Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My Year in Film: 2019 Works

Since I have not posted anything all year, here is a collection of animated shorts and video essays I made in 2019:

All animation, no sound: this is my contribution to this year's animated advent calendar curated by Justine Klaiber and Owley Samter.

For a full blast of clips by Swiss animators, head on over to

HOLM & Cyrill Lim – Sitting And Waiting (HOLM Remix)
Composed, Lyrics by Cyrill Lim
Arranged, Remixed by Daniel Werder
Music Video Written, Directed and Animated by Oswald Iten
© Video: Oswald Iten
℗ Video: Oswald Iten & Cyrill Lim
℗ Audio: Daniel Werder & Cyrill Lim

For Filmbulletin, I have only written three articles in 2019. Those on A GHOST STORY (Lowery, 2017) and ROLLING THUNDER REVUE (Scorsese, 2019) are only available in the print edition, the one about Barry Jenkins' IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (2018) can be read here (in German).  

[Contains spoilers for WATER LILIES, TOMBOY and GIRLHOOD]
Céline Sciamma has made herself a name as an excellent screenwriter providing sensitive dialogue for Claude Barras' MA VIE DE COURGETTE (2016) or her own masterpiece PORTRAIT DE LA JEUNE FILLE EN FEU (2019). In her coming-of-age films, however, the most important means of expression is the human body.

Based on an extensive analysis of NAISSANCE DES PIEUVRES (2007), TOMBOY (2011) and BANDE DE FILLES (2014), I attempt to provide a subjective, non-theoretical overview of how Sciamma tells her stories in a corporeal, physical way. Of course, beyond my general observations, there is much more to these images (costume design, colors, ambiguity, precise decisions when to show nudity) which I hope will present themselves to you and drive you to (re-)watch the actual films. There are countless scenes worth analyzing more closely.

After an introduction to each film, there are five "movements" - MOVING, LOOKING, TOUCHING, PERFORMING, TRANSFORMING - and an EPILOGUE that hints at a shift towards more articulated characters in Sciamma's own feature films (not including her short film PAULINE (2010) which is all dialogue).

Note: Thanks to Katharina Lindner's essential book "Film Bodies: Queer Feminist Encounters with Gender and Sexuality in Cinema" (2017) for clarifying some of my linguistic issues as a German speaker.

Video Essay - for analytical and educational purposes only, no copyright infringement intended.

The striking colors in Wim Wenders' PARIS TEXAS (1984) are often analyzed according to the preconceived notion of "red, white and blue" vs "green neon light" and the alleged meaning those color schemes transport. However, I see a more intuitive and much more complex use of colors at work in this film. That's why I've started to put together two video essays the first of which is concerned with COLORED LIGHTING IN PARIS, TEXAS.

It is basically a supercut that showcases cinematographer Robby Müller's use of colored lighting that is found in roughly a quarter of the two and a half hour film. The selected shots are arranged in a non-chronological way that hopefully reveals recurring patterns of lighting by juxtaposing similar as well as contrasting setups. In addition, I have tried to follow the visual flow of gazes and movement to create unexpected relationships between unconnected shots.

Since I am more interested in the atmospheric and emotional effects of colored light which I want you to experience for yourself, I deliberately abstained from written or spoken explanations.

Instead, I invite you to discover the sensations, patterns and concepts on your own and encourage you to watch PARIS, TEXAS again with this in mind.

But for those without the patience to watch the essay more than once, here are some aspects to look for:
Light sources: traffic lights, especially red ones (00:00), neon signs and advertisements behind characters (00:22).

Green neon light which is most often just normal "white" neon light that Robby Müller decided not to color correct because he embraced the well-known effect that it would look green on film (0:29). This section also showcases the powerful green lights vs red objects scheme.

Characters in light (Anne) or silhouette (Travis) against green background lighting (00:37). Rim lights on characters: warm side lighting (left and right) against warm light in the middle (0:49), then overall beige vs blue with garish yellow light/objects against darkness and red rims (1:02). Round blue city lights vs rim lights on characters (01:10).

Primary Colors: red vs blue vs yellow (01:15) as well as blue vs green vs red (01:25). Green light again: this time towards red light (01:37). Green, red and blue: from neon to nature (01:49).

Light sources as visual patterns (02:00)
Similar color schemes with dominating green (02:09).

Primary colors: blue vs yellow vs red from different scenes showing the tension between these characters (02:15). The loneliness of flamboyant red and blue (02:25). Walking away (02:31)

I added mirror images in order to highlight frame edges and direct the viewer's attention away from single shots to overall patterns. In keeping with that concept, the swelling sounds that announce the visual cuts are in fact acoustic mirror images (played backwards) of the corresponding guitar notes on which I cut (Ry Cooder's opening music).

My other video essay on PARIS, TEXAS will be about yellow - a color that has been mostly neglected in previous analyses.

An acting analysis of the animated protagonist of Paul King's PADDINGTON (2014)

Released and published in Spring 2019 as part of Issue 14 of "The Cine-Files", a scholarly journal of cinema studies.

For study and educational purposes only.

Thanks to Tereza Fischer for publishing my video essays on
Thanks to Catherine Grant for screening my PARIS TEXAS video in the Uppsala short film festival and inspiring me to make the PADDINGTON video essay (and publishing it with Tracy Cox-Stanton in The Cine-Files #14).
Thanks to Cyrill Lim for commissioning the music video.
And last but not least, thanks to Justine Klaiber and Owley Samter for asking me to contribute to Animadvent 2019.

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