Monday, June 10, 2024

Recommendations from Reel Adventures 7

For each Reel Adventures at RW Norton Art Gallery in addition to the highlighted movie I provide a few other recommendations. Here are the recommendations from our 7th Reel Adventures.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Reel Adventures 7 - Trivia Questions

Here were the trivia questions from Reel Adventures 7 at R.W. Norton Art Gallery:

• What brand does Alvin smoke?
• What does Brenda say Wisconsin is?
• What does Alvin tell the doctor he’s not paying for?
• What does Alvin say he needs the grabber for?
• What does Pete say Alvin will never make it past?

• Who was President when Alvin was born?
• When did the hitchhiker tell her boyfriend that she’s pregnant?
• What type of sausage does Rose buy?
• What kind of storm is happening when they receive the phone call that Lyle has had a stroke?
• What does Alvin tell Rose that the doctor said?

• What does Danny Riordan tell Alvin he can do in their yard?
• What is the first thing we see Alvin use the grabber for?
• What happened to the Polish boy?
• What explorer do they refer to in the cemetery?
• What does the lady play real loud to try to scare off the deer?

• Who is the famous real-life brother of the “Olsen twins” in the film?
• Name 3 instances in the film where we hear something but don’t see it.
• What was Tom’s character’s name in Twin Peaks?

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Reel Adventures 7 - The Straight Story Talk

Last night's Reel Adventures 7 was another special evening at RW Norton Art Gallery! Much more to come but here was my talk from last night. And last night marked a first as went ahead and announced the film for Reel Adventures 8, the first of the three Godfather movies.
We will share the date of Reel Adventures 8 as soon as we have it.

Here was my talk. It was in two segments. I began by telling the audience the following:

"I explained that we would be talking a good deal about sound in film. And I felt a good way to start was a short video with the first half composed of images with the sound removed and the second half composed of sound with the images removed. For the second half, I asked the audience to close their eyes and try to picture or visualize what they were hearing."

Here's the video I showed:

And then I came back after the second round of trivia and gave the following talk:

"We’ve all asked, have you seen this film? Seen that film? But has anyone ever asked you, have you heard the latest Emma Stone film? Heard the latest Adam Driver film? Chances are they have not.

In the history of film, there have been directors who have exceptionally strong eyes. Their movies visually leap out at you because of the lighting or the framing or the way that the camera gracefully moves across the screen. In this category, I would list first and foremost people like Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Fritz Lang, to name but a very few.

But then you have this other category of director, those directors who actually have stronger ears than eyes. Where it isn’t necessarily an image from one of their films that you remember but rather a certain sound or note from a song or the score. In this group, I would put people like Michael Mann, the French director Robert Bresson and today’s featured filmmaker David Lynch.

We often hear film described as a visual medium. But I take issue with that. Film is actually 50% a visual medium and 50% aural – Image AND Sound.

Let’s look at today’s film so I can show a few examples. And let me just clarify, when I say Lynch has a strong ear, I’m not saying he has great taste in music even though his collaboration with the composer Angelo Badalamenti is one of the most talked about in the history of the medium. What I’m specifically speaking about is how Lynch approaches sound. What we hear when music is not playing, when the characters are not speaking, the way everything else we see or don’t see onscreen sounds.

Let’s take a look at the film. There are three distinct moments where Lynch lets us hear but not see what’s happening.


So why does Lynch give us the information in this way?

Most directors would simply cut to Alvin falling or cut to Rose on the phone learning about Uncle Lyle’s stroke or cut to the lady crashing into the deer. But Lynch gives us the information differently.

Since we began Reel Adventures, one thing I have been trying to get all of us to do a little more as viewers is ask why. Why did the director make the choices he or she made and how do those choices support the vision they’re trying to convey.

And when we ask why, we never know for sure. We’re simply trying to think a little more deeply, analyze a little bit more, in hopes of uncovering layers that make the entire moviegoing experience more satisfying.

So why do we think Lynch might have shot these three sequences in this way:

First explanation.

He is an independent filmmaker and did not have the resources to actually film the scenes so he just had us hear them instead. That’s a hypothesis but probably unlikely as, aside from the car crash, they were fairly easy scenes that could be filmed pretty quickly.

Second explanation.

Lynch found the scenes fairly unimportant and therefore unnecessary to film. Again, probably not the reason, since the phone call and even Alvin’s fall on some level, are the incidents that set the entire plot in motion.

So, why?

My guess is Lynch withholds our ability to see these moments because he believes that our ears are actually more creative than our eyes. That our imaginations are more engaged when we hear something than when we see something.

Think about when you were a kid. When you were afraid and heard a sound at night and how your mind would start creating images of what it thought you might have heard. This is what Lynch is up to, in my opinion.

Lynch is aware that our imaginations are unleashed when we hear but can’t see. And that’s the effect I think he is interested in recreating when he withholds our ability to see here.

When we hear something but don’t see it, we have to do all the work ourselves to create the picture. And often times, the picture we create is more expressive, more complex than the actual image.

And so I’ll leave with this to conclude. I’ve insisted on the word “why” today and throughout our Reel Adventures so far. And I’ve explained that I think why Lynch chooses not to show us certain scenes is because he wants to spark our emotions and engage our imaginations. But why does he want to do this?

Filmmakers want the moviegoing experience to be interactive. They want their viewers to become involved. Some filmmakers attempt to accomplish this by trying to make us feel the emotions of their actors. Others do it by making us try to figure out their plots. And then others, like Lynch here, do it essentially by making us at times make the images ourselves.

And, so to me, that is the why.

Thank you."