Wednesday, 08 April 2009

Justifying comics as legitimate objects of study, Part II: HELL STALKS ON FOUR PAWS! I concluded the previous post with a nod to William Blake as someone who explored the word-picture relationship and I will get to that, but first I should clarify a few issues I raised without fully addressing yesterday: Vance rightly noted that titles of paintings were often left to benefactors and history, so putting that much interpretive weight on such thin ice might not be the best idea. I agree. I fully intend on leaving this series of posts immersed and hypothermic. JPool noted that treating paintings like panels could be a category error and Miriam and Gene implicitly agreed, suggesting I might be better served by a Hogarth or one of his ilk. I agree. But I chose to go with Caravaggio and Blake over Giotto and Hogarth because I wanted to focus attention on an individual image before I moved to discussing the interaction between multiple images arrayed in narrative. Andrew liked the arrows and will be disappointed with this post. Now that I have well and cleared my throat, let us venture forward to William Blake and "The Tyger" from Songs of Experience (1794). It reads: Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare sieze the fire? And what shoulder, & what art. Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears, And watered heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? Where to start? Should I go full Keats and spend a day on each stanza? Probably . . . especially when you consider that 1) his manuscript looked like this: Because 2) he spent tedious years perfecting the placement of every word on every line. Maybe I'll declare next week Blake Week and do just that. But tonight I want to focus on the general impression of feline bad-assedness created by the text of the poem. What we have here is a TYGER! MADE OF FIRE FORGED BY DREAD HANDS AND SHARP TOOLS OF METALLURGY TO HAVE DREAD PAWS. So FEROCIOUS is this FIRE TYGER! that the poet cannot even imagine THE ABOMINABLE FOUNDRY in which SOME DEMENTED LORD created SO GRIM A BEAST. TRIGGER WARNING: IF YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO LOOK INTO THE BRUTAL MAW OF HELL ITSELF DO NOT CONTINUE READING THIS POST BECAUSE I AM ABOUT TO POST THE PICTURE OF THE FIRE TYGER! BLAKE INCLUDED WITH THE POEM. SERIOUSLY IT'S WAY TOO MUCH...
A scene analysis of the 9/11 analogue in Bryan Singer's Superman Returns Being the fourth in a series. Earlier installments can be found here: Batman Begins (first glimpse of Batman-as-classic-horror-monster at the docks: depth of field, continuity editing, eyeline match) The Dark Knight (interrogation scene: focus, lighting, framing, shot selection) The Dark Knight (fundraiser scene: camera movement, blocking, mise-en-scene) If it seems like there's a lot of narrative sans analysis in there, that's because there is. One assignment for Tuesday is that the students need to select one of the frames I didn't analyze and describe its formal properties (framing, lighting, &c.). (The moments when I narrate the plot are likely the most compelling for those not interested in Film Theory 101 because I wrote them plenty funny.) Unlike my earlier posts I skipped a lot of frames. Why? Because director Bryan Singer is a loon whose camera only stops panning once in this entire sequence and there are only so many hours in the day/seconds in your attention span. We begin with a computer simulation of what's supposed to happen: Singer provides a template his audience can refer to. (Note that in the simulation the camera is above the plane. This will be important.) He pulls the camera back into a close-up on the nice stewardess lady who's explaining in her nice-stewardess-lady voice what's happening in the simulation: This would be a good time to mention that Singer films this scene like the obsessive former film student he is. The camera never stops moving. Never. The only reason this close-up doesn't become a medium close-up is because he cuts to Lois Lane asking a question. At this point the camera glides slowly and fluidly—not unlike the plane on the simulation—creating a sense of constant motion without any excitement. Then he cuts to Lois with a workmanlike reverse shot: But it's an odd reverse shot. Lois meets the stewardess's eye but there's no eyeline match because the stewardess responds to everyone on the plane: Because viewers expect eyeline matches in shot/reverse shot sequences, the stewardess's response feels like a snub. Singer violates convention in order to evoke an emotional response from the audience and does so with great efficiency: he doesn't need for Lois to look snubbed or say she feels snubbed because the editing took care of that for him. He then reverse cuts back to Lois: Who never appears to break eye contact with the stewardess. Keeping the one-sided match makes Lois seem determined. With his next cut he reveals something we had no reason to suspect: that this shot sequence has a source in the scene itself. This has a mildly unsettling effect. Singer tells the audience that he's willing to withhold critical information. What we see may be focalizing through the needs of a particular character (the network cameraman) or those of the director (Singer himself) or both. I say "both" because Singer immediately cuts to a point of view shot from the cameraman's perspective as he whip pans from Lois to the stewardess: The camera stops and...

Become a Fan

Recent Comments