Saturday, January 7, 2023

Reel Adventures

Here was our trivia and my talk from our first Reel Adventures at R.W. Norton Art Gallery. Can't wait to do it again this Friday for Hitchcock's Rear Window!

• Who do the glasses belong to that are found in the Mulwray’s pond?
• What trick of the trade does Gittes use to find out what time of night Mulwray left the reservoir?
• Gittes uses another trick of the trade when he first meets Yelburton. What does he take from his office?
• What department did Hollis Mulwray work for?
• A long take is a shot without any _________?

• What narrative device does Polanski use to demonstrate that Ms. Mulwray is nervous during the scene when Gittes starts talking about the connection between her father and her husband?
• What is the name of the club where Gittes goes to meet up for lunch with Noah Cross?
• What does Gittes borrow from the desk clerk at the Hall of Records?
• What do they beat Gittes with in the orange grove?
• What does Gittes do to Evelyn’s car to make it easier to follow her?

• What is one of the lines of voiceover from the film?
• To emphasize the point that the audience is seeing everything from Gittes’ perspective, Polanski often put the camera here while filming Jack Nicholson.
• Like a chorus in a song that the song comes back to, to give the song a certain structure, it is not uncommon in films to repeat certain stylistic gestures. In Chinatown, there is the repetition of the sound of a car horn in the final scene. In what scene, did we first hear the car horn honking?
• In what Los Angeles neighborhood does Gittes take a ride on a boat?
• What is playing on the radio during the scene at the morgue?

• In what Parish was one of the main actor’s previous characters famously killed?
• John Hillerman who plays the character of Yelburton would go on to have a starring role in a hit 1980’s TV show. Name the show.
• Detective fiction that began appearing in the late twenties often served as source material for the movies that became film noir. Hammer is to Spillane as Marlowe is to Chandler as Spade is to this author.

I wanted to welcome everyone. My name is Jeffrey Goodman. I know many of you but for those I don’t, I’ve directed a few movies and spent a countless amount of time watching and thinking about film.

I wanted to thank Lewis and Ruth Norton and Emily Feazel who have been open to the idea of a film club from the first day it came up and who have been instrumental in making tonight happen.

I have a few things I’d like to say and then I’ll come back after the next round of trivia to answer any Chinatown or film-related questions you might have.

Just before I begin, I’m curious how many of you had never seen Chinatown before this event? Raise your hand if you could. Wow okay.

Last Tuesday, French-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard passed away at the age of 91.
Godard is considered a massive figure in the history of cinema and his contributions would take hours to discuss. But if I were to single out the one thing he should most be remembered for, it is his efforts to get people to accept and view the medium of cinema as an artform that at times could be as artistic as ballet, painting, classical music, sculpture or any of the other high arts.

And so it seems fitting that we’re here today at an art gallery for Norton’s first-ever film club.

If, as Godard says, certain films are more than mere entertainment then there should be some sort of gain in looking more deeply at them.

So, Chinatown.

It is a film I would claim is of high artistic value. All of its components – hair, make-up, wardrobe, set design, framing, lighting, locations, sound, score, casting and camerawork – are overseen by master crafts people working together to make us believe we are in another time and place.

In fact, that is one of the most challenging aspects of film. Making something that we believe. And hiding all the thousands of pieces that go into making a finished film. One effective way of hiding the apparatus in film is what I’d like to focus on for the next few minutes and it’s the long take.

As all of you know, film is made up of a bunch of pieces, or “cuts” that are edited together to tell a story. The average number of cuts in a film is about 1,050. If films average 1,050 cuts and the average film is 120 minutes long, then there is on average a cut every 8.75 seconds.

What the long take does is attempt to illustrate a moment visually in a longer timeframe than normal without resorting to a cut. Filmmakers use long takes for many reasons but often it is to preserve the illusion that what it is in front of us is actually taking place rather than fabricated by a countless number of crafts people.

There have been several very famous long takes in the history of cinema. There is the three minute long take as Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco enter the Copacabana nightclub in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, the nearly 4 minute opening sequence in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film Rope where Hitchcock attempts to make us believe that we are watching an entire film without a single cut.

I won’t digress too far on this. But films used to only be made on film. And the magazines that went on the film cameras at most could hold a 1000 feet of film or about 11 minutes. Therefore, until digital cameras came about, it was technically impossible to film an entire movie in one long take.

There are very complicated, highly choreographed long takes where the camera is moving around a large amount of space without a cut and then there are other more modest long takes like this one in Chinatown. This long take in Chinatown lasts a minute or nearly 7x longer than your average shot.

And cut.

So my parting words are this:

I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of watching films by lifting the curtain on how movies achieve their magic. I believe the opposite in fact - that if you learn more about how movies are made, know more about what you are watching, you will ultimately feel deeper enjoyment for the entire experience.

That is my hope from these Reel Adventures we have begun.

We really appreciate everyone coming out, hope you’re having fun so far and that we can do more of these in the future.

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