Author Archives: imagoapero

Blog Post 6 – Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

STRANGER THAN PARADISE

Stranger Than Paradise is an American semi-neorealist black-comedy film by Jim Jarmusch and starred by John Lurie, Richard Edson, and Eszter Balint.  The film is a three-act story that follows the interactions of Willie (Lurie), his cousin Eva (Balint), and Eddie (Edson).

In the first act, Willie’s cousin Eva comes from Hungary and stayed with him for ten days.  At first, Willie made it clear that he didn’t want Eva to be with him but as the days went by, he started to enjoy her company.  The second act started a year later showing Willie and Eddie winning a large amount of money by cheating at a poker game.  They decided to leave the city and go to Cleveland to see Eva.  The last act was when Willie, Eddie, and Eva went to Florida.  Willie and Eddie lost their money and bet in horse race.  Eva decided to return to Hungary and left a note for Willie and Eddie.  Willie and Eddie won all their money back and they returned to their hotel, they found out that Eva left and went to the airport to bring her back.  Willie went on the plane but Eva was not there because Eva decided to take the flight the next day instead.  The ending scene was when Willie saw the plane leave and realized what just happened and Eva returning to their hotel.

Stranger Than Paradise is filmed in a series of shots; the picture fades in and when the scene is over, it fades out to black – the story is told in fragments.  Scenes were contained within a single shot and were separated by short period of black screen.  They were presented in chronological order yet independent from one another.  Most of the shots were static while some followed the characters.  Also, each act was shot in different parts of the United States.  The first act was filmed in New York, the second one in Cleveland, and the last one in Florida.  Though each act was filmed in different location, there was still sameness with the lighting, filtration, and composition of shots.  By filming in black and white, it eliminated the color that was not necessary in the film and giving uniformity throughout the film.

Margaux Paras

Blog Post 7 – Miracle in Cell No. 7 (2013)

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For people who are into watching Korean dramas and movies just like me, stories that are heart wrenching and tear jerking are nothing new. Korean dramas are even known for sad endings and separation.  Out of last year’s movie releases in Korea, one movie stood out among the biggest hits. Nothing is as much of a household name as Miracle in Cell No. 7.  A film by Lee Hwan-kyung and starred by Ryu Seung-ryong, Kal So-won, and Park Shin-hye, it was the 2013 highest grossing film in Korea and third highest grossing domestic film of all time.

The film revolves around the story of a daughter and her father with developmental disability who was imprisoned for false accusations of murder. He was scorned and hated by the society for his perceived crime of not only murdering a child for revenge but also kidnapping and sexual molestation.  Due to the fact that the victim is a daughter of a high-ranking police official, a just and fair investigation was never done.  With the crooked justice system, he ended up incarcerated in cell no. 7 where he met his cellmates who became not only his friends, as they try to sneak in his daughter to the prison, but also a family as they try to help him prove his innocence.  The film is a masterpiece with a lot of heart in a sense that it will make you doubt the existence of humanity as it unravels how unjust and infuriating this world can be, yet in the end it will still revive your faith as it unfolds the hidden and buried goodness in the nature of man as shown on how everyone strived to save an innocent man from a wrongful verdict.

One major factor that contributed to the film’s success is that it prides itself of having A-list actors in its casting roster. The actors who played, as cellmates are veterans and well respected in the industry that even with just the introduction scene of their character in the film, you can already empathize with each and every character.  The gem of the film though are the characters who played Yong-gyu, the father, and Ye-seung, the daughter namely Ryu Seung-ryong and Kal So-won respectively.  Playing a character that has a developmental disability is never an easy job.  It takes a great talent for acting.  What makes Ryu Seung-ryong great is, that he made the character Yong-gyu respectable and someone to look up to amidst his disability.  His acting will not only make the viewers sympathize with the character but empathize.  His portrayal will pull you into the film’s world that you would feel rage that he was deprived of justice and you would feel the desire to set him free and save him from his verdict.  He will make you laugh so hard, get touched with his paternal love and cry your hearts out.  On the other hand, Kal So-Won played the role of a devoted and dependable daughter.  You can really feel the love that her character Ye-seung has for his father. Amidst being a famous child actress having a list of child characters in her credentials, you will only see Kal So-won as Ye-seung, a little girl who is adorable and lovable as she tries to stay with her dad against all odds, yes, all odds; even staying with criminals in the prison.  Even without the backstory of how the father and daughter ended up with just themselves, you are easily convinced that the father and daughter tandem is so deep and their love for each other surpasses any height. That’s how good the chemistry of Ryu Seung-ryong and Kal So-won is.

Margaux Paras

Blog Post 5 – Rurouni Kenshin (2012)

Rurouni Kenshin is a 2012 Japanese film adaptation of the manga of the same name.  Directed by Keishi Otomo and starred by Takeru Satoh (Himura Kenshin) and Emi Takei (Kamiya Kaoru).  The film follows the story of a fictional former assassin, Himura Kenshin during the early Meiji period in Japan.  After participating in the war, Kenshin wandered around Japan to offer protection and help in those in need as atonement for the murders he had committed.

After reading Chapter 5, an East Asian era film is the best film to dissect when it comes to in depth learning of mise-en-scène for they have to be accurate with the set, props, and costumes to correctly display the time and place of the film.

The film started with a war.  They used a blue color and snow to insinuate the tragic event that happened in the war.

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As oppose to the first scene, the next scene is vibrant and full color.  This shows that Japan had fully recovered from the war.  You can see that the military are in white and in order – a sign that they are not in war.

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They also used rain in the film to show Kenshin’s emotions.  In the fighting scene of Kenshin and Saito, the rain symbolizes Kenshin’s frustration when Yamagata, Saito’s boss, asked Kenshin to fight for them and be an assassin again though he already told him that he’s not an assassin anymore.  Then Saito asked him to fight him but Kenshin said that he’s not going to use his samurai to fight.  This escalates Saito’s anger and he made Kenshin use his samurai again.

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On this scene, the rain symbolizes not only the loss of a family but also Kenshin’s remorse.  When Kenshin witnessed the pain that he had caused, he started to be remorseful.  This became the turning point of Kenshin’s life and he decided to quit being an assassin.

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Not only they were meticulous in recreating Tokyo [Japan] but they also paid attention with the costumes to bring each manga characters to life.

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Also, the film has an excellent direction and fight choreography.  With both changing choreography and camera techniques, the actions are kept consistently fresh and exciting.  It’s pretty obvious that they used wireworks for making the characters to move fast; however, they were able to hide it properly making it seems far more real than CG effects.  Also, the music scores that used matches well in all the scenes.  They used Japanese instruments giving a more authentic feel in the film.  Though the production already have a basis on how should the story goes, with proper use of music, color, and design will give an aesthetic overview of the film.

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Margaux Paras

PS. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Blog Post 3 – This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

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After reading Chapter 3, I decided to watch This Is Spinal Tap again.  The first time I watched was during my Topics in American Film class as one of our outside [class] viewing films.  This Is Spinal Tap is an American rock music mockumentary directed by Rob Reiner and starred by Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest.  Reiner appears on the movie as the maker of the documentary.  This film is about the fictional British rock metal band Spinal Tap.  It satirizes the wild personal behavior of rock bands of that time.

Reiner introduces the film by explaining that Spinal Tap has earned “a distinguished place in rock history as one of England’s loudest bands” and then presents the members of the group.  The film follows the band Spinal Tap on their journey to fame and their downfall.  With snippets of their interview with Marty DiBergi (Reiner) to fill in details of their journey.  After having been granted access to the group’s activities, Marty is able to capture the day-to-day grind of what it means to be a rock star on tour.  In addition to concert and behind-the-scenes footage, Marty added the images of the group performing during the mid-60s, and during their heyday in the 70s.

The film is well-made that it resembles a genuine low-budget documentary.  It’s humorous yet dramatic in some level.  The actors were able to present their characters pretty well (to think most of their lines were ad-libbed).  You will laugh at the characters but you will feel a degree of affection for them.

Margaux Paras

Blog Post 1 – (500) Days of Summer (2009)

(500) Days of Summer is an American romantic-comedy film directed by Marc Webb, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.  The story is based upon its male protagonist and his memories of his failed relationship.  Tom (Gordon-Levitt) is an aspiring architect who currently works as a greeting card writer.  Tom met Summer (Deschanel), his boss’ new secretary.  He discovers that they have plenty in common despite that the fact that she is out of his league.  Before long, he fell in love with Summer.  Tom believes in the concept of soulmates and thought he finally found his.  Unfortunately, Summer doesn’t believe in love and isn’t looking for romance.  Tom tries to convince Summer that their love is real while Summer pushes him away whenever he gets too close.  A 500 days of roller coaster ride of their story.

Instead of using a conventional chronological continuity, Marc Webb presented this film in a nonlinear narrative – jumping from various days within the 500-day span of Tom and Summer’s relationship.  The nonlinear structure of the film symbolizes the complex relationship of the pair.  Also, this structure connotes that a person doesn’t remember a certain event in his or her life chronologically.  What fascinates me in this movie is the random musical number.  It happened after Tom and Summer had sex and Tom showed his emotion dancing to Hall & Oates’ You Make My Dreams.  Everyone that he saw on the street was congratulating him for hitting a homerun.  He even hit a ball with a bat to show that he did hit a homerun.  They even use an animation near the end of the musical number to exaggerate his joy.

(500) Days of Summer feels fresh and unique without being too cute.  While no movie could make you love or stop you from loving someone, (500) Days of Summer portrays this experiences accurately.  This is not another love story as Tom says in the opening minutes.  It is a story of love and heartbreak.

Margaux Paras