Wednesday, September 1, 2021

TV Dictionary - Heidi, Girl Of The Alps from Oswald Iten on Vimeo.

"Arupusu no shôjo Haiji" in one word. For the TV Dictionary Collection by Ariel Avissar: TV Dictionary
Definitions adapted from Merriam-Webster and Collins Dictionary.

For study purposes only.

All excerpts taken from Isao Takahata's 1974 TV series ARUPUSU NO SHÔJO HAIJI (HEIDI, GIRL OF THE ALPS). Subtitles adapted from SilverZeroSubs

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Two New Audiovisual Essays

"Berlin Alexanderplatz" in one word. For the TV Dictionary Collection by Ariel Avissar: TV Dictionary Collection

Switching channels between definitions in English (Merriam-Webster / Collins Dictionary) and German (Duden). 

For study purposes only. 

All excerpts taken from Rainer Werner Fassbinders 1980 TV series BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ (A FILM IN 13 PARTS AND AN EPILOGUE).

Colored Lighting in PARIAH from Oswald Iten on Vimeo.

"We weren't about notions of 'real time' so we became mainly concerned with levels of impressionism in our visual style. Basically, how far could we go with coloring characters and spaces before it started to become distracting and take away from the narrative?" Bradford Young on PARIAH

When it was released in 2011, Dee Rees’ debut feature PARIAH was ground-breaking and inspiring in many ways. Even ten years later, the thoroughness with which the inner journey of protagonist Alike is expressed via colored lighting remains quite unique. According to several interviews, the striking color concept of PARIAH was devised by Rees and Bradford Young. Heavily influenced by Haile Gerima and cinematographers like Arthur Jafa, Ernest Dickerson or Malik Hassan Sayeed, Young is not only one of the most interesting cinematographers of our time but also an important voice in the ongoing conversation about how to represent and photograph people of color on screen.

In this experimental visual analysis, I am exploring the "levels of impressionism" (Young) in the lighting of Alike’s face. Inevitably, it has also turned into a celebration of Adepero Oduye's remarkable performance in this very specific but universally relatable piece of cinema.

00:00 Atmosphere
00:50 Chameleon: Painted by the Colors Around Her
01:24 From Darkness to Light
02:08 Contrasting Color vs Blending In
02:43 God Doesn't Make Mistakes
03:32 Butterfly: Life is Possible

Cinematography: Bradford Young
Gaffer: T.J. Alston
DI Colorist: Joe Gawler

While all the visual clips are from PARIAH (Blu-ray Focus Features Spotlight Series 2012), the music consists of excerpts from several compositions by Tamar-Kali who appeared in the film (representing the influence of Alike’s friend Bina) and went on to score the director’s later film MUDBOUND (2017).
- Pearl (Psychochamber Version) 2009
- MUDBOUND (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) 2017

There are a couple of interviews with Young and Rees that go into more detail about their approach to color, e.g. the interview linked at the top or the following:
If you are interested in more behind the scenes material, there is a great interview with the cast and crew online (Academy Museum, 2021):

Sunday, April 4, 2021


Silence in The Passionate Friends from Oswald Iten on Vimeo.

Audiovisual soundtrack analysis. [Spoiler alert: reveals important plot points and ending]

David Lean's 1949 melodrama THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS never gained the same popularity as its similarly themed predecessor BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945). Had it not been restored and re-released in 2008*, it might have been all but forgotten by now. And yet, there is a lot to cherish and enjoy within these 90 minutes.

Despite its overall unevenness and unsatisfying ending**, THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS is probably my favourite among all of David Lean's films: the uncanny precision of an editor-turned-director at the top of his game, Guy Green's spectacular cinematography, a standout performance by Claude Rains (upstaging Lean's third wife Ann Todd), the recurring motifs of doors and wind (similar to GREAT EXPECTATIONS, 1946) and a lush soundtrack that is as complex as it is sensual.

And that is what this video essay is all about: silence as a powerful storytelling tool.

It was originally conceived as a companion piece to MELODRAMATIC RAILWAY SOUNDS (see below). But since I have eliminated most of the comparisons to BRIEF ENCOUNTER in the process, it definitely works as a standalone soundtrack analysis. In these essays, I always try to visualise sound objects in a way that is appropriate to the source material. This time, the challenge were sensual sound effects and silence itself.

Except for my voice, all sounds in this video come from the audio track of THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (and in respective clips from BRIEF ENCOUNTER), no equalizers or filters applied. Please note, that in order to highlight certain parts of the soundtrack, I constantly adjust the volume of the clips. This might go without saying. However, while most viewers notice frame, size or brightness changes in an image, sound changes tend to be less obtrusive. So if you want to get a sense of the full dynamic, there is no way around going back to the original film – which I recommend anyway.

* A wonderful Blu-ray is available from Studio Canal in France (in English, of course).
** It is definitely worth reading up on the troubled adaptation and production process.

Since January 2021, I am proud to be part of, a research project at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. 

Melodramatic Railway Sounds - Video Essay from Oswald Iten on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

[SAFE] and THE NEON DEMON in Dialogue

[UPDATE: the work-in-progress version of "Dialogue III: Carol / Jesse" below has been replaced by the completely reconfigured final version.]

Despite their obvious differences in story, theme and era, in my mind, Todd Haynes‘ [SAFE] and Nicolas Winding Refn’s THE NEON DEMON have somehow become tethered to each other. And I still do not know why, exactly.

Do the detox cult in [SAFE] and the predatory fashion scene in DEMON represent two sides of a coin? Is it the protagonists‘ failures to really connect, the many static moments of women sitting in or on a bed? Is it the slightly creepy L.A. setting, the emotional distance, the electronic score, the turquoise/pink bedroom design, the directors‘ predilections for frames within frames?

None of this is very extraordinary. Besides, if you compare two films, you always find both similarities and differences. So to explore those questions, I originally wanted to recreate the [SAFE] trailer with shots from THE NEON DEMON and vice versa. But I soon found that this was indeed too easy. So I decided only to include certain types of shots in order to suggest an alternative narrative based on the unaltered soundtrack of each original trailer. Additionally, I wanted to explore what an actual dialogue between the films‘ protagonists Carol and Jesse might reveal about their personalities and ultimately, how voices and speech patterns shape our impression of a character.

Dialogue I: [DANGEROUS] from Oswald Iten on Vimeo.

„But the basic, almost funny restriction that we placed on ourselves was this restrained coverage and distance from the character. The joke was, okay, let’s move in for a close-up but we never got very close. All of our proportions were appropriately adjusted from the starting point, which was wide. Minimal camera movement. “

Todd Haynes, 1995 in

Naturally in „Dialogue I“, I relied exclusively on camera movement, from following the characters unobtrusively to more formal and even autonomous motion.

Dialogue II: IT'S OUT THERE from Oswald Iten on Vimeo.

In „Dialogue II“, the focus is on shots devoid of human figures. Cinematography by Natasha Braier.

Dialogue III: CAROL / JESSE from Oswald Iten on Vimeo.

„Dialogue III“ invites the viewer/listener to explore not only the coincidental visual similarities (and the specific differences between them) but also to ask themselves whether they still perceive Carol (SAFE) and Jesse (DEMON) as specific characters when their interactions are reduced to generic situations and conversations. I’m especially interested to hear, how Carol and Jesse come across to viewers who haven’t seen the original films.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Beyond the Catchy Tunes: George Bruns and Craft of Transparent Underscoring

Video essay about George Bruns and the craft of transparent underscoring within Walt Disney's music department during the Wolfgang Reitherman era (Sleeping Beauty 1959, Goliath II 1960, One Hundred and One Dalmatians 1961, The Sword in the Stone 1963, The Jungle Book 1967, Aristocats 1970, Robin Hood 1973). Made as part of the audiovisual section of the NECSUS Autumn 2020 issue #Method, curated by Liz Green.  

More information about my intentions HERE.