Archives for August 2007

Ingmar Bergman’s Persona

“Persona…the personality that an individual projects to others, as differentiated from the authentic self. The term, coined by Carl Jung, is derived from the Latin persona, referring to the masks worn by Etruscan mimes. According to Jung, the persona enables an individual to interrelate with the world around him by reflecting the role in life that the individual is playing. In this way one can arrive at a compromise between one’s innate psychological constitution and society” (Persona 1).

Swedish filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman, when questioned by interviewer John Simon, a writer for The New Leader, about the meaning of his 1966 film, Persona, and the many images it brings to its viewers, responded, “On many points I am unsure, and in one instance, at least, I know nothing…For this reason I invite the audience’s fantasy to dispose freely of what I have put at its disposal” (173).

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The Nights of Caberia

Cabiria, Heart of Italy

The landing of allied forces, on the beaches of Sicily in the south of Italy, on July 10, 1943, signaled the end of the reign of Benito Mussolini and his regime of Italian fascism. Prior to his capture, Italian cinema had been highly censored by the fascist authorities. Films produced under the regime portrayed a fairy tale view of Italian life showing only healthy and happy people under Mussolini’s rule. It was not until the end of 1943 that directors, like Roberto Rossellini (Italian), began to produce films that challenged the “perfect world” of the existing regime (Voigt).

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Black Orpheus

“Myths embody the common ideals and aspirations of a civilization…[and] encourage viewers to participate ritualistically in the basic beliefs, fears, and anxieties of their age” (Giannetti 350).

The French New Wave, or nouvelle vague, films of the late 1950’s grew out of a critical interest in the art of film. Like many French directors who followed the work of important auteur-directors of the period such as Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Alain Resnais (Beaver 259), Marcel Camus broke from traditional cinema by approaching film as a highly personal form of art. The mythical tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, as told by Camus in the film Black Orpheus, is not merely a repetition but rather a reinvention of the Greek oral story.

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Powerful Portrayals of Women in Film

Gillian Armstrong’s work as author/director of both documentaries and feature films, in Australia and the United States, has done much to bring attention to the female perspective on life, love, and the pursuit of freedom from male patriarchal domination and oppression. Armstrong, unlike so many film creators, has resisted making movies solely for male spectatorship. The strong-willed, stubborn, striving women, who dominate Armstrong’s films, display her determination to cast females into ruling roles. In this essay, a review of Armstrong’s artistic articulation of women’s voices, views, and visions, in such feature films as My Brilliant Career, Starstruck, Mrs. Soffel, The Last days of Chez Nous, Little Women, and Oscar and Lucinda, will show that she has taken care not to portray women as ineffectual objects of and for male attention. It will also show that Armstrong, through her cinematic endeavors and the power of those ventures, presents interpretations of women that evoke feminine power and elevate the female spirit.

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Complexities of Interpretation: Fire

Non-Western films, made by females, offer the possibility of numerous problems in regard to interpretation—problems for both Western and indigenous audiences. These films are often regarded as resources that will give evidence of relationships of power within gender issues. For the Western viewer, however, it is difficult to determine if these relationships within unfamiliar cultures are accurate or formed from various experiences and expressionistic views of the author/director. Such films, if read as feminist ethnographies, have potential for problems because of the “regimes of spectatorship that cinemas has universally instituted.” Too, unaccustomed to a particular non-Western culture, the student, spectator, or analyst of film may struggle to understand meanings in the presentation of language. Language, through reinterpretation by first the director and then again by the spectator, may no longer carry its true and original meaning (Arora 293).

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The Humanist Approach to Film: My Brilliant Career

Everyone seeing a film for the first time makes a value judgment, even if it is only based on an emotional response, but the humanist goes back to probe these initial responses more deeply. The student of the humanist approach seeks to learn what film can tell about the human condition by searching for the answers to several questions asked of other art forms. What kinds of ideas—political, religious, historical, or philosophical—are hidden beneath the surface of film? What sort of symbols are used to convey these ideas? Who is the artist behind the creation of the film? What is the quality of this film compared with some ideal product of the past? “The humanist seeks to understand human nature and humankind’s place in the scheme of things, asking the traditional question—who are we and what is life all about?” (Bywater 26-7).

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The Memory Machine

Have you ever wondered where time has gone,
When it’s used up by you and by me?

Well, it travels through space to a wonderful place,
A place that you simply can’t see.

Here it feeds through equipment that’s quite long and quite lean,
A recycling contraption called The Memory Machine.

It has gadgets and gizmos and movements quite slick,
With gears that go grinding, nuts and bolts that go click.

There’s an opening on top where times past enter in,
And beneath that a chamber with mirrors that spin.

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Mysteries of the Michigamme

Snaking its way through the old Mansfield Mine Location—just east of Crystal Falls, Michigan and three miles north of old Highway 69—the Michigamme River appears peaceful and serene. A winsome waterway, it tumbles smoothly along to meet and combine with the Menominee River. Rolling waves, soothing in sight, smell, and sound, capture the senses with their calm.

Yet the Michigamme River’s history belies its calm exterior. There is a dark side to its brooding, bending current, which has been known to be swift, sure, and to strike without warning.

A twisting and turning link between Lake Superior and Green Bay, it was a major waterway for explorers and missionaries who depended on it to guide them safely along on their journeys. But some of those journeys along the Michigamme have been anything but safe.

When the aging missionary, Father Menard, attempted to escape from an unfriendly L’Anse band of Chippewa Indians in 1661, he was last seen canoeing along the coursing river just before he met with death. Only the silent rocky shores, the towering pines and the shadowy rivulets of the Michigamme know the mystery of how he spent his final moments.

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Under the Streetlight

Moths darting overhead, fluttering in the light.
Crickets chirping in the field. Frogs croaking out of sight.
Lightning bugs flash in and out of bushes, grass, and weeds.
A velvet sky holds stars that glow like glistening glimmering beads.

There you would find us, Nancy and me,
Sitting on the corner curb next to the old elm tree,
Under the streetlight, on a warm summer’s night
Telling scary stories that were sure to cause a fright.

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The Trouble with Tootsie

Tootsie was a very very small honey-colored dog. She was the tiniest Shetland Sheepdog that her family had ever adopted. She was so small that her family often could not even find her. But the trouble with Tootsie wasn’t so much that she was so small. No, the trouble with Tootsie was that she liked to hide! And, when Tootsie was hiding, her family would have to search for her all through the house. They would look under newspapers, blankets, and towels. They would look behind the big green fern near the antique china cupboard and under the piano. They would look behind the big wing chair in the living room and under the bed. They would look under the dining room table and under each of the six chairs. And then they would look, one more time, under the bed.

But there was one place Tootsie’s family never bothered to look. And that was in her kennel. And do you know why they never bothered to look in her kennel? Well, they never bothered to look in her kennel because Tootsie never ever hid there. And do you know why she never ever hid there? Well, she never ever hid there because she didn’t like it. Tootsie didn’t like her kennel because that’s where she was supposed to stay at night and she didn’t want to sleep there. And do you know why she didn’t want to sleep there? The trouble with Tootsie was that she didn’t want to sleep in her kennel because she wanted to sleep with her family.

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