17 March 2011

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Dir. Ken Loach

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An image of freedom contrasted with a profound image of loss.

What has been lost during the Irish "Troubles?" Loach demonstrates the cost of the violent civil war that has ripped this family apart. A sense of innocence that can never be regained and a sense of freedom that can never again be found.

16 March 2011

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Dir. Jim Sharman

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What does it all mean? What does anything mean? Sharman depicts the underlying existential futility of Rocky Horror by starting the film on a black screen. We're introduced first to a singular body part. And then those lips start to sing. He uses this image to foreshadow the utter ridiculousness of the plot while at the same time pointing out that it's actually quite a disturbing visage. Those red lips, white teeth, pink tongue surrounded by nothing but blackness. The film is a comedy, for sure; over-the-top in almost every way. But when he ends the film on a similarly dark screen, with only a glowing representation of our Earth in frame, you wonder what he wants the audience to take away. That life is both funny and disturbing? That life is both over-the-top and meaningless? Maybe that's the real horror.

15 March 2011


Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

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Tarkovsky is far more interested in Earth than he is in any form of outer space. The theme is reflected at the end in Kris Kelvin's "Island of Memory" home. Looking down just as gently; the horizon framed completely out, the island drifts along like reeds in a riverbed. The things worth remembering are those things that are tactile--just beneath the water.

14 March 2011

The Passion of Joan of Arc

Dir. Carl Th. Dreyer

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Starting with the hands that orchestrate her death, by the film's final frame Dreyer has fully implicated the dogmatic Church in the demise of Joan of Arc. The last shot is also a slow tilt up, the flames rising above the cross to empty sky, showing that, whatever her contemporaries thought of her, Dreyer shows she has a different destination than they had planned.

11 March 2011


Dir. Hayao Miyazaki

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Starting the film with a frame neatly divided between the sea and what lies above, Miyazaki shows how his little Ponyo has progressed by the end of the film. A creature of the depths now risen (floating even!) above her place of origin. A journey undertaken that has now changed her on a fundamental level.

10 March 2011


Dir. Franklin Schaffner

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Can you have your cake and eat it too? Patton certainly makes this attempt. A film about a hawk American WWII general who tells his soldiers that "Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American," but made during the height of the Vietnam protest, a war America was about to lose.

Who was tilting at windmills?

09 March 2011

El Sur

Dir. Victor Erice

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Erice gives us extremely enigmatic images to open and close El Sur. A window, frame left, gradually brightens to reveal not a brand new day filled with possibilities, but the death of Estrella's father. Just out of frame at the end await Estrella's taxi to the titular south. Implied is that out that window lay opportunity that her father could never fully give her and even tried to hide from her. Only in his tragic guilt-ridden death could Estrella fully engage on her journey to discover him.

08 March 2011

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Dir. Frank Oz

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Here they go again. The object of desire located center frame. For these conning scoundrels, only one thing matters, and Oz makes sure to represent that right up front and re-emphasizes it again during the closing sequence. To the protagonists, the human figure represents not beings with souls and personalities, but simply the amount of jewels and money they carry--and can be scammed out of.

07 March 2011


Dir. Joon-ho Bong

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Though the opening image of this film occurs chronologically towards the end of the film, it's amazing the shift experienced from beginning to end. The sedate, wide-angle camera movements and the slowly impassioned dancing contrast with the drive-by hand-held work of the end, with Mrs. Yoon letting go completely. Perhaps she is envisioning her dance in the field? Perhaps she's forgotten her sins completely? Or maybe not. These frames suggest all those possibilities and invite the viewer to contemplate all consequences of those possible iterations.

06 March 2011

The Grapes of Wrath

Dir. John Ford

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Despite the positive note the film ends on with the "We're the people speech," Ford ends the film on with a negative image; a subtle inversion of the uplifting speech (reportedly added at the behest of the producer Darryl F. Zanuck). Where the film opens at a crossroads, implying at least a few possibilities, it ends with a bleak single path progression. Ford implies that The People have been so downtrodden as to have been denied their crossroads and only given one option.

A Brief Mannifesto

I believe in the power of the image. I believe especially in the power of the moving image. I believe most of all in the power of the image pieced together with other images to create meaning. I believe in cinema.

That’s my overly pretentious way of introducing this blog/project/depository of ideas. I’ve been somewhat exposed to cinematic criticism and my basic training has lead me to a few standard analysis techniques. The one that has been most rewarding has been the exploration of images chosen by the filmmakers. In particular, the images that the filmmaker chooses to being and end their work. The opening and closing. The alpha and omega. The First and Last.

I don’t find that this exercise always uncovers deep or inner meaning relating to the meaning of the film; sometimes it appears as if the images are completely arbitrary and pointless. But even that discovery has something to offer in respect to how a film can be viewed. How a filmmaker chooses to introduce his film and what he chooses to leave with the audience, whether well thought out or not, can reveal important insights into the process.

I have taken to study these images, the first and last, and find it incredibly rewarding, regardless of the quality or even value of any given film. I haven’t yet found online a blog devoted to this kind of investigation, so, here it is! As such, I should note what sort of criticism I intend to convey: as much as I feel like.

Sometimes I may simply post two images from a film.
Sometimes I may give details on how these images relate to the narrative.
Sometimes I may go into discussion for how these images relate to each other and the overall symbolism of the film.
Sometimes I may not discuss the film at all.

But rest assured; I will always present images.

Unless I decide to do an occasional post about music. Which is possible.

But, for the most part, I’d like to allow this to be a place where I can put up these pictures to demonstrate the power of the image. With that in mind, I may also occasionally post images from the film proper, though, in those cases, I’ll discuss the reasons.

I hope to post images from all manner of films; some perhaps more critically discussed and worthwhile than others; but always with the focus on presenting the power (or lack-thereof) of those images.

On the legal side of things, I intend to follow Fair Use in my posting of images: none of them are for my commercial gain and I only post to provide critical commentary that I hope myself and others in the film community will find uplifting and beneficial.

I hope that this can be a project that inspires others and myself and even engender some discussion. I believe in the power of the image and believe that through its examination, especially in this context, we stand to gain meaningful insights into the meaning of film.