanwhile, there is always this undergoing ambient sound or engine noise throughout the film which kind of make the silences more awkward and disturbing in a sense.

Not sure if I’m over-interpreting but I think the story has something more to tell than it shows.

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Week 6: Response to The Exiles

The author said in his masters thesis paper about the film, that he came up with the idea of making this film to portrait the reality of life, because he felt that few films achieved this. But the interesting point is, when you are trying to make something realistic, the process of “making” it makes it impossible to look real. Just about three minutes after the film started, Amber pressed the pause button and said, “wait a second, is this a documentary or a film?” We discussed a bit and decided that this is “a film trying to look like a documentary.” Often, the voice over doesn’t sync with the characters’ lips movements. And some scene-to-scene transitions are a bit choppy which could have been better. However, we all agreed that there are many beautiful compositions throughout the film.

One thing I kept my focus on was the expressions and emotions in the characters’ eyes. I could really see the grudgingly laziness and helplessness inside the main female character who was pregnant and just hoping to have a nice family. I can see the thoughtfulness inside the fat buddy’s (forgot his name) eyes and the difference between before and after he received a letter from his parents, and perhaps that was also the reason he couldn’t control his temper afterwards because he realized he was messed up. He walked back “home” on the other side of the street, not walking together with the drunken players. He was also drunk though. But what else could he do? The often stilled faces of the actors reminded me of the still faces of the Native Indians in the beginning of the film. There was nothing they could do, so why even try?

I kind of wish if the author recap the captions of the Native Indians somewhere near the end of the film. The film started out rather anticipating with all the still images and the continuous drum-beating tempo, and then it went on to the main story which I thought to be fine. But the later half of the film just seemed a bit boring with the same things happening again and again: drinking, smoking, gambling, getting high, and being lonely. The two reasons that kept me watching were perhaps first, I wanted to find out the people’s relationships with each other, and second, without any specific highrise or peak of the plot, the flow of the story just kept going on and never seemed to stop, as if saying their tragic lives were to be lived on forever.

All in all, I think The Exiles is really a cool form or way of telling a story. And it’s good of the author to express in this thesis paper about the problems he encountered during this experimental film, where he also tried not to “consciously make the actors play out something” within a consciously tailored outline.

Week 5: Response to Nobody’s Business

I really couldn’t pause Nobody’s Business while watching it. This documentary is appealing in its unique way of having interviews including the interviewer, combing different sound and images and even several other “related” characters in order to tell the story, a story which is about multiple small stories surrounding Oscar, the main interviewee, the father of Alan the interviewer. There are interactions inside the documentary itself and then there is the interaction between the documentary and the audience. I just really love it.

Before realizing I was jotting down the times when the background music of the documentary became an orchestra tuning (only the string instruments though). Whenever this music comes up, the scenes are always in black and white with a sea of people standing; before one can see clearly of a person’s face, that face just goes away with while another sea of people. The first appearance of this music is at the very beginning of the film; Oscar is normal among in a world full of people. The second time was when the scene changed from Russia or Poland back to America, like the overture before unknown movements of a symphony. The third time was when the son showed pictures of army back in the past, which Oscar said could relate more to than his own family. The fourth time was when Oscar said that he worked in a woman sports wear company. How welcoming the women were compare to Oscar’s stubborn. I couldn’t recall the fifth time. Finally, the sixth time was when trying to trace back the relations with other cousins, a sea of curious-looking people. They may be strangers, and they may be not. The six events may have nothing to do with Oscar, or us, but maybe they do.

“You want me to make up stories? I really don’t know.”

Perhaps it’s for the effects but I do think the father was right when he brought up “the areas of respect.” Once or twice is enough. Keep asking the things people don’t want to say about is just disrespectful, at least that’s how I feel. You may have the right to ask, but people don’t have the obligation to tell you. This technique of asking again and again will be that the audience will start to become disrespectful to the interviewer, while wanting to know more. It’s paradoxical.

“What’s important to you is not what’s important to me.”

Week 3: Assignment #3 (A different perspective on Assignment #2)

Type: 360 video

Partner: Yufeng (Mars) Zhao

Link of video:

How is it different from assignment #2:

  • 360 video – This time we shot with a Richo theta 360 camera. The scenes include movements from every angle, which people can see how things interact with others and how events happen one after another.
  • Audio – Last time we had a microphone on the camera, so we didn’t use the recordings we had with Tascam. However, since the sound quality of the 360 camera is not really good, we had tascam record the sounds of every scene, and then sync them together with plural eyes. (We use a light stand to hold the camera and put the tascam right underneath the stand for most of the times.)
  • the content – Assignment #2 focus on the workers inside the construction site; assignment #3 focus on the people outside and around the construction site. Both are what make this construction site.
  • different perspective – We added normal 2d footages to a 360 concept, where we have a wall of many footages altogether, which is super cool.
  • movements – “Study of a space” sounded like a still video will different still images to us at first, like what we did for the assignment 2. However, Mars suggested that this time we could use movements to depict the environment, literally like touring the audience through the entire thing, which worked out really successfully.
  • color correction: Last time we shot at an early morning so the lightning was always changing, which required us to use the color correction. This time we could not really control it with the 360 camera, and they were all the same, so we didn’t use a lot.

Other thoughts:

The video itself is very blur. And when we try to input two or more videos in the same frame, because the total quality is set at 1080, all the videos will divide up the quality, which makes a 4k video look worse than lower quality videos.

This was our first time shooting and editing 360 video. We self-taught ourselves by watching online tutorials and just tried out with different approaches. The whole process was really fun!

Week 3: Response to Kings of Nowhere

I think “floating” is the main concept throughout the documentary. It is the first thing that came out on the screen, eyes with or without a direction of a man’s, floating in a boat crossing the water. Never seen him again, like the people who left this region, thinking that staying here will become rotten as this deserted place, and that blackouts and murders are just unpredictable. Life is impermanent. The late night when a man is directing the boat and telling stories of another man of madness – is the most impressing floating scene to me. The playing/changing of lights are doing really great works here. Sometimes there is an overall dim light around the whole area, but sometimes there is only a streetlight shining dazzling from the man’s back. Sometimes you see the man’s face, and sometimes you don’t. This tactic adds to the mysterious and darkness of the stories. It is hard to identify with the stories being told, since they are all so “abnormal” in other places though normal to the locals, but the angles of scenes are so closed-up that you instead identify with the film producer who was doing the work of shooting, as if we were there, right on the boat, recording every piece and movement of the man’s mouth and spoken words.

I wouldn’t say that the directions of shooting on the boat did a “great” job as well since there were times I wasn’t really sure what the angles were trying to tell, like when the screen just show random scenery for a long period of time (someone answered in class that this may show the slow pace of the place). But it did a “good” job, to be fair, in giving the audience many different aspects to see: from the angle of the bow of the boat facing at the boatmen, from the bow facing forward, from inside the boat facing the boatmen pulling the ship on shore…there are already numerous angles solely sitting on the bow. The opening scene was confusing, though, where the focus on the man was suddenly blurred out. Meanwhile I found the angle toward animals watching straightly in the screen was very spirited and soulful. All of these above were shown during “floating,” during when you feel like the people, and you, are being watched by the animals, the violent soldiers, the empty houses, the wandered souls, and the God.

At the very end of the documentary the audience are told about the new murder. Wow. That means we were also floating through time and space when watching the film in a classroom in 2017.

I wonder where the man in the first scene went, the one on a boat, floating…

“We’re floating in the universe.”

“If I keep telling then it is going to be morning.”

Week 2: Response to Moana with Sound

I stayed until the end of the movie and I had to say that Moana with Sound is really an amazing work! The original shooting are amazing, and the fact that all the sounds are post-sync with the images just makes it more amazing. I was especially drawn away by the laughter of the people in the movie. Although there are times when the soundtrack doesn’t 100% fit with the image, which is actually quite often, their laughter is strangely attractive to me. Different kinds of laughter at different scenes including the little boy having fun in the water and the most unforgettable, the female lead’s laughter when she is with her husband. Laughing is probably the hardest part to sync since there are speaking parts embedded in them, and you have to laugh “genuinely.” Those scenes are necessary to the entire movie because it shows that they enjoy their life full of hard work including catching fish, collecting coconuts, holding ritual events, and so on. The life style has become a part of themselves, and each single event seems to connect with other events and represents the repetitive living mode, while their laughter is the lubricant in between. Therefore, they are really successful laugh scenes which gave me the sense of happiness.

At last I would like to add that I really appreciate the spirit of Monica Flaherty which she took on the “responsibility” of adding sounds to her father’s original filmed movie, to make it more complete.

Week 1: Surface, Depth, and Movements

Link to the video: https://drive.google.com/a/nyu.edu/file/d/0B2_kfdDj8kGwb1Y5cVZPOWdsY1E/view?usp=sharing

Concept of this series: surface, depth, and movements – Interlock of Vision and Reality

Filming Location: 1933 Shanghai Slaughterhouse

surface – Once a slaughterhouse, the 1933 building has become a tourist attraction. Standing outside of the building, what I see from the window is a cigarette shop and the reflection of the flow of cars and people behind me. The people at the bar in the shop look like they are sitting in a car. An old building in the reflection makes it more of a complicated scene of time and space.

depth – I want to show that when speaking about ‘depth,’ we may not be standing on the side of looking at things representing ‘depth,’ for example: a hole. Rather, we may be standing right exactly in the scene and looking up from the deep, deep depth. I imagine myself as a cow ready to be killed, lining up under the surface and looking up, only to see people walking past smiling.

movements – I captured another scene of the cigarette shop, this time from the angle of inside the slaughterhouse facing their display window. From here I can still see the shop but vaguely. The non-stop smoke blurred out the fusion of two sides of a glass window.