I’m Not There – MATEO, Ina

            Six artists, different facets, one persona.

            I’m still dumbfounded when I discovered that all the main characters in I’m Not There are portraying Bob Dylan. I tried to fit Bob Dylan into one of the characters, only to realize that I cannot fully do so. These six characters act out different stages of Bob Dylan’s life, and so we cannot sum up Bob Dylan in just one character.

            I still can’t believe how star-studded this film is. Well, I guess it’s a good justification for a biography-ish movie of Bob Dylan. I’ve only seen Christian Bale and Heath Ledger together in The Dark Knight. And here they are in one movie, although they barely have a shot together. We have Richard Gere as well in the cast.

I found myself wondering why of all the actors who played as Bob Dylan, Cate Blanchette was even casted. Why her, of all the actors available in Hollywood? They had Richard Gere, Christian Bale, and Heath Ledger star in the film. Why need a woman to play Bob Dylan? Although it might not really be symbolic of anything as it might have been just a pure preference of the director, I still can’t help thinking about it. There must be something that Cate Blanchette can do that no other male actors are capable of. Or is the director trying to convey something, in the persona of Cate?

Cate Blanchette acted out naturally the hyper-masculine facet of Bob Dylan. Playing as Jude Quinn, she managed to pull off a man’s character. It was only her voice that gave her away—she’s still a woman.  It seemed that Cate was trying to break the stereotype being placed on women, that they couldn’t be a drinker and a player like Jude Quinn. Cate’s portrayal appeared break the usual definition of women—finesse, gentle, etc. Also, the way Cate acted, as Jude, seemed to stereotype males like how women were being stereotyped. She was able to easily act out a male role, thanks to placing men into stereotype.

Having six different artists with different art play one person, it still amazes me how they intertwine in the film. Yes, not all of them appear together in one shot. They don’t have a scene with two or more characters being present, mingling with each other. Exception goes to the scene in Riddle Town, wherein Billy The Kid meets Woody Gunthrie, although they did not interact. But it is pretty clear that they are representative of the different stages in the life, if not career, of Bob Dylan. The Riddle Town scene can be interpreted as a looking back scene, where the old self reflects on the young self. It’s like reminiscing the journey to that current state.

Music will always entice me to watch a film. I’m Not There does not only offer music by Bob Dylan. It also presents the orchestration of his life through different facets. From the start to the next verse, to the chorus until the bridge, and finally until the last note of the song—it all made an impact. I would like to see this film again, given the opportunity. 

8 1/2 – MATEO, Ina

I myself wondered why the movie is entitled 8 ½.  I tried looking for clues in the film, but to no avail. I tried reading between the lines, might have been some sort of symbolism, but I did not find any.

That’s when I’ve learned that the film is titled as such because it is the 8 ½th film of Fellini. No other symbolic meaning. The title sounds pretty personal, if one will look into it. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, if the film appears to be autobiographical to the life of the man behind the film. 

I find the opening scene intriguing and at the same time interesting. Guido is stuck in a car with smoke coming out inside the vehicle. Everyone simply watches as he tries to get out of the car. At that point, I thought to myself why is it that nobody cares at all. They could have at least lent him a hand to help him escape. Then I thought that maybe it’s a matter of bystander effect. Since a lot of people are watching, no one will think about helping him since they will the mentality that someone else would come to his aid. A moment later I realized that my assumptions are wrong.  The opening scene has something else to say.

Besides the title, the opening scene strengthens the personal tie of the director, Federico Fellini, to the film. That scene represents the pressure imposed to him. It’s not that nobody wanted to help him, but it is the eyes of those people that have caused the smoke to come out. They are expecting something great from Guido. But Guido wants to get out from that burden.

Although the film discusses other heavy issues, such as Catholicism and marriage, it is the artistic presentation that I find interesting. It’s like we are seeing the process of filmmaking but at the same time, we can see a glimpse of the life of the director. We can feel the struggle of Guido as the producer envisions the success that the former’s film will attain once it is released.

8 ½ is somewhat similar to the previous movie, Inland Empire. Besides tackling marriage in the film, it resembles the way the real artist slips into a character. How Fellini connects to the character of Guido is more or less similar to how Nikki identifies with Sue. Also, in one way or another, Guido is like Barton Fink. Both experienced the pressure of producing something great and both fell into what many would call mental block. The difference between Guido and Barton is that Guido was not able to produce anything at the end, while Barton was able to come up with something.

At the end, if I get it right, the pressure on Guido overwhelmed him that he decided to take his life. Here we see that even a person as celebrated as Guido has only so much to take when it comes to expectation. He took his life during the press conference. It seemed to me that he wanted to show the people around him what made him to be like that.

Unlike Masculin, Feminin, I managed to see through the whole film without getting too bored. I prefer 8 ½ to Masculin, Feminin, although they are both considered great films. My lack of appreciation for black and white films might still be interfering with my viewing experience, but 8 ½ is something interesting that overpowers that preference of mine. 

Inland Empire – MATEO, Ina

            I came to realization that I indeed am a shallow movie watcher. I think I’m just taking things being thrown to me at face value. Perhaps it’s because I just wanted to indulge in the films for fun, and not make my mind work too much to analyze things. But I had a different experience with Inland Empire.

            So far, Inland Empire has been the most difficult film I have ever seen. Not just in the class screening, but also in my film experience outside class. But this is not the first time that I have seen a metafilm, so it’s not really that difficult for me to follow the flow of the story. What makes the film difficult to understand is the symbolisms being implied by different elements.

            Although different in plot, I think Inland Empire can be compared to Living in Oblivion (dir. Tom DiCillo). Many people would probably have this connected to Inception but I’m afraid I haven’t seen that film. Might as well just settle with Oblivion than with nothing.

Inland and Oblivion both have the premise that they are about filming. Inland follows the story of Nikki and her promising comeback to the industry. Oblivion, on the other hand, tells about the hardships and desperations that an aspiring film director went through with shooting a low-budgeted production.  Both films make it not so easy to distinguish which one is really happening and which one should be considered a dream or fiction. In Inland Empire, it was very difficult to distinguish the scenes that Nikki is really experiencing from what she experiences as Sue. In Oblivion, some scenes come beautifully, but which one is being filmed and which is not can really be confusing.

            I found the scene wherein an old lady visited Nikki at her home creepy. Besides having the shot too close to the face, the old lady herself was creepy. She was like a witch putting curses on people who disturbed her peace. The confusing part was the scene when the old lady told Nikki about her upcoming project. I got lost with her words that Nikki won’t be sure if it was yesterday, today, or tomorrow. It made me wonder if that scene was just part of Nikki’s recollection or the whole scene was really a déjà vu.

            Inland Empire might be an insight to Nikki’s personal life. Although many times she fully assumed the personality of her role in the movie, it just proves her current state. Speaking of her marriage to an influential and rich man, Nikki might have been feeling suppressed. Maybe she felt that she was nothing compared to her husband, and so the comeback movie that she has been wishing for would make her think otherwise. She must be disturbed by the fact that her husband is taking over with her life. Sue became her getaway to break-free from her husband.

            How Nikki became attached to her role as Sue somewhat shows the state of her marriage to her husband. Love is not there anymore, if it ever became present in the first place. In one scene, we saw how Nikki would say to Bill, as played by Devon, that she is Nikki and not Sue. We see here the desperation to be loved and to love, although she is committing a crime: adultery.

            The icebreaker of the movie is the scene wherein Nikki’s role, Sue, was dying. She lied down in between a black beggar and two homeless couple. With the typical Black accent, the beggar told Sue, “you dyin’ woman.” The dark mood presented throughout the film was put into a halt after this line. It was a relief from the heavy story flow, but at the same time it’s the climax of the film. She was dying, and they were not doing anything.

            It was like a rollercoaster ride after watching Inland Empire. There were parts when you just enjoy and appreciate it. And there were parts as well when you wish you could get off the ride fast. I had a hard time understanding some parts of the film, but the ride was something I enjoyed. 

Eyes Wide Shut – MATEO, Ina

            Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut, tells about the story of two couple with their relationship on the rock and the winding road before they went back into reconciliation.

            Prior to this film, I’ve only seen Tom Cruise in action films like Mission Impossible, Knight and Day, and War of the Worlds. For me, Eyes Wide Shut presented a refreshing role of Tom Cruise since he did not do any stunt in the film. He was an ordinary doctor trying to live an ordinary married life.

            I found the pacing of the plot interesting. Although the film run for more than two hours, the whole turn of events happened in more or less three days. Most of the important events happened during the second day. At one point it made me wonder how can a person, considering that he or she was active during day, could last almost 24 hours without getting any rest. I felt discomfort when I realized that indeed many things happened during the second night.

The main problem in the film is the topic of infidelity, and partly jealousy I guess. In Alice’s case, she’s uncomfortable that many women seemed to be attached to her husband. She feels that it would be unfair if her husband could enjoy all the company of other women, and that she could not do so with another man. So come the opportunity during the Christmas Eve party, she danced the night away with another man.

Here’s the case of Bill. In some sense, I think the act of Bill Harford to have an affair with anyone, just anyone, is to be equal to his beloved wife. It’s not something that Bill really desired, as if he was sick with his wife. It’s not even necessarily revenge, since Alice has been committing adultery in her head only. Bill never cheated on his wife, as he had said earlier in the film. But when Alice confessed about her dream affair with a naval officer they met during a vacation, Bill became confused. He felt outraged yet at the same he felt like holding back. For sure, he doesn’t know how to react since all along that was the last thing he expected that would happen to their relationship.

            Bill was offered every opportunity to have an affair with any woman. There was the family friend’s daughter (who was engaged to another man) who suddenly confessed her feelings for Bill. Domino, the hooker whom he met down the street, could have been another chance. The orgy would have been the best chance. But although Bill pushed for such an activity, he still restrained himself whenever he recalls his wife. For sure, he was disturbed by the fact that his wife’s fantasy has been putting their relationship on the rock. But it wasn’t enough for him to seriously commit a crime that would definitely ruin their marriage.

            It is also important to note that the password to enter the house where the orgy conducts their ritual is “Fidelio”. Coming from Latin, “Fidelio” literally means “I who is faithful”. It seems to be ironic since the orgy serves as the rendezvous of those who have affairs. Also, Fidelio, as mentioned in the film, is the name of Beethoven’s only opera. Beethoven’s Fidelio tells about a wife who disguises herself in order to rescue her imprisoned husband from death in a political prison. The irony here is that instead of rescuing, Alice appears to be the reason why Bill’s curiosity led him to the orgy’s place. It’s as if Alice was the one who pushed him to his own death.

            Something intriguing about this film is how the orgy would conduct a ritual prior to the women having affairs. In my mind, I was thinking that it was their means of purifying themselves prior to the crime that they were about to commit. It was as if they were trying to lighten the burden of their sin.

            After watching the film, I find it pretty controversial. How the film dealt with the topics of infidelity and of sex is something I find intriguing. They discussed it with such sensitivity yet explicitly. Surely, it’s a last masterpiece to remember from a great director. 

Masculin, Feminin – MATEO, Ina

To be honest, I fell asleep sometime in the middle of the Masculine, feminine. I seriously lack appreciation for pure black and white films, no matter how good they are. And to think that I have to read the subtitles since I do not understand French, it did not help at all with my sleepiness. Even with the disturbing gunshots, I cannot refrain my eyes from shutting.

After that short power nap, I was surprised to see that the chapter was like 8 or 9 already. I was alerted by the fact that I might have missed a lot already, considering that the last chapter I could remember was around 4A. Then, I realized that the numbers were not consecutive. If I were to interpret this manner of numbering the chapters, it would be how people connect to what was happening. Although there were numbers that were skipped, the story flow seemed to be going forward. At one point, I thought that those missing chapters could be neglected. They were not important, I thought, so why bother adding them?

Speaking of the technical aspects, I find it intriguing that there are shots when they are focused not on what is happening. There are scenes when the shots are focused on one person, yet he or she isn’t the one speaking. It’s like missing the action happening just around the corner. In my interpretation, it seems to reflect how the people appear to not care about what’s going on around them, no matter how important they might be. It’s like they have an I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude.

Following up this kind of shots, there were many parts of the film that appeared to be in an interview form. Like how a news reporter would interview a personality, the interviewer is out of the frame while the interviewee is on the hot seat. My initial reaction to this was they wasted too many shots. They could have cut it to this and to that. But upon reading an external source (from what was posted in Piazza), I found out that what I’ve noticed is what it is. It was Godard, the director, throwing the questions to the cast, and it was up to the cast to response accordingly. He made it appear to be dialogue among the actors with how the scenes were cut. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise if the scenes were like an actual interview.

Going back to the random gunshot sound, I don’t know if it really is symbolic or it’s like a newsflash trying to grab the watcher’s attention. When we hear of gunshot, we automatically cover our ears. Then, we’ll try to search around if anyone got hit. If we are curious enough, we’ll go to where the action is and see what is happening. Maybe those gunshots are trying to create the same response. It’s like asking our attention and making us attentive of what follows.

Even if I do not like black and white films that much, I hope I made some pretty good, if not helpful, insights. With all honesty, if I’ll be given the option, I might not ask for a second serving of this film, although it might help in clearing out some things that I did not understand. I’m not saying that Masculine Feminine is a bad movie. It’s just a matter of preference.

Repo Man – MATEO, Ina

I’m not a fan of the punk culture, so it was difficult for me to make a connection to the setting of the film. Repo Man is said to be a punk film, and I had a hard time understanding some parts of the film.

There are some elements that the film seemed to be contesting. One of which is religion. Like in one scene, when Otto asks for money to attend college, his parents tells him that they have donated it to pastor they have been watching on television. Too attached they are to the pastor that they couldn’t care about other, important I believe, things. In a way, the film attacks how people can lose their sense of decision when it comes to religious things. They just follow what religion dictates without hesitation, not minding what might happen to them and to those who are around them.

It’s funny to think that most of the things that could be found in Repo Man are generic. Want something to eat? Then go grab a can labeled food. Need to smoke? Buy a box of cigarette at the counter. Branding does not exist in their economical market. And this is the second element that the film attacks. It places consumerism under fire, since people do not have any choice but to buy what is generic in the film. It is like a monopoly in a way, since if people are unhappy with the product, say beer, there’s no other available option but that can with the label “beer”.

But what’s even funnier, and interestingly ironic, is that everyone is after a branded car: a certain Chevy Malibu. It’s not just a car that they are after. It’s a Chevy, with $20,000 on top of its head. It’s the only branded thing you can hear and see all throughout the film (if my recollection serves me right).

I’m not sure if I’m making sense here, but I believe what the film attacks is the lifestyle of youth as well. It’s not that punk is definitely wrong, but it seems to be sub-culture not accepted by many people. Otto’s change from being a total “punk” into a repo man makes me wonder if it really is a good thing. Obviously, it worked well for Otto since he was able to deviate from the vices of alcohol and sex. But at the same time, he seemed to be something the society does not openly like.

            The difficulty I’ve encountered with watching the film is the last scene. Everyone could not get close to the glowing Chevy Malibu. The scientists who have been trying to get a hold of the car could not even come close, no matter how well equipped they are. A priest’s bible gets burned in the process as well. Yet it only took Miller to grab the knob and get inside the car. Otto followed Miller inside the car and together they took flight to the night skies using the magical car. On one note, Miller says in the film that, “the more you drive, the less intelligent you are.”

            I enjoyed how the film satirized the elements above. A comic relief while presenting a heavy societal issue removes the tediousness of the topics. Repo Man did a good job in doing just that. 

Barton Fink – MATEO, Ina

It’s the fourth film and things are getting more interesting, and a little difficult. Barton Fink for instance, although interesting, is pretty difficult to decipher.

During the first scene, I honestly found the film boring. It went on slowly and dull. To think that the first scene was during a Broadway show (and Broadways, more or less, must be lively), it seemed to be a mismatch in the mood. But later on in the film, things became interesting and intriguing at the same time.

Barton Fink contains a lot of elements that I find intriguing. First, what’s the significance of the painting on the wall? I know that Barton used it as a source of inspiration in order for him to write. But why, of all the things inside his rugged room, he became attached to that painting? Every time he tried to write, he would always stare at the painting.

Another thing that intrigued me about the film is who killed Audrey. For some reason, it actually bugged me. Did she really commit suicide after feeling ashamed of herself for having sex with another guy? We can assume but we barely saw in the film how she did it, if she indeed took her life. Or did someone else commit the crime, say Barton’s “friendly neighbor” Charlie? We couldn’t tell but we have the right to suspect Charlie for the crime. Sadly, this question will go unanswered.

What made me curious as well is why did they never show what was inside the box. I’m less curious about what is inside the box since there are hints in the film that shed a light of what could be inside. Barton was curious enough to know what was inside the box. He even shook it so that he could have an idea of what could be inside.  The policemen who visited Fink in his hotel room even questioned what was inside, and so did the woman Fink met on the beach. There were opportunities to open the whole box, yet until the end it remained unopened.

Last thing that bothered me was the diving of a bird to the beach. It might sound that I’m overanalyzing things. But I wonder if it has any significance. Or was it purposely placed at the last scene so that it will serve as a consolation to those who have finished the film? Say, they wanted to produce a lighter mood that they decided to put a considerably funny act by having a bird dive to the water out of the blue.

These things intrigued me because it is as if I was truly Fink. We are seeing things in Fink’s perspective. Every shot, Fink must be there. If he were missing in the frame, he would only be a few feet away. In this way, we can feel his desperation and his dullness. This perspective, I believe, lessens the difficulty of the film. If we would be total fly on the wall, things might get more symbolic, and therefore, things would have various meanings.

Perhaps a second screening would enlighten me, if not fully, at least a bit. I might be able to find some answers to my questions. Overall, Barton Fink is not that boring, not that all exciting to watch. But it will definitely make your mind work in wonder, asking questions that you wanted to be answered.

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