Expressing Doubt in Tell No One

By Tomas, Ashwin, Meira, Shahrez, and Matthew

The greatest feeling experienced upon first watching Guillaume Canet’s Tell No One is a sense of confusion, underpinned by an overwhelming sensation of uncertainty. This doubt both emerges from and pervades the film: the characters are suspicious of one another, the film’s timing and events are frequently called into question. By separating the film into it’s basic aspects, we hope to interrogate the ways in which this experience is created throughout the film, and for what purpose.

Cinematography

Cinematography plays the foremost role in creating the viewer’s experience of the film’s themes of doubt and its resolution. Starting off with how the film is shot, we see a few different techniques depending on the setting and how the story is progressing. We see wider shots in the start and end of the movie, which all look very similar due to the setting being the same. Most of everything that takes place in between, however, is far more focused on Alex and what he is going through rather than wider shots showcasing the environment and setting, with a lot of close ups on him with a shallow depth of field to emphasize the state of doubt and confusion he is in for majority of the movie. 

As such, to amplify these feelings of doubt and confusion, many of the camera dynamics in this middle portion, including the action scenes, consist of handheld shaky camera movements rather than mounted shots or tracking shots, even in setting that we visit in the beginning and end of the movie in markedly different circumstances, which are accompanied by very different camera movements as well. 

A significant and noticeable break in the movie’s fast pace and less traditional camera movements comes in the scene in the park where Alex is presumably waiting for Margot to meet him. The audience at this point is not entirely sure either about what exactly Margot’s fate was and whether it really has been her sending all these messages to Alex. And in resolving this doubt for the audience, the movie uses slow motion and lighting very similar to the scenes by the lake at the start and end of the film. However, with Alex not being able to see her and still not being aware of her presence there, they are never both in focus in the same shot, as our protagonist’s doubts have not yet been resolved. 

While the depth of field is so as to keep one of the two out of focus in any given shot in this scene, as Alex stands at the tree where the two used to go routinely, he begins to realize that Margot is behind him without even needing to look. As his mind is cleared of all doubt that it is indeed Margot behind him, both of them come into focus after there initially being a shallow depth of field focusing on Alex only. The wide-angle lens allows for there to be a medium long shot rather than the close ups and medium close ups we have been seeing for most of the film when it tracks back and deepens the depth of field as clarity is finally achieved and doubt is resolved. 

As this full picture comes into view, the camera tilts upward and back downward to show wide shots of the lake from when the two were children, and along with many of the shots that are framed and lit exactly as they are in the beginning of the movie, the film comes full circle and provides resolution to its themes of doubt and confusion.

Mise en scene

Hand in hand with its cinematography, the film’s mise en scene maintains the proper environment for the film’s uncertainties to develop. The first example of how staging can create doubt is in the opening scene when Margot is thought to be murdered. Canet has Margot far in the shot here and while Alex is not present, there is an implied deep staging and distance between the two. The deep staging is a contrast to the shallow staging previously depicted, which emphasized the intimacy between Alex and Margot and their happy life. The break from shallow-staging introduces the idea that the happy marriage between Margot and Alex could be disrupted, thus creating doubt in the viewer’s mind.

In addition to the deep staging in this scene, Canet also employs low-key lighting in the scene. There are a lot of shadows cast across the water and on Margot herself, and the noir-like lighting in this scene not only creates doubt as to whether Margot is safe, but also establishes the film as a mystery. Margot almost appears as a silhouette in this scene, creating the initial impression that her presence may not be a given for the foreseeable future and providing room for doubt in the viewer’s mind. The combination of deep staging and low-key lighting in the opening scene creates an atmosphere of doubt that serves as the film’s inciting incident.

While mise en scene can help create doubt in Tell No One, it also serves to help remove some of that doubt. An example of this can be seen through the decor choices in the closing minutes of the film after Alex learns the truth from Margot’s father. Alex is driving the same car that he drove in the lake scene at the beginning of the film and passes along the same country road, with the camera moving to show the ‘Lac Charmaine’ sign from the beginning of the film. Additionally, the rose-lined path to the tree where Alex and Margot had carved their initials as children remains, with new lines being drawn in the years since she had allegedly died.

By including these pieces of decor in the final scene of the film, Canet portrays how doubt is erased from Alex’s mind in a setting that is associated with a more absolute truth (the love he has for Margot) that is in contrast to the constant doubt and shifting circumstances that he experienced throughout the events of the film.

Editing

Modifying the images created through the film’s cinematography and mise en scene is its editing. The film’s editing creates doubt by arranging its shots in ways which highlight the uncertainty of its situation. This is exemplified by the flashback, the device by which the film’s doubts are resolved. On the level of editing, the flashback struggles to present past events in continuity with those established in previously-shown sequences. The scene near the film’s conclusion at the home of Margot’s father exemplifies this; his confession of past events prompts several shots revealing the true events of the night of Margot’s supposed death. As her father Jacques explains that Neuville hired the men who attacked Alex and Margot at the lake, there is a cut between a close-up of his face as he speaks to Alex, and a long shot over his shoulder which reveals him watching Margot moments before she is attacked by Bartola and Pagnac. This cut rewrites previously established events in the film’s narrative, which would ordinarily be a questionable choice as it breaks the film’s realism. However, the cut contains this unbelievability within Jacques’ character. The over-the-shoulder shot which begins the flashback establishes that the following events are being shown from his perspective, and by concluding the flashbacks with the same shot of him (falsely) identifying the body re-establishes the film’s continuity. 

The flashback emerges in order to fill the gaps in the narrative which drive its action. Just as editing techniques  help to facilitate these revisions, they call attention to the unexplained events which necessitate them. One of the most distinct devices used for this purpose is the insert shot.  For example, after Alex questions Jacques about his discovery of Margot’s “body”, the police arrive at Jacques’ house with the photos of Margot beaten up. Shortly after, Jacques asks his wife to leave the room. When Jacques questions if they spoke to Alex, the police tell him that he left with a lawyer. As they ask “Does that sound like an innocent man to you?” the scene cuts to an insert shot of Jacques’ wife crying on the stairs. Beyond the confusion created by the photos of Margot, that the film stresses this image of distress suggests that there is a greater tragedy at play. It is never made explicit that Jacques’ wife knew the truth about Margot, but her certainty of Alex’s innocence creates ambiguity as to who her tears are for: her daughter, or her son-in-law. In this way, editing is used to raise the stakes of the film’s events, building towards its climactic revelation.

Music

Tell No One relies on two forms of music: the score, which is a blend of piano, soft electric guitar, and violins, and the soundtrack, which mainly consists of American pop and soul music. I am going to primarily focus on the score, because I feel like that contributed the most to the sense of doubt that permeates the movie. This score tends to come up during moments of chaos, doubt, and all the various twists and turns that the movie goes through.

It is interesting that the composer decided to rely on softer, more somber sounds to portray stressful situations, rather than a faster-paced, more high pitched score. The score does not just portray Alexandre’s doubt and confusion: it also portrays the tragic nature of the situation. The score reminds the viewer that this is more than just a mystery with twists and turns: the plot is fueled by love and sadness, and so a score that would be more in line with an action movie does not really fit.

We hear the main theme of the movie for the first time when Alexandre sees his wife on the webcam in his office (23:35). Slowly, a somber blend of piano and guitar begin to play as everything that Alexandre thought he knew is called into question. This is the moment that he begins to doubt the story about her death that he was told, and even his own account of the events. This revelation is clearly on his mind when he goes to visit his in laws, and so during the drive there, the score’s volume and intensity increases. It switches from mainly slow piano to reliance on guitar. The confusion that he is feeling is demonstrated through the music.

The score returns during Jacques’ first flashback. The sad mix of piano and guitar plays as he identifies the body. This second revelation confuses Alexandre even more, because he seems to have confirmation that his wife is dead, and yet he just saw her. Once again, the score accompanies a mood of uncertainty resulting from the conflicting information he hears, in addition to the pain of digging up old emotions.

This music returns after Alexandre talks to Margot’s friend about the mysterious pictures of her covered in bruises. As he leaves, he sees one of Neuville’s henchmen watching him, which drives his paranoia and uncertainty even further. The music continues as we cut to him frantically rummaging through the old storage unit for helpful information. The score represents the Alexandre’s inner doubt that accompanies each new revelation or suspicion, in addition to the fear that he is being framed.

Finally, during the climax of the movie, when Jacques reveals the entire story to Alexandre, the score is surprisingly absent. There is no sound besides for the dialogue between the two of them. This is because new information is no longer meant to confuse Alexandre and the viewer; finally, once the whole picture is clear, the music that represents the confusion of conflicting, constantly shifting information is no longer needed.

The score is used in cases of other revelations and moments of doubt, but I thought that listing one after another would feel repetitive. Overall, the use of the score reflects the increased levels of confusion and uncertainty felt by both Alexandre and the viewer throughout the film. It represents the fact that learning more information will often lead to more questions rather than less, and these new questions can take an emotional toll on a person, especially when connected to a lost love.

Narrative and 3-Act Structure

The narrative and 3-act structure that is at play in Tell No One, cater to the residing themes of doubt and intrigue and culminate in resolving said doubt. Tell No One partakes in a typical 3-act structure: act 1, sets up the narrative of the film and is broken up into two time periods that allow the narrative to be pushed forward and bring forth the central dilemma of the protagonist Alex; act 2 deals with the ups and downs of Alex’s adventure to find out the truth about his wife that coincides with a series of confrontations; act 3, culminates in Alex finding out the answers he’s been searching for and leaving all the doubt he had about the truth behind him. 

To amplify doubt and intrigue, in act 1, the narrative pulls us 8 years forward into the present, the day before the anniversary of Margot’s death/disappearance. With that jump forward in time, the viewer can’t help but question the series of events they have just seen, but also what has transpired over those years.

The inciting incident that takes place during the first act, in which Alex receives a mysterious email with a recent video of Margot, drives the narrative and feelings of doubt and intrigue forward. After receiving this video, the truth of what happened on the night Margot disappeared comes into question, and Alex must seek out the truth.

As the film progresses into act 2, Alex’s investigation into his wife’s disappearance coincides with the police’s investigation of Alex’s part in it, and this acts as the narratives rising action that culminates in the film’s midpoint where Alex is framed for the murder of Florence, the photographer. The midpoint not only marks a significant setback for Alex in his search for his wife but creates doubt about Alex within the narrative, as now he is seen as a wanted fugitive. 

Alex’s lowest point at the end of act 2, occurs when he catches a glimpse of Margot leaving the park but is unable to catch her. This is the first time in the film that Margot is seen in the flesh, and there is no longer doubt that she is alive. But as Alex is attempting to catch up with her, he is abducted by Bernard and his people. The feeling of doubt is still furthered by the questions of Bernard’s part in all of this. 

The dénouement/resolution and climax of act 3 occurs when Margot’s dad tells Alex the truth about what happened the night of Margot’s disappearance. In this scene, all the previous doubt, mystery, and intrigue is resolved as Alex finally has a clear answer. After a great deal of turmoil, Alex and Margot are finally reunited. 

Tell No One gives a perfect example of how narrative and the 3-act structure play a vital role in creating themes within a story. As a mystery/thriller, the narrative and the 3-act structure continuously cast doubt on what the viewer knows or thinks they know until those feelings of doubt are resolved in the final act. 

Naturally, the film’s genre consolidates its devices into a central meaning. In conclusion, Tell No One‘s sense of doubt serves in order to build tension in the plot per the generic standards of a mystery. However, in separately analyzing how each aspect of the film creates this sensation, it is possible to better identify the moments in the film that are successful in their coordination of different film techniques (as could be expected, the film’s climax and conclusion are of note in every section) as well as the ways in which the devices operate independently throughout the rest of its duration.

The Disillusionment of Change: Analyzing the Effects of Urban Isolation and Globalization in Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express

Final Project by: Meagan Johnson, Katerina Stefanescu, and Alan Countess

Echoing the mass anxiety felt in Hong Kong during the early nineties, Wong Kar-wai’s 1994 breakout film Chungking Express details the story of two cops searching for a meaningful connection in a somewhat isolated society. The filming of Chungking Express occurred during rather turbulent times in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was being handed over to the People’s Republic of China after being under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom for over 152 years. Its citizens were also in the midst of both a personal and cultural identity crisis. Before Hong Kong’s return to mainland China, pre-handover movies such as Chungking Express served as a political commentary on the fantasies of being integrated into their mainstream Chinese culture. In response to this uncertainty, there began to be an emphasis on time and routine–a way of seeking stability in an unstable and unpredictable world. Chungking Express follows the romantic journey of two policemen pining after a lost love. The film carries motifs of mass global connectivity, intoxicating youth, frustration, and hopeless romance. The film presents a dual narrative, or two stories told in a sequence of each other. In the first story, Cop 223 is blinded by his heartbreak. His ex-girlfriend broke up with him on April Fool’s Day; thus, Cop 223 chalks his breakup to a cruel joke. He lives in denial of what it means to lose someone and remains in a state of fantasy, replaying his memories and his love in his mind. In the second story, Cop 663 holds little hope for his ex’s return. Instead, he falls into a melancholic funk. In both stories, Cop 223 and 663 meet energetic women–a sign of hope and wonder in a disillusioned society. By analyzing Wong Kar-wai’s illustrious storytelling, cinematography, and editing, the film reinforces the idea that living in a city of millions does not always lend itself to forming meaningful human connections. Instead, urban isolation is an exigent circumstance for the characters to reflect on the inevitability of change. 

In the first story of the film, Cop 223’s love interest–the anonymous drug smuggler–attempts to survive the seedier underworld of Hong Kong. About ten minutes into the film (10:14-10:38), we see the nameless woman (Bridgette Lin)’s fellow smugglers handling their product. Despite the danger of transporting large amounts of a controlled substance, there is a mundane-ness to the art of concealing the cocaine. In this scene, the camera focuses on the running sewing machine, the precise cutting of fabric, and crafty shoe-making. In the first few sequences of this shot, the audience could assume the characters are workers of Hong Kong textile factories, not professional drug lords. There is an art to each of their movements; As if each movement of the thread is a part of their body. They have done this a hundred times before. This scene contributes to the overall emphasis on routine in Chungking Express, a way to keep motivated and grounded in a culture suddenly fueled by anxiety. Ironically, this is one of the only instances of structure in the film. While most of the film chronicles its characters’ struggle to make meaningful human connections, this scene illustrates a beauty during utter chaos. Amid the uncertainty, routine connects us and allows us to remain grounded in the few parts of our life we can control.

In continuation of the first story, the beginning of Cop 223’s journey is distinguished by two scenes. The first (1:54-2:47) follows Cop 223, running to catch a potential suspect through the tourist-packed streets of Hong Kong. Moments before he meets the anonymous drug smuggler, the camera catches glimpses of the world around Cop 223 as he sprints past a series of lively individuals. As he gazes against a man with a McDonald’s bag on his head and a large mannequin, we get a sense of the entirely random and disjointed lives of Hong Kong’s citizens. Although they all appear under the ecstasy of the bright street lights and the endless street vendors, very few seem to engage with the masses. The movement of the characters is so impersonal that most of the other characters are blurred as if to strip them of any sense of individuality. Cop 223, surrounded by hundreds, is entirely alone. This scene demonstrates Wong Kar-wai’s rather poetic cinematography, an instance of Cop 223 consciously pushing out those around him to wallow in his pain. Cop 223 hopes not only to get back his lost love but to connect to the world. Cop 223 seemingly believes finding love and intimacy is the solution to overcoming urban isolation. He fishes for a meaningful connection in the second scene (25:40-26:04). While it is evident that Cop 223 is physically alone in the snack bar, he is emotionally shattered. In this desperation, he calls upon the people he had the slightest of a legitimate human connection with–even if it’s someone he knew in the fourth grade.


Wong’s intentional use of creative cinematography techniques highlights the ways in which Qiwu and Officer 663’s interactions with their love interests relate to the film’s overarching theme of pursuing genuine connection amid the loneliness of modern urban life. The first instance of a short yet meaningful interpersonal connection is between Qiwu and the woman in the blonde wig (specifically 28:00 to 32:54). This scene immediately stands out in terms of the warm, orange color of the light that shines on the two characters. In contrast to the preceding and proceeding scenes, this scene’s use of warm, low-key lighting heightens the beginnings of kinship that seem near impossible in the harsh Hong Kong world that Wong previously shows. As the scene progresses, the shallow depth of field shifts from solely focusing on Qiwu to focusing on both of the characters behind the bar. In this way, they are now both the focal point of the scene together, blurring out the rest of the background and thus the loneliness that otherwise permeates their lives and their world. This focus on the two characters and their connection is perhaps most apparent at 32:35 when the bartender informs Qiwu that the bar is closing. The camera is solely focused on Qiwu and the woman in the blonde wig resting her head on his shoulder. Only the voice of the bartender is heard, and the only part of him that is visible onscreen – his shoulder – is completely blurred. Therefore, even though the bartender technically also engages with Qiwu, Wong shows that this is not a meaningful human connection and rather a necessary, practical one. Even though the relationship only lasts for one night and a short birthday message, Qiwu and the woman in the blonde wig’s connection is contrasted to and extolled in comparison to Qiwu’s other less impactful interactions.

For Officer 663 and Faye’s story, one scene stands out in particular (53:50 to 57:05): when Officer 663 speaks with Faye behind the counter of the food shack, leaving her with the envelope containing the key to his apartment. From a cinematographic standpoint, this scene exceptionally stresses how meaningful the lovers’ connection is as compared to the nameless, faceless characters that surround them. The shallow depth of field throughout the film, including this specific scene, means that usually only one person or thing is in focus while the rest of the scene is blurry. In this scene, Faye and Officer 663 tend to be the only figures in focus while the rest of the foreground and background remains blurred. The shallow depth of field enhances the loneliness that these characters feel because only one thing can really be in focus at a given time, heightening the solitude of their lives. Effectively counteracting the loneliness accomplished through the shallow depth of field, Wong plays with time in a really fascinating part of the scene starting at 56:13. As Officer 663 sips on his coffee with Faye leaning over the counter watching him, the two characters move in slow motion. However, the rest of the people walking in the foreground, while completely blurred, are in fast motion, practically looking like unidentifiable colors. Time slows down for the two lovers, showing that they are forming a bond that unites them and will save them from the loneliness they suffer (and that the people in the foreground are just failing to deal with).

Wong uses subtle cinematographic techniques to further extrapolate just how rare the connections between the two sets of lovers are. Employed throughout the film, Wong’s use of shallow depth of field acts both his stylistic trademark and furthers the storyline. By emphasizing the solitude of these characters, the moments when characters are both in focus within a scene are especially striking and further illustrate the significance of finding small moments of human connection amid the loneliness of the ever bustling Hong Kong of Wong’s imagination.


Wong uses sound throughout the film to show the monotony and isolation of urban life. Music plays a large role in the way characters interact, for instance, Faye is constantly listening to the same, loud music. She even says that she likes listening to it loud so that she doesn’t have to think. In this film, Wong portrays urban residents as being stuck in a monotonous cycle of urban life, but also lacking the motivation to escape their dull patterns. By listening to loud music, Faye is trying to simply get through each day by going through the motions. She isn’t looking for happiness in her daily life, just the end of the day. In addition to this, we constantly hear the same song continued from different parts on different days (California Dreamin’). By always showing us the same song from the CD she listens to, Wong creates a sense of flow to Faye’s days. By continuing the song where it previously left off when we see the characters the following day, the divide between days feels subtle. The days have the same pattern, with the exception of personal relationships, which the film focuses on for the plot. Additionally, the choice in the song played throughout the film, California Dreamin’, is purposeful. Faye wants to save up money so that she can travel some day, specifically to California. By using this song as her escape from everyday life, Wong portrays how people focus on far away dreams rather than enjoying where they are. Faye derives no joy from her daily work at the store, she only dreams of a future where she can leave.

In addition to the music used in the film, Wong often uses narration to reveal the inner thoughts of characters or explain some context to the viewer. By using narration to explain context and move the plot, Wong is able to use less dialogue between characters to achieve these purposes. In doing so, he is able to show how lonely characters are. We see this used often at the beginning of the film as He Qiwu thinks about May. He’s inner voice narrates his thoughts on expiration dates and why May left him. This has the effect of showing the loneliness he feels without giving him any other characters to talk to about his problems. Overall, the way Wong uses narration has a similar feel to characters talking to themselves. Wong purposefully uses narration to achieve goals that could easily be accomplished through dialogue, and does this to show how isolated the characters are. 

The film also uses editing to portray a sense of urban isolation. There are many times when the film is edited to have a time lapse effect while the main characters move slowly and noticeably. I find this technique interesting, because in a way, Wong uses the business of the area and the volume of people passing by to show loneliness. In the scene where Officer 663 is stood up in the bar, this effect is used as he puts a coin in the jukebox. We can see his hand slowly move to put the coin in the machine as people rush by behind him. As we see these people pass by as blurs on the screen, we are put somewhat in the perspective of the officer. He is isolated from the scene around him. He doesn’t know the people passing by and he is not interested in them. He just focuses on the jukebox he got change for as he waits for his date who never shows. Even though he was around people the whole time, Wong uses this effect to make the night feel empty and lonely. This effect is also used earlier in the film while Officer 663 drinks a cup of coffee. His girlfriend recently left him and left him a letter which he decides not to read. As he stares off into space and drinks his coffee, we see people move by on the street outside the shop. We are very aware of the passage of time in this scene and get an odd sense of how the officer perceives it. He seems to be lost in thought and unaware of the world around. Again, we get a sense of loneliness and isolation as he deals with his loss.


Throughout Chungking Express, Wong depicts the urban isolation experienced by city residents. Using storytelling, we are shown individuals struggling to find connection in a big city. The plot shows heartbreak where those hurt wallow in their pain alone. Despite the mass of people in the movie, this storytelling shows the lack of ability to reach out to others in urban life. Wong also uses cinematography to express these ideas. The film utilizes shallow depth of field to show the inaccessibility of other people in the city. We see the important characters in focus, but others simply pass by. Additionally, scenes are often filmed with a handheld camera. This has the effect of putting us in the perspective of the characters. Because Wong is trying to portray what urban isolation is like, this is a useful tool to help us understand what characters are feeling throughout the film. Wong also uses sound and editing to show these ideas to the viewer. Sound is used to highlight the monotony of days in urban life. Each day we hear Faye listen to the same song and do the same things. Further, Wong often uses narration as a replacement for dialogue between characters. This creates a feeling of characters talking to themselves since they don’t have close relationships with others. Finally, the film employs time lapses in its editing to show the separation characters feel from the rest of city life, and the other people that pass by from day to day. Overall, Wong builds the film around the idea of urban isolationism. He employs many techniques and aspects of the plot to achieve this, and as a result, provides the viewer with a perspective of what loneliness is like in a big city.


Anonymity: An Analysis of Stranger Comes to Town 

Stranger

by Brendan Boustany, Joalda Morancy, Katerina Stefanescu, Shahrez Aziz, and Zach Cogan

Brendan

I would say that the film is a documentary, in a similar way that Waltz with Bashir is. Both stories rework nonfiction events into artistic images. Still, the stories of the characters remain entirely intact. The artistic style does not interfere with Goss’s goals in terms of the story that she is trying to tell. If anything, her decision to use video game images was simply an artistic choice to emphasize the themes of the film. The strong narrative voice is compelling enough without many visual distractions, so the sparing CGI images do not interfere with the interviews about coming to this country as visual reenactments might. Most importantly, the anonymity that this visual style allows may have been crucial to attaining these interviews. 

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Paris is Burning – Assertive Stance and Construction

Assertions Made in Title Cards 

by Mimi Taylor

In the essay “When is a Documentary?: Documentary As a Mode of Reception” Dirk Eitzen lays out the argument that “what distinguishes documentaries, and nonfiction in general, from fiction” is whether it makes sense to ask the question “Might it be lying?” (89). To support his argument he draws on semiotician Sol Worth’s essay “Pictures Can’t Say Ain’t,” where Worth makes the argument that pictures cannot lie (Eitzen 89). Eitzen extends this argument to “everything in movies that does not have the character of an express metatextual caption or label” (91). According to Eitzen, movies merely represent “a space, action, or event” (91), and “project a world” (91), until some “metatextual caption or label,” usually in the form of a framing device, asserts meaning. In the case of Paris is Burning sometimes the “metatextual caption or label” is a literal label, in the form of a title card.

Paris is Burning imposes meaning on the projected worlds of the movie through these title cards. For instance, early on in the film this title card is shown:

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Paris is Burning as a historical document through the eyes of Judith Butler and Erving Goffman

by Junyoung Choi, Gabriela Horwath, Tomas Pacheco, Alan Countess, and Wyn Veiga

Introduction (Junyoung)

Jennie Livingston’s 1991 documentary Paris is Burning explores the nooks and crannies of Harlem, painting vividly the ball culture’s cultural importance in celebrating the drag style and hitherto marginalized gender norms through the transgender families and their flamboyant fashion shows. 

Observing the endeavors of New York’s ball culture through the lens Livingston has picked out, both writers Judith Butler and Erving Goffman would likely concur that personal and group identities are reinforced socially through dramatic performances, but would fall short of agreeing on whether there truly is an internal core being expressed. However, if the two theorists sat down and spoke to reach a conclusion, they would most likely agree that the many different categories in the balls helped most people participate in the performative act and present their parts while making explicit the rather flexible nature of gender. Finally, both scholars would also be astonished and disturbed by the growing impact of one’s exposure to the media’s mundane normalized social expectations.

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Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal: Analyzing Unintentional Expressions of Art

IMG_1191

by Emily Nagler, Haina Lu, Meagan Johnson, Dylan Kanaan, and Frank Martin

I believe that the short Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal is, in fact, making an assertive claim about the world.  The major claim is that Graffiti Removal is a form of art.  It is comparable to the art of artists like Mark Rothko, or other, early to mid-20th century artists.  The film is attempting to claim that graffiti removal procedures have various styles and is a complex art form.  Anyone who removes graffiti is unaware of their artistic creations, but the film goes as far as to label the various “styles” of graffiti removal art.  They are removing art, but in turn creating art.  I will admit some of the graffiti removal examples do look like art that professional artists create.  The film treats the procedure of removing graffiti as art.  The removal of graffiti is a process completely by the city or the owner of whatever has graffiti on it.  The film treats what seems like a grunt work job the same as professionally painting.  – Frank Martin

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Atlantics as a Horror/Ghost Genre Film

by Zach Cogan, Dylan Kanaan, Gabriela Horwath, Shahrez Aziz, and Meagan Johnson

Though Atlantics sets itself up to be a more of  a mystery and a romance rather than a typical horror movie, its filmmaking styles, as well as its form, do include a lot of imagery, sounds, and tropes traditionally associated with the horror genre, which are broken down below.

The Ocean

One significant element of the film is the class struggle of the Sengelese people, a story of journeying to a foreign land to find menial labor. Prior to the young construction workers leaving for Italy, the audience is graced with a tender moment between Souleiman and Ada with the raging ocean in the background of the scene. The ocean does in fact play on the beauty and intimacy of the characters’ young love, but also create a sinister effect throughout the film. There is a numbness to the waves. The ocean is all-consuming, treacherous, and unpredictable–similar to the relationship between Ada and Souleiman. As seen below, the way the ocean is presented to us defines a lot of the tone in that section of the movie, with the ocean being at its darkest and most sinister in the middle portion of the movie, where the horror aspect is most prevalent. Yet, even when the film ventures into a commentary of class struggles, defining love, and fantasy, the ocean serves as a constant reminder of the mystery of one’s own existence Although we never see the wreck that claims so many lives, the churning waves seems to carry a mystical force or magical entity. This mood later serves the possession of the women, ultimately defining the film as a literal and metaphorical ghost story. 

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Atlantics (2019) and the Romance Genre

by Emily Nagler, Mimi Taylor, Brendan Boustany, Junyoung Choi, and Frank Martin

Something I noticed when watching Atlantics was how often faces, especially those of Ada and Soulemain, were obscured somehow. Sometimes this was because of the way the shot was framed, the lighting, or some other element of the mise-en-scène obscuring them. Here’s the first times we see Ada and Soulemain:

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