This year I have managed to go to a handful of The Exploding Cinema Club films.
A Trip to the Moon (Georges Méliès 1902)
This was the first film I saw at the film club and I really enjoyed it. I had previously seen Méliès’ work but this permitted me to see more with people who had different opinions on his pieces.
A trip to the moon is a 14 minute silent French film directed, produced and starred in by Georges Méliès. In the short film a group of astronauts get together and discuss their plans to travel to the moon. The president and five other men decide to take on the voyage to go to the moon in a rocket fired by a great space gun from earth. The men go to the workshop and go to the roof where their rocket is due to launch from ,when they are ready to go they are rejoiced by onlookers. The rocket is successfully launched into space where it hits the eye of the moon, after arriving they are hit by something exploding so they decided to rest as they are tired from the rough trip.
Although in their dreams they are surrounded by stars and lights and women, when they wake up they find they are frozen and decide to take shelter in a cave. Unfortunately in this cave they come across has mushrooms that are covering moon inhabitants! Scared by these people one of the men jabs at a moon inhabitant with his umbrella causing him (the moon inhabitant) to vanish into a puff of smoke. The men try to run but are captured and taken to the king of the moon. The president takes the king and pushes him down making him burst. They fight off the other moon inhabitants with umbrellas and escape back to their ship. Once on board the president pushes them off the moon and they land successfully on earth where a statue has been erected in their honour.
I really love how the film was produced and what effect it created. I find it so interesting that this really is the early stages of moon travel as we had not even gone to the moon at this point but films were already being created around this subject, even as early as the beginning of the 20th century. I think the plot has a rather comical side to it especially when the rocket lands on the moon, the characters also seem quite quirky and scatty and this also adds a comical effect. Although none as famous as a trip to the moon, the small collection of his other works that we briefly got to watch were really interesting as well. Even though some were a little strange, Méliès could really be said to be the pioneer of early cinema. I would definitely recommend any of his short films.
La Jetée (Chris Marker 1962)
Although this film was really short, I actually appreciated it a lot. La Jetée is a film that is comprised of only still photography, there is only a short clip of actual video. The film had been set just after World War Three, a prisoner is living in a camp survivors underground in Paris. The prisoner has a distinct memory of a woman and the death of a man on “La Jetée” of Paris Orly Airport. The rest of his childhood memories are vague and cloudy. Scientists who are researching time travel choose this prisoner to be part of experimentation. During the various time travel experiments into the past, he meets many times the woman and they start a romantic relationship. After finding a success in these trials, the scientists decide to send the man to the future, this time he is given a power unit that is strong enough to bring back his own destroyed society. When he is brought back to the present, he learns of his impending execution. The people of the future try to contact him to save his life. Instead he chooses to return to the past in search of the woman he fell in love with. Upon finding her on the Jetty of Orly, he realises he has been followed by one of his jailers who shoots him. Before dying the man realises the death he witnessed when he was younger was in fact his own.
I really enjoyed this film, especially the way it is produced. This way of producing film is technically challenging because you have to have enough information in each still to tell a setting and part of a story.The zooming in and zooming out on each photos made it look like a video, the sound effects that were used also aided us in keeping our attention. I loved how the whole film was in black and white because I feel it helps us to capture the simplicity of the film without being distracted by colour all the time. Sometimes black and white is a better choice, even if colour is possible. The story was captivating enough to keep us watching for the 28 minutes of film, I would definitely recommend it to people and it has helped me a lot in my latest video project. Next time I watch this film I would like to watch it in French because I feel when you watch something in its original language it keeps something that when you translate it, it loses.
Twelve Monkeys (Terry Gilliam 1995)
Twelve Monkeys, although produced 33 years afters La Jetée, is highly based on the events shown in La Jetée.
In 1996, a virus wipes out 99% of the population. James Cole, a prisoner, is sent back from 2035 to 1996 to find out what started the virus who he is told is spread by the “Army of the Twelve Monkeys”. By accident he ends up in 1990 and is placed in a mental institute where he meets Dr Kathryn Railly, a psychiatrist, and Jeffery Goines, a virus expert and son of a famous scientist. The story tells us of the journey of James Cole and his search for the beginnings of the virus. He escapes from the institute and kidnaps Dr Railly who he thinks can help him find the virus, he is then wanted by the police for kidnap and murder. In the end of the film after finding out the Twelve Monkeys have nothing to do with the virus, he tries and escape with Dr Railly who he is in love with. At the airport Dr Railly sees Dr Peters, a viral scientist who works with Goines’ Father. He manages to get through security with the virus claiming they are biological samples and rushes to tell Cole. Cole has just been told by a follow volonteer Jose that the mission is over and hands him a revolver, he says that if he does not follow orders Dr Railly will be killed. After finding out about the virus, Cole rushes to follow Peters through security and is shot by the police. A little boy witnesses his death, this little boy is him from the past.
I did not enjoy Twelve Monkeys as much as I thought I would especially after watching La Jetée. I did not feel it held my concentration as well and in some ways I was eager for it to finish. Although I appreciated the way the film was filmed, in some places using a Dutch tilt, I feel the story was confusing and unclear at some points. I found it interesting to discover that Gilliam had not actually seen Marker’s short film. The similarities even in the way some things are portrayed are uncanny. Overall I do not think I would recommend this film to anyone in the way that I would La Jetée. However I believe it is good from an artist point of view to see both.
Blade Runner (Riley Scott 1982)
Scott’s Blade Runner is a film based in a dystopian society in 2019. The humans and the replicants, who are genetically engineered organic robots, are indistinguishable from each other. Replicants are banned on the earth and are “retired” by Blade Runners. Blade Runners are a special operative groups whose aim is to hunt down and find replicants. Expert Rick Deckard is once again called out on mission after being inactive when a spaceship is stolen by four replicants who are trying to find their creator. At the end of the film, Deckard successfully takes out all of the replicants and tells the last replicant that dies, Roy, that he will no longer hunt replicants. He returns to find Rachael, a replicant who does not know it and old assistant to the late creator Tyrell, who he is love with. He leaves with Rachael but does not know how long they have together as she was never given an expiry date.
Having heard so much about the film Blade Runner I was actually disappointed. The colours for me were all to dark and the screen was always very busy making it hard to concentrate on the main event that was happening. I started to get confused about the story line and therefore I was not captured into the eventualities of Scott’s film. There was too much action and I did not always capture to role of each character and their role either as human or “replicant”, this on top of the heavy lighting and dark colours made me in some ways wishing it was over. Saying this I think as an iconic film of the 20th century it has to be seen, however I personally did not enjoy it and I would not watch it again.
Sheets handed out by Nigel during film club