Friday, August 22, 2014

Wellman Chart of Colors and Their Associated Emotions

In 1937, William Wellman directed his first Technicolor film, A Star Is Born. "I honestly believe that the black-and-white film is an obsolete - or will be in a few seasons - as the silent screen," Wellman told reporters. However, it took more than "a few seasons" that color cinema could develop itself into something technically and aesthetically competent and much longer to become the new production norm of Hollywood studios.

Shown this year at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna were both A Star Is Born and Wellman's other color feature from 1937, Nothing Sacred. Even though both prints suffered from an unnatural color boosting, common among public domain versions of early color films, it proved to be a dazzling cinematic experience.

Wellman, justifying his use of color,wrote an article which was published on various newspapers, including the New York Times. He tried to explain why he valued color and how the color could come to the assistance of a director in emphasizing emotions. The newspaper piece also featured a chart which became known as the William Wellman Chart of Colors and Their Associated Emotions.

This is the chart Wellman drew (click to enlarge):

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Top 10 Documentaries (The Sight & Sound Poll)

Forugh Farrokhzad directing The House Is Black (1962)

From the September issue of Sight & Sound:

The Sound of Jazz (Jack Smight, 1957)

This is the greatest improvised documentary ever, and features a super-stellar line-up of 32 leading jazz musicians gathered at the CBS Studio in New York City in December 8, 1957. It was made in one hour and broadcast live on television. Cameramen were as into ad-libing as Thelonious Monk, and when Billie Holiday and Lester Young started to play Fine and Mellow everybody in the control room was crying.

Quince Tree of the Sun (Victor Erice, 1992)

Documentary cinema as meditation. No film, fiction or documentary, has captured the meticulous, painfully stagnant process of artistic creation with such rich expansion of cinematic time and space.

Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)

There is a logical, aesthetic and moral relation between the scale of the tragedy and the length of the film, which leaves a lasting physiological and psychological impact on the viewer.

Histoire(s) du cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, 1988)

A multi-dimensional, free-form history of 20th century which proves all one needs is some ideas and an editing table, because the images are already out there.

The House Is Black (Forugh Farrokhzad, 1962)

The crowning achievement of Iranian documentary movement of the 60s and 70s, and singular in its hypnotic melancholy, its profound humanism and its poetic imagery.

Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (Marcel Ophüls, 1988)

This film taught me the methodology of cinematic inquiry, as well as lessons in persistence and integrity. In every documentary Ophüls has ever directed, he proves that cinema is, above all, a machine of humanism, if one knows how to use it.

Robinson in Space (Patrick Keiller, 1997)

My traveling guide to Britain. Behind its cold, bureaucratic, un-poetic shots, lie a majestic world of complex emotions.

Lektionen in Finsternis (Werner Herzog, 1992)

I was born and raised during the Iran-Iraq war, and every bit of the horrendous landscape portrayed on this film is also carved in my memory. What Herzog with his hel(l)i-shots does is to dive into that collective memory shared by millions who were inside that hell.

P for Pelican (Parviz Kimiavi, 1972)

A haunting and stylized mediation on solitude, beauty and language through the story of a real-life protagonist, Agha Seyyed Ali Mirza, who’s been living in the ruins of the earthquake-shaken Tabas for forty years. A day arrives when he has to leave the ruins and face the great, strange, Lynch-like beauty: a pelican!

The Battle of Chile (Patricio Guzmán, 1976)

The film’s bleak transition from the hope and ardor of the first part to the harrowing shot-from-the-rooftop second section, tells not only of the history of Chile, but also of the process of toppling other democratic governments in 20th century (namely, Iran of 1953).

Sound of Jazz (1957)


In order to narrow down the range of choices, I exclude documentaries if an experimental nature such as great city symphonies of the late silent era, as well as actor-less fiction films such as Soy Cuba.

There are many jewels of documentary cinema hidden in the vaults of TV stations. In that regard, Cinéastes de notre temps, a French produced-for-TV film-portrait of masters of cinema, of which only a few titles are available to the public, is the greatest film university one can attend, as well as a perfect example of a masterpiece produced by filmmakers whose names are not yet in the canon.

As a trained architect who has designed, written and filmed about architecture and cinema, I still feel there are many unexplored territories in this field, and that many great films are waiting to be made. However, it doesn’t mean overlooking what’s already been done, especially works of Thom Andersen, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Man Ray and Alexander Kluge.

Lastly, there are directors whose body of work has influenced me more than any single film. Georges Franju’s early work, Fredrick Wiseman and Chris Marker are among them. Kamran Shirdel’s clandestine documentation of the lives of unprivileged in pre-revolutionary Iran, in particular, stands out.

P Like Pelikan (1972)

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Greatest Documentaries of All Time

شماره اول آگوست ماهنامۀ سينمايي «سايت اند ساوند» نتايج يك رأي‌گيري تازه را چاپ كرده است؛ اين‌بار انتخاب بهترين مستندهاي تاريخ سينما توسط 340 منتقد و فيلمساز. من هم يكي از شركت كنندگان هستم.

نتايج نهايي عبارتند از:

مردي با دوربين فيلم‌برداري (ژيگا ورتوف، 1929)
شوا (كلود لانزمان، 1985)
بي‌آفتاب (كريس ماركر، 1982)
شب و مه (آلن رنه، 1955)
خط باريك آبي (ارول موريس، 1989)
خاطرات يك تابستان (ژان روش و ادگار مورن، 1961)
نانوك شمال (رابرت فلاهرتي، 1922)
خوشه‌چينان و من (آنيس واردا، 2000)
پشت سر را نگاه نكن (دي اِي پني‌بيكر، 1967)
باغ‌هاي خاكستري (برادران مِي‌زِلز، 1975)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Warp Without Weft (On David Fincher)

تار، بدونِ پود (و يكي دو استثناء)

يك سال پيش از آن‌كه هفت نظر همه را متوجه پديدۀ فينچر كند كه مثل همه پديده‌هاي امروز آميزه‌اي بود از واقعيت و اغراق اولين نماهاي كارگرداني شده توسط او كشف شده توسط ما - در ويدئوكليپ Love is strong گروه رولينگ استونز ميخكوب كننده بودند. آن‌زمان MTV در اوج تب «ويدئوكليپ مولف»، اسم كارگردان را هم زير اسم قطعه و آلبوم و گروه مي‌نوشت. كيت ريچاردز گروه رولينگ استونز به هيولاي عظيمي تبديل شده بود كه كينگ كونگ‌وار به آسمان‌خراش‌ها لگد مي‌زد. ميك جگر از روي بزرگ‌راه‌ها مي‌پريد. طبل چارلي واتز يك منبع آب عظيم بود كه با چوب‌هايي به بزرگي تير برق روي آن درام مي‌زد. آدم‌هاي اين فيلم كوتاه مضطرب كننده، گيج، بيمار، تنها و ترسناك بودند. وقتي استونزهاي غول‌پيكر از شهر سياه و سفيد دور مي‌شدند و به طرف دشت مي‌رفتند، اسم فينچر آن زير ظاهر مي‌شد.
فيلم‌هاي فينچر روي ايده‌هايي ايده‌هاي پرطمطراق و تكان‌دهنده كه براي رسيدن به هيجان و توجه محض در فيلمي كوتاه مناسب‌ترند بنا شده‌اند. اما فيلم‌نامه‌هاي او هميشه با جزيياتي موثر اين ايده‌ها را پر و بال مي‌دهند و فيلم بزرگ‌ و بزرگ‌تر مي‌شود، اما گسترش آن فقط در سطح است. فينچر تمايل دارد تا جايي كه چشم كار مي‌كند و تمام افق ديد بيننده را تصاوير او اشغال كنند. او مثل اشترنبرگ، افولس و وايلر هنرمند تصاوير متراكم است،؛ اما ايده‌هايش ساده‌تر از آنند كه بتوانند زير بار تصاوير دوام بياورند. در آخر فقط يك صحنه كوچك عايدمان مي‌شود. صحنه‌اي كه مي‌توانست هرچه زودتر ظاهر شود و فيلم را به پايان برساند، در دقيقه چهل، يك ساعت بعد يا پنج ساعت بعد. بنابراين وقتي هميشه كششي براي رسيدن به اين صحنه واپسين وجود دارد، ما با فن‌سالاري منضبط روبروييم. مكانيزمي كه او آفريده آن‌قدر فريبنده هست كه بخواهيم فيلم را بلافاصله يك‌بار ديگر (زودياك)، يا بارها (هفت) ببينيم. اما اگر اين پايان را تصادفاً مثل بنجامين باتن جايي در وسط‌هاي فيلم بگذارد، فيلم يك ساعت قبل از روشن شدن چراغ‌هاي سالن و قبل از آن‌كه آپاراتچي، تماشاگر و منتقد با خبر بشوند، تمام شده است.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Iranian New Wave Masters Interviewed

With the precious help of Houshang Golmakani I have interviewed the key figures of Iranian New Wave cinema, Dariush Mehrjui, Kamran Shirdel and Masoud Kimiai.

Not surprisingly, the attempt to interview the key figures of Iranian New Wave cinema turned out to be an intercontinental affair. Tracking down the masters of that period, who are scattered across the world, proved that their lives were as “interrupted” as their cinema.

 In the following interviews we asked three directors to give their answers to each of these four questions: (1) “How conscious were you of a New Wave in Iranian cinema during the 1970s?” (2) “What did you achieve in your film(s) in this period which hadn’t already been tried in Iranian cinema?” (3) “After four or five decades, how do you think those films stand in your career, and in a larger context, in the history of Iranian cinema?” And (4) “What were your cinematic influences?”